Career Recap: Even though they had a top-10 talent in Jedrick Wills, Alabama had Alex Leatherwood as its starting left tackle in 2019. Leatherwood was a backup as a freshman and started at right guard during his sophomore year before taking over at left tackle in 2019 following Jonah Williams' departure for the NFL. Leatherwood was creating some buzz in the scouting community in the early going of his junior season before not playing as well in the back half of the year.
Leatherwood's game against LSU illustrated that he should go back to school, as he had a rough outing taking on the Tigers' athletic defensive line. LSU edge rusher K'Lavon Chaisson gave Leatherwood problems with speed rushes around the corner, and Leatherwood had to grab Chaisson's facemask to prevent a sack in the first half and allowed some pressure on his quarterback. While Leatherwood had some rough moments, he also made some good blocks that kept rushers from getting pressure. Leatherwood decided to return to Alabama for 2020, and that was a wise decision as he has upside to rise for the 2021 NFL Draft.
2020 Season Outlook: As one could expect, Leatherwood will see a lot of good competition in the SEC during his senior year. The best opponents to gauge his readiness for the NFL include Georgia, Mississippi State, LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn.
Skill-Set Summary: NFL teams are always looking to improve their offensive lines, and Leatherwood has a good skill set to be a starter at the next level. With good size, length, athleticism and quickness, Leatherwood has very good combination of traits and should have plenty of teams interested in him in the 2021 NFL Draft.
In pass protection, Leatherwood is skilled on the edge, showing the raw talent to handle speed rushers. He has good quickness and fires out of his stance to get in position. His quick feet, athleticism and agility to play the typewriter amd cut off the corner from speed rushers. Leatherwood is a smooth mover who bends at the knee and demonstrates good leverage. His strong build and base allow him to stonewall bull rushes, and Leatherwood does a good job of blocking through the whistle.
Leatherwood's vision and awareness are impressive as well. Many college tackles are focused on the player in front of them and are not quick to adjust to games by defensive lines. Leatherwood is very good at keeping his head on a swivel and using his vision to move to more dangerous defenders if the defense runs a stunt or a blitz.
As a run blocker, Leatherwood is a solid contributor. He has developed strength and is able to create a push at the point of attack. Leatherwood does a nice job of maintaining leverage to push defenders and knock them backward. In the ground game, Leatherwood shows his speed and athleticism by quickly firing to the second level. He packs a punch and is able to hit kick out blocks or pull. While Leatherwood is not an overwhelming dominant run blocker, he is effective and is a plus run blocker compared to many college left tackles who are more finesse athletes.
Leatherwood has some things to clean up as a senior. He could use refinement in his technique and needs to become more consistent. There are times where Leatherwood gets too wide with his hand placement, and that leads to him hugging defenders and being prone to potential holding penalties. At times, Leatherwood will lunge at defenders rather than move his feet. These technique issues are not major concerns, and the vast majority of offensive tackle going to the NFL have similar points of improvement, including the majority of first-round offensive tackles.
With his skill set, Leatherwood could be a starting left tackle in the NFL, and if he improves as a senior, he could have plug-and-play potential. Leatherwood also should have no problems moving inside to guard or playing right tackle at the next level.
2021 NFL Draft Expectations: Entering the 2020 season, Leatherwood has the potential to grade out as first-round pick and should end up being an early-round prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft.