Fitzgerald: Why Rashawn Slater fits at top of Bears' draft board originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
One of the biggest position groups Ryan Pace needs to address this offseason is the Bears’ offensive line. It was a problem area in 2020 as injuries and poor play forced the team to use many different starting units throughout the season. So when Northwestern Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald joined Wednesday’s edition of NBC Sports Chicago’s “Countdown to Kickoff” show, host David Kaplan asked him where his reliable left tackle Rashawn Slater should fit on NFL draft boards this coming April.
“He fits at the very top,” Fitzgerald said. “Young man that came in, and right away was an instant-impact player. Amazing family, dad played in the NBA. Really athletic, just needed to get stronger, and to Rashawn’s credit, my goodness is he a freak in the weight room. He’s going to have one heck of a pro day.”
Slater opted out of the Big Ten season in 2020, so to look at any game tape you’ve got to go back to 2019. In particular, Fitzgerald says NFL teams should look at Northwestern’s game against No. 4 Ohio State and Chase Young. Entering the 2020 draft, Young was a highly-touted prospect, and was selected No. 2 overall by the Washington Football Team. In 15 games this season, Young racked up 7.5 sacks, forced four fumbles, recovered three more, and scored a touchdown. He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie and is a strong favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. But when squaring up against Slater in 2019, Young wasn’t able to get to the quarterback.
“To see the year that Chase Young had this year (in the NFL) as a rookie, and to see the job that Rashawn did against him, I think every NFL team sees this guy is ready to go, now. We believe he is.”
Top-end left tackles are a valuable commodity in the NFL, so there’s a chance Slater is selected before the Bears No. 20 overall pick rolls around. In our latest mock draft, Glynn Morgan has Slater going to the Giants with the No. 11 overall pick. But wherever Slater ends up, Fitzgerald will be happy for him, and supports his decision to enter the draft instead of coming back to Northwestern for his fourth season.
“It would’ve been great having him at left tackle and figuring out where to put (Peter) Skoronski,” Fitzgerald said. “That would’ve been a good problem. We fully supported his decision and are really so proud of him. Look forward to him playing on Sunday for a long time.”