With seven picks in the upcoming NFL draft and plenty of positions to address, the Washington Redskins will head into April with the idea of "value" in mind. Without a pick in the top 50, this year's process will be a good test for the team's front office and it certainly won't be easy.
Although it's impossible to predict the strategy that head coach Mike Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen will use going into the draft, there are plenty of college prospects who should at least be on their radar.
The Washington Redskins 2013 NFL Draft Radar is a series of articles that helps you get familiar with prospects that would fit in Washington. Check back often for new scouting reports and info.
Name: Darius Slay
School: Mississippi State
Weight: 190 lbs
Darius Slay originally committed to the Bulldogs as an all-state running back and defensive back from Georgia, earning multiple accolades at the prep level. He was also a well-rounded athlete, lettering in basketball and becoming a standout in the 100- and 200-meter sprints.
Slay began his college football career at Itawamba CC in Fulton, Mississippi. Although it wasn’t the ideal college path, the Bulldogs and head coach Dan Mullen knew what they were up against.
“When we signed Darius, we knew he was not going to qualify,” Mullen said. “It was a real long shot for him. It was almost the fact that when we signed him, he was definitely going to junior college, so we knew he’d have to go down that route. [ link ]
Slay made the most of his first two collegiate years at ICC, earning First-Team All-State as both a defensive back and for kick return talents by the Mississippi Association of Junior College Coaches. He was also voted First-Team All-Region 23 by the national coaches and JC Grid Wire named him to their preseason All-America second team. Slay would finish his sophomore season in Fulton with 41 tackles, two forced fumbles and three interceptions.
As a junior during his first year at State, Slay appeared in all 12 regular season games as a reserve defensive back and special teams guy. Despite limited action, Slay finished 2011 with 23 tackles, a tackle for loss, four pass breakups, a forced fumble and an interception returned for a touchdown.
Paired with Johnthan Banks in the Bulldogs’ starting cornerback tandem, Slay finished with 41 tackles, six pass breakups and five interceptions (one returned 52 yards for a touchdown) in 13 games.
Slay is a well-built corner, somewhat slender, with long arms that plays with attitude not relative to his actual bulk—and that’s a good thing. He’s physical and aggressive, yet not a common victim of bad angles. He simply looks like a hard working football player that enjoys getting after it in every aspect of the game. A competitor.
Speaking of bulk, Slay is willing to contribute in run support, but his size can sometimes make him an easy block for the opposition. He does create good separation by way of his long arms and he does a much better job shedding laterally than if he’s working upfield. The good news regarding Slay against the run is that he’s willing and he’s a solid tackler. Pro coaching at the next level can improve his bulk, strength and shedding ability.
Slay is a solid and intelligent tackler at his position. He wisely comes in low when necessary, he has good form in open space and he has the ability to shoot through traffic. His combination of speed and length help with each skill.
Rounding out as an all-around corner, Slay is impressive in coverage. His speed is easily recognizable, as he’s very rarely burnt, and he understands his placement on the field, not allowing him to fall behind in the matchup or look lost in his assignment.
Touching back on those long arms, Slay has great ball skills in that he times his breaks well and he can read the ball effectively in the air while adjusting accordingly. He’s also very disruptive when the pass enters the receiver’s catching range, routinely swiping and knocking away would-be completions.
Slay also possesses good anticipation and above-average hands, presenting an upside when it comes to generating turnovers. And if Slay pulls in an interception, watch out; he’s a special teams contributor with plenty of experience running with the football. He has the vision, speed and hands to break on a ball and flip the field.
Perhaps it was his late arrival at Mississippi State. Or maybe because he was playing on the opposite side of a first-round talent like Johnthan Banks. But whatever it may be holding most of us back from Darius Slay needs to go. This guy deserves some serious attention. And if I'm the Redskins with need at the cornerback position, landing a guy like Slay in, say, the fourth round would look pretty nice.
Although his collegiate path wasn’t ideal, Slay is someone to keep an eye on. He has the length and athleticism that teams covet, his ball skills are impressive and he offers versatility at both his position and on special teams.