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2021 NFL draft: Alabama's Alex Leatherwood a standout with experience, size

Eric Edholm
·6 min read
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Leading up to the 2021 NFL draft, which starts April 29, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down in groups of five for Nos. 100-51, followed by more in-depth reports on our top 50 players, with help from our scouting assistant, Liam Blutman. We reserve the right to make changes to players’ grades and evaluations based on injury updates, pro-day workouts or late-arriving information from NFL teams.

Other prospect rankings: Nos. 100-96 | 95-91 | 90-86 | 85-81 | 80-76 | 75-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. OT Liam Eichenberg | 49. WR Terrace Marshall Jr. | 48. LB Chazz Surratt | 47. EDGE Joe Tryon | 46. OT-OG Alex Leatherwood | 45. CB Asante Samuel Jr. | 44. DL Levi Onwuzurike | 43. LB Jabril Cox | 42. DT Daviyon Nixon | 41. EDGE Ronnie Perkins | 40. LB Nick Bolton | 39. CB Ifeatu Melifonwu | 38. WR Elijah Moore | 37. OT Jalen Mayfield | 36. EDGE Carlos Basham Jr. | 35. CB Elijah Molden | 34. RB Travis Etienne | 33. WR Kadarius Toney | 32. EDGE Jayson Oweh | 31. LB Zaven Collins | 30. DT Christian Barmore | 29. QB Mac Jones | 28. CB Caleb Farley | 27. RB Javonte Williams | 26. C-OG Landon Dickerson | 25. S Trevon Moehrig | 24. CB Greg Newsome II | 23. WR Rashod Bateman | 22. EDGE Greg Rousseau | 21. OT Christian Darrisaw

Here are how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Here are how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

46. Alabama OT-OG Alex Leatherwood

6-foot-5, 310 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.89 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Leatherwood checks all the size boxes and is athletic enough as either a tackle or guard, but he could be more powerful and disciplined

Games watched: Auburn (2019), Missouri (2020), Ole Miss (2020), Texas A&M (2020), Ohio State (2020)

The skinny: A 5-star Rivals recruit (No. 4 nationally), Leatherwood enrolled early in 2017 and saw action in seven games that fall as a backup left tackle for the national champions. In 2018, Leatherwood earned a starting job as Bama’s right guard (also seeing snaps at right tackle) and was named second-team all-SEC in a 15-game season for the national runners-up. Following the graduation of 2019 first-rounder Jonah Williams, Leatherwood kicked back out to left tackle and started all 13 games, earning first-team all-conference (coaches) and splitting the Jacobs Blocking Trophy (SEC’s top offensive lineman) with teammate Landon Dickerson. In 2020, Leatherwood started all 13 games at left tackle for the national champs, winning the Outland Trophy (nation’s top lineman) and named first-team AP All-America. He attended the 2021 Senior Bowl.

Upside: Ideal measurables — well-proportioned frame with a condor-like wingspan (85 3/8 inches) with great arm length (34 3/8 inches). Uses length well most of the time — can lock out his arms and stymie rushers. Thick lower half helps engage power.

Moves well for a big-framed man. Handled working in space outside well — doesn’t look awkward or taxed when asked to lead the way on screens and draws. Maintains good balance and keeps his feet beneath him.

Quality pass blocker on the edge. Natural kick slider. Gains depth quickly. Clean pass sets with enough power to withstand power rushes and enough quickness and flexibility to handle edge benders. Good vision to spy late rushes and DL games up front. Has the ability to adjust on the fly and recover late.

Alabama offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood uses his great length well. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
Alabama offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood uses his great length well. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

Made steady, incremental improvements as a run blocker over his four seasons. Can uproot tackles and turn them inside or outside. People mover who gets his mass behind him and typically gains the desired result. Bama ran a steady diet of both gap and zone runs — accustomed to varied attack.

Tested in big games — eight appearances in conference title games and playoff games and steeped in a program with championship-or-bust expectations. Played well in 2020 postseason games vs. Florida, Notre Dame and Ohio State. Two-time national champion and one-time runner-up. Two-plus years of high-quality college tape.

Has played both tackle spots, along with right guard — four-position potential. Also was deployed as a blocking tight end in heavy sets and appears to have ideal swing-tackle/sixth OL potential as a rookie in the NFL.

Downside: Lacking high-end athleticism — adequate to above average but hardly rare athletic traits. Can appear stiff in the hips in space. Trouble adjusting to smaller speed rushers who can turn the corner on him.

Offers a wide pass-blocking stance and will expose his broad chest too often, giving rushers a free target to get him off balance. Doesn’t always set the hardest edge. Not as effective slowing rushers when he lined up inside at guard in 2018. Punch can look ordinary at times.

Movement skills in the run game should be limited to short-side pulls. Can’t hit his landmarks as readily as you’d like. Unable to deal effectively with quickness in space. Not the mauler some teams will want up front — can decelerate before contact and doesn’t finish consistently. Guilty of a few bad misses last season where his hands and feet were not in sync.

Too penalty-prone — flagged 20 times in his past 30 games. False-start machine — guilty of at least 10 of those in that span. Still prone to mental mistakes you wouldn’t expect from an experienced senior at a highly disciplined program. Lacks patience and will get downfield too quickly on screens.

Had a strangely disappointing Senior Bowl week. Some evaluators wonder if he wasn’t playing hurt or just taxed from a long season that had ended only a few weeks prior. Struggled in one-on-one pass-rush drills (that tend to favor defensive linemen) during practice sessions and looked just OK in the game itself.

Listed as a potential guard on some teams’ boards. Hands (9 1/2 inches) on the smaller side. Will be 23 at the end of his rookie season.

Best-suited destination: The good news is that many of Leatherwood’s issues are correctable, from his technique to his consistency and mental approach. The worry, of course, is that those issues exist after extensive experience under some of the best coaches in the country.

Still, there’s a lot to like about Leatherwood’s projection as a solid-to-very good blocker at the next level at guard or tackle. He should have fairly wide appeal, even if most teams won’t consider him in Round 1.

Did you know: Leatherwood was coached in high school by former Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward at Booker T. Washington in Miami.

Player comp: Billy Turner

Expected draft range: Top 50 selection

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