SF 49ers NFL Draft: Rashawn Slater might be the OL pick

Rashawn Slater, Northwestern Wildcats (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Rashawn Slater, Northwestern Wildcats (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

With the ability to play anywhere on the line, Rashawn Slater is intriguing for the SF 49ers in the 2021 NFL Draft.

If the SF 49ers (well, every NFL team) can take one thing from the Super Bowl: It’s that you simply cannot win with subpar blocking.

The Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes is the most talented quarterback in the league by some margin, and yet he was powerless to do anything against the pass rush of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with both starting tackles injured. Mahomes was frequently running for his life and attempting to perform impossible plays, he had no help whatsoever.

Blocking is important, you simply do not win a Super Bowl without at least adequate blocking.

While injuries have ravaged the offensive line along with every other position for the Niners in 2020, the truth is that the team was very different on the line regardless of the retirements of tackle Joe Staley and guard Mike Person.

Add in center Weston Richburg, who simply isn’t durable enough to be considered viable at center any longer, and tackle Mike McGlinchey, who regress in pass blocking in 2020, and there is a problem with the blocking for San Francisco.

Luckily, the draft has some interesting prospects at the line for the SF 49ers to consider and the most intriguing might be Rashawn Slater from Northwestern.

The SF 49ers like to have players who can fit multiple positions on the line so they can have the most flexibility possible, and Slater is a player who can play along all five positions along the line.

Exactly where Slater is best positioned is a matter of opinion. At 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, Slater is slightly undersized at tackle and may be best suited to an interior position on the line. But this doesn’t include his athleticism and footwork, which is worth of an NFL-caliber left tackle.

Length is important for leverage in the trench battles, so the deciding factor may be strength. If Slater is strong enough to hold off EDGEs, then teams may see him at tackle for the NFL.

Where Slater fits for the Niners is a matter of debate. Left tackle Trent Williams is priority No. 1 to extend in the offseason, as he played exceptionally well in his first season after coming from Washington, and McGlinchey deserves another chance as he isn’t nearly bad enough to be considered a lost cause.

So Slater, who played right tackle primarily at Northwestern, may fit best in the interior. Guard is a position in need of upgrading, and Slater could always play the position to begin his career before kicking outwards to tackle later on.

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Slater is a player who’s steadily moving up draft boards. If the SF 49ers find him available at No. 12 in the NFL Draft, they might find his versatility and ability to fill a position of need much too good to refuse.