New York Giants general manager Dave Gettlemen and coach Pat Shurmur made it clear why the NFL team chose Auburn wide receiver Darius Slayton in the fifth round of the 2019 draft: He’s fast.Gettleman said: “Darius Slayton is a take-the-top-off-the-coverage guy. He’s a 4.3 guy who plays 4.3, so he’s got big-time speed.”
Shurmur said: “Darius Slayton is an outside receiver that has some inside characteristics, but the 4.3 speed shows up on tape. He’s extremely fast. He can get behind the defense, and we all know the effect that can have for an offense.”
Slayton’s 4.39-second clocking in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and his average gain of 20.3 yards per reception during his Auburn career provide evidence for the assessment by the Giants’ brain trust.
Slayton agrees with Gettleman and Shurmur, too.
“I think my biggest strength is my speed,” Slayton said. “I’m able to push the field vertically, as well as catch the ball intermediately, and I have ability to go and score. That’s probably some of the biggest things I’ve heard from teams that I hope to be able to bring the Giants. Just help take the top off the defense and help us win games.”But Slayton wants to show New York’s coaching staff that he can do more than go deep.
“I think through this process I was fighting people putting me in a box as just a deep guy, or just a this guy, just a whatever guy,” Slayton said after being drafted. “Just to have a complete game — that I can run the full route tree, I can get in and out of breaks, as well as beat you deep with my speed. I think that’s the biggest thing I have to show as soon as I get there.”
Slayton had his first chance to do that over the weekend at the Giants’ three-day rookie minicamp. A couple of things stood out to Shurmur about Slayton on the opening day of minicamp: He had trouble hanging onto passes but got his legs under him as his first pro workout progressed.
“He was running good routes,” Shurmur said. “He had a few drops early, but by the end of it, he made a couple of nice contested catches. That’s why you practice. There’s a lot to get used to — new routes, new plays, new places to line up. That’s why you practice.”Slayton joins New York after it traded Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns on March 13. The three-time Pro Bowler caught 77 passes for 1,052 yards and six touchdowns in 2018. Running back Saquon Barkley caught 91 passes for the Giants last season. New York’s leading returning wide receiver, Sterling Shepard, caught 66 passes for 872 yards and four touchdowns in 2018.
The Giants added wide receiver Golden Tate in free agency in March after the veteran wide receiver caught 74 passes for 795 yards and four touchdowns in 2018 while splitting the season between the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles.
No other wide receiver on New York’s roster caught more than 16 NFL passes in 2018.
Slayton caught 35 passes for 670 yards and five touchdowns at Auburn in 2018. In his three seasons as a starter for the Tigers, Slayton caught 79 passes for 1,605 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“It was just one of those things where sometimes you just don’t always execute on all cylinders as a team,” Slayton said about Auburn’s offense in the 2018 season. “But at the end of the day, I had opportunities to make plays while I was there this year and last year. I did what I could with my opportunities.”
While Slayton is “grateful for the opportunity” the NFL Draft has given him in New York, he said former Auburn teammate Jarrett Stidham probably thinks he got “drafted by God” after the New England Patriots picked the quarterback in the fourth round.“I’m happy for Jarrett,” Slayton said. “I think he’s really going to excel, especially in that offense where he’ll be able to — I think he can be Tom Brady-esque because Jarrett is really smart, he throws very well from the pocket, he’s good at making quick decisions.
“So I think that’s a great fit for him, and he loves Tom Brady to death. I’m sure that’s like getting drafted by God for him.”