No team has been more criticized for its 2021 NFL Draft route than the Raiders. And none of the Raiders picks was scrutinized more closely than their top overall victory: Alabama Offensive against Alex Leatherwood in 17th place overall.
Most bogus drafts, including the Sporting News, viewed Leatherwood as a pick for day 2. Raiders GM Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden’s taking him in the first round was seen as a long range, especially when most assumed he was in the second round would be available. That they took him over several higher-rated offensive tackles – SN rated six available tackles higher, including four first-round grades – only added to the controversy.
But Mayock defended the election, saying that he, Gruden, offensive coach Tom Cable and Raiders are all highly respected Leatherwood scouts. Las Vegas was so in love with the well-known tackle that it even turned down an offer to act in the 2021 NFL Draft to risk losing it.
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“Just as we got on the clock a team called us and asked about a promotion, but they gave us a very bad trade offer and it was a team that needed an attack,” Mayock said (via ESPN). “The combination of the poor offer and their need stopped us.
“There’s a risk / reward scenario and in this case we didn’t feel like it was worth it.”
Ultimately, the Vikings were the only other team to draft a tackle in the first round, picking Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw with the 23rd overall win. Only two more offensive tackles went into Round 2 before the Raiders were drafted again at 43: Teven Jenkens from Oklahoma State to Chicago at 39 and Liam Eichenberg from Notre Dame to Miami at 42.
This is not the first time Mayock’s draft selection has been examined. His earlier drafts included an excessive number of players from reputable schools, especially in the early rounds. These include Clelson’s Clelin Ferrell, Alabama’s Josh Jacobs and Henry Ruggs III, Damon Arnette of the state of Ohio, and more.
That said, it’s a virtual certainty that the NFL teams ‘draft boards are not the same as the outlets’ mock drafts. And if the Raiders saw something they liked at Leatherwood – enough to justify their first round pick – that’s their prerogative.
Only time will tell if it was worth the selection.