Alex Leatherwood Scouting Report By Charlie Campbell
Excellent skill set
Ideal height, length, weight
Gets depth in his drop to neutralize speed rushers
Can play the typewriter to cut off the corner
Bends at the knee
Doesn't have to reach for rushers
Fast to the second level
Walls off and ties up defenders in the ground game
Bulk to hold his ground against bull rushes
Can anchor against bull rushes
Lots of experience against top competition
Struggles when he has to get physical
Not a bull dozer in the ground game
Struggles to knock defenders off the ball
Lacks heavy hands
Needs to improve hand placement
Does not have a mean streak, tenacity
Summary: Alabama has been a factory for offensive line talent under Nick Saban, and Leatherwood will continue that tradition in the 2021 NFL Draft. Leatherwood became a legend in the program during his freshman season in the National Championship Game against Georgia. Jonah Williams was injured, and Leatherwood subbed in at left tackle to help protect backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, and the backups led the Crimson Tide to a National Championship.
In 2018, Leatherwood started at right guard for Alabama before moving back to left tackle as a junior. Over 2019 and 2020, Leatherwood was a steady left tackle who was reliable in pass protection. For his senior year, Leatherwood won the Outland Trophy as the best offensive lineman in the nation.
NFL teams are always looking for potential elite left tackles. It can be very difficult to find left tackles with Leatherwood's natural size and athleticism, so those things make him an intriguing prospect for the passing-driven pro game even through he has some shortcomings in the ground game. There are a lot of natural strengths to Leatherwood that make him an effective pass blocker. For starters, his size and length are ideal, making defenders really struggle to get around him. On top of his mass, Leatherwood has special quickness and athleticism. Thanks to his quick feet, he plays the typewriter and is able to get depth in his drop to cut off the corner. That agility also lets kick slide with fast rushers and shut down speed off the edge. His bulk allows him to anchor and stop bull rushes while only giving up a little ground. Improving his hand placement would help him to give up less ground. In pass blocking, Leatherwood is consistent and reliable.
Leatherwood needs to get stronger for run blocking and become more physical. He struggles when the time calls for him to get nasty and knock defenders off the ball. Leatherwood is not a bull in the ground game who will push defensive linemen around and drive defenders back. His hand placement needs work from his NFL position coach. In short-yardage and goal-line situations, Leatherwood is not a dependable blocker to run behind to create a push, but he is quick to the second level to hit blocks in space and get in position on the second level. Leatherwood is more of a run blocker who walls off defenders and ties them up rather than overwhelming them.
For the NFL, Leatherwood would fit best in a passing offense that employs a lot of zone blocking in the ground game. He is too much of a finesse blocker for a power-man scheme. Leatherwood has to get stronger, get more nasty at the point of attack, and show something of a mean streak. He showed some improvement in this regard partway into his senior year, but a lot of blockers who come into the NFL like this don't change or evolve.
Here is what a director of college scouting said about Leatherwood:
"Leatherwood is a late first-rounder at the minimum ... has finally [started playing like a man] and is playing with some urgency and aggression, which he didn't last year. He's a better athlete and player than Jonah Williams - CIN - was who went too high at No. 11, and Leatherwood can start at either tackle spot as well as guard if you needed him to. Not dominant and needs to clean up some hand-placement stuff, but he's athletic and a competent pass protector that can excel in the zone-stretch run game. Not a downhill, power-/gap-scheme guy. Not better than [Andrew] Thomas - NYG -, [Jedrick] Willis - CLE -, [Mekhi] Beckton - NYJ -, [Austin] Jackson - MIA - last year, but comparable to [Tristan] Wirfs - TB. It's a good [offensive tackle] class too, and Leatherwood won't be at the top of the class when there is a run on [offensive tackles], but will get selected as you see the options running out [mid-to-late Round 1]. Should be a solid pro."
In speaking to six team sources about Leatherwood, three called him a definite first-round pick and think he will go in the mid- to late portion of the first round during the 2021 NFL Draft. The three other teams said they had Leatherwood graded on Day 2 and liked other tackles more, even some with lesser skill sets. They thought he could go late in Round 1 because of his skill set, but they did not value him that early. Thus, Leatherwood is a prospect who could go higher than expected or be in store for a slide into the second day of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Leatherwood looks like he could be a solid, but not great starter in the NFL. He could be a nice player if he lands in a passing-driven offense that uses a zone-rushing attack.
Player Comparison: Russell Okung. Okung has been a quality starting left tackle in the NFL after being the sixth-overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Okung has been good, but not great, for the Seahawks, Broncos, Chargers and Panthers. Okung (6-5, 310) and Leatherwood have similar skill sets. In the NFL, I could see Leatherwood having a career similar to Okung.