The Las Vegas Raiders have taken unexpected routes in the last few drafts and 2021 wasn’t any different. They’ve used first-round picks on players they could’ve drafted in later rounds. Even though there were plenty of players worthy of the 17th overall pick, they went with Alabama offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood.
The Raiders are revamping their offensive line, so it wasn’t surprising to see them investing a first-round pick in the unit. What was shocking was the fact they took Leatherwood. Other than Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater, who were already off the board, Las Vegas had their fair share of offensive tackles to pick from. They could’ve gone with Christian Darrishaw or Teven Jenkins, two of the top three prospects. Instead, they chose the Alabama product.
Keep in mind that Leatherwood himself is a fine player. However, the Raiders could’ve been taken him in the second round. This isn’t a bad pick because of who Las Vegas took, but rather when they chose him. You could ask ten different analysts and none of them had the offensive tackle ranked that high, and there aren’t any reports other teams were targeting him. You could basically say Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock outsmarted themselves.
What is the Raiders’ thought process?
Right now, Leatherwood looks like a reach, nobody should argue that. Nevertheless, it won’t matter in a few years if the Florida native ends up playing well. It will be interesting to see where he lines up. Back at Alabama, he played right guard in 2018 and left tackle the last two years. Will he switch to right tackle or will he compete with incumbent Denzelle Good for the right guard job? Mayock says the team expects him to be the starting right tackle in Week 1. Then again, if he can become a high-end starter it won’t matter where Las Vegas picked him.
Also, what do the Raiders plan to do on Day 2 of the draft? Will they take another offensive lineman or will they bolster their secondary? They need a safety and someone like UCF’s Richie Grant could be of help. However, Las Vegas also needs to keep fortifying the offensive line, as even with Leatherwood, they would still have to fill one spot.
Looking back, the Raiders pick of Leatherwood was puzzling and a reach. However, if they can make the best of it, it won’t matter. In 2018, they were scrutinized for drafting Kolton Miller in the first round. Will history repeat itself? The team’s brass certainly expects so.
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