The depth of the Las Vegas Raiders’ 2021 draft class gives the new regimen a strong foundation

HENDERSON, Nevada — “I think I have to stick to my instincts after I collect all the information, after everything is in. And when you make decisions, you have to take everything into account, you have to take into account all the opinions of the trainers, you have to take all the opinions of the scouts. jon [Gruden] and I sit down and get together and shred it to come to a consensus. But at the end of the day, the best way I feel good about myself is when I know I feel good about that guy from AZ. And if I make a mistake, it’s for the right reasons.” — former Los Vegas Raiders general manager Mike Mayock on his draft philosophy, April 22, 2021.

Obviously, neither Mayock nor former coach Jon Gruden is still with the Raiders: Gruden abruptly resigned amid their email controversy on Oct. 11 and Mayock was fired on Jan. 17, but their third and final draft class together remains to be seen. the new regime. from GM Dave Ziegler and trainer Josh McDaniels to evaluate.

And who doesn’t like to do something, well, evaluate?

Because after more amazement, questions and resounding mistakes in his first two drafts, especially with his first picks, his 2021 draft class was more than solid, even if his first pick was criticized and no one would have really screamed if he just swapped positions. draft picks from those top two picks, taking free safety Tre’von Moehrig first and following offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood in the second round.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and in our recent NFL Nation draft of the first two rounds, that’s exactly what he should have done.

Unfortunately, I came in with the mindset that a right tackle was the Raiders’ primary need at the time and, knowing Leatherwood would be kicked out to right guard five games into his rookie season, I thought, why not draft to a top-tier rookie guard in first place? So I took Alijah Vera-Tucker in the first round and, without Moehrig, protected cornerback Nate Hobbs by taking him in the second. Leatherwood, for what it’s worth, was not selected in our two-round drill.

But let’s get back to reality.

Leatherwood aside, how impressive was the 2021 Las Vegas draft class? Pro Football Focus ranked him No. 4 in the NFL based on first-year production, behind the New England Patriots, Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs.

A look, then, at the Raiders’ 2021 draft class:

OL Alex Leatherwood (Alabama)

Draft slot: First round (No. 17 overall)

The thin one: The pick seemed like a reach on draft night, even if he was an All-American and Outland Trophy winner, since he had a second-round rating by most draftniks. And it was apparently confirmed when Leatherwood, after a rocky start at right tackle on a reimagined offensive line, was moved to right guard in Week 5. He started all 17 games, as well as the playoff game on the Cincinnati Bengals, but according to PFF , Leatherwood led all NFL offensive linemen with 65 quarterback pressures allowed. Additionally, he was tied for third in penalties among all NFL linemen.

He can only get better, and it will be interesting to see if he stays on the inside or re-boards in McDaniels’ more modern scheme. Here’s an idea: Keep him at guard and sign Trent Brown, who is already familiar with McDaniels’ offense from their time together last season in New England, to play right tackle. I joke, I joke. A bit.

F.S. Tre’von Moehrig (TCU)

Draft slot: Second round (No. 43 overall)

The thin one: Moehrig’s fall into the Raiders’ lap in the second round had many wondering, simply why? He had first-round talent, after all, and was viewed as the best safety in the draft. Instead, he was the third safety taken, after Jevon Holland and Richie Grant. Las Vegas couldn’t have been happier.

Moehrig may not have been the hawk he was in college (he only had one interception after earning seven picks in three seasons at TCU), but his coverage skills, particularly as a single-deep, were more than welcome. He started all 17 games and finished with 52 tackles (33 solo) with six passes defensed and was named to the PFWA All-Rookie Team. Pro Football Focus had him with nearly as many interceptions plus incomplete passes forced (six) as completed passes allowed as the primary coverage defender (nine). He should be a mainstay for new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.

Draft slot: Third round (No. 79 overall)

The thin one: Of course, comparisons were made early on with another former Buffalo the Raiders running back once selected. And it was unfair to compare Koonce to Khalil Mack. Still, Koonce might have been the most efficient member of this draft class, with two sacks in his first two games (Washington, at Kansas City). He played in five of the Raiders’ last six regular-season games, but was inactive for the playoff game in Cincinnati. Keep an eye out for Koonce in Graham’s scheme, who has 3-4 sensitivities.

Draft slot: Third round (No. 80 overall)

The thin one: A converted safety, Deablo was delayed from training camp with a knee injury and played mostly on special teams early in the season. He replaced expensive second-year signing Cory Littleton in Week 14 and it was Deablo who spoke publicly after the 48-9 loss at Kansas City that week, essentially challenging the intensity of his teammates. Deablo played in all 17 games, starting the last five and finishing with 39 tackles (24 solo) with one pass defensed. He also shone in the playoff loss to the Bengals with eight tackles.

Draft slot: Fourth round (No. 143 overall)

The thin one: Initially viewed as a potential steal and starter, Gillespie was used primarily on special teams, as he only had 13 snaps on defense in his 11 games (the Raiders went 8–3 each time he played). Gillespie missed six games (he went on the disabled list with a hamstring injury on Nov. 17), but returned for the last three games in Las Vegas and the playoff game in Cincinnati. Gillespie finished with eight tackles, one solo.

CB Nate Hobbs (Illinois)

Draft slot: Fifth round (No. 167 overall)

The thin one: Hobbs was a revelation in camp and preseason, winning the starting job and never looking back. He was the highest-rated rookie cornerback in the PFF last season and, at 78.4, was the Raiders’ second-highest-rated defensive player, behind Pro Bowl defensive end Maxx Crosby. Yes, Hobbs, who played 16 games and missed one with COVID, was that valuable. Although he only had one interception and three passes defensed.

Still, Hobbs was a chess piece for then-DC Gus Bradley with one sack among his four QB hits, one forced fumble and 74 tackles. PFF had him allowing only 0.7 yards per coverage play, seventh among cornerbacks with at least 250 plays, and he also had a 78.8 PFF rush defense rating which was 11the between corners.

Draft slot: Round 7 (No. 230 overall)

The thin one: The only member of the draft class not to appear in a regular-season game for Las Vegas, Morrissey opened the season on the practice squad, with the Raiders having two centers in starter Andre James and veteran signing Nick Martin. The Texans claimed him on Oct. 20 and he started four of the five games he appeared for them.

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The depth of the Las Vegas Raiders’ 2021 draft class gives the new regimen a strong foundation