Speed pays in the NFL, and Darius Slay is hoping to cash in on his.
Slay was the fastest defensive back at this year’s NFL combine and impressed scouts with his work in the individual drills as well. Once projected as a mid-to-late round pick, Slay boosted his stock into the third- or even second-round range with such a killer workout.
Johnthan Banks gets most of the hype and headlines when talking about Mississippi State defensive backs, but Slay is a more intriguing prospect. He doesn’t have Banks’ height (6-foot-2) or length, but Slay is an aggressive playmaker with the raw talent and dedication to become a good every-down player on the outside.
The Patriots already have a good group of cornerbacks on the roster with Aqib Talib, Kyle Arrington and now the certain availability of Alfonzo Dennard, but more help is still needed. Speed usually entices Bill Belichick and his staff, and Slay showed not only great straight-line speed in the 40 but also put up a 6.90 in the three-cone drill the Patriots covet so dearly.
Beyond his speed, Slay is also an excellent special team’s player. He would offer the Patriots another option on returns and a talented gunner to put opposite Pro Bowler Matthew Slater covering kicks.
So, the speed should be enticing on its own, but the versatility could be what ultimately sells the Patriots on Slay.
Editor’s Note: NESN.com will evaluate and analyze one potential Patriots draft prospect every day from March 27 up until the start of the NFL Draft on April 25. Slay is the 16th player in that series.
Height/Weight: 6-feet, 192 pounds
40 Time: 4.36 seconds
Vertical Jump: 35.5 inches
Slay started his college career in the junior college ranks where he was outstanding, but he really developed his game during his two seasons at Mississippi State. He proved versatile as a third cornerback and special teamer during his first season with the Bulldogs, but he blossomed as a junior. He started all 13 games in 2012, recording 40 tackles, six passes defensed and intercepting five passes, including one returned for a touchdown. He was named to the coaches All-SEC second team for his stellar season.
40 tackles, six PDs, 5 INTs and 1 TD… coaches All-SEC second team
Slay is thought of as merely a speedster by many, but he is an aggressive corner with lots of big-play potential. There are some technical things he’ll need to improve in order to excel at the pro level, but Slay has all the makings of a solid cover corner on the outside. He will need some time to adjust to a full-time role, but he would be more than capable of handling limited snaps and some spot duty as a depth option.
Likelihood He’s Around at No. 29:
Absolutely. Slay has rocketed up team’s draft boards since his phenomenal combine performance, but he’s still not viewed as a first-round talent by most around the league. His speed, size and work ethic should see him come off the board at sometime on Day 2 but not before.
Game Tape breakdown:
Strengths: Slay’s speed is his biggest asset, and he uses it well, but he also knows how to use his length to his advantage. He is very physical at the line and as a tackler, attacking the hands of receivers and often knocking the ball away. He’s also a high energy and effort player and never gives up on a play.
Weaknesses: His technique could use some work more than anything. Slay stands up too often in his backpedal and struggles to change direction quickly out of his breaks. He also has trouble escaping from blockers and gets sealed off too easily at times.
Scout Slay for yourself below.
Saturday: Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech
Other potential prospects: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State | Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee | Justin Pugh, OG, Syracuse | Alex Okafor, DE, Texas | Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor | Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina | Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia | David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State | Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee | Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut | Margus Hunt, DT, SMU | Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M | Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU | Barrett Jones, C, Alabama | DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.