The questions regarding Alex Leatherwood have almost nothing to do with his overall ability and how well he might transition into the NFL.
It has to do with how teams might use him.
“Some teams like me at tackle, some at guard,” Leatherwood said. “It just all depends on what team you’re talking about and their team needs but I feel like most of them think that I can play anywhere on the offensive line.”
Although Leatherwood played left tackle at Alabama, he almost certainly won't play there at the next level. The first step is considered crucial at that spot, as one can't afford to give up the edge on the quarterback's blind side.
So most teams are considering him at right tackle or guard, which directly impacts his draft stock because there's almost always a greater emphasis on left tackle in terms of value.
Regardless, he's still a terrific prospect.
"If he can’t play tackle, he has the potential to be an All-Pro offensive guard," former coach Jim Mora Jr. said.
Two factors that work in Leatherwood's favor are that he's extremely bright and coaching able, and extremely athletic for an offensive lineman. He might have helped himself as much as anyone during Alabama's Pro Days.
"He tested really well," NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "You can see the explosiveness there. I view him as more of a right tackle and I’m going to give him every opportunity to be successful there and show that he’s not a right tackle before I kick him inside to guard. I know some teams have already done that, they have him on their board as a guard."
Hometown: Pensacola, Fla.
• Helped anchor an offensive line that won the 2020 Joe Moore Award
• Alabama’s fifth Outland Trophy winner and the fourth since 2008
• Unanimous first team All-American
• First-team All-SEC honoree by both the Associated Press and the league coaches
• Co-recipient of the SEC Jacobs Blocking Trophy, pairing with teammate Landon Dickerson
• Played in 48 career games with 41 consecutive starts
• Averaged an overall blocking grade of 91.5 by the Alabama coaching staff and a 99.7 on assignments
• Played 832 snaps during the 2020 season and allowed only two sacks, missed only three assignments and committed just five penalties. Gave up just three quarterback hurries and four pressures
• Team captain
What they said ...
Zierlein, NFL.com: Leatherwood has projectable traits, solid athleticism and position versatility, but suffers from a failure to consistently execute at a high level due to issues that might be correctable. He sees the game well and works to stay balanced and composed in pass sets, but struggles with ranging and redirecting at the top of the rush. He doesn't have a very strong outside hand in pass pro, but his length could become a more formidable tool with a change in approach. He's a positional run blocker who lacks knock-back power but is capable of operating in any run scheme. Teams will need to determine if he's a guard or tackle, but an upgrade in aggressiveness is needed in order to become a good NFL lineman.
SI analyst Jim Mora Jr.: "I think Alex is going to be a really good NFL player. I think he’s got all the traits. I don’t know if he’s going to end up at right tackle or guard. You see some things when he’s playing tackle that you really, really like. You like his arm strength. You like his strong upper body. You like his ability to lock to guys and stifle a bull rush. You like his durability."
The Draft Bible: Long, lean and limber, Leatherwood has started at both right guard and left tackle for the Crimson Tide during his career. He utilizes his arm length well to keep defenders at bay in pass protection and has the necessary strength to drive opponents as a run blocker. The Florida native owns a great combination of size, athleticism and power. He’ll need to refine his technique, as he tends to get overextended and caught out of position at times, affecting his balance. Would like to see him be more aggressive in the second level seeking out contact. Returned to Alabama in hopes of solidifying his draft stock, but film was largely the same story. His work at left tackle position for the Crimson Tide will be very appealing, but his performance is still a long way from being technically sound enough to last on the blind side. Leatherwood’s experience inside at guard is a big plus for his draft projection and some teams could prefer him along the interior. Coaches praise his coachability and football IQ. A slightly overstated prospect, Leatherwood might be destined more for a Day 2 slot opposed to hearing his name called on the first day of the 2021 draft. He does offer valuable versatility that many teams will value but his career trajectory may be more advantageous on the inside.
Draft projection: Second round
This is the ninth in a series of Crimson Tide profiles for the 2021 NFL Draft