If you were to build a cornerback for today’s NFL, Darius Slay has everything you’d be looking for. He has all the tools you look when scouting NFL cornerbacks. The one thing he is missing is experience. This scouting report breaks down the cornerback’s rookie season, and looks forward to what he can become in the future.
- Height: 6’0″
- Weight: 192 lbs.
- Arms: 32 1/4”
- Speed: 4.36
- Targets: 48
- Completions Allowed: 29
- Catch Percentage: 60.4%
- Opposing QB Rating: 118.1
- Yards/Completion: 15.0
Size & Speed
Darius Slay has everything you’re looking for when it comes to size and speed. He has great size (6’ 0”, 192 pounds, 32 1/4” arms) and speed (4.36-second 40-yard dash). These are not only Slay’s best traits, but also the only traits that can’t be taught. You can’t teach a guy to get taller or faster. And that’s the main reason the Lions took a chance on his raw ability in the second round of last year’s draft.
In this clip, Slay goes up against a bigger receiver in Cordarrelle Patterson (6′ 3″, 205 pounds), but he’s able to use his own size to his advantage.
Slay actually gets turned around by a good route from Jarrett Boykin. Slay uses his 4.4 speed to close on Boykin and knock the ball away for an incompletion.
A cornerback must be able to read and react to what’s happening around them. The best way to improve your instincts is to, you know, actually play. Slay struggled with his instincts in college partially because of his lack of playing time. He was only a one year starter at Mississippi State and played only two full seasons at a major college program. And while Slay also didn’t get a whole lot of playing time in 2013 because of a combination of coaching decisions and injuries, he did show improvement when he got more playing time as the season went on.
Slay recognizes what’s going on in front of him, but he doesn’t trust his instincts. It’s subtle, but rather than attacking the receiver at the point of attack he chops his feet. In the NFL any misstep can prove to be lethal. If Slay would have trusted his instincts and broke down to make the tackle, he could have turned what was a 7 yard gain into no gain.
The thing to recognize here is that Slay has the ability, but not the experience. This clip is from the same game against Green Bay. On 3rd and long, Slay see the comeback route and attacks the receiver for a minimal gain.
Agility & Technique
Slay does a good job of flipping his hips and sticking with the receiver. If there’s one area where he could improve this offseason it’s using his hands. He got caught being “out-physicaled” at the line of scrimmage last season, and will need to get more consistent jamming receivers if he wants to compete with the big receivers throughout the NFC North. For a cornerback with size, Slay doesn’t play overly physical.
Slay is clearly outmatched by Bears’ receiver Alshon Jeffery. At the snap Jeffery gets right up into Slay’s chest and just out-muscles him to catch the football. Part of this is due to poor technique from Slay. He’s completely off balance as he tries to jam Jeffery. Without leverage even a receiver half of Slay’s size could knock him off balance. Slay needs to refine his technique this offseason.The small things will make him a much better cornerback.
He’s more than willing to come up and make a tackle. And outside of his infamous first game whiff that allowed Adrian Peterson to go 78 yards for a touchdown, he was a pretty consistent tackler on the edge. This is a great trait to have now that opposing offenses are attacking the edges of the field. Cornerbacks must have the ability to come up and make a play on swing passes, bubble screens, etc. or else they’re going to get burnt.
Slay is quick to sniff out the run and completely blows up the play in the backfield. As long as Slay can trust his instincts, he’s an above average tackler for a cornerback.
*Stats provided by Pro Football Focus (subscription required)