The Las Vegas Raiders drafted Alex Leatherwood in the first round of last year's draft, a move that was viewed as a reach by most analysts. Then the Raiders shuffled the rookie from tackle to guard. Where will he land in 2022?
New coach Josh McDaniels said this week from the NFL Scouting Combine that he's not concerned yet with where Leatherwood will play on the offensive line but rather with helping the young player improve.
"What we're going to focus on is fundamentals, technique," McDaniels said, via Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "What can he do better as a football player? Forget about the position. Then we'll worry about tackle to guard, guard to tackle as we get into more football-specific things."
The Raiders drafted Leatherwood out of Alabama, viewing him as a plug-and-play right tackle. That plan lasted four games as the rookie proved out of his depth on the edge. Leatherwood's struggles, coupled with issues on the interior, led to a shift from right tackle to right guard.
It wasn't pretty at either position, but the 23-year-old did improve as the season wore on.
"There's good and there's bad," McDaniels said of Leatherwood's game film. "But when you're that young, you look at it as what can we work with, what can we fix? There's a lot to do in that process. I've already spoken to him. That process is underway."
Leatherwood particularly struggled in passing sets but displayed power in the run game from the guard spot, indicating there is something for the new staff to work with this offseason.
The Raiders believe Leatherwood has the traits to be a consistent blocker if he cleans up a few aspects of his game. Where that lands the 6-foot-5, 312-pound blocker is a decision for another day.
"We're not going to pigeonhole him by saying he's this or he's that," new general manager Dave Ziegler said. "We're going to let him create an opportunity for himself. We'll be excited to be able to work with him."