Raiders waive first-round bust Alex Leatherwood 1 year after drafting him 17th overall, Bears pick him up

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Las Vegas Raiders offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood (70) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Minnesota Vikings,, Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
The draft media hated the Raiders' selection of Alex Leatherwood. Sometimes the draft media is right. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The arrival of NFL roster cutdown day means hundreds of players getting cut loose from their teams. It's not often that one of them was a first-round draft pick a year ago.

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The Las Vegas Raiders waived Alex Leatherwood, the No. 17 overall pick of the 2021 NFL draft, on Tuesday, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, cementing his unfortunate status as one of the biggest busts in recent draft history.

Leatherwood didn't stay available for long. The Chicago Bears scooped him up on waivers Wednesday.

Leatherwood was coming off a rookie year in which Pro Football Focus ranked him No. 80 out of 82 guards in the NFL and dead last among guards who played at least 1,000 snaps. This preseason, which included an ill-fated move to right tackle, wasn't going much better:

Every team in the NFL reportedly turned the Raiders down in trade talks before the team cut him loose.

The Raiders drafted Leatherwood out of Alabama thinking they were getting their right tackle of the future. That was to the surprise of most NFL draft media, who almost universally didn't see Leatherwood as a first-rounder or were skeptical about him sticking at tackle, where he played for the Crimson Tide. Yahoo Sports' Eric Edholm ranked him as the No. 46 overall prospect and said a move to guard was possible.

Then-Raiders general manager Mike Mayock conceded the pick would be controversial, but revealed head coach Jon Gruden and offensive line coach Tom Cable loved him as a prospect. Mayock also said Leatherwood was the highest overall player remaining on their board.

Even the Raiders' in-house media was defiant over the pick, proclaiming Leatherwood to be the best run-blocker in the class.

And now here we are. Another Raiders first-rounder carrying the "bust" label, a story that is becoming very familiar.

The Jon Gruden-era Raiders were awful at the draft

Jon Gruden ran the Raiders for four seasons. In that time, the team had had seven first-round draft picks. Here they are:

  • OT Kolton Miller (2018, 15th overall): The team's biggest success, recently signed a three-year, $54 million extension.

  • DE Clelin Ferrell (2019, 4th overall): Widely seen as a massive over-draft, has posted eight career sacks and did not have his fifth-year option picked up.

  • RB Josh Jacobs (2019, 24th overall): Made a Pro Bowl and posted a couple 1,000 yards season, but also didn't have his fifth-year option picked up.

  • S Johnathan Abram (2019, 27th overall): Ranked as the 75th best safety out of 92 last year, also didn't have his fifth-year option picked up.

  • WR Henry Ruggs (2020, 12th overall): His career might have had promise, until a tragedy allegedly of his own making.

  • CB Damon Arnette (2020, 19th overall): Released last November after multiple arrests and making online death threats.

  • OT Alex Leatherwood (2021, 17th overall): See above.

So, of seven first-round picks, the Raiders have decided to keep one of them long-term. Keep in mind, the team now has a new decision-maker in general manager Dave Ziegler, but few have questioned his decisions to move on from the Gruden-era picks.

The same day Leatherwood was waived, Ziegler traded away 2019 second-rounder Trayvon Mullen to the Arizona Cardinals, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.