Las Vegas Raiders Rookies Forecast



By Charlie Campbell - @draftcampbell





Solid Starter

Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU - Round 2
Throughout the leadup to the 2021 NFL Draft, Moehrig was the consensus top-rated safety, so it was surprising when he slid in the second round and was the third safety taken. Once Moehrig started sliding on Friday night of the draft, Las Vegas general manager Mike Mayock started working the phones before moveing up five spots with the 49ers in order to land Moehrig. Moehrig was an excellent pick and could be a plug-and-play upgrade at safety for the Raiders.

In pass defense, Moehrig (6-2, 208) is a valuable strong safety that has nice ball skills. He can help in converage in a variety of ways, as he has the speed to cover ground, but he doesn't have the great range to be a deep centerfielder and single-high free safety. He does a nice job of using his vision to play the ball and break up passes while covering wideouts. Moehrig is natural in zone coverage in the middle of the field, doing a nice job on underneath routes and not getting out of position or taking false steps. Those qualities make him a great fit for Gus Bradley's defense.

Moehrig is also a reliable contributor against the run. He uses his instincts to fire to the ball and make plays. In space, Moehrig can break down, and he is a solid tackler. He also shows some strength and explosion to tackle with some physicality. Adding more strength to bring down NFL running backs would not be a bad idea for Moehrig, and plus growing stronger is something he will probably do as a result of aging while working out in a pro strength and conditioning program.

The Raiders had a big hole at safety next to Johnathan Abram. Abram has disappointed and needs to step up in his third year, but Moehrig looks like a safe pick to turn into a solid starter and be an upgrade for Las Vegas' safety play.

2020: Damon Arnette, CB
2019: Johnathan Abram, S
2018: Kolton Miller, OT
2017: Obi Melifonwu, S
2016: Shilique Calhoun, DE
2015: Clive Walford, TE
2014: Gabe Jackson, G
2013: Sio Moore, LB



Most Likely To Bust

Divine Deablo, LB, Virginia Tech - Round 3
Mike Mayock has really mismanaged the linebacker position since becoming the Raiders general manager. He passed on stud linebacker Devin White for Clelin Ferrell, passed on Patrick Queen for Damon Arnette, and overpaid on disappointing veterans Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton. I would not be surprised if Deablo continues that trend.

Deablo is a fast and physical defender, but changing positions at the NFL level is always a risky proposition. Deablo played safety for the Hokies, but the 6-foot-3, 226-pounder would fit better as a Will - weakside - linebacker in the Raiders' 4-3 defense. I'm not sure Deablo can beat out Littleton even though Littleton struggled in his first year with Las Vegas. Deablo showed instincts and coverage issues in college that might not be resolveable in the passing-driven pro game.

The one qualm I have with this bust potential projection is Gus Bradley. Perhaps Bradley has a great plan for Deablo and Deablo turns into a good Will in Bradley's defense. But of the Raiders' early-round picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, I think Deablo has the largest bust potential.

2020: Tanner Muse, LB
2019: Trayvon Mullen, CB
2018: Arden Key, DE
2017: Eddie Vanderdoes, DT
2016: Jihad Ward, DE
2015: Mario Edwards, DT
2014: Derek Carr, QB
2013: D.J. Hayden, CB



Potential Boom Pick

Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama - Round 1
The media failed in its analysis and understanding of where Leatherwood was valued by NFL teams. Many criticized Las Vegas for selecting Leatherwood at No. 17 because he had not been projected properly in public, so they were were left surprised. WalterFootball.com, however, knew other franchises that had first-round grades on Leatherwood, and sources with the Jets said they had Leatherwood in play for their pick at No. 23 if they had not traded up for Alijah Vera-Tucker. Leatherwood enters the NFL with a ton of experience from having started at left tackle, right tackle, and guard over his career at Alabama. It would not shock me if he becomes one of the better right tackles in the NFL during his rookie contract.

Moden NFL teams are always looking for potential elite left tackles because of how much the pass drives the offense. It can be very difficult for teams to find left tackles with Leatherwood's (6-6, 322) natural size and athleticism, so those things make him an intriguing prospect even though he has some shortcomings in the ground game. There are a lot of natural strengths to Leatherwood that make him an effective pass blocker. For starters, his size and length are ideal, making it hard on defenders to get around him. On top of his mass, Leatherwood has special quickness and athleticism. His quick feet let him plays the typewriter, and he is able to get depth in his drop to cut off the corner. Leatherwood can also kick slide with fast rushers and shut down speed off the edge. His bulk allows him to anchor and stop bull rushes while only giving up a little ground as well. Improving his hand placement would help him to give up even less ground. He is a consistent and reliable pass blocker.

Leatherwood needs to get more physical and play with more power as a run blocker, but he showed progress on this front as a senior. After some coaching from Jon Gruden and Greg Olson, Leatherwood could develop into a quality run blocker for Las Vegas.

