The 2021 NFL Draft has come and gone, leaving analysts and evaluators with an opportunity to grade each organization’s showing at the event. A few picks in particular stood out as surprises, including the Las Vegas Raiders selecting offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood in Thursday’s first round.
The Raiders selected the former Alabama player with the No. 17 overall pick, despite numerous draft experts grading him as a second or third round choice in this year’s class. Nevertheless, general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden felt like picking Leatherwood was the right call and did so, much to the surprise of the rest of the league.
However, based on new information from draft analyst Jim Nagy, the Raiders selection might’ve not been too far out of line. After speaking with numerous teams in the 20-to-32 range, Nagy discovered that Leatherwood likely would’ve gone in the first round regardless.
That means Las Vegas had only one opportunity to get the Crimson Tide offensive lineman before he would’ve come off the board.
“Some context on Raiders decision to take Alex Leatherwood with No. 17 pick,” Nagy tweeted on Sunday. “Media crushed them but Leatherwood was going in first round. Spoke to multiple teams picking in 20-32 range that had Leatherwood in Round 1. Most don’t agree with the pick but it wasn’t a reach.”
Some context on @Raiders decision to take Alex Leatherwood with No. 17 pick. Media crushed them but Leatherwood was going in first round. Spoke to multiple teams picking in 20-32 range that had Leatherwood in Round 1. Most don’t agree with the pick but it wasn’t a reach.
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) May 2, 2021
When asked about the pick after the fact, Mayock knew that criticism was coming. But, he stood by adding Leatherwood, saying that Gruden was also fully on board.
“I knew everyone was going to criticize the Leatherwood pick and I didn’t really care,” Mayock said, per NFL Network. “We feel he’s a plug-and-play player.”
Leatherwood certainly has the talent to succeed on the Raiders and in the NFL. The Crimson Tide lineman was a three-time All-SEC selection, a two-time national champion and an unanimous All-American in 2020. However, Las Vegas has become somewhat infamous for reaching for picks over the last few years and this didn’t seem to be much different.
But, clearly the Raiders have tons of faith in their new first round pick. The next step will be for Leatherwood to prove it on the field.
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