Even before Antoine Winfield officially signed with the Seattle Seahawks, the Minnesota Vikings were looking thin at cornerback after releasing the 35-year old veteran in March. Despite speculation to the contrary, a reunion between the Vikings and Winfield seemed unlikely and is obviously not going to happen.
Cornerback now becomes a fairly big need for Minnesota during this year’s draft, and finding one or two players that can contribute immediately looks practically necessary. The Vikings have two first-round picks and currently own six of the first 120 selections, so they look well-positioned to use an early pick or two on a cornerback.
Darius Slay had a solid senior season at Mississippi State, with five interceptions, six pass breakups and 40 total tackles on the way to earning All-SEC Second Team honors. He has been flying up draft boards on the heels of an excellent showing at the NFL Combine that included the best 40-yard dash time among defensive backs (4.36 seconds). One concern is his lack of experience as only a one-year starter for the Bulldogs, but many scouts now view Slay as a better overall prospect than college teammate Johnthan Banks.
Could Slay be a fit for the Vikings? Let’s look at his measurements, strengths and weaknesses.
Weight: 192 lbs.
– Has excellent size and an athletic frame; looks the part
– Has good quickness and straight-line speed; is an all-around fluid mover
– Has excellent hand-eye coordination; catches the ball naturally
– Has experience on special teams
– Is a willing run defender
– Does not show a lot of aggression as a tackler; needs to refine his technique
– Lacks extensive experience against top-level competition
– Needs to improve his overall instincts and recognition
Slay is a fairly raw prospect, but he has a very high ceiling and has a chance to become a very good NFL corner with more experience to go along with his physical skills. His ball skills and quickness make him a nice fit for Minnesota’s base Cover-2 scheme, but the offensive coordinators elsewhere in the NFC North would surely make him a primary target in their game plans if he is in a significant role immediately. All things considered, if Slay is available when it’s the Vikings’ turn in the second (52nd overall) or third (83rd overall) round his upside will be hard to ignore.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.