2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Alex Leatherwoodby Charlie Parent April 28, 2021 1 comment
Alex Leatherwood is an extremely experienced offensive lineman who has been at the forefront of some controversy this draft cycle. The debate on him is whether or not he should be making a switch from guard to tackle once in the NFL.
Leatherwood, the 2020 Outland Trophy winner, has been the blindside protector for several quarterbacks in Alabama’s ever-powerful offense. Like every other prospect, Leatherwood has his concerns, but overall, he’s a super clean lineman and will succeed wherever teams want to put him.
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Name: Alex Leatherwood
Position: Offensive Line
Weight: 315 lbs
Pass Blocking (9/10)
Leatherwood is an extremely clean pass blocker. He only allowed three sacks in 2020, which was a downgrade from his zero sack year in 2019. He’s super clean in how he handles his pass reps and can get into some reps where he really shows his underrated power. The only place where he has struggled is speed rushers. He’s a little bit on and off in this aspect. There are times when guys have just bent past him with relative ease and times where he’s just destroyed them putting them into the dirt. He’s handled counters really well and there are only a few times where he’s allowed a swim or club move to get by him. Overall, he’s just super sound and clean here.
Run Blocking (8.5/10)
While he’s not a better run blocker than he is a pass blocker, Leatherwood is still very good in run protection. He was used in a multitude of ways in Alabama’s run scheme and was pretty solid in all of them. One little concern that came up was there were several plays where he seemed a bit confused about who to block. This could be a scheme thing, but could also be an awareness issue. Missing assignments are never good so hopefully, this was just an error schematically. Once again, words to describe Leatherwood’s play here would just be clean and sound. He also brings a little bit of pop in some plays and is normally competitive to the end.
Leatherwood is a super smooth operator, however, there have been some issues come up in the technique. He plays almost every down a little too upright. At the next level, he may get knocked back super easily because of this. His footwork is very clean and he can shuffle nicely. He doesn’t click heels much, nor does he really ever step out of frame meaning he doesn’t do anything too unexpected even when facing adversity.
Leatherwood’s hands are always moving. He’s pretty quick to shut out counters and has even stopped several in a row. Where he struggles is his punch. This also seems to be one of the reasons people suggest he switch to guard. Leatherwood’s punch is really subpar at best. He fails to really stun defenders and guys don’t really get affected in their initial burst. He did well to counter out a lot of these issues in college, but NFL edge rushers are an entirely different story and have even quicker bursts off the line. He’ll need to deploy a better punch if he starts out at tackle in the league. If he doesn’t, it will be a quick move to guard, unfortunately.
Leatherwood doesn’t seem to be a pure natural strength freak, but he is a pretty strong player on the film for other reasons. He gets to build up a lot of strength from his leverage and can really just explode into guys. Leatherwood didn’t hit the bench press at his pro day, unfortunately, so there are no real measurements to go off of in this category. He doesn’t necessarily stand out in the power game like Teven Jenkins or Penei Sewell does, but he really impresses and has some plays that make a real impression.
Freak athlete alert. Leatherwood had the best pro day out of any offensive lineman this year. While going through his measurements, keep in mind he’s 6’5″ and 315 pounds. Leatherwood ran a 4.96 40 yard dash, followed it up with a 34.5-inch vertical jump, and then finished it all off with a 9’10” broad jump. These numbers all land in the high 90s for percentile at his position. You can see his athleticism on the field almost as well. He seems a very small bit slower than his 40, but he gets out into space super nicely. Alabama used him in all different pulling situations and he got to show off his athleticism by getting to the second level effortlessly.
Leatherwood has average balance. There are times where he just leans into the defender way too early and can actually end up on his back. His struggles show up pretty evenly in pass and run protection. A problem with having okay balance is that it replicates everywhere. His poor punch really only translates to the tackle spot, but bad balance translates to both the guard and tackle positions. This is an area that he’ll certainly need to improve if he wants to start in the NFL.
Leatherwood is one of if not the most versatile players in this class. He’s played both guard and tackle, and obviously, the big debate is over where he should go in the NFL. He’s done both so well, but with superb reps at both positions, teams should at least try to start him at tackle. Having a cornerstone tackle is so important in today’s game. Leatherwood has the potential to be this guy if he just tweaks a few things.
It’s not the best length in this class, but Leatherwood still measures up pretty nicely. He’s really about 6’4.5″ and has some really long 34 inch arms. These are definitely tackle numbers and length is not something that will get him moved to guard at all.
Competitive Toughness (4.5/5)
Leatherwood has some serious effort out on the field. He only really gets knocked because he can be walking sometimes in the play and there are no real plays where he takes the defender down after the whistle. A five rating in this category would be from a guy who just annihilates his defenders no matter what and Leatherwood just stops a little too soon after the whistle. Otherwise, he’s really great at getting his guys amped up on the line and there was some really cool chemistry on that Alabama line.
Injury History (5/5)
Leatherwood has shown no real injury history to date.
What a phenomenal lineman Leatherwood is. Going into his film, this wasn’t really expected but he just wowed from the start. So many clean reps and just endless domination. Obviously, the balance issues are there as well as troubles with speed and his punch. These are all very real concerns so you can’t really label him as the safest tackle in the draft but he’s very close to it. Leatherwood should no doubt start his career playing tackle. If teams immediately move him to guard, they really could just be wasting his pure talent. As for draft stock, Leatherwood has gotten some first-round hype, and rightfully so, but has mostly been discussed as a day two selection. Wherever he ends up, it will definitely be really fun to follow his career.
Player Grade (85.25): Late-First Round