Right tackle was one of the Las Vegas Raiders’ most pressing needs ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft. They had their fair share of choices but took Alex Leatherwood with the 17th overall selection. At the time of the pick, it looked like the Silver and Black reached for the Alabama product. However, that may not have been the case after all.
Reese’s Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy shared some context on the Raiders’ decision to draft Leatherwood. He spoke to multiple teams picking in the latter part of the first round and says that even though most didn’t agree with the pic, they believe it wasn’t a reach. Insider Benjamin Allbright of KOA News Radio also chimed in and said the offensive tackle wouldn’t have gotten past Baltimore.
Hearing Nagy and Allbright share this intel is reassuring. The Raiders have reached in the past, so it wouldn’t have been out of character if they did it this year. Back in 2019, they drafted defensive end Clelin Ferrell fourth overall. Last year, they took cornerback Damon Arnette with the 20th overall selection. While it’s too early to call either one a bust, neither one has performed up to expectations. Also, they drafted both earlier than many thought. For a moment, it looked like Las Vegas had done the same when they took Leatherwood.
The Raiders may be on the right track
It’s common to overreact when a team takes a player nobody expected and the Raiders went through this when they drafted Leatherwood. While many analysts projected them to take an offensive tackle, not many thought he would get the nod. At the moment, many showed surprise or confusion. After all, outsiders didn’t think the Outland Trophy winner was worthy of a first-round selection.
General manager Mike Mayock said Leatherwood was the best tackle on their draft board. Moreover, the team ranked him even higher than Penei Sewell. In an act of self-awareness, he said the pick could be surprising but trusted their evaluation nonetheless.
The Raiders haven’t had much success drafting in the first round in recent years. Nevertheless, it looks like they could buck the trend this year. At least, the Leatherwood pick wasn’t a reach and that must account for something.
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*Top Photo: Mickey Welsh/Tide Sports