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Raiders: Final rookie report cards

Las Vegas asked a lot of its rooks, some rose up and others faltered

NFL: OCT 17 Raiders at Broncos
Tre’von Moehrig
Photo by Steve Nurenberg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Whether it was because they were taken to fill a void, injuries or someone just exceeding expectations, the Las Vegas Raiders relied heavily on their 2021 NFL Draft class.

The Raiders added seven rookies this year, six made team, three started for the entire season and another became a first-stringer during the end of the year winning streak. Overall, the results were positive for what would be Mike Mayock’s last draft in Las Vegas, but the class didn’t come without some disappointment.

Round 1, Pick 17: Alex Leatherwood

Final Grade: D-

To be honest, even a D- feels like a generous grade. The Raiders drafted Leatherwood to bring stability to the right tackle spot and five weeks into the season, he got moved to guard. While he played better on the inside than outside, he allowed 10 more pressures than any other guard (67), the second-most sacks (eight) and had the fourth-worst PFF pass-blocking efficiency rating (94.8).

The only thing keeping Leatherwood from an F for me is his run blocking. He earned a slightly above-average 64.6 run-blocking grade from PFF as a guard that ranked 44th at the position. Still not good enough to overcome his deficiencies in pass protection, but a small silver lining on the campaign.

Round 2, Pick 43: Tre’Von Moehrig

Final Grade: B+

Moehrig slid in the draft because of an injury concern but ended up participating in all but six defensive plays this season, and he didn’t just participate, he throve.

The former Horned Frog finished the regular season with the sixth-highest overall PFF grade among rookie defenders (73.3) and second in coverage grade (77.7) — minimum 60 coverage snaps. He allowed just nine completions for 141 yards as the primary coverage defender and accumulated six combined pass breakups and interceptions.

Two things keeping Moehrig from an A for me, his hands and lack of versatility. He had a few dropped interceptions, the most notable of which came against the Washington Football Team when he could have sealed the win, and only managed one pick all season. As far as versatility, coming out of college, he was known as someone who could play multiple spots on the defense, but he almost exclusively played as a deep safety this year and his role never seemed to grow beyond that.

Granted, the latter could be more of the result of the coaching staff not wanting to overwhelm a young player in year one and both knocks on him are nit-picky, but getting the top grade from me as a top-50 pick is no easy task!

Round 3, Pick 79: Malcolm Koonce

Las Vegas Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs
Malcolm Koonce
Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Final Grade: C+

In a similar vein as Moehrig, my grade for Koonce might be more of a reflection on how the coaching staff deployed him than how he actually performed. The Buffalo product only registered 48 defensive snaps this year, none until Week 13, but was effective in limited action.

He rushed the passer just 25 times and managed to get four pressures, two of which he converted into sacks. That alone gave him a boost in the grade book for me, but Koonce’s run defense did leave a little something to be desired. On his 23 run defense snaps, he only managed one tackle and a run defense grade of 43.8, so that’s certainly an area of growth moving forward.

Still, an above-average grade with little playing time is nothing to be ashamed of. Hopefully, more opportunities will lead to more success down the road for him.

Round 3, Pick 80: Divine Deablo

Final Grade: B

Injuries plagued the start of Deablo’s career as he missed the majority of training camp and only played in one preseason game. That also stunted his growth as he didn’t get much playing time until Week 13. However, he finished the season strong and impressed as a run defender.

The converted safety finished the regular season with a 74.6 run defense grade that was second among all rookie linebackers. He also recorded eight run stops and took over a starting spot for the team’s last five games, including in the postseason.

Deablo’s coverage was shaky at first but again, he finished strong by allowing just 24 receiving yards and recording a pass breakup in the last two contests. Had it not been for his slow start to the year and a few rough outings in coverage, he’d be in the A category as a tremendous value for a third-round pick.

Round 4, Pick 143: Tyree Gillespie

Final Grade: Incomplete

Injuries were the story of Gillespie’s rookie year. He come into training camp banged up and then had a stint on injured reserve from Week 10 to 15. That played a part in him only taking 13 snaps on defense in 2021.

He did play well on special teams though, earning a 72.8 grade in that area from PFF.

Round 5, Pick 167: Nate Hobbs

Los Angeles Chargers v Las Vegas Raiders
Nate Hobbs
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Final Grade: A

I feel like this one doesn’t need much explanation.

Hobbs went from a no-name fifth-round pick to PFF’s fourth-highest graded rookie defender (78.4) and led all first-year cornerbacks by over 10-grade points. He finished in the top-10 among all corners with 23 defensive stops and allowed just one touchdown in coverage all year. Adding some ball skills into the mix — only one interception and two PBUs on the campaign — should be a point of emphasis for him this offseason, but the Illinois product exceeded expectations by a longshot.

Round 7, Pick 230: Jimmy Morrissey

Final Grade: Withdrew

Morrissey was cut at the end of training camp and spent a few weeks on the Raiders practice squad before getting picked up by the Houston Texans. He saw action in four games and earned a 58.6 PFF run-blocking grade and a 20.0 mark in pass protection. I guess technically he didn’t “withdraw”, but the point of the matter is Las Vegas isn’t missing much so no harm no foul on losing the player before the end of year one.