Rashawn Slater

Vikings Discussed Trading Up For Justin Fields

Justin Fields will begin his NFL career in the NFC North, with the Bears having traded up to land the Ohio State passer with hopes of ending their run of quarterback struggles. But one of Chicago’s top rivals was monitoring this situation.

After seeing Fields drop past the Panthers and Broncos at Nos. 8 and 9, the Vikings contacted teams about moving up for a quarterback. Fields was the primary target, according to ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin. Although Minnesota has Kirk Cousins locked in through 2022, the team wanted to draft one of this year’s top QBs.

The Cowboys traded their No. 10 overall pick to the Eagles, who moved up for DeVonta Smith, and the Giants shipped their 11th overall choice to the Bears, scuttling the Vikings’ Fields hopes. While the Vikes sought to acquire one of the first-round-caliber QBs that did not go in the top three, they were not willing to give up the draft capital necessary for a player who would sit for at least one season, per Cronin.

[RELATED: Vikings Tried To Trade Up Twice In First Round]

A Vikings coach briefed Cousins ahead of the draft to prepare him for the prospect of a quarterback selection, Cronin adds. The team was prepared to select Fields, had he fallen No. 14. The Bears, however, beat them by three picks. It cost them a 2022 first-round pick to move up nine spots to No. 11, but it also denied their rivals a chance to create a Cousins-to-Fields QB transition.

That reality would have likely meant Fields sitting for at least one season. While the Bears hope to execute this strategy as well, it is unlikely Andy Dalton will keep Fields off the field for too long. The Vikings ended up selecting Kellen Mond near the top of the third round. Mond was the seventh quarterback off the board, with the Buccaneers ending Round 2 with their Kyle Trask selection. Mond is viewed as more of a developmental player than Fields and may not end up being a starter-level NFLer.

Rick Spielman said the Vikings tried to trade up from No. 14, and although he declined to specify the target, Cronin notes the team — presumably after Fields went to the Bears at 11 — eyed tackle Rashawn Slater. The left tackle-needy Chargers nabbed Slater at 13. Minnesota traded down to No. 23 and selected Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw.

Thanks to a clause in Cousins’ 2020 extension, his being on the roster on Day 3 of the 2021 league year guaranteed him $45MM in 2022. His run as Minnesota’s starter will almost certainly stretch to at least five seasons.

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Chargers Draft Northwestern T Rashawn Slater No. 13 Overall

With the No. 13 overall pick, the Chargers selected Rashawn Slater. The Bolts weren’t sure if the Northwestern tackle would be available at this stage, but they managed to get one of the top players on their board without mortgaging their remaining draft ammo.

The son of former eight-year NBA veteran Reggie Slater, Rashawn started 37 games at either left or right tackle between 2017 and 2019. This included a sophomore season where he earned Third-team All-Big Ten honors. Slater also fared well against Chase Young in their final matchup of the 2019 campaign, not allowing the ex-Buckeyes phenom to record a quarterback hit when they were matched up. Despite shifting from right to left tackle as a junior, Slater did not allow a sack in 11 games that season.

Slater managed to maintain his high draft stock despite sitting out the 2020 campaign. While the 305-pound offensive lineman stands at 6-foot-3, he lacks the elite length of top offensive tackles. While Slater seems to offer the explosiveness to excel at the position, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if a team looks to develop him as an offensive guard.

Slater can be an immediate contributor on the Chargers offensive line. Justin Herbert looked the part of a franchise quarterback during his rookie season, but he had to tolerate 32 sacks this past year. Slater will certainly keep the signal caller upright.

This is one down for the Bolts, but the Bolts still have eight picks to go this weekend:

  • Round 2: No. 47
  • Round 3: No. 77
  • Round 3: No. 97
  • Round 4: No. 118
  • Round 5: No. 159
  • Round 6: No. 185 (from Jaguars through Titans)
  • Round 6: No. 198
  • Round 7: No. 241

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Trade Rumors: Bears, Falcons, Bengals

Here’s a few of the latest draft rumors, with a focus on teams that could be moving up or down the board in the first round:

  • The Bears, who hold the No. 20 overall pick, have been rumored as a team that could be climbing up the draft board to grab a QB, but as Albert Breer of SI.com writes, they haven’t been particularly active in trade discussions just yet. A lot can happen in a week, and Breer says rival clubs do expect Chicago to at least consider a bold trade to land a top passer. On the other hand, such a deal will be very expensive in terms of draft capital, and Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune hears from some sources that GM Ryan Pace might try to protect his draft assets to fill his club’s multiple needs. Still, Pace’s job and HC Matt Nagy‘s job are very much in jeopardy, and unless the duo is particularly high on a second-tier QB like Florida’s Kyle Trask, expect the team to exhaust all possible avenues for a trade up.
  • The Falcons may be open to all options when it comes to their No. 4 overall pick, but Breer is getting the sense that Atlanta is perfectly content to stay right where it is. Whether the Falcons take a QB with that pick or the top non-QB prospect in the draft remains an open question, but they have put a very high price on their selection, and it sounds like they will need to be overwhelmed by a trade offer to move it.
  • The buzz around the Bengals has pointed towards the team keeping its No. 5 overall pick and selecting LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase. Director of player personnel Duke Tobin said that he has engaged in talks with teams looking to move up to No. 5, but he wants to stay put and select a premier talent (Twitter link via Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com).
  • Other teams are expecting the Dolphins to keep the No. 6 selection, but GM Chris Grier says that he will continue listening to trade offers up until the pick is in (Twitter link via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald). If he does get an offer that convinces him to move down, he won’t want to slide too far.
  • Connor Hughes of The Athletic says Jets GM Joe Douglas could try to engineer a trade up from the No. 23 overall pick, especially if an OL like Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater or USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker should start to fall. However, he doesn’t see Douglas moving into the top-15.