More important than my thoughts, here is what a director of college scouting said about Leatherwood early on in the process, "Leatherwood is a late first-rounder at the minimum ... has finally - [started playing like a man] and is playing with some urgency and aggression which he didn't last year. He's a better athlete and player than Jonah Williams (CIN) was who went too high at No. 11 [in the 2020 NFL Draft], and Leatherwood can start at either tackle spot as well as guard if you needed him to. Not dominant and needs to clean up some hand-placement stuff, but he's athletic and a competent pass protector that can excel in the zone-stretch run game. Not a downhill, power-/gap-scheme guy. Not better than [Andrew] Thomas (NYG), [Jedrick] Willis (CLE), [Mekhi] Beckton (NYJ), [Austin] Jackson (MIA) last year, but comparable to [Tristan] Wirfs (TB). It's a good OT class too, and Leatherwood won't be at the top of the class when there is a run on OTs, but will get selected as you see the options running out - mid-late 1. Should be a solid pro."

Playing right tackle could also help Leatherwood draw favorable matchups early in his pro career. I think he is going to turn into an excellent right tackle and prove all the skeptics wrong. Leatherwood has serious boom pick potential for Las Vegas.

2020: Henry Ruggs, WR
2019: Josh Jacobs, RB
2018: Nick Nelson, CB
2017: Gareon Conley, CB
2016: Karl Joseph, S
2015: Amari Cooper, WR
2014: Khalil Mack, LB
2013: Menelik Watson, OT



Future Depth Player

Malcolm Koonce, DE, Buffalo - Round 3
The Raiders have needed more edge-rush talent, and they made a great move by signing Yannick Ngakoue in free agency. Ngakoue and Maxx Crosby could form a tough tandem next season with Clelin Ferrell and Koonce rotating in to keep them fresh. Koonce (6-2, 249) lacks the size to become an every-down starter, but he is a dangerous quarterback hunter with a burst off the edge. Koonce has twitch as an athlete and a second gear around the corner. He could be a good designated pass rusher - DPR - who ends up being a valuable rotational player and contributor for Las Vegas.

2020: Lynn Bowden, WR
2019: Hunter Renfrow, WR
2018: Maurice Hurst, DT
2017: David Sharpe, OT
2016: Connor Cook, QB
2015: Jon Feliciano, G
2014: Keith McGill, CB
2013: Tyler Wilson, QB





Walt's 2021 NFL Draft Grades:

17. Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama - B+ Grade
This is such a perfect fit. Alex Leatherwood is the sort of tough offensive lineman Jon Gruden loves. The Raiders were desperate for an offensive lineman after losing not one, not two, but three blockers in free agency. It makes sense for Leatherwood to be the fourth offensive lineman off the board, so I like this pick for the Raiders.


43. Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU - A+ Grade
Everyone whined about the Raiders apparently reaching for Alex Leatherwood on Thursday even though it was really fine value. I imagine that this selection will be viewed more favorably because Trevon Moehrig was frequently mocked in the first round as the only safety in the opening frame. Moehrig is a safe prospect who figures to fill a huge need in the Raiders' dreadful secondary.


79. Malcolm Koonce, DE/OLB, Buffalo - F Grade
I defended the Alex Leatherwood pick, but I can't do the same thing for this one. I've had Malcolm Koonce slated late on Day 3. He seems like a nice situational pass rusher who will be exposed in run support if he has to play on those downs. He doesn't even fill a need, so I don't see why he's a third-round pick.




80. Divine Deablo, LB/S, Virginia Tech - D Grade
I'm not a big fan of this pick either, but it's better than the other one. Divine Deablo is a talented player, but he's a linebacker-safety hybrid, so it's unclear where he'll fit in the Raiders' defense. Linebacker is a huge need, so why not select someone like Jabril Cox?


143. Tyree Gillespie, S, Missouri - D Grade
I don't understand why the Raiders traded up for Tyree Gillespie. He could potentially fill a need, but he's someone I consistently mocked in the final rounds of my mock draft. I don't think anyone was dying to take Gillespie, so there was no need to give up resources for him.


167. Nate Hobbs, CB, Illinois - C Grade
It's surprising that the Raiders waited this long to find a cornerback. This pick is also surprising because I never had Nate Hobbs in my mock drafts, however. Hobbs has high potential, so I don't hate this pick. He's extremely athletic, so perhaps the Raiders can mold him into a good player.


230. Jimmy Morissey, C, Pittsburgh - A Grade
I thought Jimmy Morissey would be chosen much earlier than this, as I had him pegged in the fourth- or fifth-round range. The Raiders did well to grab a great value, and Morissey could even fill an immediate need at center, created by the departure of Rodney Hudson.


2021 NFL Draft Team Grade: C+. Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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