While most draft picks are seen as developmental projects that need several years of progression in order to reach their potential, others are ready-made for the NFL from the moment they step into their team’s facility.
Along this line of thinking, rookies inherently aren’t expected to be world-breakers in their first seasons but that doesn’t stop some from doing it anyway. Just look at Derwin James in 2018.
First-Team All-Pro. Pro Bowler. Record-setter.
All that in his first year in the NFL.
You could say that James’ performance that year was pivotal to the success the entire team enjoyed en route to a 12-4 record with their first playoff victory since 2013. It was a rare thing, indeed, but that doesn’t mean another impactful season can’t manifest itself for the Bolts just three years later.
In a recent article by NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, the former NFL scout-turned-analyst listed one rookie that he believes will play a pivotal role for their team in year one. For the Chargers, that player was none other than left tackle Rashawn Slater.
“No-brainer here,” says Zierlein. “The Chargers were desperate for tackle help and they added a good one in Slater. Justin Herbert should have more confidence in his protection in Year 2, which will go a long way in his development, and that doesn’t even take into account the run-blocking prowess of Slater. The Northwestern product could help turn would-be narrow losses into narrow wins and have the Chargers fighting for a shot at the postseason.”
Herbert was masterful while under pressure in 2020. Particularly too masterful to be sustained much further than the one year. So with that in mind, the front office went out and did the best they could to provide elite protection for their franchise star.
Early returns are already looking good as Slater was graded as the highest pass-blocking grade among all rookie offensive linemen during week one of the preseason. It’s still SUPER early, but I have to agree with Zierlein on this one. If Slater wasn’t on the Chargers, we’d be staring at a year of Trey Pipkins being the starter on the blindside and.....no. Just no.