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Chargers draft pair of Wildcats in latest 3-round mock

First Notre Dame, now Northwestern?

Northwestern v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Chad Reuter of NFL.com posted a three-round mock earlier this week and I thought I’d go over the four picks made by the Chargers, giving my two cents along the way.

For what it’s worth, I really like the picks, including a surprise name most of you probably haven’t heard of being selected in the third round.

Let’s get into it.

Round 1, Pick 13: OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern

Slater has been one of the more consistently-mocked players to the Chargers so far this draft season and it’s not likely going to change any time soon. He’s arguably the next best offensive lineman in the entire class behind Oregon’s Penei Sewell, but if you ask NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, he’d be the first to tell you Slater might be the better of the two.

Standing somewhere between 6’3 and 6’4, Slater is already being dinged as a college tackle who could move inside to guard or center to maximize his potential at the next level. While that may be true thanks to his incredible positional flexibility, that doesn’t mean he should be pigeon-holed along the interior before ever given the shot to start at tackle. After all, Bucs right tackle Tristan Wirfs had the same tags attached to him when he was coming out of Iowa last year and he literally is coming off the highest-graded game ever recorded by an offensive tackle in Pro Football Focus history.

At any rate, here’s what Reuter had to say about the selection:

“Most 6-foot-4 tackles are not chosen in the top half of the first round, but Slater could be the outlier thanks to his formidable blocking and nasty attitude. Adding a player with Slater’s ability and demeanor should help Justin Herbert continue to develop in Year 2.”

Reuter understands what teams will be thinking with Slater, but the safe bet is to not get so wrapped up in the talking heads. Take it upon yourself to watch the film - especially the game against Ohio State in 2019 - and decide for yourself. Don’t get caught up in these supposed measurement thresholds for NFL offensive linemen. Guys like Wirfs and future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas were all considered to have arms that were too short to be an NFL tackle. They proved everyone wrong, and then some.

Lastly, Slater excels in zone-blocking schemes with elite lateral movement and his explosive start out of his stance. Being able to cut off backside defensive lineman to open up cut-back lanes is incredibly important and only a handful of lineman at the next level can consistently make this happen. Slater exhibits the necessary physical abilities to be an outstanding player both in the run and pass game. He just simply gets the job done and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters in the NFL.

Round 2, Pick 47: CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern

After showing a gravitational pull towards Notre Dame players in recent years, the Chargers add their third Northwestern plays since 2018 with this selection of Newsome. In my personal opinion, I think this is the position the Chargers need to look at in the second should they finally invest in the offensive line with their pick on day one.

Newsome has solid size for the position at 6’1 and 190 pounds and plays with the intensity and stinginess that want in a perimeter corner in the NFL. Despite only recording a single interception in his three-year career at Northwestern, Newsome was constantly around the football. He finished with 21 pass breakups over his final two seasons, notching 11 and 10 in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Throughout the film, you will constantly see him diving to make plays on the ball, showing almost no hesitation in sacrificing his health for the success of the team. That’s a mindset you can’t teach.

In the video below during the Cats’ game against the Badgers, Newsome shows a tremendous ability to get his hips around when the receiver breaks to the outside. Most corners would turn away from the defender to better use their momentum at the time but Newsome is able to seamlessly drop and swivel his hips, keeping his shoulders squared to the pass-catcher as much as possible which keeps him in great position to make a play on the ball.

I haven’t been able to find notes on Newsome’s presumed speed/forty time, but a corner who can keep in stride with receivers as well as he does, regardless of the cuts they’re making, is a huge plus at the professional level.

Round 3, Pick 77: Edge Jordan Smith, UAB

This is likely a name that many of you haven’t heard yet this draft season, but it’s time to get acquainted with the First-Team All-CUSA selection who is also coming off a solid week at the Reese’s Senior Bowl.

Smith stands at an intimidating 6’7 and 255 pounds with an extremely long and lean frame. He’ll likely look to add 10-15 pounds at the next level, but his size didn’t limit any of his potential in college as he racked up 14.5 sacks over his final two seasons, including 10 takedowns in 2019 which was his last full season prior to his shortened senior campaign. His 4.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles-for-loss in 2020 still led the team and he also added a lone interception, something that isn’t all that surprising to see given his height at the line of scrimmage.

Smith’s favorite pass-rushing move is the stab-chop, which combines a quick jab into the chest of the tackle to create just enough space to keep his body clear and then the chop follows as the tackle attempts to establish a hand on Smith’s person. In the video below you can see Smith utilizing the move to beat Alabama left tackle Alex Leatherwood in a one-on-one rep at the Senior Bowl.

Round 3, Pick 99 (Compensatory): OG Aaron Banks, Notre Dame

Oh, did you think we weren’t going to be talking about a Notre Dame player in this mock? Who do you think this team is? Not the Tom Telesco-managed Chargers? Come on now.

With the team’s third-round compensatory pick that they earned from the Colts signing Philip Rivers this past offseason, the Chargers are doubling-up on the offensive line but choosing to spend this one on a massive interior lineman that still possesses some inside-outside versatility.

At just under 6’6 and 330 pounds, Banks has been a stalwart for the Fighting Irish the past three seasons. Playing mainly at left guard, Banks has started 31 total games in South Bend and was named a First-Team All-ACC and First Team-All American selection this past season before earning an invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.

Beside packing a ton of power behind his punches, Banks can and will surprise you with his ability to get on his horse and attack second-level defenders. In the short video below, you can see him cut off 220-pound linebacker Tony Fields Jr. coming from the backside of the defense. As the Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs states in his tweet, yes, Banks outweighs Fields by 110 pounds.

Now is as good of a time as ever for the Chargers to reinvent themselves in plenty of areas, and one of those needs to be a new identity of the offensive line. I believe a combination of Slater and Banks could be a great place to start.