The LA Chargers somehow landed Rashawn Slater with the 13th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Slater was expected to go higher than the 13th overall pick and while it was the realistic best-case scenario, it is safe to say that not many expected Slater to fall to 13.
Slater will now man the left side of the offensive line as the team’s starting left tackle, that is, as long as they do not continue trying Trey Pipkins and try moving Rashawn Slater to guard. Tom Telesco said that he is still bullish on Pipkins, who was taking as a developmental tackle in the 2019 NFL Draft.
That would be a massive mistake by the Chargers. Not only has Pipkins not shown what it takes to be a starting tackle in the NFL but the team recently made a similar decision that turned out to bite.
That decision was made with Forrest Lamp. Lamp was one of the worst guards in the entire league last season and his tenure with the Chargers was extremely disappointing. A college tackle, the Chargers converted Lamp to a guard where he could never find his footing. Injuries definitely did not help, but when he was healthy, Lamp was not good.
It might sound absurd to compare Forrest Lamp to Rashawn Slater, but the similarities are more present than you may want to admit.
The LA Chargers cannot make the same mistake with Rashawn Slater that they did with Forrest Lamp.
As mentioned, injuries hurt Lamp and that definitely is part of the conversation. However, the LA Chargers instantly committed to playing Lamp on the inside, and we could not fault them at the time.
Despite being one of the best tackles in college football the year prior, Lamp’s size and arm length made him an interior guard prospect. Many teams would have made the exact same decision.
Many teams would also make the same decision with Slater. Slater was viewed as someone who could play up and down the offensive line despite being a tackle in college. While that versatility is a strength, it should not fool the Chargers into simply placing him inside. They have to give him reps at left tackle to maximize his potential value, unlike Lamp.
Lamp’s protection out of college was very similar to Slater’s. Lance Zierlien of NFL.com gave the two prospects the exact same grade — 6.70. Lamp came in at six-four, 309 pounds with 32.25-inch arms and 10.675-inch hands. Slater comes in at six-four, 304 pounds with 33-inch arms and 10.5-inch hands.
That is as close as you can be in terms of measurables.
Because we always have recency bias and fans always buy in on every draft pick, some fans may call this comparison outlandish because Lamp failed in the league and Slater is so highly touted. Some may even point to the fact that Lamp was a second-round pick.
ESPN ranked Lamp eighth overall in their pre-draft big board, Pro Football Focus ranked him 27th heading into the draft, and Sporting News ranked him 14th. He was a consensus first-round prospect. Not a questionable first-round prospect. A consensus first-round prospect.
He fell to the second round likely because of his projection to move to the inside. While Slater would not have fallen that far, the league is much different than it was four years ago. Teams value versatile offensive linemen now more than they did four years ago. If Lamp was in this draft class he would have been a first-rounder.
Yes, Rashawn Slater did great against Chase Young from 2019 and that is something to be very excited about, but Lamp had a very similar big performance the year before he went into the draft that every Charger fan was pointing out.
Western Kentucky played Alabama in 2016 and Lamp put on a show. While it was not Chase Young, Alabama had two future NFL players in Jonathan Allen and Dalvin Tomlinson that Lamp went up against. Both of which are quality defensive tackles now.
There are so many shades of Forrest Lamp in Rashawn Slater. Is Slater the overall better prospect? Yes. Slater might just be the third-best offensive line prospect of the last five years behind Quentin Nelson and Penei Sewell.
However, projection does not always lead to results, especially if the NFL team does not handle the prospect properly. That is what Forrest Lamp taught us while on the LA Chargers.
The LA Chargers need to let Slater play tackle and need to let him go through his trials and tribulations to grow as a player. The last thing fans want is Forrest Lamp 2.0. With the right mindset, and health, Slater should hopefully be just fine.