A top-20 selection in the 2021 NFL Draft last year, it’s been a strenuous journey for offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood. Looked upon as a day-two prospect throughout the industry, Las Vegas—as they often have—opted to swim upstream during their evaluation process and took him much higher. Fast forward 16 months and Leatherwood has found himself working with the third-team offense as the Raiders enter the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday night.
Missing on first-rounders—albeit it is still early in Leatherwood’s particular career—has been a disastrous theme for Las Vegas over the last handful of seasons. From Henry Ruggs III to Damon Arnette, Jonathan Abram, Clelin Ferrell, and Gareon Conley—catch my drift? It’s been ugly, no matter who’s been in charge of turning in names on draft night. For Leatherwood, a massive man out of Alabama whose experience along the Crimson Tide front five enticed then-general manager Mike Mayock, there remains a massive amount of room to improve if he ever looks to regain his starting gig within the trenches.
Seventeen starts in his rookie season showcased the ebbs and flows of a normal first-year player. However, when you’re tasked with protecting one of the league’s elite signal-callers, the spotlight on your game is ever-brightened whenever Derek Carr found himself surrounded by unfamiliar bodies.
A versatile man mover that spent time up and down the offensive line for Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa, Leatherwood initially found his home at right tackle as the season kicked off last fall. However, as struggles persisted with his inability to seal the edge, a move inside to right guard was warranted. And now, as we sit just a few weeks from the Raiders opening the 2022 campaign, Leatherwood has found himself outside at tackle once again, battling with Brandon Parker for the starting nod.
So far, it’s been the veteran who’s had the leg up in camp, as the only consistent first-team reps Leatherwood has seen have come when Parker has filled in for Kolton Miller at left tackle. And if newly minted head coach Josh McDaniels opts to roll with Lester Cotton at right guard, the 6-foot-5, 312-pound Leatherwood could find himself in a rotational role sooner rather than later.
Is Leatherwood an impact starter? Is a permanent move to the inside in the cards? Is he a swing tackle? With a new regime comes new expectations, and for the tandem of McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler, the questions with Leatherwood should resolve sooner rather than later as the Raiders eye a division title in 2022.
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