Raiders emphasize secondary in 2021 NFL Draft overkill

The offseason for the Las Vegas Raiders has been a rocky one to say the least. The Raiders’ greatest strength over the last half decade was their offensive line and they just chose to blow it up after trading their three-best offensive linemen in Gabe Jackson, Trent Brown and Rodney Hudson. They will still have some of their trench core with Kolton Miller, Denzelle Good and Richie Incognito (after originally releasing him), but there is work to be done in the interior. 

Instead of a draft where the Raiders could find a commodity and necessity, they have to shoot for all necessities as they have holes to fill on the offensive line and seek desperate help in the secondary. 

How did Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden do? Let’s take a look at their selections. 

Round 1, Pick 17 – Alex Leatherwood (OL): Alabama

The Raiders were expected to go defense with a handful of good safeties and corners on the board. Instead, Mayock pulled the rug from under everyone again and went to the offensive line. Las Vegas sure does love them some Clemson and Alabama players as Leatherwood was a member of the 2017 and 2020 Crimson Tide national championship teams. Last college football season, Leatherwood won the Outland Trophy for best interior lineman, the Jacobs Blocking Trophy for best blocker in the SEC and was named to the All-American team and first-team All-SEC team. 

With the exit of Trent Brown, the Raiders will try out Leatherwood at the strong tackle position, which is a definite need for a quarterback who can put up the numbers, but has proven inconsistent and lacks swift decision-making in key moments. 

Grade: B

Round 2, Pick 43 – Trevon Moehrig (S): TCU

With the free safety position wide open heading into training camp, the Raiders took one of the best from the Big 12 in Moehrig. As a true freshman in 2018, he started two games on defense and was named TCU’s Special Teams MVP for that season. Vegas is in desperate need for a ball hawk that can sit on the deep ball and make opposing quarterbacks pay for taking risks. 

In the last two seasons, the Raiders have finished in the bottom five for interceptions. Moehrig will look to be the catalyst to turn the Vegas secondary into a viable one. 

Grade: A-

Round 3, Pick 79 – Malcolm Koonce (DE) Buffalo

While it’s never a bad thing to have depth defensively, the Raiders made an interesting pick, to say the least, with Koonce. It’s nothing against Koonce, but the Raiders signed Solmon Thomas and Yannick Ngakoue to boost the defensive line, so drafting a defensive end in the third round doesn’t really add up. 

Regardless, Koonce can be a guy to steal a starting spot on the defensive line after a successful career in the MAC as a Buffalo Bull. Hmmmm.. you know who else went to Buffalo and turned into a superstar in the NFL? That would be now-Chicago Bear Khalil Mack, who head coach Jon Gruden traded away in just his first season helming the Raiders. 

In 2019, Koonce was named first-team All-MAC after recording 34 tackles, 11 tackles for losses and nine sacks. He also earned Defensive MVP honors in the Bahamas Bowl after recording two sacks. In a COVID-shortened 2020 season, Koonce racked up five sacks in just six games, good enough to receive first-team All-MAC honors once again. 

We will see in training camp if Koonce can knock off a big gun for a starting role. 

Grade: C+

Round 3, Pick 80 – Divine Deablo (DB): Virginia Tech

A man with the last name “Deablo” is almost too perfect of a fit for Raider nation. In his five years as a Hokie, Deablo was a player that saw massive progressions through each year in the program. The former wideout transitioned to the secondary in his sophomore year and played four games before a foot injury. He made an impactful bounceback as he was the second-leading tackler in 2019. 

Last season, he was named first-team All-ACC after racking up 55 tackles and four interceptions. 

I’d expect Deablo to make the 53-man roster and serve as a utility asset in the special teams, linebacking corp and consistently swapping from strong to free safety. 

Grade: B

Round 4, Pick 143 – Tyree Gillespie (S): Missouri

It’s all about depth in the secondary for the Raiders and this is where the competition will begin in Napa. Gillespie will be fighting tooth and nail to make the roster and get that chip on his shoulder mentality lacking from the Raiders’ defense for a long time. 

While never collecting an interception in college, Gillespie was a power threat similar to Johnathan Abram. If he makes the roster, expect Gillespie to get a few reps per game and provide a big hit or two when Abram needs a breather. 

Grade: C-

Round 5, Pick 167 – Nate Hobbs (CB): Illinois

The Big 10 product made it four secondary picks for the Raiders, which I hope are the intentions of building a sense of competition and fight during training camp to get the defense’s mentality straight for the season ahead. 

Hobbs doesn’t have any standout numbers from his days as an Illini, but, again, the Raiders need all the potential help and options they can get in the secondary. It may seem like overkill to Raider Nation to draft this many defensive backs, but the message is clear: Who wants to turn this putrid secondary around?

Grade: C

Round 7, Pick 230 – Jimmy Morrissey (C): Pittsburgh

With the loss of Hudson, the Raiders need a new face under center and there looks to be a three-way race for the spot between Andre James, Nick Martin and Morrissey. 

He may not be the most talented player in the room, but Morrissey possesses the leadership to be a key guy on the roster. In three and a half years at Pittsburgh, he went from a walk-on to a two-time team captain. It will be hard for him to make the roster at just 6’3”, but anything can happen if players have the heart to go out and do it, and the Raiders are seeking any player who will go all in for the team on every down. 

Grade: D

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