In The Film Room With Darius Slayton

Photo: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

One of the best parts about analyzing NFL Draft prospects is finding prospects who project better at the next level. College offensive systems can occasionally underutilize the strengths of some of their best players, as was the case with the Auburn Tigers this past season.

Auburn had legitimate NFL talent at wide receiver, but they weren’t able to feature it on a consistent basis. Among those wide receivers was redshirt junior Darius Slayton, a former high school All-American.

Slayton only produced 64 receptions over the last two seasons, but made the most of his opportunities, averaging over 20 yards per reception. On top of his healthy yards per catch, he posted 10 touchdowns during that stretch.

When scouting Slayton, I saw a dynamic downfield threat with route running talent. He has track speed and quickness to match, and uses those traits to accelerate through his route breaks.

With good size at 6’2 and 190 pounds, Slayton showed potential for the next level. He declared for the 2019 NFL Draft.

I reached out to Darius Slayton for his analysis on some of the favorite routes I saw from his film. Slayton proved to be a student of the game, going in-depth with the details of his route running and understanding of defenses structure.

I’ve provided Slayton’s analysis, along with some of my own on each of the following routes:

Darius Slayton: I have an option route on this play, but ultimately it’s a “shot” play so I’m initially trying to win deep. With the cornerback playing off coverage, the odds of beating him deep are slim. I came off the ball at full speed to get the cornerback in his back pedal and feel threatened vertically. If you look closely, I veer outside. As the only wide receiver to that side of the field, I knew that the linebacker would be buzzing to the hook-curl zone. Also, the small angle adjustment helps sell the deep ball with an outside release. At 12 yards, I have to decide whether to run by the cornerback or break down and run downstem for a curl route. Knowing the linebacker is buzzing out, I stopped my break to not run into contact. Rather I stopped, and tried to split the closing defensive backs.

Brad Kelly: It’s interesting to me that veering out in your stem serves multiple purposes, as I figured you did that in order to sell the deep ball.

Darius Slayton: You’re right, but when running a curl route while facing that zone coverage, it serves two-fold to sell vertical while also avoiding that hook-curl linebacker.

Darius Slayton: They were playing a lot of off-coverage, but their cornerbacks weren’t bailing hard, so I pushed off the ball at only a decent pace. I showed him an inside head nod and stick, to try and get him to square his hips and stop his back-pedal. Once I stuck and accelerated, I knew the jam was coming to slow my vertical push. Though I missed his jam at first, I was able to recover quickly and get his hands off, and stack him. From there, I tracked the ball and was able to make the play.

Brad Kelly: What I like about this play is the change of pace in the stem. If the receiver sprints off the line of scrimmage, the cornerback likely opens his hips sooner and actually becomes more difficult to stack. Closing the space down on him and then accelerating to full speed allowed for a more immediate vertical throwing window.

Darius Slayton: On that play I have a “7 cut” or corner route. With the smash concept, you typically want to be facing cover-2 to expose it. The defense aligned in man coverage, and as the boundary receiver on this route, I knew the ball was coming to me and I needed to get open. I initially took an inside release to try and push up the 10 yards. I wanted to sell a “Post” route but the cornerback cut me off. At that point, there isn’t a lot of selling of other routes that can be done, so physicality became my only option. I got to my depth, leaned into the cornerback’s body to make sure I had proper leverage and gave a quick flash of my eyes to the inside. Knowing that defensive backs like to grab at the top of the route, I gave a small push on his inside shoulder to knock him off-balance and separate to the corner.

Brad Kelly: I love the hand usage on this play. First, in order to win back inside, Slayton swipes the jam away and forces the defensive back to flip his hips. Then the hand placement of the “push-off” at the top of the route, right at the shoulder of the defensive back, making it impossible for him to play the hip pocket.

Darius Slayton: Pre-snap, I saw the single-high safety coverage, so I knew the ball was likely coming towards me. I was able to get a good release off the line of scrimmage and tried to stack Williams. I knew that I was getting too far downfield and needed to get my head around, as Jarrett likes to throw the back-shoulder between 15-20 yards. I was able to get my body around through contact and make a play on the ball.

Brad Kelly: This play is impressive for multiple factors. First, it’s against future first-round pick Greedy Williams, and second it’s a reception despite a facemask penalty. The motor release and lateral quickness at the line of scrimmage beats the press coverage of one of the best press corners in the NFL Draft. Then, the concentration to focus on the football despite getting interfered with is impressive tracking and adjusting.