Slater, Newsome Taken in the First Round of the NFL Draft

By John Volk

Northwestern secured big wins on the first night of the 2021 NFL Draft Thursday as Rashawn Slater and Greg Newsome II became the first pair of Wildcats to go in the same first round in school history.

The Los Angeles Chargers picked Slater 13th overall to make him Northwestern’s first player taken in the first round since Luis Castillo in 2005 and the program’s highest draft pick since Chris Hinton went fourth overall in 1983. Thirteen picks later, the Cleveland Browns took Newsome with the 26th overall selection.

Slater has been widely projected as the draft’s second-best offensive tackle, just behind Oregon’s Penei Sewell, and looks to make an immediate impact on the line in San Diego. In 2019, his final season with Northwestern, Slater allowed zero sacks to go along with just six QB pressures in 11 games.

The Sugar Land, Texas native declared for the draft in August 2020 after the Big Ten announced its initial postponement of the fall season, thereby forgoing his senior season. He graduated from Northwestern in December after a storied career in Evanston, having been named to the All-Big Ten freshman, third team and honorable mention teams in his three seasons. He was also named academic All-Big Ten twice.

Slater joins fellow Wildcats Joe Gaziano and Justin Jackson on the Chargers. Jackson was picked in the seventh round in 2018, and Gaziano, Northwestern’s all-time leader in sacks, went undrafted last year.

Newsome shot up draft boards after a breakout season in 2020 in which the cornerback helped anchor the nation’s fifth-best scoring defense and earned a second team All-American nod. According to Pro Football Focus, Newsome allowed just 93 yards on 12 receptions in coverage last year, shutting down some of the Big Ten’s best pass catchers. The Chicago, Illinois native also recorded 10 pass defenses and his first career interception in 2020.

Slater and Newsome were among 58 prospects to participate in live television coverage of the draft with Slater attending in person in Cleveland, Ohio and Newsome connecting virtually from home.

Both players shined at Northwestern’s pro day last month with Newsome clocking an unofficial 40 time of 4.31 while Slater completed 33 bench reps.

Other Wildcats, including middle linebacker Paddy Fisher, defensive lineman Earnest Brown IV, quarterback Peyton Ramsey and wide receiver Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman, may be selected in the coming days of the draft. Rounds two and three are set to begin at 6 p.m. CT Friday, and rounds four through seven are slated to start at 11 a.m. Saturday.