In the 2021 NFL Draft, the Las Vegas Raiders used their first-round selection on offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood. Leatherwood became a day-one starter for the Raiders, and it’s safe to say he had a good share of rookie season struggles.
The offensive line as a whole was poor, and Leatherwood isn’t completely to blame. It’s extremely hard to find a player who didn’t struggle in their first season, but Leatherwood’s struggles seemed extensive, and they left many fans wondering if he was worthy of a first-round pick.
On June 8th, Leatherwood appeared as a guest on the Raiders Podcast Network. During this interview, he talked about a variety of things, including his confidence in himself, blocking out the haters, and his coaching staff in general.
“I mean, I’m human. I got emotional. I’m also proud of what I do and my product. So, at first, it definitely was a distraction a little bit. Not anything crazy, but I learned to just block all that out and just be where my feet are and focus on me and getting better every day, no matter what anybody says. Because my coaches, my team, and my teammates, all believe in me. And I believe in myself.”
It’s hard not to feel for him when he talks about those emotions, and there’s a good chance they affected his play. NFL fans are right to have their own opinions, but with Leatherwood struggling as a rookie and then seeing hate comments from those fans, there’s a decent chance that got in his head a bit and affected how he played. Fortunately, one of the best ways to gain confidence is by grinding through the offseason, and that looks like it’s exactly what he’s been doing.
— Raiders fan in SD â¬†ï¸ (@giovanniraiders) March 17, 2022
As you see in the quote, Alex begins to talk about how much help he receives with confidence from his coaching staff, which is encouraging to read. While the old Raiders’ regime had the confidence to select him first overall, the new guys in town seem to have confidence in him as well.
The Raiders didn’t make any moves in the draft or free agency to pick his replacement, and they seem to be more than willing to give the sophomore another go at it. While Leatherwood spent time at both guard and tackle, coming into 2022, it looks very likely that he’s got the right tackle job locked down. Still, are the Raiders making the right decision here?
Should Alex Leatherwood start at right tackle for the Las Vegas Raiders?
That can only be answered through his play, but there’s a good chance it works out. Leatherwood was very talented coming out of college, and although he did struggle in his rookie season, he didn’t get much help. The whole line outside of Kolton Miller was just downright bad, and the lack of veteran leadership in that room couldn’t have helped much either.
To put things into perspective, Miller, the Raiders’ left tackle, had an awful rookie season. He struggled, and just like the current Leatherwood situation, Raiders fans were calling for his replacement after just one year. Miller progressed over the next few years, and now is statistically one of the better tackles in the league.
That’s not saying Leatherwood will be one of the best tackles in the league, but the room for him to grow is expansive. Alex has a good head on his shoulders, confidence in himself, and has been putting in the work this offseason. The Raiders were right to give him the job at right tackle.
*Top Photo: AP Photo/Matt Durisk