The NFL draft works in mysterious ways. There are players who fall, players who rise, trade-ups, literally everything. When the night started, the most significant need for the Chargers was left tackle, but that doesn't mean that necessarily a left tackle was at the top of the big board.
When the Detroit Lions selected left tackle Penei Sewell with the seventh overall pick, it felt like Northwestern's Rashawn Slater would follow. He didn't. When the Dallas Cowboys were at 12th after trading with the Philadelphia Eagles, it felt like they could select Slater. They went with Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons.
He was right there, and the Bolts selected him at 13th.
"I couldn't have picked a better place for myself, young great young quarterback, young team, and we're going to have so many weapons, and it's just an honor to be a part of that system," said Slater.
Slater walked down and shook the hand of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in his blue suit, which kind of looks powder blue.
"It's my favorite color too," said Slater about his suit game. "So, it worked out perfectly."
The Chargers had a plan since the offseason started to solidify their offensive line, and they have done just that. They signed three potential starters in free agency headlined by former Packers center Corey Linsley. The only carryover from the 2020 offensive line will be right tackle Bryan Bulaga.
"One of my biggest wishes on going to NFL team was to be in a room with a lot of good vets, and that's exactly what they have," explained Slater. "So, I'm going to be a sponge. I'm going to be talking to these guys all the time, picking up everything I can as far as playbook, experience, how to train like everything, and so it means a lot to be able to be around those guys."
There is a lot of veteran leadership in the Chargers offensive line room, which Slater can learn from, as he said.
The talk during pro-days was whether Slater or Sewell was the better offensive lineman. Slater believes the Chargers got the best one.
"I'm a technician," said Slater. "I'm consistent. I feel like the best thing you can be as an offensive lineman is consistent, and I am the most consistent lineman in this draft. I owe it up to my technique, my understanding of the game, and just my work ethic."
According to Pro Football Focus, Slater gave up zero sacks, one quarterback hit, and four hurries during his 355 pass-blocking snaps in 2019. His best work was in 2019 when his Northwestern Wildcats faced Ohio State, and he was matched up against Chase Young, who would go on to be the second pick in the 2020 draft. He felt like most teams pointed to the game.
"I think it definitely did," said Slater. "That's a game that a lot of people look at to prove that I can play tackle at the next level."
Telesco agreed with what Slater said.
"He faced some rushers in that conference last year, and he held up very well," explained Telesco. "So that the makes the projection a little bit easier to see him going against top talent and that conference."
The Northwestern left tackle said he didn't have many conversations leading up to the draft with the Bolts, but he hoped they would take him. Slater was very happy to be drafted but says he is ready to hit defensive players after sitting out a year.
"A lot of people at interviews with teams were like, 'some people say you're too nice,'" explained Slater. "I'm like, you've never watched the film just because I know how to flip that switch."
Slater has athleticism in his family with his father, Reggie, having played in the NBA for 11 seasons. He started teaching his sons basketball, but they fell in love with football.
"His dad was talented enough and big enough to be an NBA player and a very good one at that," explained Telesco. "So, the genes are in there, and part of playing left tackle, or playing any tackle left or right, is to have really light feet, and body control and balance and leverage and all those things go into being a basketball player, especially being a power forward."
So, there are very athletic genes in the Slater household.
The last time Chargers general manager Tom Telesco drafted an offensive lineman in the first round was in 2013 when the Bolts selected D.J. Fluker out of Alabama as their right tackle. It had been a while.
The Bolts general manager said that the team didn't just draft Slater for his pass blocking abilities, but his run game ability as well. Quarterback Justin Herbert should be excited about the newest addition to his offensive line. Slater is excited about his new quarterback.
"I can't tell you enough how much it means to me to be able to come to an organization with a quarterback like that," said Slater about Herbert. "It's going to be everything for me to make sure that he's protected."