Know your OT draft crush: Teven Jenkins and Alex Leatherwood
Part 1 of our in-depth look at the tackle options in the draft
The Chiefs need a left tackle. You know it, I know it, Brett Veach knows it, Patrick Mahomes knows it, opposing teams know it… we’re at the point to where my wife, who couldn’t possibly care less about football outside of how it affects me, knows the Chiefs need a left tackle.
Fortunately, this is a draft with a lot of (depending on who you ask) tackles who look promising for the next level. But how many? And what’s the cutoff of players who are ready to start from day one, and their ceiling? What’s the difference between the “best” group and the second best group, and the third best group, and how good is each group? All of these questions will play a massive role in how Veach and company approach the draft.
In the final days leading up to the draft, I’m going to take a look at 16 tackle prospects, trying to discern what I think of each. Further, I’m going to gather them into various “tiers” in order to formulate a strategy for the Chiefs in the first and second round of the upcoming draft. Are there just 2 “top tier” players, or more? How much better are they than the “next best” group? After looking at all 16 (which I picked based on your recommendations) in groups of 2 and 4, I’ll close by writing a final article discussing the tiers and how I would draft if I were the Chiefs.
For me, this is a great deal of fun and a chance to be a new set of eyes, as I don’t follow college football and barely pay attention to draft coverage. I’ve intentionally done my best not to read too much about these players (many of whom are covered in Brandon Thorn’s exceptional substack “Trench Warfare,” a must for those obsessed with line play), so I come into this without any real preconceived notions about the players or who the ‘favorites’ are on draft twitter. My takeaways might look completely crazy or entirely “old news,” and I’ll have no idea.
Here’s a list of the linemen I’ll be looking at (alphabetically):
Josh Ball, Spencer Brown, Jackson Carman, Brady Christensen, Samuel Cosmi, Christian Darrisaw, Liam Eichenberg, Stone Forsythe, Teven Jenkins, Alex Leatherwood, Walker Little, Jalen Mayfield, Dillon Radunz, Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater, and Alijah Vera-Tucker.
Let’s get started today with two I chose randomly: Teven Jenkins and Alex Leatherwood
(note, all heights/weights are based on Dane Brugler’s masterful “Beast” draft guide which is a must-read, with height rounded to the nearest inch. Additional resources you should look into are the KC draft guide, written by the folks at Arrowhead Pride, and the Athletic Matrix Guide by RGR Football’s Ryan Tracy, which measures functional athleticism)
Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State- 6’6”, 317 pounds
Jenkins, by sheer happenstance, was the first player I looked at. And to be perfectly frank, it reminded me of the last time I took on a project like this by examining the quarterbacks of the 2017 draft and started with Patrick Mahomes. By that, I mean I’m quite afraid I fell in love with the first player I watched.
But let’s back up a moment here and talk about methodology. When looking at college OL, given the disparity in quality of competition, charting wins/losses doesn’t tell you nearly as much as it does at the pro level. What we’re mostly looking at is traits. That’s one reason it’s so difficult to accurately project offensive linemen (a supposedly “safe” pick) at the next level; You’re extrapolating traits rather than gauging results over time. It’s hard, but hopefully you can find the traits that matter and make a somewhat accurate prediction.
With that in mind, with each prospect I’ll be looking at the following: Upper body strength, lower body strength, handfighting, lateral agility/feet/balance, awareness, and athleticism in space. All right, let’s talk about Jenkins. Because… phew. He’s the right tackle in this next clip.
Before we go into the traits discussion, I just need to note that Jenkins is M-E-A-N. Playing against him must be a genuinely miserable experience. He flattened players on multiple snaps in every game I watched.
Upper body power- This is Jenkins’ best trait. Jenkins is stronger than every opponent he faces. He’s able to control defenders in pass protection when he gets his hands on them, creating that “freezing the defender” look Chiefs fans might remember from Willie Roaf. He delivers a big punch and can rock defenders backward. He also is capable of holding defenders off with a single hand and is tough to disengage from in the run game.
Lower body power- Jenkins is hard to dislodge or bull rush, and plays with a great deal of strength in his lower body. Once he’s in front of a defender, even if he ends up in bad spot in terms of pad level or hand placement he usually has the leg strength to dig in and recover enough to halt a power move. He also is able to drive defenders down the field as a run blocker consistently. Here he is doing exactly that at right tackle.
