Just before draft time, the Las Vegas Raiders started getting named in a bunch of rumors, including a possible trade for Aaron Rodgers. They decided to stay put with their pick and addressed a major need on offense. With the No. 17 overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Raiders selected Alabama offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood.
While Leatherwood is a solid player from a great program, nobody saw him being a first-round pick. He was expected to be available in the second round. This isn’t the first time the Raiders have reached early in the draft. In 2019, they took Clelin Ferrell with the fourth overall pick, and last year, they took Damon Arnette with the 19th overall pick.
Needless to say, the Raiders took a beating online for the selection.
If Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock’s previous reaches paid off, then nobody would be questioning them. However, Arnette and Ferrell have not nearly lived up to their draft statuses. Leatherwood better be a star or Raiders fans are going to lose their minds.
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Leatherwood Has Strengths, but a Lot of Weaknesses
Leatherwood was a four-year starter at one of the best programs in all of college football. That certainly counts for a lot. That said, he’s got a lot of issues he needs to work on. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein was able to highlight what he does and doesn’t do well:
Leatherwood has projectable traits, solid athleticism and position versatility, but suffers from a failure to consistently execute at a high level due to issues that might be correctable. He sees the game well and works to stay balanced and composed in pass sets, but struggles with ranging and redirecting at the top of the rush. He doesn’t have a very strong outside hand in pass pro, but his length could become a more formidable tool with a change in approach. He’s a positional run blocker who lacks knock-back power but is capable of operating in any run scheme. Teams will need to determine if he’s a guard or tackle, but an upgrade in aggressiveness is needed in order to become a good NFL lineman.
Leatherwood does have skill but Christian Darrisaw and Teven Jenkins were both still on the board and they project to be better players in the NFL. Time will tell if the Raiders made another huge first-round mistake.
Raiders Draft Alabama Player in 1st Round for 3rd Straight Draft
It’s clear that the Raiders put a lot of stock in players out of Alabama. In 2019, they took Josh Jacobs, and last year, they Henry Ruggs in the first round. Jacobs is a stud and Pro Bowl, but Ruggs has a lot to work on to prove he isn’t a bust. Relying on big school talent hasn’t paid off for the Raiders yet.
Obviously, Leatherwood could end up being an elite talent. Everybody thought Kolton Miller was a reach in 2018 and he’s developed into a stud. The Raiders haven’t done enough to earn confidence but maybe Leatherwood will help restore it.