Giants Leaning Toward Edge Rusher In Round 1?

Having needed an edge rusher for a few years now, the Giants may be set to address this need with their top offseason resource.

They have done a lot of work on the top edge defenders in this year’s draft, and sources informed SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano the current sense is this will be the direction the team takes with its No. 11 overall pick. The Giants have spent big to fill needs at wide receiver and cornerback, in adding Kenny Golladay and Adoree’ Jackson, but have lacked a long-term, starter-caliber edge rusher since trading Olivier Vernon in 2019.

The Giants could be faced with a major decision — not exactly uncommon for them in recent drafts — if Alabama wide receiver prospects DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle remain on the board. Five quarterbacks may well go in the top 10, pushing down this offense-heavy draft’s top non-QB talents. The Giants have Golladay, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton penciled in as their top three receivers, but it should not be considered a lock the team would pass on potential value here in one of the ex-Crimson Tide stars.

New York is believed to be high on Michigan’s Kwity Paye and Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari, Vacchiano adds. The former ranks as Scouts Inc.’s top draft’s top pass-rushing prospect. With Ojulari ranked outside the top 20 overall, it may be difficult to envision the Giants going in that direction over a higher-value player at 11. Mel Kiper Jr.’s most recent mock has the Giants taking Waddle. A trade-down maneuver seems unlikely, given that GM Dave Gettleman‘s streak of never trading down has now lasted eight drafts — five in Carolina, three with New York.

Should the Giants stay at 11, they are also high on Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater, per Vacchiano. The Giants went tackle at No. 4 overall last year and used a third-round pick on tackle Matt Peart. Nate Solder is also in line to return.

The Giants pursued Leonard Floyd, but he re-signed with the Rams. They passed on the rest of the 2020 pass rusher lot, which was rather crowded for the big-ticket position, and only kept Markus Golden via the rarely used UFA tender last year. The Giants waited until Round 7 to draft a pass rusher in 2020 and have since traded Golden and let 2020 signing Kyler Fackrell sign with the Chargers.

Gettleman passed on edge talent Josh Allen in 2019, drafting Daniel Jones instead and lost out on Chase Young thanks to a late-season win over Washington in 2019. The Giants’ need at outside linebacker has persisted, though the emergence of Leonard Williams as a sack artist may lessen the desperation at this spot to some degree.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Northwestern T Rashawn Slater To Opt Out

One of the top tackle prospects set to be eligible for the 2021 draft will begin his pre-draft training early. Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater is opting out of the 2020 season, Pete Thamel of Yahoo.com reports.

Slater’s decision comes when a few notable Big Ten names — from Purdue wideout Rondale Moore to Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade to fellow tackle prospect Jalen Mayfield (Michigan) — reversed course on their opt-outs after the Big Ten’s call to begin its season in October. But Slater has played 38 college games and may not have too much to gain from a strong senior season amid uncertain circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

I didn’t think a winter or spring season allows for optimal recovery or training to have a great rookie year,” Slater said, via Thamel. “I talked about it with everyone. Everyone at Northwestern has been extremely supportive. They’ve had open and honest conversations with me. I can tell they wanted the best for me.”

The son of former eight-year NBA veteran Reggie Slater, Rashawn has started 37 games at either left or right tackle. However, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. slots the 6-foot-4, 308-pound blocker as the No. 3 draft-eligible guard. Slater fared well against Chase Young in their final matchup last season, not allowing the ex-Buckeyes phenom to record a quarterback hit when they were matched up. Shifted from right to left tackle as a junior, Slater did not allow a sack in 11 games last season.

Changing course from its previous decision to consider a late-winter or spring start to the season, the Big Ten is now set to begin play Oct. 24.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

College Football Notes: Winter Season, Slater, Lance

Just like everything else in the world, college football has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. And the NFL, whose talent comes almost exclusively from the collegiate ranks, is willing to do whatever it can to make sure college football is played before the 2021 NFL draft.

As Albert Breer of SI.com writes, college coaches have discussed starting their season not in the spring, but on January 1, which would allow them to play out an eight-game season and even a postseason by mid-March. The NFL is willing to assist with that endeavor, whether that means offering its stadiums — like the Lions’ Ford Field — or pushing back its combine and draft.

Of course, the Big Ten and Pac-12 have already announced plans to postpone their fall schedules to the spring, but a winter season may make it more likely that top college prospects choose to play rather than declare for the draft. Either way, it seems inevitable that the NFL will need to make some serious adjustments to its 2021 offseason schedule, but the league seems prepared to do so.

Now for more collegiate notes that could have a major impact on the professional game:

  • Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater is opting out of the 2020 season, per Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter). Slater is viewed as one of the best O-line prospects in the country — he was one of the few players to limit Ohio State star Chase Young last year — and Thamel believes Slater will not fall out of the first round.
  • Slater’s Big Ten colleague, Michigan CB Ambry Thomas, has also declared for the 2021 draft, a decision that Thomas himself announced via Twitter. Thomas just became a full-time contributor on defense in 2019, and he was excellent in press coverage. A likely Day 2 selection, he also has appeal as a kick returner.
  • One of the country’s premier FCS programs, North Dakota State, will not be playing football in 2020, as Andrew Groover of the NFL Network tweets. NDSU quarterback Trey Lance, whom NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah has compared favorably to former Colts QB Andrew Luck, is a candidate to opt out of the program’s spring season and declare for the draft.
  • Per Thamel, the NCAA Division I Council has decided that fall sport student-athletes can participate in any number of competitions this year without it counting towards their eligibility (Twitter link). So if, say, a senior in the SEC has a down season in 2020, he can return next year to try and rebuild his stock.