After last season’s virtual draft, Cleveland is playing host to festivities this year with a handful of potential draft picks present and socially distanced because of COVID-19.
Here’s a pick-by-pick look at how each player Los Angeles has selected will fit.
Round 1, No. 13 overall: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
My take: The 6-foot-4, 304-pound Slater is considered the best OT in the draft by many scouts, even over Penei Sewell, who went No. 7 to the Detroit Lions. He’s has NFL-ready technique and good movement at the point of attack. He’s a steal for an offensive line that needs a left tackle badly to protect second-year quarterback Justin Herbert. Herbert is coming off an NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year season in 2020 which saw him set an NFL rookie record with 31 touchdown passes. Herbert did this despite being pressured 217 times last season, the most for a rookie quarterback since 2009 according to ESPN Stats & Information. Slater can play right tackle, too, and the Chargers love his versatility and think he’s the real deal. Slater opted out of the 2020 season at Northwestern, so it remains to be seen if there’s a little rust.
Rare first-rounder for Northwestern: Slater is the first Northwestern player to be selected in the first round since defensive tackle Luis Castillo was selected with the No. 28 pick in 2005 by the Chargers. Slater’s selection ends a drought that was the third-longest among Power 5 schools. At No. 13, Slater is the highest Northwestern player selected since offensive tackle Chris Hinton was picked by the Denver Broncos with the No. 5 pick in 1983. Slater proved his worth with the Wildcats with an impressive showing against Chase Young — the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2020 for the Washington Football Team — during a 2019 game against Young, holding the then-Ohio State star without a pressure in nine pass rushes.
Professional bloodlines: Slater is the son of former NBA power forward Reggie Slater, who played eight seasons with the Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks, Toronto Raptors, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Jersey Nets and Atlanta Hawks. The Chargers hope his father’s athleticism carries down to his son to help a Chargers line that ranked dead last in Run Block Win Rate (67.1%) and second to last in Pass Block Win Rate (46.8 percent). Slater is the first offensive lineman taken by the Chargers in the first round since 2013 (D.J. Fluker), and the Chargers had only picked one OL in the first round of the previous 20 drafts.
What’s next: The Chargers have six more draft picks, which is plenty of time to select a cornerback and a wide receiver, which they need. The have a new coaching staff and an upbeat philosophy which fans hope can get them over the hump.