Image Credit: (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)
Written by: Nicholas Mullick Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicholas-mullick-354076184/
Welcome to another article in my writing series that I call The Stunning Cut. This is a series where I look at cuts in the preseason or in the regular season that stunned many when the news was released. For this one it is going to talk about another release that occurred on final cut day. That not only stunned me, but stunned the entire league. That player is OT Alex Leatherwood. So as always, I decided to go deeper and take a look at Alex Leatherwood along with why his release was stunning.
Who is Alex Leatherwood?
Alex Leatherwood is an offensive tackle that plays professional football. Leatherwood came into college football as a 5 star recruit and many colleges were trying to recruit him. Including USC, Florida, Florida State, Tennessee, Michigan, LSU, Alabama, and etc. When it came to his decision, Leatherwood committed to playing at Alabama University. He would actually perform well for Alabama and be a solid piece to Alabama’s o-line. However he just was not very consistent with how he played, he has a poor blocking technique, poor hand usage, and lacks physicality. At the time I mainly saw him as an early 3rd/late 2nd round prospect. However the Las Vegas Raiders thought differently and with a history of reaching for prospects in drafts the Raiders decided to draft Leatherwood in the 1st round, 17th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Well this pick was also made after they decided to overhaul the offensive line and that pick had to be at tackle.
So Leatherwood would become the starter for the Las Vegas Raiders, but was absolutely terrible for the Raiders. He was a liability as a blocker and his biggest issue was committing penalties. The Raiders decided to try him out at guard, but he was still struggling to make an impact on this team. However, keep in mind though that the 2021 season for the Raiders was a very dark season with multiple fall from graces, and distractions. Now that the Raiders finally got a permanent head coach in Josh McDaniels (Again out of all choices, you picked him to coach) and the team will likely have less distractions, maybe Leatherwood can perform better. After all he is a 1st round pick not even a year ago and teams would never release a prospect that quickly unless
The Day Leatherwood Got Cut
Well, final cut day hit and there were growing rumors that the Raiders were looking into trading OT Alex Leatherwood. The Raiders could not find any trade partner and since he is a former 1st round selection along with him being 23 it would be likely for the Raiders to keep him for another year. Well of course that did not happen as not even a year and a quarter of his career the Raiders just decided to cut ties. This absolutely stunned him as they used a 1st round draft choice on him in the 2021 NFL Draft and just let him go in the middle of an important year of development. It is clear with the Raiders making this move that they are trying to get rid of every mistake that was made during the Gruden and Mayock days. Leatherwood was a mistake due to his struggles taking penalties and as a blocker, but it seems the Raiders just did not see a way of him improving at all.
The Aftermath of Getting Cut/What could happen?
I mean you talk about a waste of a first round pick, this is clearly the definition of that. But the Gruden and Mayock days in regards to first round picks have been an absolute disaster excluding the Kolten Miller pick in 2018. I mean looking at the rest of the selection it has been a disaster as in 2019 Clilen Ferell was a complete reach, Josh Jacobs while he is pretty solid it seems the Raiders are planning to move on from him due to not claiming his 5th year option along with rumors of him being on the trading block, and Jonathan Abram can’t stay healthy. In 2020 the Raiders took Henry Ruggs and Damon Arnette and both suffered their fall from graces and are now out of the league. Now Leatherwood is just another statistic to how bad the drafting was for the Raiders. There is no doubt in my mind at the time that Leatherwood was going to get another opportunity in the NFL as the starter. The team that would pick him up is the Chicago Bears who did next to nothing to help protect QB Justin Fields, until now by bringing in Leatherwood.