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Carolina Panthers

Rashawn Slater thinks he's "the best tackle in the draft"

Chase Young vs. Rashawn Slater

CHARLOTTE – Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater's arms were long enough to keep NFL defensive rookie of the year Chase Young from touching his quarterback.

So Slater is a little mystified, and perhaps a little bothered, that it keeps coming up.

Slater is a solid Top-10 prospect for the 2021 NFL Draft anyway, and he doesn't see the fact his arms measure 33 inches (in an ideal world, tackles would have 35-inch arms) as a big deal.

"It's definitely tiring," Slater said after Northwestern's pro day workout Tuesday. "When you put so much work in, put all that film out of you playing tackle, for people to question you based off of a measurable.

"But honestly, as far as the teams I've talked to, they've been pretty honest with me about saying it's not a huge concern for them."

Nor should it be based on tape, and Slater has plenty of measurables in his favor as well.

He checked in at 6-4 1/4 and 304 pounds Tuesday, and ran his 40-yard dashes in 4.88 and 4.94 seconds. He also pushed out 33 repetitions of the 225-pound bench press, making him a unique combination of size and strength.

Still, some people are hung up on numbers and thresholds for certain positions, so there have been questions about whether Slater would be better off at guard in the NFL.

"I think I'm the best tackle in the draft," he replied matter-of-factly. "So I have a really high level of confidence in that.

"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."

While some might prefer Oregon's Penei Sewell as the top tackle in this draft, there's no question Slater will be one of the players the Panthers (picking eighth overall) study the most heading into the process.

And like every other team, they'll spend plenty of time with the 2019 Ohio State tape to see the way Slater handled Young, who had 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries for Washington last season.

"The tape speaks for itself," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "He always did his job, when you look at the tape, Rashawn Slater jumps off of it. . . .

"Watch beyond that tape, you see an elite level of consistency and fundamentals and technique and effort. He's a guy who did a great job every week of studying who he was going to go against. From a football IQ standpoint, a preparation standpoint, a fundamental and technique, and then an execution against a high level of players, Rashawn checks all those boxes. When you glue that together with the kind of person and teammate he is, and he's just an outstanding prospect and deserves all the praise he's getting right now."

Fitzgerald had plenty of praise for him Tuesday, even though Slater didn't play a down last fall.

Slater opted out of the 2020 season to prepare for the draft, but Fitzgerald said he made a point to offer his former player tickets for the Big 10 Championship Game against Ohio State.

That the three-year starter passed didn't surprise his coach.

"He said he didn't want to be a distraction, that it was about team and not him," Fitzgerald recalled. "I mean, what a stud. That's Rashawn in a nutshell. What a stud."

Fitzgerald raved about Slater's "humility," and when the player talked about his own game, against Young and others, he made it sound like a plain fact rather than a boast.

"My mindset was just, everyone says this is the best guy, so I'm going to show them that I am," Slater said. "And so I did all my same normal film study and preparation, and I had a plan of attack for the player he is."

Now, NFL teams are taking a closer look at his film, and realizing that quibbling over the length of his sleeves might be a mistake.

View AP photos from today's Pro Day at Northwestern where a number of prospects worked out for scouts, including tackle Rashawn Slater.

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