LOOKING AHEAD TO THE 2021 NFL DRAFT AND WHO COULD HELP THE EAGLES
Alex Leatherwood Senior – Left Tackle, University of Alabama
By PETE OHNEGIAN
Leatherwood is on the Outland Trophy watch along with three of his fellow Alabama offensive linemen, Deonte Brown, Landon Dickerson and LaBryan Ray. A preseason All-American, Leatherwood is considered by some draft experts as the tenth overall lineman and behind Oregon’s Penei Sewell at left tackle and others. Sewell has opted out of this season to prepare for the NFL Draft. On the contrary,
Leatherwood decided to finish his career with Alabama this season, wanting to “finish stronger than their 11-2 record in 2019 and improve his draft status” by playing left tackle and improving his craft for the Tide this Fall.
Through his first two games, Leatherwood has helped lead and pave the way for two impressive Tide victories over Missouri (38-19) and No. 21 Texas A&M (52-24). His play has been solid, but there is room for improvement.
This is a positive for an NFL team that hopes to make a playoff run and wants to draft a stout left tackle in the middle to bottom of the first round.
Leatherwood’s inconsistencies and the fact that he plays with three other Draft quality linemen may disguise his overall talent and allow him to slip until the middle or end of the first round.
STRENGTHS Leatherwood is proficient in the run game particularly when the play goes to him. He turns his hips well on reach blocks, and has a strong and accurate hand strike on pass rushers. He seems to be more thorough on his blocks and finishes them when the play goes to his side. He has an athletic set on pass protection and does a good job starting with athletic knee bend, and kicks well vs. Edge rushers maintaining good balance on twists, games and in zone protection.
WEAKNESSES On backside blocks he gets a punch and makes himself big but is not always assertive in the second level and misses his work because of poor angles. In high school he was a mauler making devastating blocks vs. weaker, smaller defenders. He does not currently show this mean streak on film and seems to conserve his energy doing his job, but not always finishing. He can get relaxed and lose his block which seems to be more mental and not physical. He needs to be more assertive and know where the play or QB is – better play awareness. Against Texas A&M he gave up two hits on the QB and was called for holding. He also had a false start penalty in his first game vs. Missouri.
CAREER AT ALABAMA Last season, Leatherwood moved back to left tackle and earned AFCA first team All-American honors and was named All-SEC First Team by the league coaches. The Tide finished 11-2 and although Leatherwood experienced individual success, he chose not to declare for the NFL Draft and come back for his senior year. In 2018, Leatherwood’s sophomore year, he moved inside to right guard. He was less of a force as he had an up and down season due to the lack of possessing the ideal frame for guard, but still helped the Tide roll to a 14-1 record and #2 end of the year ranking behind Clemson. As a freshman, Leatherwood was still developing physically and mentally, but earned time in seven games. He did an admirable job when he was thrusted into the lineup at left tackle in the national title game vs. Georgia when Jonah Williams went down with an injury.
HIGH SCHOOL Alex Leatherwood was a 5-star player coming out of Booker T. Washington High School in Pensacola, Florida. He was the No. 4 overall player in the country, No. 1 OT and No. 1 player in Florida. (247Sports) From his high school film, where he was coached by Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward, Alex was a mauler at left tackle – imposing his will on lesser and much smaller opponents.
NFL ENDORSEMENT FROM HIGH SCHOOL COACH Former Heisman Trophy winner and NBA veteran, Charlie Ward has watched Alex “grow and mature” since he coached him in high school. Ward remembers Alex as “a quiet, introverted teenager who was very attentive with his studies enabling him to graduate early.” Ward added that “Alex’s long arms and size enabled him to dominate in high school,” but “he was glad that he was able to play guard while at Alabama so he is not pigeon holed into one position for the NFL.” Leatherwood’s high school coach continued that “he was glad that he and his staff were able to create a foundation for Alex in their high school strength program” and “he has made great strides in Alabama’s renowned strength program which will prepare him for the NFL.”
FUTURE OUTLOOK If Leatherwood stays healthy and continues to mature and refine his tools this Fall with the Crimson Tide, he should be a first round draft pick. Depending on how the NFL Combine and Senior Bowl play out due to Covid-19 precautions, Leatherwood should continue to develop and show the scouts that he is a first round prospect. He was an All American in high school and has continued to improve under the tutelage of Alabama offensive line coach, Kyle Flood. An NFL line coach will continue to fine tune his tools and increase his expectations to be the blind side pass protector in the NFL. He is primed to be a steady force for many years to come and is an exciting prospect for a team that needs to solidify the left tackle position for their future. *
Pete Ohnegian is a former college football player at Lafayette, Arena League Football League player, Performance Coach and actor. His movie appearances include "Any Given Sunday" and "The Replacements."
Email Pete at email@example.com