With the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft in the books, did the Las Vegas Raiders address their needs or swing for the fences? Here is our Round 1 Draft Grade for the Silver and Black.
With only one draft pick (at number 17) in the first round of the NFL Draft, the Las Vegas Raiders had the responsibility of selecting a prospect ready to contribute on Day 1. For Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock, offensive line or defense would be a priority, with the draft providing the opportunity to bolster a rehauled o-line or inject the defense with a needed spark of talent.
And in typical Raiders fashion, they made some heads turn with their only draft pick in the first round.
Gruden and Mayock did go offensive line with the 17th overall selection, and they chose a prospect that very well could have been available in the second round. Alex Leatherwood out of Alabama is by no means a bad prospect, and he hails from a winning program, having played a key role on the offensive line for the Champion Crimson Tide.
But with the likes of Christian Darrisaw still on the board, Las Vegas could have very well picked up someone ready to play impactful snaps. If anything, selecting Leatherwood does not ensure Gruden and Mayock hold off on selecting another lineman as the draft goes on, but it begs the question of whether it was worth leveraging their only pick in the first round.
Raiders addressed the offensive line
Addressing the offensive line was a sound strategy, but if Las Vegas wanted to go another route, then addressing the defense with an edge rusher could have been in play as well. Especially if Gruden and Mayock were locked in on Leatherwood, they could very likely have called his name later on in the second round addressed the opposite side of the ball first.
Granted, Gruden and Mayock clearly have a fondness for Alabama and Clemson prospects, and the trend continued in round one.
Las Vegas is in the distinct position of being a ways away from contender status, but too good to be in rebuild mode. This draft is a critical factor for the Raiders to take a step forward and not only return to the postseason but post their first winning season in Jon Gruden’s second run. Simply put, they have to hit the mark with the limited draft capital they have.
It’s only the first round with plenty more picks to be had, but the early read is suspect, to put it lightly. The grade (and reaction) is not a knock on Leatherwood’s skill, it’s more so on Gruden and Mayock’s thinking to begin what will be a critical draft haul. They wanted a surprise, time will tell if it will pay off.