No position was more of a need for the Raiders in this draft than tackle. So, understandably that’s the position they were expected to address with their top pick. Though there was some disagreement about which tackle they would take, that was the position many expected they would address; both myself and Raiders Wire editor Marcus Mosher among them.
We just had the player wrong. And, at least for my part, weren’t really sure the Raiders would view Leatherwood as an NFL tackle, but rather as a guard. He was asked about which position he would play with the Raiders over video conference after he was selected but said he didn’t know.
It was a question for Mike Mayock, who appeared over video conference following the first round. He didn’t keep us in suspense, revealing that they indeed select Leatherwood to play tackle.
“From my perspective I remember watching him at 18 when he was the right guard and I just started laughing, this guy’s going to be their starting left tackle next year. And of course he was,” Raider GM Mike Mayock said of Leatherwood following the first round. “So, he had two years as a starter on the left side, he played right guard, he can bend, he’s a power guy. He fits our offense. We want to run the football with Josh Jacobs. We’re gonna throw a lot too, obviously, but we want to run the football. This guy’s going to help us do that. As far as his versatility, he can play inside and outside, but he’s going to start at right tackle for us from day one and we’re going to see if he can hold onto that job.”
Mayock went on to say that Leatherwood was offensive line coach Tom Cable’s favorite player in this draft.
Leatherwood checks a lot of boxes. He was the 2020 Outland Trophy winner and a unanimous All-American as the left tackle for a top program at Alabama. As Mayock noted, he also showed great run blocking ability and versatility.
What become somewhat surprising is he doesn’t have the kind of sheer size and length that Tom Cable usually covets. The last time the Raiders went hard after the tackle position, they got two 6-8 guys in Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker. Leatherwood is 6-4 which is right in line with guards in Cable’s offense. And many draft analysts saw him as an interior lineman for that reason as well.
Perhaps Leatherwood can be an outlier in that regard. And if they find he can’t handle those duties, the Raiders like the option of kicking him inside. But they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it. For now, they filled the tackle need. Adjust the rest of your lineups and draft predictions accordingly.