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Green Bay Packers: NFL Draft profile — Alex Leatherwood

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Green Bay Packers: First look at exterior lineman for 2021 NFL Draft, Alex Leatherwood

*Inhale*

*Exhale*

Here we are, Green n’ Gold faithful. The season has concluded and we are officially onto the 2021 offseason. While there is still salt in the wound from the NFC Championship game and the Super Bowl for many, let us use this time to turn the page and dive into some potential future Packers.

One of the biggest reminders of the 2021 playoffs is the importance of offensive line. Without a successful core of big guys up front, your offense will sputter. Even if you’re Pat Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers. Throughout this offseason I’ll be taking a look at some of the offensive tackles that will be in this year’s NFL draft.

First on my list is Alex Leatherwood out of the University of Alabama. Leatherwood is a 6’6″, 312 Ibs Senior who started at Left Tackle for the Tide in 26 games from 2019-20, and won the 2020 Outland Trophy award. Leatherwood started 41 straight games dating back to the 2018 season where he played right guard. He gave up just two sacks throughout the 2020 season against competition that included Georgia, Notre Dame, and Ohio State. That should not go unnoticed.

At the Senior Bowl, his wingspan measured at 85 3/8.

What’s encouraging:

The first thing that stands out on film is his blocking ability in the run game. He has a good first step off the line and while he doesn’t necessarily blow defenders back each snap, he is excellent at holding his ground. Additionally, his skills as at pulling are a good touch to his game. This man is a rock not easily moved by anyone.

Leatherwood is effective no matter if you’re running a zone scheme or big-on-big blocking. He is quick with zone schemes to take linebackers out, or help on a double team. In big-on-big, he quickly engages his man and holds his ground to develop and sustain running lanes for his backs.

One quality that you have to assume the Packers would value in Leatherwood is his versatility. He has experience at playing both OG and T. Even in his Senior season, Steve Sarkisian had him line up on both sides of the line in some instances.

One final pro that I specifically saw against Ohio State in the National Championship game was his ability to switch defenders. On Alabama’s first drive of the game on a 3rd and goal, Leatherwood is first engaged with Buckeyes edge Tyler Friday, but then quickly shifts focus to DT Antwaun Jackson who comes over off a stunt. Leatherwood quickly sniffed out the stunt and gave Mac Jones enough time to go through his reads and get the ball off.

What’s concerning:

Where Leatherwood can struggle is in pass protection. Speed rushers have success along the edge on Leatherwood, but that is often masked by Mac Jones’ ability to get the ball out of his hands fast. He is quick at the point of the snap, but sometimes leaves himself opened for a defender to bend the edge on him.

How could Leatherwood help the Packers?

Leatherwood’s versatility to play both the guard and tackle positions should be something that the Packers take fancy to. Packer fans are all well aware how impactful it was to be able to move around guys like Elgton Jenkins and Billy Turner while still being effective. Leatherwood is an established lineman at the highest level of college football in arguably the best conference for a team that has produced lineman who have had success in the NFL. Many fans might argue that a position like CB is a more urgent need than a tackle, however we should remember that the front office doesn’t necessarily draft for what we view as immediate needs (see Rashan Gary). A player like Leatherwood could be a player they want to draft for the future considering Billy Turner and Rick Wagner are not long-term options for the Pack. With already having an All-Pro LT on the roster in David Bakhtiari, Leatherwood might be someone who Green Bay would want to try their luck with shifting him over to RT. Again, playing along the right side isn’t entirely foreign to Leatherwood.

Green Bay has put more emphasis into the run game the last few seasons, which bodes well to Leatherwood’s strength as a run blocker. Even if the Packers decided to part ways with Jones and Williams, AJ Dillon has shown signs of being a talented back for Matt LaFleur. Leatherwood is viewed as a late-1st or 2nd round prospect, so there is a chance he is there when the Packers are on the clock with pick 29.

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