The former first-round pick was mentioned as one of three “Raiders Players Who Won’t Live up to Hype in the 2022 Season” in a recent Bleacher Report piece. This begs the question, are expectations too high for the Las Vegas Raiders’ second-year player Alex Leatherwood this year?
Alex Leatherwood needs to make strides in 2022
In his rookie campaign, the Alabama product struggled. After a rough start to the year at right tackle, which is what he was drafted to play, Leatherwood was moved inside to guard. From there, things did not get a whole lot better. It also did not help that his replacement at tackle was the notoriously incompetent Brandon Parker. Together, the two created a massive liability on the right side of the line. If the Raiders’ offensive line is going to improve this year, Leatherwood has to at least be able to outplay Parker.
Vegas is Betting Big on Leatherwood
The Raiders’ brass is clearly counting on the sophomore lineman to improve. It also appears that they are counting on him to win the starting right tackle gig. The team opted to not sign a starting-caliber tackle in free agency, and then selected a guard in Dylan Parham in the third round of the draft. At guard, Parham will presumably compete with Denzelle Good and John Simpson for the starting spots. Leatherwood would be expected to beat out Parker for the tackle job. The latter has averaged an overall Pro Football Focus grade below 50 over the course of his four-year career.
Are the Raiders expecting too much?
If the expectation is just that Leatherwood is a better right tackle than Parker this year, he might be able to manage that. To be clear, that is a low bar, and one would think that the coaching staff would demand more than just ‘barely serviceable’ at a position as important as tackle. The problem is, this is not what should be asked of Leatherwood anyway.
Even before he was drafted, he did not seem like a natural tackle, despite playing there in his last year at Alabama. I personally had him as a guard in my pre-draft rankings that year. His Senior Bowl practice tape showed technique that made him destined to move inside. By trying him out at tackle again, the Raiders are compounding a mistake. They need to bite the bullet, let him play guard, and go find a real tackle. If they do that now, he can still develop into a quality starter on the interior. The longer they wait, the higher their chances of wasting a first-round pick become.
*Top Photo: AP Photo/Matt Durisk