NFL Draft Notebook: Raiders will regret selecting Alex Leatherwood
The first round of the 2021 NFL Draft has come and gone, and 32 of college football’s top prospects now know where they’ll be suiting up this fall. Although those players won’t play a down until the preseason, it’s fair to wonder if a few teams may have reached or squandered an opportunity.
Raiders reached for Leatherwood
One of the teams whose draft activity has been heavily scrutinized over the years is the Las Vegas Raiders. On Thursday night, the Silver and Black selected Alex Leatherwood with the 17th overall pick. While the offensive lineman from Alabama does fill a need, draft analysts seem to universally agree that Leatherwood should have come off the board far later.
The Raiders do need offensive line help after several starters were dealt earlier this year. Leatherwood, to his credit, won the Outland Trophy as college football’s top interior lineman…but therein lies the biggest problem.
Leatherwood simply isn't elite
Leatherwood grades out as a guard at the NFL level. In order to justify a first-round selection, a guard needs to be an elite prospect, and Leatherwood isn’t. He has NFL-type size and received plenty of top-flight experience while suiting up for the Crimson Tide, but his profile on the NFL’s official draft website hints that he’s nowhere near as aggressive as he needs to be to succeed at the next level.
Two most surprising picks of Round 1 to other teams:#Raiders taking OT Alex Leatherwood at 17. Mike Mayock said “we knew it would be controversial” but they loved him.#Saints taking DE Payton Turner at 28. Many said reach. But he's long, high motor, smart. Another Cam Jordan?— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 30, 2021
Leatherwood will be targeted during his rookie campaign
Perhaps that fire will come in due time, but the Raiders need impact players on the offensive line immediately. Leatherwood might not be that kind of player quite yet, and that may make him a target of opposing defensive coordinators who make their living finding weak links on offensive lines.
It was tough to see him as a first-round prospect before the draft, and I’m struggling to see him as one even though the Raiders made him a top-20 pick.