The Las Vegas Raiders announced that they have officially signed first-round pick Alex Leatherwood to his rookie deal.
Head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock raised some eyebrows with their decision to take Leatherwood with the 17th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Regardless, the team is confident that they secured a viable replacement to take over the vacancy at tackle for years to come.
The Raiders underwent a significant makeover along the offensive line after parting ways with Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson, and Trent Brown this offseason. Although they managed to alleviate their losses by bringing back guards Richie Incognito and Denzelle Good, there was still a notable void to fill at right tackle.
Las Vegas was criticized for the Leatherwood pick as another reach since he was largely projected to go in the second or third round in most mock drafts. However, the team’s brass is confident that their decision to take him at No. 17 instead of trading back helped eliminate the possibility of losing him to another team.
The Raiders have made it clear that they hope to establish themselves as a bona fide playoff contender for the first time since Gruden took over. Fortunately, Leatherwood’s pedigree as a two-time National Champion at Alabama seems to go hand in hand with their goals.
He was awarded the Outland Trophy, which is given to the best interior offensive lineman in college, as the anchor of a group that won the Joe Moore Award, which is given to the best offensive line in college football. So it should come as no surprise that Leatherwood was also a unanimous first-team All-American and All-SEC selection.
Regardless, the rookie has heard all the noise regarding the Raiders’ decision to take him in the first round and is using it as motivation to prove the doubters wrong next season.