LA Chargers draft profile: Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater
By Devon Auriemma
The top priority for the LA Chargers heading into the offseason will be improving the offensive line. The Chargers know they have their franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert, now they need to protect him.
We saw what happened to Joe Burrow last year with the Bengals and if that didn’t scare the Chargers organization into wanting to improve this offensive line, then I don’t know what will. The Chargers need to protect Herbert at all costs and it could all start by taking Rashawn Slater with the 13th pick.
Barring an unexpected trade, the Chargers will hold the 13th pick and with Penei Sewell likely off the board, will have to look elsewhere to build their offensive line. Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater has been climbing up draft boards despite opting out of the 2020 season. He has a combination of good athleticism, high Football IQ and versatility.
Rashawn Slater started three years for the Northwestern Wildcats before deciding to opt-out of the 2020 college football season. Slater has racked up numerous awards, including Freshman All-Big Ten Team, Third Team All-Big Ten in his sophomore year and was named a consensus honorable mention All-Big Ten during his junior season.
RELATED: LA Chargers take Rashawn Slater in January mock draft
Coming into the 2020 season, Slater had the potential to receive All-American recognition before opting out. He started 11 games during his junior year at left tackle while allowing zero sacks, one quarterback hit and five pressures throughout the year.
While Northwestern did not throw the ball as much as other teams, these numbers are still impressive. Slater has been climbing up draft boards over the past couple of months and has even overtaken Penei Sewell on some analysts’ draft boards, like Daniel Jeremiah, and could continue to rise over the next couple of months.
Why Rashawn Slater is the best option for the LA Chargers
If there is one thing about Rashawn Slater that stands out the most, it is his versatility. During his time at Northwestern, he has taken snaps on both sides of the offensive line but primarily played right tackle before making the switch to the left side during his junior year.
Not only can he play both tackle positions, but Slater also has some skills that can translate to playing on the interior. Slater is a good but not great athlete, at least compared to Sewell. Slater dominates at the second level and shows off his football IQ by taking great angles to completely take his assignment out of the play.
One reason why he might be better suited as a guard in the NFL would be his length. He is smaller than your ideal left tackle, standing at 6’3″, which means he could struggle against edge rushers that have better length. However, he has shown that he can hold his own against some of the top talent in the country and his length might not be a huge issue for him.
Rashawn Slater pass-blocking in 2019:
? 355 snaps? 5 QB pressures ? 0 sacks allowed pic.twitter.com/a3UG0nBwPk
— PFF College (@PFF_College) January 22, 2021
In 2019, Northwestern took on Chase Young and Ohio State. Ohio State absolutely dominated the Wildcats, but Slater was able to erase Chase Young from the game. Young did record a sack in this game but it did not come against Slater.
Young was a player that everyone was certain would thrive at the next level. While he was an elite prospect and has had success in the NFL in his rookie year, he struggled to do anything against Slater.
Even when giving up the length advantage against Young, Slater was able to use his technique and take away Young’s strength, speed and length to give his quarterback more time in the pocket.
In one play, Young came off the edge and Slater punched his left arm into Young’s chest to knock him off balance. Young could not regain his balance which eliminated him from using his length and strength on the play as Slater was able to hold him off before Young slipped.
Slater may not be the longest or most athletic offensive line prospect in this draft but he might have the best technique and skills. He brings good pop with his hands and can knock defenders off balance.
He is quick off the line, shows good footwork in his pass protection and dominates in the run game. Slater is also good at mirroring his opponent and keeping them in front of him. If Slater can find a way to have success against someone like Chase Young, who is already one of the league’s best pass rushers, then he could find ways to have success at the NFL level.
The LA Chargers should absolutely look to target Slater with the 13th pick. They have multiple holes on their offensive line and Slater could fill in at any position. Due to his versatility and technique, Slater has a great chance to be a starter from day one.
Penei Sewell seems like a sure thing when it comes to offensive line prospects but there are questions surrounding his technique. Sewell’s athleticism is one of the main reasons for the hype surrounding him. While Sewell is almost a lock to be the first tackle taken, Slater could also be a top-10 selection.
Slater’s stock has been rising for months and could continue to rise as we get closer to the NFL Draft. It might be tempting to take one of the best players available with the 13th pick, but the Chargers’ offensive line has been below average for way too long.
Investing draft capital into the offensive line should be the top priority for the LA Chargers. While Slater might be one of the best options for the Chargers, if his stock continues to rise, he might not even be available when their pick comes around.
Some other names to watch in the first round would be Christian Darrisaw, Samuel Cosmi or Alijah Vera-Tucker with Liam Eichenberg, Dillon Radunz or Alex Leatherwood in the second round. This is a deep offensive line group, so I would not be surprised if the Chargers decided to take two linemen in the first two rounds.
The LA Chargers need to invest in protecting Justin Herbert and Rashawn Slater would be a great addition to the offensive line.