Alex Leatherwood returned to Alabama football for more team, individual success
By at least one statistical measure, Alex Leatherwood did enough in 2019 to prove he was NFL ready. According to Pro Football Focus, in 440 pass-blocking snaps, he did not give up a sack and only allowed 10 pressures.
Yet, it wasn’t good enough for Leatherwood. Neither was the win-loss record.
Alabama’s senior left tackle is one of four starting offensive linemen returning in 2020, the basis of what could be the best offensive line in the nation. Leatherwood explained he had personal and team goals left unaccomplished by his 2019 season.
“What went into my decision was basically I feel I left a lot on the table as a player, and I felt like I just had a lot more to offer. I just wanted to come back and capitalize on that,” Leatherwood said. “And also the way the season went last year, it wasn’t how us, or anybody expected it to go, and I wanted to come back and leave on a way better note than what we did.”
Leatherwood joining Deonte Brown, Evan Neal and Landon Dickerson on the offensive line — in front of an experienced running back group — could improve a running game that was top 25 nationally last year in yards per carry.
“They know pretty much everything they need to do up front and I’m just so comfortable when I get behind the line,” running back Brian Robinson Jr. said.
Leatherwood could also improve his NFL Draft stock. He was projected by some as a first-round pick in , but it was a crowded draft for offensive tackles: five were taken in the first 18 picks and two more went before the end of the second round.
In theory, a tackle of Leatherwood’s quality will be more of a rare commodity in the 2021 NFL Draft. Leatherwood could also present franchises with an improved version of himself.
“I think Alex definitely deserves first-round consideration, especially now that he's getting another year in school to polish his game,” Luke Easterling, who covers the NFL Draft for The Draft Wire in the USA Today Network, said. “The athleticism and physical tools are all there, he just needs to make the most of them. Consistency and technique are the areas where he has the most room to grow, and if he makes strides in those departments, he'll be one of the first tackles off the board next year.
“I think a lot of it comes down to being a bit too aggressive at times, not being patient enough to see what an opponent is trying to beat him with. He just needs to play with more control in his movements and not overextend himself. Trust his understanding of the game, and know that his physical tools will get the job done when he consistently puts himself in the right place.”
Improvement in some of those areas could make Leatherwood go as high as the top five or top 10 in the NFL Draft. Even if he is what he was in 2019 — an All-American by the American Football Coaches’ Association — he will still be a dominant SEC lineman and a first-round selection.
“NFL teams will love his experience at multiple positions, as well as being challenged by top talent in the SEC on a weekly basis,” Easterling said.
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