Draft evaluators scratched their heads when the Raiders made Alex Leatherwood the 17th overall pick in April’s draft, and Thursday’s development has returned their hands to their skulls.
Las Vegas spent Thursday’s practice playing Leatherwood at right guard, and replaced Leatherwood’s vacant right tackle spot with Brandon Parker, per The Athletic’s Tashan Reed.
Leatherwood started the first four games of the season at right tackle and struggled significantly, earning a 28.1 Pro Football Focus grade in pass blocking and tanking his overall offensive grade to 31.1. Leatherwood’s pass-blocking grade in Weeks 1-4 was the lowest of any rookie offensive tackle since 2006, according to PFF’s Austin Gayle.
Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson explained the practice shake up as “experimenting” with offensive line combinations, per ESPN.com’s Paul Gutierrez, and that they like Leatherwood’s “versatility”.
The Raiders are 3-1 and in a great position to contend for the AFC West title, but can’t afford to continue playing with a lack of reliability at one of the tackle positions. Moving Leatherwood inside might help the rookie get up to speed and become an adequate blocker in the NFL, much like former Raiders first-round pick Robert Gallery — the second-overall selection of the 2004 draft — failed at tackle but became a productive guard during his seven seasons in Oakland.
If anything, the Raiders aren’t accepting mediocrity anywhere. We’ll see if it pays off for them.
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