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The long and short of Rashawn Slater’s NFL scouting report looks something like this: great tape, but Tyrannosaurus-sized arms.
Before he opted out of the canceled-then-rescheduled 2020 Big Ten football season, Slater dominated the best pass rusher to come through college football over the last two years in his only matchup against then-Ohio State-star-turned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young. But Slater’s 33-inch arms have raised questions about whether the Northwestern product needs to move from offensive tackle to offensive guard at the next level.
“It’s definitely tiring when you put so much work in, put all that film out of you playing tackle, and then people are going to question that just based off of a measurable,” Slater said. “As far as the teams I’ve talked to, they’ve been pretty honest with me about saying it’s not a huge concern for them. So that’s been good.”
The son of former undersized NBA forward Reggie Slater, Rashawn is ranked as the No. 2 offensive tackle in the 2021 draft class in most projections, though NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah put him at the top ahead of Oregon’s Peneii Sewell. The consensus is the plug-and-play Slater could be a Pro Bowl starting tackle but an even more dominant guard.
The scouting standard is 34-inch arms for an offensive tackle, though Sewell’s (33 ¼) also measured short. All six offensive tackles drafted in the first round in 2020 exceeded 34, led by the Giants’ Andrew Thomas (36 ¹/₈) who then struggled as a rookie.
“I think I am the best tackle in the draft. I have a really high level of confidence about that,” Slater said. “But, at the same time, I’m a team player. If a team wants to play me at guard, so be it. I’m all for it. “
Slater could be at the top of the board when the Cowboys, Giants and Eagles are on the clock at picks Nos. 10, 11 and 12, respectively. If any of those three NFC East teams bite, it would mean Slater against Young’s Washington Football Team twice per season — a throwback to their 2019 matchup in which Slater consistently buried Young in the turf or forced an elongated route to the pocket.
“That game definitely gets talked about a lot,” Slater said. “My mindset was, ‘Everyone says this is the best guy, so I’m going to go out there and show them that I am.’ I did all my same normal film study and preparation. And I just had a plan of attack.”
Slater allowed zero sacks, one quarterback hit and five hurries for a total of six pressures on 355 pass-blocking snaps at left tackle in 2019. Unlike others who opted out in 2020, he isn’t light on experience. The first 26 of his 37 career starts came at right tackle.
“The improvement for Rashawn, just pop on the tape and watch it,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “He’s put the work in and we’re really proud of him. [He’s] a guy that’s going to come in ready to compete right away to start.”
The Giants — possibly Slater’s most likely landing spot within the top 12 picks — could bump a projected first-year starter out of right guard or right tackle to accommodate him. His Pro Day times (4.45-second shuttle and 7.48-second three-cone drill) indicate elite agility.
“Slater’s a heck of a player,” ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “He can play left tackle, right tackle or guard, so he can wear a lot of hats on that offensive line. If Slater’s there, he would be really interesting.”
Not playing and practicing last fall gave Slater extra time to refine technique with trainer Duke Manyweather, and study tape of three potential future Hall of Fame tackles: Trent Williams, Tyron Smith and Joe Staley. Staley’s arm length (33 ½ inches) was questioned at the start of a 12-year career that included six Pro Bowls — and he has since beaten the drum against that particular scouting knock.
“Joe’s a guy who is kind of like me: Maybe he’s not seen like the prototypical size of a left tackle and yet he was still extremely effective,” Slater said. “Just the way he was able to play, he was a master technician.”
And consistent. The same term often applied to Slater.
“I’m able to win in different ways,” he said. “And the way I changed my sense of my technique and stuff like that, not everyone else does that.”
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