Raiders 2021 NFL draft grades: Alex Leatherwood reach at No. 17

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Raiders' reach for Leatherwood at No. 17 earns mediocre grade originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The Raiders will always keep you guessing on draft day.

With the No. 17 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft Thursday, the Raiders selected Alabama offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood in a pick that could be viewed as a reach.

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The Raiders dismantled their offensive line this offseason via trades and have a gaping hole at right tackle, so Leatherwood fits the biggest position of need. Listed at 6-foot-5, 312 pounds, Leatherwood became known for his aggressive style of run-blocking at Alabama but questions persist on whether he’ll be able to handle NFL pass rushers. Leatherwood also reportedly struggled with consistency for the Crimson Tide, where he played both tackle and guard. 

The upside and the physical tools are there for him to seize the starting right tackle role, as Kolton Miller will be Derek Carr’s blindside blocker. Richie Incognito and Denzelle Good figure to be the starting guards while Nick Martin and Andre James are set to battle for the starting center gig, following the departures of Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson and Trent Brown.

Top tackle prospects Penei Sewell (Lions, No. 7 overall) and Rashawn Slater (Chargers, No. 13 overall) were already off the board as expected, so it’s possible the Raiders have been locked in on Leatherwood for some time, given their obvious need at right tackle.

Mike Mayock hasn’t had much success with his first-round draft picks since taking over as Raiders general manager in December 2018. Outside of Josh Jacobs, the other four first-round selections since then haven’t lived up to their top billing: receiver Henry Ruggs, cornerback Damon Arnette, defensive end Clelin Ferrell and safety Johnathan Abram.

This pick seems like it could follow a similar pattern, as many pundits doubt Leatherwood’s NFL potential despite his immense physical tools.

RELATED: 2021 Raiders NFL Draft tracker

For what it’s worth NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah appeared shocked by the pick and said he had Leatherwood as his No. 62 overall player on the board, while most mock drafts peg the ‘Bama product as a Day 2 selection. 

Mayock didn’t want to wait and see if Leatherwood would still be around when they picked at No. 48 overall on Friday in the second round. It’s hard to hit a home run with the No. 17 overall pick, and Leatherwood could be the answer the Raiders are looking for, but he will have to prove a lot of doubters wrong in the process.

Grade: C