Jon Gruden on Raiders rookie RT Alex Leatherwood: ‘He is a veteran’

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Not all rookies are created equal. But they are still rookies. There is always a learning curve. And more is expected in their second year for that reason. If you ask, Jon Gruden, however, his rookie right tackle is no rookie

“He is a veteran,” Gruden said of Alex Leatherwood, who the team selected with their top pick in the 2021 draft. “A lot of guys got drafted ahead of him that didn’t play this year. This guy played 15 games. Won a national title. Left tackle. I like Alabama guys. . . I know their coaching staff is outstanding, but this is one of the most decorated offensive lines to come out of college football ever. He blocked for Tua [Tagovailoa], he blocked for another first round the next year, all their wide receivers are first-rounders, and I think Najee Harris went in the first round. So, somebody’s blocking (laughs).”

Leatherwood’s selection at 17 overall was a surprise to many. He was often projected to be a second-round pick with some thinking he was destined to move inside.

The Raiders saw his arm length and figured he was worth a shot at right tackle. And they figured his character was such that he was worth a high pick. Helping make their decision easier was having a character witness on the team in Josh Jacobs who played with Leatherwood for a couple of years at Alabama.

“They called me a few times and asked me what was my thoughts and what was my relationship with him and things like that,” Jacobs said of Leatherwood.

“From the first day I met him, he was one of them guys that didn’t say too much. He might crack a couple of jokes every now and then, but he just goes about his business and he works. And that’s one of the things that attracted us when we were looking into who we were going to get in the draft. Just how he works. He just comes in, puts his head down and works.”

Leatherwood is a pretty quiet, unassuming guy. He literally said wasn’t surprised at how the draft went down simply because he had no expectations at all.

He also doesn’t quite agree with Gruden’s assertion that he’s a veteran.

“I wouldn’t say I feel like a veteran,” said Leatherwood after the first week of training camp. “I do say I feel like I bring a very business-like approach to whenever I go to practice and I go to meetings. I’m here to work and I’m super excited to be part of this team.”

It’s easy to see what the team liked about Leatherwood. Cable loves his 84 5/8-inch wingspan, which puts him in the 90th percentile at his position and two inches longer than 6-8 Kolton Miller. And Gruden likes his character and work ethic. Trent Brown had the former but was considerably lacking in the latter. This is why Brown is now the former RT and Leatherwood is the current.

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