The decision was the most surprising move of the draft to coaches and general managers around the league, according to Peter King of ProFootballTalk.
Bleacher Report's NFL Scouting Department ranked Leatherwood as the No. 35 overall prospect in the draft and No. 7 at his position. Numerous players ranked above him—Oklahoma State's Teven Jenkins, Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw, Notre Dame's Liam Eichenberg and Florida's Stone Forsythe—were still on the board at the time.
The Raiders weren't surprised by the reaction to the pick.
"We knew it would be controversial," general manager Mike Mayock said Thursday, per Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "We completely understand that."
The 6'5", 312-pound Florida native, who won the Outland Trophy as the country's top interior lineman, wasn't shocked to be selected 17th overall, telling reporters he didn't pay much attention to mock drafts and what the media was saying (h/t Bonsignore).
Mayock said offensive line coach Tom Cable had "been all over him for months now." While the selection could pay dividends in the end, King wrote that the GMs and coaches he polled weren't ready to assume that based on the Raiders' track record with their recent first-round selections.
Defensive end Clelin Ferrell went No. 4 overall to the Raiders in 2019 despite being considered a late first-round talent, and they selected cornerback Damon Arnette at No. 19 overall in 2020 even though he didn't have a consensus first-round projection.
That said, the Raiders may be justified this time since teams that picked late in the first round told ESPN draft analyst Jim Nagy they had Leatherwood on their boards.