Rashawn Slater designated himself as the best tackle heading into the 2021 NFL Draft. Several NFL pundits agree with his claims, nabbing him as one of two premier offensive linemen likely to come off the board first in next month's draft.
In Daniel Jeremiah's latest mock, the NFL Network draft analyst pinned Slater to the San Francisco 49ers with the No. 12 overall pick. Jeremiah perceives Slater as an insurance policy for San Francisco with lingering questions surrounding the left tackle position.
In the wake of former Pro Bowl tackle Joe Staley's retirement, the 49ers acquired Trent Williams last April from the Washington Football Team. In his lone season in San Francisco, Williams was graded out as the top tackle in football en route to earning his eighth-career Pro Bowl honor.
Despite acknowledging his desire to remain in San Francisco, the All-Pro left tackle could hit the open market on March 17.
Should Williams seek employment elsewhere, John Lynch and Co. could see Slater as an ideal choice should he slide to pick No. 12 in April's draft. Slater would become the heir to over a decade of foundational talent that have skillfully manned San Francisco's blind side – two of which, he admits to patterning his style of play after.
"Joe's a guy who's kind of like me – maybe not seen as the prototypical size of a left tackle, and yet, he was still extremely effective in the way he was able to play. He was a master technician," Slater said Tuesday from Northwestern's Pro Day. "Trent's a freak athlete who is also an amazing technician and does awesome stuff with his hands."
Slater (6-foot-4, 310 pounds) played right tackle in 2017 and 2018 at Northwestern. He switched to the other side his final season, allowing just five total pressures across 355 pass-blocking snaps in 11 games in 2019.
While choosing to opt out of the 2020 season, there's plenty of tape on Slater's athleticism, namely, his performance while holding his own against the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young during his 2019 campaign.
What makes Slater an intriguing prospect is his versatility – something Kyle Shanahan puts on a premium. Should Williams remain in San Francisco for the foreseeable future, Slater's ability to play guard or center could help upgrade their unsettled interior O-line.
"I think I'm the best tackle in the draft. I have a really high level of confidence in that," Slater said. "At the same time, I'm a team player. So, if a team wants to play me at guard, so be it, I'm all for it. As long as that's what's best for the team, I'm happy to play whatever position they need me at."
Slater was on hand for Northwestern’s Pro Day on Tuesday where he put on an impressive display that only further cemented him as the No. 1 or 2 offensive lineman to come off the board in next month's draft. The highly ranked tackle revealed he has had contact with the 49ers during the pre-draft process and believes he could be an ideal fit in Shanahan's system should the 49ers look to cement their offensive line in Round 1.
"I'm all for it," Slater said of fitting into the 49ers system. "I can do it all. I feel like today I showed that, as far as athleticism. I'm all for it. I'd love to be in that kind of scheme.
"(It) seems like a really awesome organization the way they run things. That's a positive for sure."