Alex Leatherwood NFL Draft Profile
The Senior offensive tackle out of Alabama is one most interesting case studies in this class. He was viewed as a borderline first-round after his 2019 junior season, and then he went out and won the Outland Trophy Award as the Nation’s best offensive lineman. Leatherwood was a five-star recruit and the highest-ranked offensive tackle coming out of high school in 2017. He was a three-year starter at the best program in the country. Yet he is now widely viewed as a second-round pick. Players of that kind of pedigree and physical profile are typically selected in the first round, so what changed?
I think Leatherwood has a lot of good things to build upon, and he does seem to fit what the Chargers are looking for. So let’s dive in.
Top Three Player Traits
Athletic Profile And Mobility
Everyone has the same image in their minds when they think of Alabama offensive linemen: players like Deonte Brown or D.J. Fluker. The problem when the Chargers drafted Fluker in the first round way back when is that many people considered him a guard due to his lack of high-level athletic traits. That of course has since panned out as Fluker has carved out a decent career as a guard over the last few seasons, but obviously failed to live up to expectations in San Diego. Leatherwood’s profile could not be more different than that.
When watching film on Leatherwood you are able to see a truly great athlete at the position. He’s able to get out on the perimeter and make effective blocks via screens or toss plays as a puller. He can get to the opposite shoulders of opposing edge rushers or interior defensive tackles and execute reach blocks proficiently. His Relative Athletic Score registered from his pro day backs up the athletic traits you are able to see on film. He jumped 34.5 inches and 9 feet, 10 inches in the vertical and broad jumps, respectively, which put him in the 98th and 93rd percentile for offensive tackles. He ran a 4.96 40 yard dash, with a projected 1.69 10 yard split – results that place him in the 95th and 98th percentile. Those are FANTASTIC measurements for Leatherwood and put a cherry on top of his stellar athletic profile.
Short Area Explosiveness
Aside from his perimeter athleticism, his short-area explosiveness is his best attribute. What this means is his ability out of his stance. This is similar to an edge rusher and his get-off. Ideally, with an NFL offensive tackle, you want to see a player explode out of his stance, essentially trying to beat the snap of the ball. David Bakhtiari is excellent at this. This where the broad jump and three-cone drills come into play for offensive tackles.
Leatherwood’s pass sets are incredibly explosive. He FIRES off the ball and flashes very quick feet. Outside of Rashawn Slater, Leatherwood has the smoothest pass sets of the class in my opinion. They are beautiful.
I do believe that Leatherwood should develop into an above-average starter at tackle in the NFL. However, he did play his sophomore season as a guard at Alabama, despite not practicing for that role in the offseason. The Crimson Tide had a last-minute injury so they kicked Leatherwood inside to guard right before the 2018 season and he adjusted rather well on the fly. I think a team with a power rushing attack would be making a mistake by drafting him and playing him at guard, but he does fit the athletic profile of a guard for a zone scheme.
That being said, he openly refused to take reps at guard during his week at the Senior Bowl in order to prove to teams that he was a tackle ONLY. So whether or not he actually plays guard remains to be seen. The fact that he did play there in college should only help his draft stock, though.
Top Three Traits To Improve Upon
Flexibility And Bend
My biggest issue with Leatherwood is his lack of ability to adjust on the fly. He fires out of his stance but then fails to adjust to any counters that edge rushers throw at him. He plays a little too much over his toes, which leaves him susceptible to cross chops – which was a particular issue against Azeez Ojulari and Georgia, and then again with Quincy Roche at the Senior Bowl. Whoever drafts him is going to have to work with him to refine his base and be a little more flexible out of his stance.
If you read my profile on Teven Jenkins, you know that he is one of the best in the class in this regard – alongside Penei Sewell. Leatherwood is not in that same tier of finishing ability. The biggest cause for concern here is that he tends to stop his feet, which is a really bad habit. This shows up most when he’s on the backside or not in danger of truly affecting the play. Ideally, you want your offensive lineman to keep those feet churning from snap to whistle on each play. That’s not the case with Leatherwood.
He also doesn’t give you a ton of physicality within the hash marks, which is why I personally wouldn’t play him at guard. Inside blocks are often described as fighting within a phone booth, and Leatherwood falls short in this regard. He does display the ability to be physical in his pass blocks, and he understands leverage – so this could be just more about helping him get to that point of aggression on a more consistent basis.
Diversity As A Pass Blocker
Like all of the offensive linemen in this class not named Rashawn Slater, Leatherwood needs to improve his ability with his hands. He tends to be more of an absorber of contact than someone who will attack his opponents. The good thing here is that he has the length and athleticism to turn this into a strength. I would love to see him quick-set a little more often so he can take advantage of his elite athletic traits and explosiveness.
Ultimately, I have a second-round grade on Leatherwood due to the aforementioned concerns. However, I could see him sneaking into the first round because of his athletic profile and pedigree. Daniel Jeremiah and others have continually said that the league is all over the map with the grades on the offensive tackle class. It’s going to be fascinating to watch where Leatherwood in particular ends up because his physical traits are easily top three in the class. In most years he would likely be a top 15 selection, however, this class is loaded with first-round caliber offensive tackles.