The offensive line was thought to be one of the biggest areas of need for the Las Vegas Raiders entering the 2021 NFL Draft.
They did indeed end up going in that direction, although they went with a player that fans and experts might not have expected.
That player is Alabama offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, who was ranked heading into the draft as below the top tackle prospects.
Leatherwood, though, wasn't at all surprised, trusting that the process would pay off for him.
"I’m not the type of dude to fall into the media hype about drafts and all of that good stuff," Leatherwood said after being selected.
"So, I just did what I could do well, did the best that I could do and trust the process, and it all went great.”
In terms of what Leatherwood brings to the gridiron, he has accumulated a ton of reps on a pristine Alabama offense.
Initially starting at right guard for the Crimson Tide in 2018, Leatherwood transitioned back to his natural position of left tackle the last two seasons.
Leatherwood was then able to finish off his college career on a high note, starting for an Alabama offense that tore apart college football and won a national championship.
He also earned back-to-back First-Team All-SEC honors in 2019 and 2020.
As a prospect, Leatherwood brings physical qualities that fans and scouts alike have come to expect from an offensive lineman from Alabama.
He brings prototypical size and length at 6-6 and 312 pounds and has the strength to lock out defensive linemen once he gets his hands on them.
That power leads to a lot of big-time blocks in the running game, where Leatherwood was rated highly last season with a grade of 85.4 by Pro Football Focus.
Scouts note that his form in pass protection is solid, but that’s also an area that shows some of Leatherwood’s deficiencies.
He can have trouble with speed rushers, and that showed up in the Senior Bowl, where Leatherwood only won 50 percent of his one-on-one matchups.
Leatherwood also had issues missing blocks because of a tendency to lurch into contact rather than drive his feet.
It’s those concerns that had caused Leatherwood to be projected outside the first round.
The Raiders obviously thought differently, seeing a lineman with strong measurables and the versatility to have played guard and tackle.
Leatherwood will be a candidate to start at either right tackle or right guard, likely completing the Raiders' youth movement on their offensive line.
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