Alex Leatherwood

Raiders Sign First-Round OL Alex Leatherwood

Alex Leatherwood has put pen to paper. The Raiders first-round pick has signed his rookie deal, the team announced this evening.

Offensive line was one of the team’s biggest needs heading into the draft, and the Raiders made sure they secured one of the top offensive line prospects. While some pundits believe GM Mike Mayock may have reached a bit to select the Alabama product at No. 17, there’s no denying Leatherwood’s potential.

The 6-foot-5, 312-pound lineman was a standout during his four years at Alabama, winning a pair of championships and a long list of individual accolades (including unanimous first-team All-American and All-SEC nods in 2020). Leatherwood earned his high draft stock due to his performance at offensive tackle, and he’ll likely slot in at right tackle for the Raiders in 2021. Long term, there’s a chance the team uses him as an offensive guard.

The Raiders have now signed four of their seven draft picks:

Round 1: No. 17 Alex Leatherwood, OL (Alabama)
Round 2: No. 43 (from 49ers) Trevon Moehrig, S (TCU)
Round 3: No. 79 (from Cardinals) Malcolm Koonce, DE (Buffalo)
Round 3: No. 80 Divine Deablo, S (Virginia Tech)
Round 4: No. 143 (from Vikings via Jets) Tyree Gillespie, S (Missouri) (signed)
Round 5: No. 167 (from Seahawks) Nate Hobbs, CB (Illinois) (signed)
Round 7: No. 230 (from Jets via 49ers) Jimmy Morrissey, C (Pittsburgh) (signed)

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North Notes: Chase, Steelers, Vikings

The Bengals encountered some scrutiny for passing on Penei Sewell to take Ja’Marr Chase at No. 5, given their issues on the offensive line. But the Chase-over-Sewell stance formed weeks ahead of the draft. Bengals brass went to Joe Burrow for a detailed opinion on this matter. Chase having played a key part in Burrow winning the 2019 Heisman Trophy, and Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes the second-year quarterback gave his ex-LSU teammate a strong endorsement. Chase-to-Cincinnati gained considerable steam ahead of the draft, and the Bengals followed through with the move to add the impact receiver prospect to a wideout group that includes Tyler Boyd and 2020 second-rounder Tee Higgins. The Bengals viewed Chase as the kind of talent too good to pass up, Fowler adds. The Bengals drafted offensive linemen in the second, fourth and sixth rounds, with Jackson Carman — whom the team selected after trading down eight spots — being the most notable of these additions.

Here is the latest from the North divisions:

  • Continuing recent tradition, the Raiders surprised draft viewers with their first-round pick. The Jon GrudenMike Mayock regime chose Alex Leatherwood 17th overall. The Alabama tackle was viewed by most as a major reach; Scouts Inc. rated him as this draft’s 60th-best prospect. The Raiders may have been leery of two teams eyeing Leatherwood in the back half of Round 1, however. The Steelers and Vikings had Leatherwood on their respective radars, per Fowler. The Vikings drafted Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw (Scouts Inc.’s No. 20 overall prospect) at No. 23. Pittsburgh preferred him to most of the draft’s second-tier tackles, but the team appeared locked in on ex-Leatherwood teammate Najee Harris at No. 24. Leatherwood is expected to work as a right tackle in Las Vegas.
  • Although the Steelers’ depth chart has the look of one that would benefit from a veteran tackle addition, they do not appear to be eyeing one in the post-draft period of free agency. Despite Alejandro Villanueva defecting to the Ravens and the Steelers not drafting a tackle before Round 4, the team likes its left tackle setup, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Pittsburgh lost three O-line starters — Villanueva, Maurkice Pouncey and Matt Feiler — this offseason and is planning to move right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor to the left side. Pro Football Focus viewed Okorafor as one of the league’s worst tackles in 2020, grading him 70th at the position. Okorafor spent the 2018 and ’19 seasons as a backup, moving into the Steelers’ starting lineup after Zach Banner‘s Week 1 ACL tear. Banner has re-signed and is expected to compete for the right tackle job.
  • Thanks to the Lions’ $13.5MM-per-year extension for Frank Ragnow, the NFL has a new highest-paid center.
  • The Bears did not become aggressive in their effort to trade up for Justin Fields until draft day, when they identified a few teams as trade-down candidates and engaged in negotiations.

Raiders Use No. 17 Pick To Take Alex Leatherwood

With the No. 17 overall pick, the Raiders tapped Alabama tackle Alex Leatherwood. Leatherwood wasn’t widely viewed as a mid-first rounder, but GM Mike Mayock has never been afraid to think outside the box. 

Pundits may have mixed opinions about Leatherwood, but the offensive line was unquestionably among the Raiders’ biggest needs heading into tonight. Now without Gabe Jackson, Rodney Hudson, and Trent Brown. While they have Denzelle Good, Andre James, and Nick Martin to manage the interior, Leatherwood will be tasked with protecting the edge.

Leatherwood’s stock might have been higher last year. However, he opted to return to school and watch tackles Jedrick Wills Jr., Andrew Thomas, Tristan Wirfs, and Austin Jackson go pro ahead of him. At the pro level, he’ll look to reward Mayock’s confidence at the tackle position, though his long-term future could be at guard.

Mayock has delivered his first shock of the night, but he’ll have plenty of opportunities to stun the league throughout the weekend. As of this writing, the Raiders hold:

  • Round 2: No. 48
  • Round 3: No. 79 (from Cardinals), 80
  • Round 3: No. 80
  • Round 4: No. 121
  • Round 5: No. 162 (from Dolphins), 167 (from Seahawks)
  • Round 5: No. 167 (from Seahawks)
  • Round 6: No. 200

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Alex Leatherwood To Stay In School

Alex Leatherwood could have been a first-round pick in this year’s draft. Instead, the left tackle will return to Alabama in order to earn his degree. 

My three years at Alabama have been some of the best of my life,” Leatherwood said. “I’ve used my time in Tuscaloosa to grow significantly as a player and as a person, but I believe that I have more left to learn. When I decided to come to Alabama it was always important to me to win football games, but it was equally as important that I earn my degree. I realize that my career on the field will not last forever and walking across that stage has always been a goal of mine.”

There’s some risk involved here, but Leatherwood figures to be one of the top prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft after he gets some additional seasoning with the national powerhouse. Evaluators were already salivating over Leatherwood’s skillset after he successfully shifted from playing right guard in 2018 to manning LT in 2019.

Other top tackles in this year’s class include Alabama’s Jedrick Wills Jr., Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, and USC’s Austin Jackson.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.