No matter whom you talk to in the Raiders organization, it sounds like the team was always going to pick Alex Leatherwood No. 17 overall, regardless of mock drafts or what any draft expert said.
For months, General Manager Mike Mayock, Head Coach Jon Gruden, and the rest of the scouting department scoured through hours of tape, and what they saw was a starting right tackle from Day One.
"He can play inside and outside, but he's going to start for us at right tackle Day One," Mayock told reporters following the first round, "and we're going to see if he can hold on to that job."
Let's get something straight: Leatherwood is no scrub. He's started in 41 games for Alabama, is a national champion and is hands down the best run blocker in this draft class. Mayock understands that the pick may have caught some people by surprise, but when the team was on the clock at No. 17, he was the highest-graded player on both sides of the ball.
"He was the highest-rated player on our board at that time, offense or defense," Mayock said.
Whether it was meticulously combing through hours of tape, speaking with members of the Alabama coaching staff, or attending pro days, the Raiders did an extensive amount of research.
"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."
The Silver and Black want to build on its already-dominant run game featuring Pro Bowl running back Josh Jacobs and his new running mate Kenyan Drake. By bringing in Leatherwood, Mayock expects Jacobs to do more damage and break off the big runs we saw during his rookie year.
"He's a powerful right tackle," Mayock shared. "So, I think we're going to run the football better. I think we're going to get Josh Jacobs to the second level more cleanly than we did last year. Not just because of Alex, but because I think we're getting younger, more athletic. I think we're going to run the football and have some fun next year. I think people are going to like Leatherwood in the run game."
Leatherwood has the measurables of a premier NFL tackle and his new offensive line coach, Tom Cable, is champing at the bit to work with him. Throughout the evaluation process, Cable couldn't help but share his excitement with the rest of the coaching staff, calling Leatherwood his favorite prospect in the entire draft, and he wasn't alone according to Mayock.
"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."
Day One of the NFL Draft might not have gone the way Raider Nation thought it would, but Mayock and Gruden are putting the pieces in place to take this offense to new heights in 2021, and the work is far from done. The Silver and Black currently have three picks at their disposal for Day Two, and Mayock is well prepared for anything that comes his way.
"I got a really good feel for what it's going to cost to go from No. 48 to anywhere up in front, and I like the depth that we're looking at tomorrow, to be honest with you," he said. "I like the way our board lays out right now. There were very few surprises tonight for us, so we're looking forward to tomorrow and you guys have seen the last couple of years we've moved up and back several times. So, eyes are wide open, and I hope we get a few opportunities to move around."
With the 17th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Las Vegas Raiders select offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood.