Let’s take a look at how the Las Vegas Raiders’ 2021 rookie class compares individually to some current NFL players.
The Raiders’ first-round pick reminds us of a certain Pro Bowler…
Round 1, Pick 17
OT, Alex Leatherwood
Pro Comp: Russell Okung
Alex Leatherwood proved to be an exceptional player while bolstering the Crimson Tide offensive line throughout his collegiate career. Nevertheless, many were split on the tackle’s ceiling when it came to replicating his success at the NFL level. Undoubtedly, the 22-year-old has all the traits necessary to be great at the next level. These traits include good athleticism, experience, and great size, all of which he shares with the two-time Pro-Bowler, Russell Okung. Like Leatherwood, Okung is 6’5” and weighs just above 310 lbs, but both play with a far greater amount of fluidity in their movement than the size might indicate.
Leatherwood and Okung also share their willingness to infiltrate the second level of the defense, as flashed by Leatherwood in college while blocking for talented Alabama running backs, such as new teammate Josh Jacobs, and recent first-round draft selection, Najee Harris. If Leatherwood can replicate the success of his pro-comparison, he will be a sound pillar in the Las Vegas offensive line.
Round 2, Pick 43
S, Trevon Moehrig
Pro Comp: Kenny Vaccaro
Widely regarded as one of the steals of the draft, Trevon Moehrig is a versatile safety with elite coverage skills who can do it all in the defensive backfield. The former TCU Horned Frog shares many of the most important aspects of his game with former New Orleans Saint and Tennessee Titan safety, Kenny Vaccaro. Both Vaccaro and Moehrig share above-average ball skills and can be thrown into coverages as well as a variety of different assignments. This includes playing off of the LOS, out of the slot, and in the box.
Throughout his collegiate career, Moehrig earned a 92.8 PFF coverage grade, the highest in the draft at the safety position. Like Vaccaro, Moehrig has to work on overcommitting against the run. However, his IQ when reading plays pre-snap has never been an issue. Vaccaro has been a solid starter in the NFL over the course of his career, and I picture Moehrig finding his footing early as a massive difference-maker.
Don’t fret Raider Nation…
Round 3, Pick 79
EDGE, Malcolm Koonce
Pro Comp: Arden Key
Understandably, this comparison might scare Raider Nation, but Bruce Irvin and even a new teammate, Yannick Ngakoue, are other sound pro-comparisons when evaluating how Malcolm Koonce plays the game. Arden Key shares a similar length to the Buffalo product and both players use their long arms, fluidity, and impressive bend to reach the quarterback. Koonce will most likely insert himself as a rotational piece initially. Perhaps, even taking over Key’s role on the defensive line. In Buffalo, Koonce racked up 13 sacks and 17.5 tackles for a loss over the course of his last two seasons.
If Koonce can replicate his success while finishing plays in the defensive backfield, he’ll quickly fill an area in which Key struggled mightily over his Raiders stint. If the two-time First-Team All-MAC defensive end can add some aggression to his hand fighting off of the edge, there is no reason he can’t become a solid addition.
Are the Raiders building Legion of Boom 2.0?
Round 3, Pick 80
LB/S, Divine Deablo
Pro Comp: Kam Chancellor
Is it too early to compare the versatile Divine Deablo to four-time pro-bowler Kam Chancellor? New Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, doesn’t think so. Both Chancellor and Deablo spent their collegiate careers at Virginia Tech, even going as far as rocking the same number (17) and playing the same position (free safety). The similarities even translate to their size, with Chancellor coming in at 6’3”, 232 lbs, and Deablo standing at 6’3”, 230 lbs. Former Seattle Seahawks scout and current Senior Bowl executive director, Jim Nagy has seen both Deablo and Chancellor play thoroughly up close. He believes their similar positionless style, and willingness to play all over the field, makes them a hot commodity in today’s NFL.
It was no surprise that Bradley wanted a player he could utilize similarly to how he used Chancellor. Expect to see Deablo being utilized heavily in Bradley’s Cover 3 scheme as a WILL linebacker/low safety hybrid role.
Round 4, Pick 143
S, Tyree Gillespie
Pro Comp: Taylor Rapp
Judging by his Mizzou collegiate film, Tyree Gillespie checks a lot of the boxes necessary for being a solid starter at the pro level. Just like Taylor Rapp of the Los Angeles Rams, Gillespie’s physicality and intensity on the field are unquestionable. He was labeled as one of the most tenacious tacklers in the 2021 safety class. While Gillespie lacks Rapp’s turnover output, both players are praised for their coverage abilities underneath against tight ends. Something crucial in a division with guys such as Travis Kelce and Noah Fant. Gillespie’s skills were on full display after his success against Kyle Pitts in man coverage.
Both Rapp and Gillespie also share an ideal size for an NFL safety. They both stand at 6’0”, 208 pounds, and were gifted special teamers over the course of their collegiate careers. Gillespie will be a rotational piece in the safety corps that could have an impact depending on the play of the secondary.
Did the Raiders draft a starting cornerback in the fifth round?
Round 5, Pick 167
CB, Nate Hobbs
Pro Comp: Bashaud Breeland
Natural athleticism, tenacity, and speed are all things that relate Nate Hobbs to Bashaud Breeland. Both players have exceptional size and assets that help them cover in the nickel as well as outside. At Illinois, Hobbs was not the biggest ball-hawk, snagging just three interceptions in 35 career games. However, like Breeland, it’s Hobbs’ fundamentals and traits that make him an intriguing prospect heading into 2021. Hobbs’ physicality makes him a great option for the NCB position for Las Vegas, which has been a gaping weakness. His versatility jumps off the charts, as he can play slot, zone, or man coverages. He also possesses a fantastic ability to make tackles and wrap-up receivers to stop big gains downfield.
Breeland and Hobbs also share a knack for being around the ball. They both racked up quite a few deflected passes over the past few seasons, respectively. Hobbs won’t have the biggest immediate impact but could carve out a role on special teams.
Round 7, Pick 230
C, Jimmy Morrissey
Pro Comp: Ben Jones
Jimmy Morrissey, like the Tennessee Titans’ Ben Jones, is an undersized center who has shown a tremendous athletic ability over his collegiate seasons at Pitt. Having both blocked for running backs such as Derrick Henry and Demarco Murray, they share similar qualities. Most notably, they have the ability to burst into the defensive secondary on long runs and designed screens while displaying tremendous durability.
Morrissey has an extremely high football IQ and has accumulated two first-team all-ACC honors both athletically and academically. He did so while allowing just two sacks over his last two collegiate seasons. While bigger DTs might give him issues, Morrissey’s quick hands and smooth feet give him the edge over slower defenders.
The versatility of both players is noteworthy, as Morrissey excels in both the pass and the run game. Meanwhile, Jones can shift from center to both guard positions on the offensive line. Morrissey was a proven leader and team captain during his collegiate career. So it’s no surprise that Gruden and Mayock believe they have a lot of upside in the seventh-rounder. He’ll get a lot of looks in camp, but he has no shortage of competition with Nick Martin and Andre James.
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*Top Photo: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports