The Las Vegas Raiders drew some flak for how they approached the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. With the 17th overall pick, the Raiders decided to take offensive tackle, Alex Leatherwood.
Leatherwood was not projected to go in the first round, so when his name was called, it was a surprise for everyone watching. Las Vegas was widely expected to replenish its offensive line depth after remaking it in the offseason, but it is an open question as to whether or not they could have waited to take Leatherwood.
If tackle was always going to be the choice, it might have made more sense for general manager Mike Mayock to look to trade down from No. 17 aggressively. Mayock did indeed have an opportunity to move back but did not accept it because of the risk of potentially losing Leatherwood, via Raiders Beat.
“We were wide open to a potential trade down,” Mayock said. “Part of my job is to understand league value on every player. So if we got the right opportunity as far as draft pick compensation and didn’t have to trade down too far then we were wide open to trading down, but both of those things had to happen.”
“We had one phone call for a potential move down, did not like the compensation, felt like we would be at risk of getting Leatherwood and, quite frankly, there was no way in the world, in our opinion, he was going to be there at [pick] 48 in the second round. There were five tackles taken between 18 and 48, so if we had tried to wait for him in the second round he’d have never been there and that’s the guy we wanted all along.”
The run on offensive tackles could have indeed jeopardized the Raiders’ chances of nabbing Leatherwood, but no one can know for sure that early into the draft. Despite the perceived lack of value taking the Alabama product in the first, Leatherwood should be able to help the Silver and Black’s run game immediately. That should make Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden happy during the 2021 season.