What Las Vegas Raiders are getting in Alabama's Alex Leatherwood in 2021 NFL Draft

James Fletcher
The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama football offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood was selected 17th overall in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft by the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday.

The 6-foot-6, 312-pound lineman won the Outland Trophy in 2020 and was named All-America.

Leatherwood is a powerful left tackle with three years of starting experience at Alabama, helping win the Joe Moore award for best offensive line in 2020.

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Here is what the Raiders are getting:

An image of Alabama tackle Alex Leatherwood is displayed on stage after he was chosen by the Las Vegas Raiders with the 17th pick during the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 29, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

The positives

Leatherwood returned for his senior season after receiving feedback on his potential draft status, hoping to improve on his weaknesses on the way to a national championship.

After starting at right guard in 2018, Leatherwood moved to left tackle in 2019 but did not protect the blindside until 2020, as left-hander Tua Tagovailoa was UA's quarterback in the 2019 season. With three different roles within the blocking scheme, he is one of the most versatile linemen in the draft class.

He received an overall blocking grade of 91.5 and a 99.7 on assignments, allowing just two sacks on 832 snaps as a senior.

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The negatives

The knocks on Leatherwood are more likely to keep him from reaching star status than from making the league. He is a safe pick who projects to slot into the starting lineup early in his career.

Many analysts wanted to see more finishing from Leatherwood on blocks, showing an overall increase in power.

He is capable of keeping his assignment out of the backfield, but he will need to continue working to take his defender completely out of the play. If moved to guard, finishing will become even more important as the team asks him to pull and block at the second and third level.

Final thoughts

Leatherwood is a versatile lineman who has shown he can go head-to-head with some of the best pass rushers in the country.

Despite being picked apart by scouts, he has consistently won matchups on the line and looks to be one of the safest picks in the draft.

He might not deliver the upside that some more raw athletes have on the offensive line, but he is one of the most consistent players in the class and could make an early impact whether he is viewed as a guard or tackle.