Darius Slay will be the only active Lion to crack this all-time list. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Lions have a long and proud history, so making the top-15 is a big deal in and of itself. Slay first came to the Lions as a high second-round pick out of Mississippi State in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Despite being an All-State level player in his native Georgia, Slay would have to go the junior college route before sticking with Dan Mullen’s Mississippi State Bulldogs in 2011 and 2012. While Slay didn’t exactly merit a top-40 pick by the Lions in his first few years in the league, he absolutely came on in the last few years with Detroit.
Through his first six years in the league, Slay had made two trips to the Pro Bowl, as well as earning First-Team All-Pro honors back in 2017. In Slay’s breakout season with the Lions, he had 60 combined tackles (54 solo, six assists), as well as league-highs in passes defended with 26 and interceptions with eight for 73 yards.
Since Slay’s 2017 season, he was been seen as one of the half-dozen best cornerbacks in all of football. While the Lions have failed to reach the NFC playoffs in both seasons, there is reason to believe that Slay’s production will not slip in the final years of his 20s and into his early 30s.
With so much left of his NFL career left to be written, could Slay potentially climb up this list as a draft-day steal? That could be in play for a few reasons. One, Slay was the ninth defensive back taken back in the 2013 NFL Draft.
While Eric Reid (No. 18), Desmond Trufant (No. 22) and Xavier Rhodes (No. 25) have all made at least one Pro Bowl, Slay is one of one three defensive backs taken in that draft rounds two through seven to make a Pro Bowl. The two others are Tyrann Mathieu (No. 69) and Micah Hyde (No. 159). Only Slay and Mathieu have been named First-Team All-Pro. Slay is the only player that remains with the team that drafted him.
Overall, the 2013 NFL Draft will go down as one of the worst in recent NFL history. It was a draft heavy in offensive lineman and one littered with busts atop the first round. While the Lions’ first-round pick of Ezekiel Ansah in 2013 has been fine, Slay was the real gem of that spring for Detroit football.
Through the 2018 NFL season, Slay has registered 301 combined tackles (260 solo, 41 assists), 91 passes defended, 17 interceptions for 246 yards and a touchdown, five tackles for a loss of yardage, one quarterback hit, one quarterback sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. While Slay is far from a Pro Football Hall of Fame player entering year seven, he stands as one of the best picks of the awful 2013 NFL Draft across the league, hands down.