After last season’s virtual draft, Cleveland is playing host to festivities this year with a handful of potential draft picks present and socially distanced because of COVID-19.
Here’s a pick-by-pick look at how each player Las Vegas has selected will fit.
Round 1, No. 17 overall: Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
My take: Um … yeah, the Raiders had a huge hole at right tackle, but Leatherwood probably could have been had 20-plus picks later, and defense is still the biggest hole on the team. Is this a reach? Taking a defensive player here or trading back from 17 to get more picks and still being in position to draft Leatherwood, the fourth O-lineman selected but not a consensus top-5 O-lineman, seemed a more profitable move. Unless there were no takers or the Raiders simply loved Leatherwood that much. Perhaps the Raiders move Leatherwood, who played guard to start his college career, to right guard and slide Denzelle Good, who played right tackle and left guard last season, to right tackle.
Roll, Tide?: Leatherwood is the third Alabama player to be drafted in the first round by GM Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden in three years, along with running back Josh Jacobs (No. 24 overall in 2019) and receiver Henry Ruggs III (No. 12 overall in 2020). So yeah, the Raiders have a certain ‘Bama pipeline working (as well as with Clemson, as the Raiders have drafted five Tigers since 2019). Leatherwood was a unanimous first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC in 2020, so he is accomplished at the collegiate level, but is he a true plug-and-play right tackle in the NFL?
Project, or plug-and-play? At 6-foot-6, 312 pounds, Leatherwood is an imposing figure for a reimagined Raiders offensive line. But he is far from a polished product. As noted above, he began his college career as a right guard in 2018 before switching to left tackle in 2019, where he played 1,554 snaps. And he did have an uptick in pressures allowed, doubling from 7 to 14, and in pressures that resulted in sacks, going from none to 5 from 2019 to 2020, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Plus, he was called for 17 penalties over the last two seasons, tied for the second-most among FBS offensive linemen in that span.
What’s next: The Raiders need to address the defense in general, the secondary in particular, and because they have a second-round pick at No. 48 and two third-rounders, Nos. 79 and 80, they have capital to move up if someone grabs their fancy. Last year, the Raiders had three third-round picks in RB Lynn Bowden Jr. (No. 80), WR Bryan Edwards (No. 81) and LB Tanner Muse (No. 100). Only Edwards played a game for Las Vegas last season, as Bowden was traded before the season began and Muse spent the year on IR.