The Raiders’ selection of Alabama offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood with the 17th pick in the 2021 NFL draft was widely viewed as one of the biggest reaches of the first round. Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock is fine with that.
“We knew it would be controversial,” Mayock said, via the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We completely understand that.”
So why do it? Mayock said offensive line coach Tom Cable and head coach Jon Gruden were both high on Leatherwood, and the scouts were, too.
“Coach Cable has been all over him for months now,” Mayock said. “Gruden loved this guy. Our scouts loved this guy. And what I like is, when the second floor in our building, which is all the coaches, and the third floor, which is all the scouts, when we’re united on a conversation like Leatherwood, that makes me feel really good about the pick.”
The Raiders have reached a lot in recent years. Last year they chose cornerback Damon Arnette 19th overall, far higher than most projections had him, and also shocked everyone by taking Lynn Bowden 80th overall (they traded Bowden just a few months later). The year before the Raiders had three first-round picks, and all three of them were reaches: Clelin Ferrell fourth overall, Josh Jacobs 24th overall, and Johnathan Abram 26th overall.
With Gruden going into Year 4, the Raiders badly need these young players to pan out.