The Las Vegas Raiders will start a rookie at right tackle in 2021, and the man playing left tackle is a perfect ally for him in Year 1.
With their only first round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the then-Oakland Raiders turned some heads by selecting Kolton Miller. At the time, Miller was not seen by all as a first round prospect, and with Donald Penn returning in 2018, left tackle did not seem like a real position of need.
Well, the Raiders picked Miller, inserted him at left tackle, moved Penn to the right side, and had to endure a tough rookie season. Playing hurt, Miller looked overmatched at the NFL level, leading many to question the selection even further.
However, since then, Miller has become one of the top young left tackles in football, and recently earned himself a rare contract extension from the Raiders. With him anchoring the left side for the foreseeable future, and with Trent Brown being traded away, the Raiders once again had a need for a tackle, and took one in the first round this past April.
Now, Alex Leatherwood becomes the head-scratching first round pick that could turn into a mainstay along the line for the Raiders. Leatherwood played at a championship level at Alabama, has the size and strength to be a real force in the NFL, but like Miller, he is going to have his struggles in Year 1.
Thankfully, Miller is still on the roster, had endured a tough rookie year, and has come out on the other side of it as an elite player in the Silver and Black. For Leatherwood, he could not have a better ally going into his rookie season.
Raiders revamped offensive line a big question mark
Going into the offseason, the Raiders offensive line was supposed to be set, but all of that changed with the trades of Brown, Gabe Jackson, and Rodney Hudson. Sure, some familiar faces are back, like Miller, Denzelle Good, and Richie Incognito, but this is a position group that went from a strength to a question mark.
Not to say there is not enough talent up front to dominate in 2021, but they have a rookie right tackle, a new center, and we still do not know who the other starting guard will be. Overall, the competition is going to be tough this summer, and the hope is there is enough talent remaining to clear holes for Josh Jacobs and protect Derek Carr.
The Las Vegas Raiders did not get much from their 2020 draft class last season, but two non-first-round picks could have a major impact in 2021.
In 2018, Miller struggled in a big way, but he was playing on the left side, which is historically a tougher spot. Teams are going to be stacking the right side to get to the young rookie Leatherwood in 2021, and no matter what happens, he will have a trusted ally in Miller to lean on.