When the Las Vegas Raiders selected Alabama offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood with the 17th-overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, general manager Mike Mayock knew they were going to be criticized.
He didn't care.
"He can play inside and outside, but he's going to start for us at right tackle Day One, and we're going to see if he can hold on to that job," Mayock told reporters during a teleconference.
Leatherwood, the Outland Trophy winner as best interior lineman, started in 41 games for Alabama, won a couple of national championship, and has a very bright future in the NFL. Some even called him him the best run-blocker in the draft.
The only question about him was whether he'll be a tackle, or guard, to begin his career.
"He was the highest-rated player on our board at that time, offense or defense," Mayock said.
At the time, three offensive linemen had already been selected:
No., Name, Team, School
- 7 Penei Sewell, Lions, Oregon
- 13 Rashawn Slater, Chargers, Northwestern
- 14 Alijah Vera-Tucker, Jets, USC
Only one other offensive lineman would be selected in the first round, Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw (No. 23, Vikings), which gives an idea of how the talent level at the position quickly dropped off.
So why didn't the Raiders try and trade down and still take Leatherwood? Simple, the Raiders believed he wouldn't still be available and there's good reason to believe that they were correct with that assessment.
Either way, the Raiders did an extensive amount of research and really liked what they found with Leatherwood, both on and off the field.
"We did an awful lot of homework on this young man," Mayock explained. "I spoke to Nick [Saban] at length about a bunch of his players — because they were loaded of course — but we feel like he's a great fit for what we do."
When the Las Vegas Raiders selected Alabama offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood with the 17th-overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, general manager Mike Mayock knew they were going to be criticized. Subscribe for full article
Get Exclusive Access to Bama Central Content
Already a FanNation Member? Log In