Rashawn Slater vs. Christian Darrisaw: Which 2021 offensive tackle is OT2?

For many of the big draft analysts, the OT1 spot is a highly-debated-upon position. Many will have Oregon’s Penei Sewell there. Others will have Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater. I am of the opinion that Sewell is still the top offensive tackle in the 2021 NFL Draft class. In truth, I’m not really sure why Slater is getting consideration there. For my money, the contest for the OT2 spot between Slater and Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw is a tighter race than OT1 between Slater and Sewell.

The case for Rashawn Slater

It’s easy to see why Rashawn Slater would be viewed highly. He’s a fantastic 2021 offensive tackle prospect in his own right. Slater’s comfortable making just about every block in the books. He’s played both tackle positions and has experience virtually all over the offensive line.

Physically, Slater’s footwork stands out. He mirrors edge rushers well and without a hitch. There are very few prospects I’ve scouted who have had as good of footwork as Slater boasts. In addition, Slater boasts some rare lower body movement skills — in both the run game and in pass protection.

Rashawn Slater’s scouting report

In the run game, Slater is a technically-refined blocker. He’s comfortable playing both play-side and back-side and can execute his responsibilities in both with aplomb.

He does a great job pulling and moving in space and demonstrates an ability to execute a combination of deuce, reach, down, and angle blocks. When pulling or climbing to the second level, Slater takes proper angles to his assignment and nails defenders, showing proper footwork, body control, and an ability to hit proper aiming points on second-level defenders. Furthermore, Slater demonstrates proper pad level, helping him establish leverage over his man.

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It’s important to note that Rashawn Slater does an excellent job at changing up his passing sets, something that’s rare in college tackles (and is something some NFL tackles struggle with). Slater was comfortable in the 45-degree sets most of the time, but I noted an equal comfort with his vertical sets.

As a pass protector, Slater’s use of hands is already at a high level. He does an excellent job landing strikes and establishing leverage over defenders. He’s patient throughout his sets, which is why Chase Young struggled on a few reps against him, despite Young being the clearly better athlete. You have to approach Slater with a plan as a pass rusher. Guys just don’t out-athlete him with his high IQ and lateral ability.

The concerns for Slater

Rashawn Slater’s biggest concerns stem more from physical traits and ability than anything else. As a run blocker, Slater’s power isn’t at a desirable level. You’ll likely hear the term “positional blocker” in regards to Slater. Essentially, Slater executes his assignments and wins, but far too often, it’s more of a stalemate or even a loss. There are some notable reps on down blocks where he fails to move the line of scrimmage and had it essentially reset on him.

The most common concern brought up in regards to Slater is his issues with length. Longer pass rushers like A.J. Epenesa took advantage of that and did a good job winning reps with his length, technique, and power over Slater. Slater’s overall physical profile is closer to average. There are concerns about whether or not he is physically maxed out due to his age and physical ability. I’d expect him to test well in the agility drills at his pro day, however.

Related | Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern – NFL Draft Player Profile

An average physical profile can be overcome to some extent with technique. However, when combined with his issues dealing with length, it’s easy to see why some analysts believe his best fit at the next level is inside at guard or center.

The case for Christian Darrisaw

Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw, much like Rashawn Slater, is a rare tackle prospect in his own right. His physical tools are right up there with Penei Sewell’s for best amongst the offensive tackles in the 2021 class. Both his ability in pass protection and his physicality give him a claim as a Day 1 starter. Darrisaw boasts a huge frame and elite play strength. He has the size, quickness, length, and power to start in the NFL immediately.

Christian Darrisaw scouting report

Christian Darrisaw demonstrates excellent quickness out of his stance and moving laterally, helping him reach his landmarks. This is further boosted by his outstanding length on the outside, helping him stay in control in reps. Darrisaw transitions into his anchor well and rarely gets pushed back through power.

It’s impressive watching him stop defenders’ momentum with his jarring punches and strikes. His lower body is smooth, and he demonstrates great balance for his size. Darrisaw is patient but aggressive when blocking. What I mean by that is he rarely gets baited by what the opposing defender does and lets him commit first, but isn’t afraid of blasting said defender to the dirt.

Related | Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech – NFL Draft Player Profile

Darrisaw mainly plays on an island and handles it well. His IQ and mental processing are also strengths. Darrisaw does a good job processing and picking up stunts and blitzes.

In both the run game and in pass protection, Darrisaw does a great job of using his length and power to overwhelm defenders. There’s a rep of him blasting North Carolina LB Chazz Surratt 20 yards downfield that you’ll see posted everywhere on his highlights.

He does an excellent job of firing out with his lower half and using that lower body strength to move defenders. It’s entertaining and impressive watching Darrisaw cutoff 2i and 2T on outside-zone concepts, speaking volumes about his range and mobility. He does a good job taking proper angles to the second level and bullies defenders out of the play.

Concerns for Darrisaw

Darrisaw’s concerns are the opposite of Slater’s. Whereas Rashawn Slater’s issues are mainly physical and can’t really be changed, Darrisaw’s are not. Darrisaw’s biggest concerns are technical. Meaning, they can be coached up in the NFL.

While he does a good job landing his initial punches, I think Darrisaw’s hands can still get a little wide against speedier outside rushers. I’d also like to see him improve his placement when resetting his hands and recovering. Additionally, some variance in his passing sets would go a long way in helping him.

There are also some question marks regarding his motor. There are plays where Darrisaw seems to be going through the motions and not finishing, but then he turns it on for a random second-down play and blasts his defender. It’s an odd hot/cold switch that will need ironing out at the next level.

So who is the OT2 in the 2021 class?

It’s a fascinating battle between these two. Each of their strengths, Rashawn Slater’s technique/Darrisaw’s tools, are at the top of this class. However, their weaknesses are also still above average and aren’t real “weaknesses.”

Essentially, this battle among these 2021 offensive tackle prospects is between a Laremy Tunsil-type offensive lineman and a Jonah Williams/Zack Martin-type. Both of them are excellent in their own right and are going to be excellent pros.

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Ultimately, I believe that OT2 belongs to Darrisaw. Simply put, Darrisaw can make up the ground on Slater technically. However, Slater cannot make up the ground on Darrisaw physically. As a result, Darrisaw’s ceiling is much higher. In a league driven by ceiling, where the top tackles like Trent Williams and Tyron Smith were dominant in the 2010s, that’s going to matter more.

If a team wants to play Rashawn Slater inside at guard to give them the best starting five linemen, I think he’ll excel there. However, he is just as good on the outside at tackle and will be a great player there as well. Christian Darrisaw simply projects easier as a Day 1 starting left tackle.

Slater will still likely be the second offensive lineman off the board in mock drafts. For my money, however, Darrisaw would ultimately be my pick as the second offensive tackle taken in the 2021 NFL Draft.

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