Raiders 2021 NFL Draft class has become a cornerstone group entering Year 4

The Las Vegas Raiders may have missed on Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft, but they stacked talent later on.

Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders
Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders / Candice Ward/GettyImages
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In the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Las Vegas Raiders selected Alabama offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood. At the time, Leatherwood was seen as more of a Day 2 prospect, but with a gaping hole at right tackle, Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden reached for the selection in the first round.

What would play out would be another nightmare scenario for the Raiders, as they completely missed on the pick, and ended up passing on some future stars in the process. During the Mayock-Gruden Era, the misses in the first round were costly, as the tandem stacked Day 1 picks in hopes of turning the franchise around.

Leatherwood was another in a long list of misses, and he would last only one season with the franchise before being released. While Las Vegas failed to bring in an impact player on Day 1 in 2021, they did a tremendous job across the final six rounds, and now, that class has a few cornerstone players for the franchise moving forward.

Raiders selected key defensive players in 2021 NFL Draft

After the debacle on Day 1, Mayock and Gruden came back strong on Day 2, bringing in three defensive players that have become keys for the Raiders on that side of the ball. Safety Trevon Moehrig was the Raiders second round selection, and in the third round, Mayock would add two guys who are starting to reach the prime of their careers.

Malcolm Koonce and Divine Deablo were the third round selections that season, and if the 2023 campaign is any indication, they are going to be in the Silver and Black for a long time. Koonce stepped up after Antonio Pierce was hired as interim head coach, notching eight sacks down the stretch, while Deablo looks like a potential Pro Bowl linebacker.

On Day 3, Nate Hobbs was brought in via a fifth-round pick, and he has since become the Raiders starting slot cornerback. Hobbs had a down 2022 season, but rebounded in a big way this past year, and should be back in the starting lineup in 2024 as well.

Overall, the miss on Leatherwood was huge, as Jaelan Phillips or Christian Darrisaw, both selected after him, have gone on to become solid NFL players. However, Hobbs, Deablo, Moehrig, and Koonce have big expectations for them going into Year 4, and I could see the franchise extending many of them this offseason.

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