Jenkins is able to wall off run lanes like, well, a wall. And the moment he gets any sort of leverage he consistently drives defenders backwards in embarrassing fashion. His lower body power, like his upper body power, is top tier.
Handfighting- Jenkins has active hands and resets with decent consistency. However, it’s a little more unknown because he often doesn’t need to do so against opponents who aren’t able to get much movement initially.
Lateral agility/feet/balance- Jenkins isn’t what I’d call light of foot, but he’s not a plodder either. He wasn’t asked to take vertical sets all that often and show off a kick slide, but when he did so he moved pretty well for a guy of his size. He’s rarely taken off his feet or caught completely off balance. He’s not elite here and could be susceptible to speed rushers if he’s not able to get his hands on them quickly, though it rarely happened in college.
Awareness- I got a chance to see Jenkins deal with multiple stunts and a few blitzes, and he consistently handed them off well. He takes good angles when run blocking and seems to understand where he needs to move to help a runner get by. He also looks for work on the rare occasions he’s uncovered and is, unsurprisingly, quite mean about it.
Athleticism in space- Jenkins is game and will get to spots, but isn’t an athlete in the mold of Eric Fisher. However, when he’s in space he generally does a nice job locking on to a defender and forcing them away from the play or driving them down the field.
Overall- Jenkins is a beast who plays with a mean streak, whose strength makes up for being a relatively average athlete. He shows flashes of having what it takes to be more than he was in college in terms of a lateral mover as well. I’d be thrilled if the Chiefs landed him in the first round, including if they had to trade up to do it.
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Alex Leatherwood, Alabama- 6’5”, 312 pounds
Leatherwood shows up as a jack of all trades, master of none who may have a specific issue that limits his upside at tackle.
Upper Body Strength- Leatherwood has a decent punch and is generally able to win against all but the strongest defenders. When he’s got his hands right he’ll freeze rushers, but it’s not consistent. It’s an area he’d be considered “decent” but not spectacular.
Lower Body Strength- Similar to how he looks in terms of upper body strength, Leatherwood passes muster here the majority of the time but isn’t overpowering. I’d give a bigger nod to his strength in the lower body, though, as he’s consistently tough to move and does show the ability to drive people back as a run blocker. It’s a plus area for him.
Handfighting- Alabama knows how to coach offensive linemen, and it shows with Leatherwood’s hands. He looks comfortable dealing with a number of different moves and employs a really solid snatch and trap that he used effectively several times.
Lateral agility/feet/balance- This is where Leatherwood gets in trouble at times. He doesn’t appear very comfortable moving laterally consistently, at least not without getting too much momentum and losing his balance. He doesn’t look natural changing directions on the move, and it makes him look less athletic than he ought to in those situations. It also results in him getting tossed/pushed aside at times, or being run around by speedier defenders. It’s the weakest area of his game, and could be prohibitive of him having a high ceiling at left tackle. (He’s at LT in the clip below)
It’s worth noting, however, that Leatherwood was asked to take sets that required him to demonstrate his slide more often than Jenkins, and did it well the majority of the time. While the change of direction is a problem, he can get moving to a spot and beat speed rushers there. (At LT below)
It’s a weird area for Leatherwood, because at the same time he has decent lateral agility… but then things fall apart from him at times due to his lack of natural bend/flexibility in his legs.
Awareness- Leatherwood had to deal with some very good defenses and defensive schemes, and never looked surprised when there were games up front. He seems ready for NFL defensive gamesmanship in that regard. However, he doesn’t look for work quite as aggressively as one might hope, and also rarely finishes with an attitude.
Athleticism in space- There’s more comfort on the run for Leatherwood when moving vertically (running) than when he’s trying to slide and change direction. I’d compare him to Osemele in that regard. He can get where he needs to go, but isn’t an elite athlete.
Overall- I don’t think Leatherwood is a player I’d take in the first round as a tackle. His issues changing direction laterally without having elite upper body power creates a cap as to who he can be at that position. He does show enough of the other requisite traits that I think he could play tackle at the NFL and be an average starter, though, and he might be a guy you could plug in and get that level of play immediately. If the Chiefs were to take him, I’d prefer it be with their second round pick, and I think he might have a higher ceiling as a guard, where that change of direction issue won’t be as big an issue.
I’ll be churning out a lot more of these in the coming weeks! Let me know in the comments what 2 (or 4) players you’d like to see looked at next. And again, if you haven’t yet, feel free to subscribe below. I may or may not have more Super Bowl LIV confetti to give away soon…