Vikings’ Rick Spielman Pays Personal Visit to ‘Hidden Gem’ Lineman

Rashawn Slater

Getty The Vikings are lobbying to trade up for Rashawn Slater in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman is entering the scouting stretch of his duties with the team.

Spielman’s first visit could prove to be the most valuable of his time. NFL Network’s Andrew Groover reported that Spielman visited Northwestern’s pro day.

Northwestern had its best season since 1995, finishing the NCAA season ranked 10th in the nation. The Wildcats have a record number of players declaring for the draft — and their most-coveted star happens to be in the crosshair of the Vikings’ needs this offseason.

Chad Graff of The Athletic called Wildcats left tackle Rashawn Slater an “intriguing option” for Minnesota “if he’s still available at No. 14.”

Following left tackle Riley Reiff’s release on Wednesday, Speilman’s visit to Northwestern could have been especially pertinent to filling two vacancies on the offensive line this offseason.

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Slater Shows Elite Athleticism, Similar to Cleveland

Slater is fitting of the type of offensive lineman Minnesota continues to chase in the draft. Small and athletic.

The 6-foot-3, 305-pound lineman ran a 4.88 40-yard dash at the Wildcats Pro Day, slightly faster than 2020 second-round pick Ezra Cleveland’s 4.96 40-time last season. Cleveland tested in the 96th percentile at the NFL Scouting Combine with that time, making Slater’s time even more impressive.

Slater played two seasons at right tackle before moving to left tackle his junior year. He didn’t allow a sack in 2019. NFL Mocks called Slater the “hidden gem” of the 2021 NFL Draft due to his impressive college resume.

However, if the Vikings draft Salter, he likely won’t be the internal fill-in at left tackle with Cleveland having a year of pro experience under his belt.

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 Slater Would be an Ideal Interior Lineman for Vikings

Slater relied on his athleticism as a tackle throughout college but likely won’t be able to bail himself out as easily in the NFL.

Lacking in both length and strength, Slater would benefit from playing in the offensive interior.

Here’s what Walter Football wrote on Slater in their scouting report:

Slater’s calling card is that he is a phenomenal athlete for an offensive lineman. He is a smooth mover who possesses shocking speed for a blocker. Slater is very fast to the next level, firing out of his stance with a burst to explode to the second level. Utilizing his quick feet and agility, Slater is able to stay square on speed rushers and neutralize them running around the edge. His athleticism lets him be a natural knee bender who does not have to reach after edge rushers because his feet and flexibility get him in proper position. In pass blocking, Slater has good hand placement and is able to sustain his blocks with functional strength to tie up defenders.

In the ground game, Slater makes an impact when firing to the second level. He is dynamic in getting to linebackers off the snap along with peeling off defensive linemen and then hitting a linebacker to help open a hole. With his speed, athleticism, and ability to play in space, Slater is a great fit for a zone-blocking scheme. While he has some functional strength, Slater is limited and is not a true bull who can overpower defenders at the line of scrimmage. He fights, but he is not a people mover to drive defenders backward off the ball.

Slater can have problems with length and strength on the edge, with long defenders able to keep him at a distance, which allows them to use space to run free. His smaller build means strong defenders can get him rolling backward somewhat with bull rushes, and at times in the ground game, they stand him up without issue.

Walter Football compared Slater’s potential to Rodney Hudson, who was a three-time Pro Bowl guard with the Oakland Raiders from 2016-2019.

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