The Las Vegas Raiders caught some flak for taking Alabama right tackle Alex Leatherwood with the No. 17 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. The selection had been deemed a reach by general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden by many prominent mock drafts that had him sliding to the second round.
The Raiders went into the draft with notable voids to fill along the offensive line and the secondary. They wasted no time addressing these spots with their first two picks after trading up to take safety Trevon Moehrig in the second round.
Many feel a swap of Moehrig and Leatherwood would have actually generated more praise for the front office. It appears the criticisms have not gone unnoticed by the latter.
Leatherwood has heard all the chatter regarding the Raiders’ decision to take him in the first round. Although the rookie is already justified by the pick, he admits the slights have only provided further motivation.
“I mean it definitely put a chip on my shoulder,” Leatherwood said. “It bothered me a little bit, but at the same time I’m not a media guy. I’m not the type of dude to get caught up in all that garbage, because I know what my film said about me and the GM and the Coach, they know that as well. I’m just grateful that they watched that film and they saw me as good enough to be the 17th overall pick. I’m more than excited to get to the program and prove them right. Not necessarily prove the haters, the people who made all the mock drafts and all this stuff wrong, but to prove to myself and the Raiders organization right because I’m grateful and thankful for them.”
General Manager Mike Mayock is adamant about the due diligence they did on Leatherwood as one of the highest-rated players on their draft board. Mayock even revealed that he had turned down a trade offer to move back out of fear that he would no longer be available.
While the Raiders may be believers in Leatherwood’s skill set, he will now have an opportunity to silence the doubters by making an immediate impact up front. It remains to be seen if he will be tasked with replacing Trent Brown at right tackle or if the team has other plans for him in the 2021 NFL season.
Las Vegas has high hopes that Leatherwood’s physical tools and pedigree as a two-time National Champion will pay some major dividends up front. Only time will tell if Mayock and Gruden are vindicated of another questionable first-round pick.