Once again, the Las Vegas Raiders stunned the Draft Industrial Complex, selecting Alabama offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood No. 17 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. Most media scouts didn't rank the OT anywhere near a first-round prospect.
It was just the latest example of general manager Mike Mayock, coach Jon Gruden and the rest of the Raiders scouting staff rejecting the consensus outside their building.
"He was the highest-rated player on our board at that time, offense or defense," Mayock said Thursday night, via the team's official website.
At 6-foot-5, 312 pounds with athleticism, Leatherwood was a three-year starter at Alabama at both guard and left tackle, where he spent the past two seasons.
Immediately the pick was panned by pundits as the latest example of the Raiders reaching for a prospect that could have been on the board in the second round. NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah had Leatherwood ranked as his No. 62 overall player.
For his part, the Bama product couldn't give a plug nickel what anyone else thinks.
"It definitely put a chip on my shoulder," Leatherwood said. "It bothered me a little bit, but at the same time I'm not a media guy. I'm not the type of dude to get caught up in all that garbage, because I know what my film said about me and the GM and the coach, they know that as well. I'm just grateful that they watched that film and saw me as good enough to be the 17th overall pick. I'm more than excited to get to the program and prove them right."
Leatherwood is just the latest example of the Raiders disagreeing with the outside world.
The best example of stunning first-round moves under Mayock was selecting defensive end Clelin Ferrell No. 4 overall in 2019. Last year, cornerback Damon Arnette (No. 19 overall, 2020) was viewed by many as a reach on draft night. Henry Ruggs III (No. 12 overall in 2020) wasn't considered by most as the top WR in that draft either.
The point is not that NFL teams should agree with the consensus or anyone outside their own building. But up to now, the perceived reaches haven't panned out.
"We knew it would be controversial," Mayock said, via the Las Vegas Journal-Review. "We completely understand that."
Going against the grain, with several other offensive linemen on the board, the Raiders are putting their faith in their scouting staff and line coach Tom Cable that they were right this time around.
"Tom Cable, our offensive line coach, in all honesty, you'd have to ask Tom, but this might have been Tom's favorite player in this entire class," Mayock said. "I mean, Coach Cable has been all over him for months now since the first time he saw the tape. Coach Gruden loved this guy. Our scouts loved this guy."
The one trait many media scouts liked about Leatherwood was his scheme-versatility and ability to play both guard and tackle. Mayock said the club plans to start him at right tackle on a completely overhauled offensive line.
In the third draft with Mayock and Gruden, the Raiders took another big swing in the first round. They desperately need to hit this time around.