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Chargers draft Northwestern offensive tackle Rashawn Slater at No. 13

Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater holds a team jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater, right, holds a team jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after the Chargers selected him with the 13th pick in the NFL draft on Thursday in Cleveland.
(Tony Dejak / Associated Press)

Rashawn Slater’s attention to detail is such that he opted to wear a blue suit Thursday to the NFL draft in Cleveland.

A short time later, he was selected No. 13 overall by the Chargers, a team that also wears blue.

Asked to confirm that his fashion choice was intentional, Slater answered, “Absolutely.”

Then the former Northwestern tackle added, “That’s my favorite color, too, so it works out perfectly.”

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The night did, in fact, work out perfectly for the Chargers, who found another piece for their rebuilt offensive line, general manager Tom Telesco calling Slater a “perfect fit for us.”

After a remote experience last year, the 2021 NFL draft in Cleveland is a return to normal, or close to it. Here’s how to watch and everything else you need to know.

Slater is expected to take over at left tackle, where the Chargers are lacking a proven starter.

“He’s made of the right stuff,” Telesco said. “He loves to play the game. He’s very smart, knows football, been very well coached. We’re just really excited.”

Offensive line was the Chargers’ top priority entering the offseason, and Telesco has rebuilt 80% of a group that struggled with injuries and inconsistency last year. Only right tackle Bryan Bulaga will return among the 2020 starters.

Telesco signed All-Pro center Corey Linsley and guards Matt Feiler and Oday Aboushi in free agency.

And now the Chargers add the 6-foot-4, 304-pound Slater, who most notably brings athletic ability and work ethic.

“I couldn’t have picked a better place for myself,” he said. “Great young quarterback, young team. We’re going to have so many weapons. It’s just an honor to be part of that system.”

With 2020 first-round pick Justin Herbert emerging as a potential franchise quarterback, the Chargers knew protecting him and bolstering a running game that also has been inconsistent were keys entering the new season.

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A native of Texas, Slater started at Northwestern for two seasons at right tackle before shifting to the left side for his junior year in 2019.

That season, he gave up zero sacks, one quarterback hit and four hurries during his 355 pass-blocking snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.

“I’m a technician,” Slater said. “I’m consistent. I feel like the best thing you can be as an offensive lineman is consistent. I’m the most consistent lineman in this draft.”

Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater holds a team jersey.
Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater holds a team jersey after he was chosen by the Chargers with the 13th pick in the NFL draft on Thursday in Cleveland.
(Tony Dejak / Associated Press)

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Telesco said he was confident Slater would last until No. 13 when he was still on the board following Carolina’s pick at No. 8.

With top tackle Penei Sewell and cornerbacks Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II already taken by the time No. 13 arrived, Slater became the obvious choice.

Slater sat out 2020 after the Big Ten postponed the start of its season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. By the time the conference decided to return, Slater said he was too far along in preparation for the draft to alter his decision.

Instead, he spent his time training in the Dallas area, refining his techniques and working on his body. He said he is now stronger and leaner.

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“I feel like I’m a far better football player than the last time I touched the field,” he said. “I’m ready to show it off.”

Asked if the time away from playing in games has refueled his drive, Slater said yes.

“I’m ready to hit somebody,” he said. “It’s been way too long.”

The Chargers have nine draft picks, including the 13th in Round 1, which means general manager Tom Telesco is going to have a busy three days on the job.

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Slater comes from an athletic family. His father, Reggie, went undrafted before persevering to put together an NBA career that lasted eight seasons with seven teams.

He credited his dad for helping him arrive in the NFL, a reality that Slater admitted had him tearing up Thursday.

“It comes down to two things: good genes and just hard work,” Slater said.

RASHAWN SLATER, OFFENSIVE TACKLE
6 feet 4, 304 pounds, Northwestern, Round 1, Pick 13

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Notable: Slater was a three-year starter in college and has experience at both left and right tackle. He separated himself during the 2019 season with a strong showing against Ohio State’s Chase Young, the No. 2 overall pick last year.

Last season: Slater opted out of 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He has said that not playing allowed him to concentrate more on NFL-specific skills.

Why the Chargers drafted him: General manager Tom Telesco has rebuilt the team’s offensive line, with only right tackle Bryan Bulaga returning among the starters. Slater gives the Chargers a young left tackle to help protect Justin Herbert, the NFL’s top offensive rookie last season. Telesco hadn’t used a first-round pick on an offensive lineman since selecting D.J. Fluker at No. 11 in 2013.


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