The most shocking selection of the 2021 NFL Draft was easily former Alabama offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood to the Raiders with the No. 17 overall pick. With an abundance of franchise-altering talent still on the board when Las Vegas made their first pick, fans and analysts have been overwhelmingly critical of the decision.
But, it seems the Raiders front office is still confident in their pick.
According to NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport, Las Vegas general manager Mike Mayock believes Leatherwood will be an NFL-ready starter by the start of next season.
“I knew everyone was going to criticize the Leatherwood pick and I didn’t really care,” Mayock said. “We feel he’s a plug-and-play player.”
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 1, 2021
Projected by many analysts as a mid-round pick, Leatherwood ended up going off the board as just the fourth offensive lineman of the night — trailing only No. 7 pick Penei Sewell, No. 13 Rashawn Slater and No. 14 Alijah Vera-Tucker.
The 6-foot-5, 312 lbs lineman will step in to fill one of the many voids left on the Raiders front line this coming season. Earlier this offseason, Las Vegas lost center Rodney Hudson, tackle Trent Brown and guard Gabe Jackson in free agency.
With only their final seventh-round pick remaining, the Raiders have selected no prospects at any skill position. After the selection of Leatherwood at No. 17, Jon Gruden and the front office have drafted players strictly on the defensive side of the ball.
We’ll see how the Raiders’ confidence in Leatherwood plays out this coming season.