By Dylan MacKinnon
The majority of talk around Offensive linemen in this draft has been around Oregon’s Penei Sewell. But he was always unlikely to be there at 6 for the Eagles, and now that they are at 12, even more so. However, there is another highly touted O line prospect that until recently has flown under the radar. Some even think Rashawn Slater may end up the better player. But should the Eagles target the Northwestern product should he be available when they pick?
Strong Track Record
Slater played 3 seasons at Northwestern before opting out his final season. He received some form of All Big 10 honors every year. He was named to the All-Big 10 Freshmen Team year one while playing RT. His sophomore year he was third team All Big. And then his final year he moved to LT and was a consensus All Big 10 Honorable Mention.
That final year, he allowed 0 sacks, 5 QB hurries, and only one QB hit. And that was not a byproduct of have playing nobodies. As a LT in the Big 10, he faced some elite pass rushers, many that have already gone on to excel in the NFL. One notable example was Ohio States Chase Young. He held Young sackless. The same Chase Young who was the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, had 7.5 sacks, and was a pro bowler.
Rashawn Slater vs Chase Young😳— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 9, 2021
OT2 in the 2021 Draft Class
His college Coach pat Fitzgerald didn’t hesitate to heap praise onto Slater, even when he was announcing that Slater was opting out of the 2020 season.
“It’s a rare player that can make an impact in the Big Ten in their first year of college, and even more rare to do it on the offensive line. Rashawn earned a starting spot almost immediately and never gave it up, helping pave the way to two bowl championships and a Big Ten West Division title. He has made the entire Northwestern community proud not only on game days, but in the classroom as an Academic All-Big Ten honoree and we can’t wait to see what his future holds on Sundays!”
Depending on who you ask, some scouts will say Slater could be a better long term fit at Guard instead of tackle. Now you can view that multiple ways. For one, if he is going to be a guard instead of a LT, his value goes down, because he’s playing a position that isn’t at as much of a premium. On the other end though, if you like many other scouts think he can play both LT and LG, he gains value.
Sliding over to guard, or moving anywhere on the offensive line outside your normal position, is not as easy as it may seem. Look no further than Eagles former 1st round pick Andre Dillard. He looked lost when he had to slide to RT after playing on the left side before. Slater has excelled at both ends of the line in college. He projects to be able to do so inside as well.
That type of versatility could give any team drafting him flexibility in how they use him early on. So if for example they do not currently need a tackle, but may need one a year or two down the line, Slater has the ability to start at guard for a couple years, until eventually sliding to LT when the need arises. Eagles could draft Slater, and not give up on the Jordan Mailata experiment just yet. Or if they decide Mailata won’t work out, Slater could start year one at LT.
If you are concerned he won’t be a fit at LT in the NFL, this is what Bucky Brooks had to say about that.
“Rashawn Slater, he’s a technical marvel. He plays the game like a vet. The way he was able to kind of do the dance with Chase Young, resonates with people. Even though he doesn’t have the prototypical length you want at a offensive tackle; Because he plays it the right way, he does a great job at minimizing the deficiencies in that aspect.”
What the Experts Say
“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.”
“Athleticism and movement skills are the traits that sit atop the pre-draft resume of Slater with multiple plus signs beside them. Slater is adamant about finishing what he starts. Whenever engaging in contact with the opposition, he remains active with his feet and hands with the determination to play through the whistle. Seen in both phases of the run and passing game, he competes with high intensity levels throughout the duration of reps. Slater’s lower and upper halves often marry up as he has the hand power in order to stymie rushers at the point of attack.
One of Slater’s best attributes is working up to the second level on run game concepts. On the backside of them, Slater displays high effort levels by trying to create winning angles. Backside cut-off attempts are well thought out and he does a textbook job of wheeling his backside around to create alleyways as running lanes in order to seal defenders off while eliminating threats from affecting them. Experimenting with him at offensive tackle, the team that drafts him should try him there first and make him prove that he can’t play there prior to placing him at other spots along the offensive line.”
Most agree Slater can play at the next level. Its just a question of it will be at tackle or guard. Eagles may need help all along the line. So whichever position he ends up would be a plus for the Eagles. Its just a matter of who along the Eagles line do you trust. Is Jordan Mailata capable of being a starting LT? Is Isaac Seumalo someone they could upgrade? And do you trust Lane Johnson and Brandon brooks to be healthy?
The Eagles O line last year was a mess pretty much across the board. Perhaps if everyone is healthy it isn’t the most immediate need. But the unit is like a bridge with a crack in it. Sure it can hold up for now, but if you continue to ignore it that could spell disaster. OL may not be a sexy pick. It may not be the pick that improves them the most right now. But it could be the right pick. If Slater falls to 12, he is worth at least considering.