Prospect: Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State
Grade: 7.0 (Grading Scale)
Elite athlete possesses sub 4.40 speed and movement skills that project well to the NFL level. Impressive frame, long arms, and top end agility. Made huge strides as a cover corner over the course of the season. Slay is a fluid and natural athlete. He exhibits natural fluidity and flexibility in his lower half. Can open his hips without hesitation and change directions out of the top of his back-peddle. Displays quick feet to transition forward quickly from back-peddling. Reads his run/pass keys swiftly and comes up field quickly. Puts himself in a good tackling position to square up the ball carrier. Plays with outside leverage against the run. Able to eliminate cutback lanes with long arms and lateral agility to force RB to the sideline.
Knows how to use his length in coverage. Closes down passing windows and congest catch point on down field throws. Can reach around the receiver to swat, strip or tip ball away before it’s secured. Active and willing to play in run support. Uses good vision to weave and navigate through traffic. Attacks the RB by going low and uses long arms to wrap up to bring down. Can set the edge on the perimeter, on outside run plays. Has elite top-end recovery speed. Has potential to be a rangy play-maker on the back end with extra gear to close separation. Turns fluidly to track the ball in the air.
Slay moves extremely well in space and is comfortable moving in any direction after opening his hips. Reacts to the QB quickly in zone coverage and can close the angle swiftly. Changes speed when playing trail technique to bait the QB or undercut the WR to make play on the ball. Prior to starting at corner, Slay was a special teams standout. Excelled on kick and punt coverage units. Will add plenty of special teams value to an NFL Team.
Still very raw in many of his techniques. Only has one year of starting at cornerback and will face growing pains adjusting to the position in the NFL. Is used to using his natural athleticism to make plays in coverage instead of instincts or recognition ability. Was able to get by with this in college, but won’t in the NFL. Gets his feet stuck in the mud at times. He sees the play, but is unable to get his feet moving quick enough.
His long limbs make it tougher to change directions rapidly, especially when trying to mirror smaller, quicker receivers. Isn’t a real physical or violent when attacking blockers. Stops his feet and allows the blocker to control the space. Limited power as a tackler. Loses track of the ball when is back is turned. Not used to finding the ball when running vertically. Also, has had some trouble against more physical receivers who can use a bulked up frame to control space. Can’t disrupt routes at the line unless he gets stronger, which he should do anyways.
Darius Slay was a little known prospect at the beginning of the season, now it’s possible he could go before highly touted teammate Johnthan Banks. Slay is one of the most athletic corners in the draft with a long athletic frame. He’s new to the starting role, but made tremendous strides in coverage over the season. He’s shown plenty of potential to cover in both zone and man systems. In zone he can transition out of his back-peddle quickly to close separation and break on the ball.
He’s able to use his length to congest the catch point and get his hands on the ball. Slay is a willing run defender, usually getting himself in good position and will only improve with more time. Slay is a special teams stand out that will add value to an NFL roster with his ability on coverage units. Slay is likely going to be a day two selection and could go as high as round two.