The Las Vegas Raiders entered the draft with the hopes of being competitive, despite playing in the brutal AFC West. The division has a Super Bowl-caliber team in the Kansas City Chiefs, a rapidly-improving Los Angeles Chargers, and the Denver Broncos, which has one of the most complete rosters in the league, although the quarterback position is still questionable.
Below are grades for the Raiders’ draft picks.
1. Round 1 (Pick 17) – Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
With all the changes to the Las Vegas offensive line this offseason, it was quite predictable that the team would add a lineman early on. What was not predictable, however, was who the Raiders would choose.
The Raiders front office opted to go with Leatherwood, who had a productive collegiate career. He has experience playing both guard and tackle. Leatherwood has great size at 6’6 and 310 pounds. He possesses good length and mobility and is a force in the run game. His best fit is probably inside at guard.
The issue with Leatherwood is that for all his physical tools, he struggles against quicker pass rushers, especially when he was playing tackle. Overall, his game needs some polish.
This pick was one of the most questionable decisions in the entire draft. There were several, higher-rated prospects than Leatherwood available at the 17th spot. Las Vegas could have gone with Christian Darrisaw or Tevin Jenkins. Both these players have a much higher ceiling than Leatherwood.
Further, most mock drafts had Leatherwood going to the second round and at best late in the first.
2. Round 2 (Pick 43) – Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
As suspect as the first pick was, the Raiders redeemed themselves with this selection. Moehrig was widely considered the best safety in this class. How he fell this far is surprising, even more surprising is he was the third safety taken.
Moehrig has excellent coverage skills and diagnoses plays quickly and accurately. He is very athletic and is a willing tackler, although his work against the run could use some work.
For Raiders fans to feel better, let us all just close our eyes and pretend that Moehrig went in the first round and Leatherwood in the second.
3. Round 3 (Pick 79) – Malcolm Koonce, LB, Buffalo
Koonce is a lean, edge rusher, who excels using his long arms and flexibility to win his matchups. He plays with a high motor and does not give up on a play.
Koonce will have to increase his functional strength, as he gets moved too often, specifically in rushing plays.
4. Round 3 (Pick 80) – Divine Deablo, S, Virginia Tech
This guy has got to be top five in the draft when it comes to interesting names. Gus Bradley is the Raiders’ new defensive coordinator and he is best known from his Seattle Seahawks “Legion of Boom” days. One of the key members of that team’s defense was safety Kam Chancellor.
While Chancellor was listed as a safety, he was built and played more like a linebacker. He would land vicious hits on opposing ball carriers and at the same time was adept in coverage. Chancellor is the best-case scenario for Deablo. Both players also played for Virginia Tech.
At 6’3, 226 pounds, Deablo is a sure tackler and will be a plus in the run game. He possesses that sideline to sideline speed that is necessary for linebackers. He did an admirable job matching up against tight ends and smaller receivers.
The concern with bigger defensive backs is that they are quite stiff and Deablo is no exception.
5. Round 4 (Pick 143) – Tyree Gillespie, S, Missouri
The Raiders seem to have gone safety-happy in this draft, although Deablo could make the transition to linebacker at the professional level. Further, teams are more open than ever to use defenses with five defensive backs on the field.
Gillespie has a high football IQ and solid ball skills. He plays physically, especially when it comes to defending against the run.
Gillespie is versatile and can man both safety spots. A safety duo of Gillespie and Moehrig moving forward is very promising.
6. Round 5 (Pick 167) – Nate Hobbs, CB, Missouri
Hobbs is a solid corner prospect and has an aggressive approach to the game. He is athletic and could be a contributor for the Raiders in punt or kick returns. Unlike most corners, he is very engaged when it comes to stopping the run.
7. Round 7, (Pick 230) – Jimmy Morrissey, C, Pittsburgh
Morrissey provides some much-needed depth along the offensive line. He played almost exclusively at center in college, but projects to have the versatility to play guard.
He is not the strongest guy out there and lacks the ideal physical traits, but he wins his matchups with his refined technique and leverage.