2021’s NFL draft is in the books after months of preparation and sleep depravation. Now we can start to look at how the Las Vegas Raiders performed compared to their divisional foes.
To say this was a typical first round for the Raiders would be an understatement. For the last three years, the team’s fan base tends to react in bewilderment during the first round. When Jon Gruden returned and made Kolton Miller his first pick back, Raider Nation insisted that Derwin James should’ve been selected. Last year, the Raiders’ had three first-round choices, many were hoping the team would nail those selections. Instead, it looks like two of them were reaches.
This year, the Raiders addressed a need by drafting Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood at 17. To say the reaction was negative would be putting it lightly. Question is, how did Las Vegas perform compared to their divisional rivals in a crucial first round?
Did the rest of the West have better first rounds than Las Vegas?
The top team in the division and Super Bowl runner-ups, Kansas City Chiefs, didn’t have a first-round selection this year. The other two teams in the West addressed critical deficiencies. The Los Angeles Chargers have been busy this offseason rebuilding their offensive line trying to protect Justin Herbert these coming years. They decided that Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater was their pick, it caught many by surprise that he fell that far in the first round.
In Slater, the Bolts are getting a 2019 Honorable Mention All-Big Ten, though he might be a better fit in the interior. He faced elite defenders in college such as Ohio State’s Chase Young so he should figure to be a mainstay in Los Angeles for the coming years.
The Denver Broncos surprised some folks by passing on a quarterback with Justin Fields available. Instead, they opted to draft arguably the best cornerback in this class by way of Alabama, Patrick Surtain II. Nothing wrong with picking up Surtain even though the Broncos do need a quarterback. Adding a cornerback to Vic Fangio’s defense is more indicative that the team might be gunning for Aaron Rodgers. If this is the case, the Raiders are in trouble having both Patrick Mahomes, Rodgers, and Herbert in the same division.
Outlook on this first-round haul for the Raiders
We can argue that the Raiders drafted for need but the pick itself was puzzling to some. Even more when you consider Leatherwood isn’t technically a right tackle. Christian Darrisaw, who played the position in college, was passed over for Leatherwood, even Teven Jenkins was available.
Nevertheless, the Raiders lucked out by not having to face Fields for the next decade so that is one positive. Albeit will the team’s new defensive line be able to mount a pass rush against a stacked Chargers offensive line? All in all, the Silver and Black broke even in the first round when compared to the rest of the division. This may not have been the best outcome but it was not the worst either. Time will tell if Leatherwood becomes a solid right tackle and if Fields turns into a franchise quarterback elsewhere.
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*Top Photo: Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal