On paper, the Green Bay Packers are set at guard. Last year’s returning starters, Pro Bowler Elgton Jenkins and Lucas Patrick, are under contract. Plus, the team used sixth-round choices on Jon Runyan and Simon Stepaniak last year. However, if Jenkins or Patrick wind up moving to center, there will be a hole in the lineup, though Runyan showed promise in limited action as a rookie.
Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood is our No. 4-ranked guard.
Alex Leatherwood’s resume is filled with accolades.
In 2020, he won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman, was a unanimous first-team All-American and won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the SEC’s top offensive lineman. He won two national championships at Alabama and was a high school All-American.
The defining moment on his path to the draft came as a true freshman in 2017. Stuck behind starting left tackle Jonah Williams, Leatherwood barely played other than some garbage-time reps. Then, in the third quarter of the national championship game, Williams was injured and Leatherwood had to come off the bench.
“I was like, ‘Oh, shoot, it’s time. I’ve got to put up or shut up,’” he recalled to BamaOnline.
Alabama trailed 13-0 at halftime, 20-10 entering the fourth quarter and 23-20 following the opening possession of overtime. On second-and-26, Tua Tagovailoa connected with DeVonta Smith for a 41-yard, game-winning touchdown. Leatherwood’s perfect protection helped make it happen.
“Everybody was watching,” Leatherwood said. “Just 10 million eyes watching me when the true freshman was in and the All-American was hurt. I feel like it shaped my career.”
Too good to keep off the field, Leatherwood moved to right guard and started all 15 games in 2018. With Williams off to the NFL, Leatherwood moved back to left tackle for his final two seasons. He was first-team all-SEC in both campaigns.
With size, length and athleticism, Leatherwood has the goods to stay at tackle in the NFL. However, in a guard class short on the type of athletes desired for zone-scheme teams, Leatherwood might be highly coveted.
Taking the politically correct route, Leatherwood said he had no preference on his position.
“I will always feel like I’m a left tackle but, with my skill-set, my size, my strength and my length, I feel like I can play anything along the offensive line,” he said before his pro day. “We run a very pro-style system, so I’m used to all schemes. I can do it all because I’ve played through it all. I’ve done zone schemes, gap schemes, all of it. I’m built to do anything.”
Among the offensive tackles Leatherwood likes to study is Green Bay’s All-Pro, David Bakhtiari.
“I just love the game of football and I love playing on the offensive line,” he said before his pro day. “It’s one of the most cerebral and technical positions on the field. That chase of perfection, and being great at it, is fun for me. I’m a diehard competitor at heart. I love going against great dudes. I love giving it my all going against the man across from him.”
Leatherwood’s legacy goes beyond his pancaking of opponents. He wrote the script for the football team’s video on racial injustice.
“In the game, we are one team, one heartbeat, one mission, yet we are diverse,” the team captain wrote. “We don’t always agree, but we learn so much from each other and we are so much better together. … Let’s listen, let’s unite, because all lives can’t matter until Black lives matter.”
Measureables: 6-foot-4 3/4, 312 pounds, 33 7/8-inch arms. 4.99 40, 4.65 shuttle, DNP bench-press reps.
Stats and accolades: According to Pro Football Focus, Leatherwood allowed three sacks and 16 total pressures in 2020, a bump up from his zero sacks and 10 pressures in 2019. At guard in 2018, his first season as a starter, he gave up two sacks and 21 pressures. Sports Info Solutions charged him with five sacks, 20 blown blocks (six runs, 14 passes) and three holds in 2020.
NFL Draft Bible says: Leatherwood utilizes his arm length to keep defenders at bay in pass protection and has the necessary strength to drive opponents as a run blocker. He 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. 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.
About This Series
Packer Central is introducing you to the top prospects, both on and off the field, in this year’s NFL Draft. The series is starting with the top five at each position, then will add additional players as the draft approaches, with a focus on positions of need.