When the Las Vegas Raiders used the 17th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to select Alabama OL Alex Leatherwood, I physically left the draft gathering I attended. No, this is not hyperbole. The idea of choosing a prospect with the holes in his game that Leatherwood had-and still has today-with the names that were still on the board was migraine-inducing.
This is all said to provide context; Leatherwood didn’t become a bad pick after yet another poor performance during the preseason. He was over-drafted from the start. Especially when these names were still available. Let’s look at a few guys that were chosen after Leatherwood but before the Raiders traded up for Trevon Moehrig.
There was a more polished tackle prospect than Alex Leatherwood
Christian Darrisaw, OT – Original Draft Position: No. 23 to the Minnesota Vikings
In the Raiders’ defense, nearly every major top offensive line prospect had been selected by the time pick 17 rolled around. Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater, and Alijah Vera-Tucker were all accounted for after the first 14 names had been called. However, Christian Darrisaw was still there when Las Vegas opted to take Leatherwood. It could’ve been injury concerns that scared Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden away from the Virginia Tech product. However, it certainly couldn’t have been the game film. Darrisaw was always a better prospect, and while he did miss five games in his rookie year, he immediately slotted in at left tackle for the Minnesota Vikings.
Darrisaw was far from perfect. Per Pro Football Focus, he would surrender five sacks in 653 offensive snaps. Nevertheless, he went from the injured list straight into protecting the blindside of Kirk Cousins, while also only being flagged for three penalties. Leatherwood surrendered eight sacks on 1104 snaps (not all of which came at right tackle) while being flagged fourteen times. The Vikings appear to have their left tackle of the future. The Raiders could’ve had a running mate for Kolton Miller.
Next: The Raiders could’ve double dipped at safety