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NFL Draft

Las Vegas Raiders 2021 NFL Draft Class Breakdown

  • The Draft Network
  • May 8, 2021
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Oh, Jon Gruden. You truly never disappoint, do you? Another year and another shocker in the first round by the Raiders.

The Raiders are coming off a year in which they had legit playoff aspirations and ultimately fell short by finishing 8-8 after starting the year 6-2. After an aggressive offseason which saw them add key players such as Yannick Ngakoue and John Brown, while also releasing and trading some of their own key players, it felt like Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock were doing everything imaginable to retool this roster so they can make the postseason. 

There was much anticipation with who the Raiders were going to add in the draft because, theoretically, this team is only one or two high-impact players away from seriously being a contending football team. The roster is pretty talented from top to bottom and quarterback Derek Carr is playing some of the best football of his career. If the Raiders nail their early picks and receive year-one impacts from this class, this team might be looking at a wild-card spot. 

With that being said, let’s take a look at what the Raiders did during last week’s draft. 

Round 1: Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama

One of the first true shockers of night one came when the Raiders selected Leatherwood. On the surface, I don’t hate this pick. Leatherwood is a very solid player who offers plus athleticism, size, and strength at the tackle position. He has started a ton of games in the SEC and has positional versatility as he can play tackle or guard. For the Raiders, he will be the team’s starting right tackle from day one and fills a major need after they traded Trent Brown to the Patriots.

So, the Raiders got a solid player who fills a big need, we should be celebrating this pick, right? Not so fast my friend.

The TDN scouting staff had Leatherwood graded as the 72nd-best player in this class and well below names such as Teven Jenkins, Christian Darrisaw, and Dillon Radunz, all of whom were picked after Leatherwood. This is just another pick in what seems to be a yearly tradition of Gruden overdrafting a player to fill a specific need. Ideally, the Raiders would have been able to move back in the draft and acquire more capital and then select Leatherwood somewhere late in the first or early in the second round. Now I get you need a trade partner in order to trade and if no one wants to trade we can’t really blame the Raiders, but even if the team was forced to pick at No. 17, there were still better players on the board at the position. 

Round 2: Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU

After getting heat after night one of the draft, Gruden and Mayock rebounded excellently with the selection of Moehrig. Moehrig was my 17th overall player in this class and best safety by a wide margin. There was a good chance that Moehrig would have been a first-round pick but after tweaking his back during his pro day, teams became concerned with investing high capital in a potentially injured player. If Moehrig is healthy, and by all accounts he is, the Raiders got a huge steal. Moehrig has excellent size and speed and plays with outstanding instincts. Able to line up as a deep single-high safety, in the box, or play the slot, Moehrig should have no problem securing a starting spot as a rookie and his skill set is a perfect fit for new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. Look for Moehrig to be in the Defensive Rookie of the Year conversation. 

Round 3: Malcolm Koonce, EDGE, Buffalo

This is perhaps the biggest head-scratcher of the Raiders class. I appreciate the front office investing in pass rushers even after they signed Ngakoue in free agency because I do believe they are lacking juice off the edge and in Bradley’s scheme the front four must be able to get home. That being said, Koonce is just not good value in the third round. He is a smaller framed edge rusher who lacks power and length at the point of attack. He’s very inconsistent setting an edge and would routinely get washed by bigger and more physical tackles—and that was against way lower competition than he will face in the NFL. While Koonce has his flaws, he does show a nice ability to bend and flatten the edge to finish at the quarterback and does have very good first-step quickness. There is something to work with here in terms of a developmental situational pass rusher, but again, the third round was pretty rich especially when you consider they passed on Ronnie Perkins, Elerson Smith, and Jordan Smith, all of whom have more upside. Look for Koonce to play on obvious passing situations as a rookie while he continues to develop and gain strength. 

Round 3: Divine Deablo, LB/S, Virginia Tech

When this pick got announced my initial reaction was, “What the heck is Gruden doing?!” and while I still have serious doubts about Gruden as an evaluator, I actually came around to like this pick. Deablo is a twitched-up, athletic safety who routinely made plays for the Hokies last year. He was at his best playing near the line of scrimmage where he showcased very good instincts, closing speed, and length to shed and make tackles. He isn’t the best in terms of playing backward and covering in the deeper areas of the field as he does show stiffness and isn’t a fluid athlete which led most evaluators to believe that his best position would end up being as a WILL linebacker. That’s apparently what the Raiders saw too because their linebacker coach has already said he will be playing WILL for them and I absolutely love this fit in terms of scheme. Bradley needs a linebacker who can run and cover in space and Deablo can do just that. I would not be shocked to see Deablo challenge Nicholas Morrow for a starting role early in the season and he will definitely have a role in nickel and dime packages. 

Round 4: Tyree Gillespie, S, Missouri

OK, three safeties are a tad much. I recognize that the team had intentions of releasing Jeff Heath and they did lose Erik Harris and Lamarcus Joyner in free agency, but did the Raiders really need another safety when they already have Jonathan Abrams, Karl Joseph, and just drafted Moehrig in the second round? The team should have looked to add an interior defensive lineman or even another offensive lineman, but instead took a safety who is going to struggle to find snaps. All this being said, Gillespie is a good player and the value in which they got him was good. He is a better player against the run than the pass and is quick to trigger downhill and is a sound open-field tackler. He lacks the ball production you would want to see from a safety, but you do like his overall movement skills in coverage. He projects as a core special teamer early in his career who has a chance to develop into a very good third safety. 

Round 5: Nate Hobbs, CB, Illinois

I really like this pick. Hobbs is ultra-athletic and has the upside to develop into an NFL starter one day. This is what the late rounds are about, taking chances on players who run low 4.4s and have a 40-plus inch vertical jump, and players who play with excellent aggressiveness and toughness. Hobbs' issues are with his poor technique, instincts, and awareness, but he has everything you would want from an athletic and physical tools standpoint. The Raiders have some solid depth at corner with Trayvon Mullen, Damon Arnette, and newly signed free agent Casey Hayward, but I do think Hobbs has a chance to make the 53-man roster as he should be outstanding on special teams. 

Round 7: Jimmy Morrissey, OC, Pittsburgh

After trading Rodney Hudson, it makes sense to add a young center to develop behind Andre James and Nick Martin. Morrissey isn’t the best athlete or most physically gifted but he plays with very good technique, effort, and is an extremely cerebral player. He is a long shot to make the roster but has a chance to latch on to the team’s practice squad. 

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