Fans have a lot of mixed feelings when it comes to the Las Vegas Raiders’ most recent first-round draft pick. Regardless of how they feel, Alex Leatherwood will bring a lot of much-needed attributes to the Raiders’ front line. Let’s take a closer look.
Strength in run-blocking
This is the main reason behind the Raiders selecting Leatherwood in the first round. The Silver & Black have long been a run-first offense, and with the duo of Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake, that has only become even more solidified.
Alex Leatherwood 👀
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) November 29, 2020
This clip right here is why the Raiders couldn’t let Leatherwood fall to the second round. He’s an absolute beast in the run game, and he’s able to move defenders out of the way without trouble. His aggressiveness is what separates him from other linemen in the run game, as he’s actively looking for contact down the field, which is showcased in the play above. He does a great job attaching himself to defenders as well, and it’s hard for them to shed his block. Leatherwood’s talent in the run game is exactly why Jon Gruden and co. were thrilled to grab him with the 17th pick.
Pass protection against vertical rushers
Leatherwood isn’t as productive in the pass game as he is with the run, but he’s no turnstile either. While he does struggle against some rushers with effective moves, he does very well against vertical pass rushers, or defenders trying to bull rush him.
Alex Leatherwood, @PFF's No. 2 tackle in the 2021 class behind Penei Sewell, is a fluid mover with strong hands.
Here's all of Leatherwood's meaningful pass-blocking reps against LSU's K'Lavon Chaisson in 2019. pic.twitter.com/VJxGkGrlT9
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) July 23, 2020
The clip above is a good example of Leatherwood handling a pass rusher who comes at him vertically. Again, Leatherwood has some work to do when it comes to handling pass rushers with good rush moves, and that will be tested in the NFL. Leatherwood will have some growing pains, and experienced pass rushers will be able to get around him next season. However, Leatherwood shows very solid fundamentals and he’s quick on his feet, so he has plenty of room to develop. This may be a project, but Alex has all the tools he needs to become a very good pass-blocker. If he can do that, combined with his run-blocking abilities, the Raiders’ will have struck a gem with this pick.
Experience at both tackle and guard
The Raiders’ offensive line was a game of musical chairs last year, which is one of the reasons Gruden and Mayock chose Leatherwood. His ability to play a multitude of positions across the line makes him more valuable to this offense.
Ross Pierschbacher said freshman right guard Alex Leatherwood (70) is "really good in short spaces."
I see what he means. He helps Najee Harris gain 2-3 additional yards here. (Pierschbacher deserves credit too) pic.twitter.com/t1R9DANJw6
— James Ogletree (@TheOgletree) September 6, 2018
Here, Leatherwood is at guard. You can see him move players out of the way and help Harris pick up an extra yard or two.
Leatherwood’s a prospect with a lot of potential and a high-floor. While he wasn’t the name Raiders fans were hoping for, he shouldn’t be one they’re disappointed with either. His run-blocking and ability to defend the pass against vertical rushers makes him an average NFL-starter immediately. While that’s not what you typically want from a first round selection, Leatherwood has quick feet and all the fundamentals he needs to get better.
He’ll get mentorship from Richie Incognito and other vets on the Raiders’ line, and practice reps against Yannick Ngakoue will help as well. He’s more of a project pick, but he’s got high potential. I am, and you as well should be very excited to see Leatherwood grow with the Silver and Black.
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*Top Photo: Mickey Welsh/Tide Sports