With the NFL draft in the rearview mirror, the Las Vegas Raiders and their first-round selection continue to be questioned.
When it comes to their first-round picks, the Raiders just can’t seem to catch a break from the media. Let’s make this clear, this isn’t a reflection of the players nor their talent. The decision to draft these players falls on the shoulders of management and how they value them. The organization’s picks have been second-guessed to the point of redundancy every offseason. 2021 has been no different for the Silver and Black. Many experts believe that the Raiders’ selection of Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood in the first round’s a reach. This is in spite of general manager Mike Mayock being on record saying that Leatherwood’s going to help them re-establish the power run game.
Recently, when comparing each of the first-round picks for the AFC West, NFL Media’s Dan Parr deemed the Leatherwood selection as the most perplexing. I know, big shocker, right? However, keeping all things fair, the rest of the AFC West did a ‘safer‘ job in addressing their needs. The Los Angeles Chargers went with Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater as a long-term insurance policy along the offensive line. The Denver Broncos drafted arguably the best cornerback of this past draft (and Leatherwood’s teammate) in Patrick Surtain II.
What does this mean, if anything at all, for the Raiders?
Parr points out that the Raiders picking players no one sees coming in the first round’s a tradition now. Fair or not, I think most of Raider Nation can agree with that statement. Out of all the first-round selections under the leadership of Mayock and Jon Gruden, only Henry Ruggs III appeared to have been a sure bet. Given that all of the top receiving prospects were available, you could argue that the Raiders couldn’t go wrong with any of them, opting for Ruggs. Nevertheless, that’s an outlier for the Raiders as they continue to surprise fans, writers, and the media with their picks every April.
At the end of the day, reach or not, the Raiders needed a starting tackle. Barring injury or some sort of setback, Leatherwood should be the starting right tackle when the season finally begins. If Leatherwood struggles at first, the organization should be prepared for an onslaught of criticism from both the media and Raider Nation.
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