Las Vegas Raiders fans have a tendency to overreact and criticize without seeing the big picture sometimes. It’s understandable given the state of their team for the last generation. However, take a deep breath and step back, this draft might turn out to be a good one.
It’s the Raider draft experience: You spend so much time getting to know the board and the players who are available at the pick, then Roger Goodell calls the pick.
It’s never who you expected and it feels like an almost surreal lapse in thought; like the player he named isn’t even a real name. It comes right out of left-field and hits you like Johnathan Abram’s friendly fire.
Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden did it again Thursday night, selecting Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood at number 17 with Christian Darrisaw and Teven Jenkins still on the board. You had the right to be livid, but likely slept on it and it’s not the end of the world for a couple of reasons.
Let’s breathe, Raider Nation.
The Cable Effect
Let’s 100% clear: Tom Cable should never be in charge of a draft war room. However, he should get a lot of say in the type of offensive linemen we bring in. Since right tackle was a desperate need it makes some sense. The Raiders have a history under Mayock of picking their perceived best player available at a need on Day 1.
According to Mayock, Tom Cable was pushing hard for Leatherwood. He saw him as a stud tackle for his system that he could coach up to be great. Given his track record, you shouldn’t doubt him just yet.
Could he have had the same results with Darrisaw? Maybe. But he knows his system better than anyone, and you have to trust that.
The Raiders got cleaned out on the offensive line this year and had a massive hole. Not trying to fill it would have been the death knell for their offense.
Fills a Need
Leatherwood does fill a need. We may have reached, but we didn’t reach for a running back or a player that doesn’t help the Raiders win games.
By most accounts, he’s a pretty good player. Held his own at Alabama, award winner, great physical tools, and no health issues. The argument that we could have traded down always stings a little bit but there was a run on tackles in the mid-first.
We can’t know for sure if Leatherwood would have been a target but it might not be completely wild to think that. When the first round ended, a lot of players that were projected to go early were left on the board for Day 2.
Does that mean the team’s brass outsmarted everyone? Not likely. However, there was a little more unpredictability in how this draft shaped out late. Minnesota could have taken Leatherwood instead of Darrisaw. A team could have jumped back into the late first-round for him.
If he really was the guy you have to shoot your shot and take him.
Give It Time
Even if you think this was malpractice by Gruden and Mayock, these things do take time to pan out. After all, these reaches in the first round like Clelin Ferrell and Damon Arnette are becoming commonplace.
It’s not working out so far.
That’s not to say that the trend can’t change with Leatherwood though. Whether you think he’s a stud in the making or a colossal bust it usually takes a good three years to determine the worth of a pick. We’ll have to keep an eye on him compared to Darrisaw and Teven Jenkins. Those were the only other possibilities for tackles in that slot.
If this does work out the Raiders have filled their unit with two cornerstones in Leatherwood and Miller. If it doesn’t, they take a huge step back after they jettisoned 60 percent of their offensive line in the offseason.
J.J. Watt and Aaron Donald were mid-round picks. It really doesn’t matter when the player is picked if they’re a cornerstone at their position. Once you’re outside of the top-10 (which is quarterback land) you just need to land a really good player.
We owe it to Leatherwood, and our anxiety as a fanbase, to give it time.
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*Top Photo: Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group