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2021 NFL Draft Profile: Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater

Should the Broncos draft Rashawn Slater?

Northwestern v Rutgers Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

As with all of these draft profiles, I obviously don’t know what George Paton is planning for in the first round. There’s just no harm in speculating or sizing up the options.

Now that my disclaimer’s out of the way, we’re going to look at Rashawn Slater, the Northwestern offensive tackle who is expected to be a first-round pick (possibly even a top 10).

With the Broncos going at #9, choosing him is an option. This is assuming they don’t go for Oregon’s Penei Sewell (or that another team doesn’t snag Sewell first).

Based on what I’ve read from analysts, it’s almost a toss-up between Slater and Sewell on who will be picked first, though the odds are slightly higher in Sewell’s favor. Check out Mel Kiper’s Big Board for 2021 - one of the OT’s is projected for #8 and the other trails right behind at #9.

Background

Rashawn Slater grew up in Sugar Land, TX, and was recruited out of Clements High School. He committed to Northwestern and started playing left tackle in 2017.

Slater started every game in both the 2017 and 2018 seasons, and took home a spot on the first-team Big Ten freshman list in 2017. He was also named third team All-Big Ten in 2018

In 2019, Slater received honorable mention for the All-Big Ten, having allowed no sacks the entire season.

We haven’t seen any action from Slater since 2019 because he opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. Many other college players did the same this past year, including the aforementioned Penei Sewell.

Slater is certain of his abilities as a tackle but added that he would be flexible to start in another position if that’s where the team wants him.

“I think I’m the best offensive tackle in this draft,” Slater said, “So I have a really high level of confidence about that, but at the same time, I’m a team player. If a team wants to play me at guard, I’m all for it. As long as that’s what’s best for the team, I’m happy to play whatever position they need me at.”

Rashawn’s specs (Pro Day ‘21)

Height: 6’4” Weight: 304 / Arm length: 33 inches

Bench Press: 3.3 reps / 3-Cone Drill: 7.47

Speed: 4.88 / 10-Yard Split: 1.68

What Slater can bring to Denver

  • Versatility. As a tackle, Slater would be effective inside or on the edge He could also switch over and play another position on the offensive line, like guard, as he’s already mentioned he’d be willing to do.
  • Strength and athleticism. Slater sustains blocks well. He’s pretty fast for an offensive linemen, he reads plays well, and he’s smart on his feet.
  • Quick processing. He reads plays well, and he’s smart on his feet.

Possible drawbacks

  • Shorter-than-average arms. At 33 inches, this doesn’t exclude Slater from being an effective or even elite offensive tackle; but it could prove to be a challenge.
  • Size. It feels weird to call any 6’4,” 304-lb guy “small,” but the average OT is about an inch taller and Oregon’s OT Penei Sewell is 6’6.”

The buzz around Slater

  • Kyle Crabbs, draft analyst & Co-Host of the Draft Dudes:
    “Rashawn Slater is a scheme diverse and positional flexible prospect who should offer a little something to everyone depending on what specific needs and traits are prioritized for any given franchise. Slater, who opted out of the 2020 college season and has not played since the end of the 2019 campaign, is well regarded for his fundamentals and functional athleticism along the front. Slater manned the left tackle position for the Wildcats. For teams that don’t prioritize certain measurable thresholds, he appears to be a viable candidate to do the same in the NFL—based specifically on his work against 2020 No. 2 overall pick Chase Young in pass protection. But Slater’s ceiling is likely lowest on the edge and the further into the heart of the line he transitions, the higher his potential is to become a perennial Pro Bowl player and potential All-Pro candidate in my eyes. Slater has tremendous cutoff abilities and clean, patient footwork working space and the necessary functional strength to hold his own on the interior. The position flexibility he offers ensures he can be a part of any NFL offensive line’s combination of best five players to start up front from Day 1.”
    The Draft Network
  • Lance Zierlein, NFL analyst
    “Three-year starter with experience at both left and right tackle positions. His compact frame carries play strength that can be filed in the “grown man” category, as evidenced by his heads-up battles against 2020 No. 2 overall pick Chase Young in 2019. Slater operates with confidence and efficient movement that sees him in position to get his job done on most snaps. His lack of length will lead some teams to view him as a guard, but the footwork and talent outside might be worth allowing him to prove it at tackle first. His combination of strength, athletic ability and quick processing should make him one of the safer offensive line picks in this draft and an early starter.”
    NFL
  • Mel Kiper, Jr., draft analyst, comparing Slater to Oregon OT Penei Sewell
    “Penei Sewell, to me, is ahead of Slater. And I do like Slater, but I like him as a left tackle, right tackle. This guard stuff to me is nonsense. If you’re going to project him to the guard, you’re taking him maybe mid to late first round. You’re not taking him that high.”
    247Sports
  • Todd McShay, draft analyst, comparing Slater to Oregon OT Penei Sewell
    (Sewell) has longer arms, and when he was playing in Oregon after opting out this past year, he was absolutely dominant. He was dominant in pass protection. I think I read a statistic, there was never a game he played in where he allowed more than two pressures in a single game. I mean, this guy is what you want protecting your Joe Burrow, who you use the No. 1 overall pick with last year. But Rashawn Slater’s a heck of a football player, too. And the more I watch him, the more I like him. And I kind of debated with myself, and I still have more tape to watch, but Slater is light on his feet. Doesn’t have the long arms that you look for, and I actually projected maybe inside at guard or center. But the more I watch he’s just so athletic, and these are the two top offensive linemen. It could go Slater, Sewell or Sewell, Slater. But they’re going to be the top-two offensive linemen. I’ve got them both going in the top 15. I can easily see both of these guys coming off the board in the top 10.”
    247Sports

Does he fit in with Denver’s offensive line?

Of course he does. If Paton wants to draft an offensive lineman, this is a guy who can double as an OT or a guard. He’s extremely athletic and fast on his feet.

Would I use a no. 9 pick on him? Honestly, no. Not because he’s lacking anything you’d want in an OT, though.

From my perspective, the Broncos have a pretty strong lineup for OT and G starters. Garrett Bolles and Ja’Wuan James will be starting for LT and RT, while Dalton Risner and Graham Glasgow are the respective left and right guards.

So I’m pretty confident that Denver’s in good shape in this area. Of course, that’s not to say they shouldn’t add depth to the position - especially since offensive tackles are among the most frequently-injured players in the league.

Poll

Should the Broncos draft Rashawn Slater?

This poll is closed

  • 61%
    Yes
    (309 votes)
  • 38%
    No
    (191 votes)
500 votes total Vote Now