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Here Comes Darius Slayton

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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At 6'2'', 190 pounds, Darius Slayton is, fast, dynamic and, given the finish to his career, rising.

It's really exciting because you dream of an opportunity like this. To have this opportunity, I'm just trying to soak it all in and take it one day at a time.
~Darius Slayton

Auburn's Darius Slayton is one of just two college football receivers this millennium with at least 160 yards and three touchdowns on three catches in a single game. The impressive talent had a historic performance in the Tigers' 63-14 Music City Bowl triumph over Purdue. It also proved to be the perfect segue to the next level. With 64 receptions for 1,313 yards and ten touchdowns the past two years at Auburn, Slayton enters the NFL Draft with momentum and upside alike.

Slayton's highlight-reel showing in Nashville was quite the final impression to make. He aside, the previous six SEC wideouts with a performance with a minimum of 160 yards and three scores against an FBS defense are: Deebo Samuel, Christian Kirk, Amari Cooper, Mike Evans, Donte Moncrief and Justin Hunter. All are either in the NFL or soon-will-be. In terms of football foreshadowing for an upcoming draft prospect, that group serves as a notable statistical suggestion. 

In the Music City Bowl, all of Slayton's production came in a first half flurry that saw Auburn set a new college football record for points in any half, in any bowl game.

"It was definitely a nice way to go out," he nodded.

The final stretch of the season, for Slayton, came with meaningful big picture traction. He had eight catches for 107 yards in a dramatic win over nationally-ranked Texas A&M, setting up Auburn for a critical fourth quarter touchdown with a late 21-yard reception down to the goaline. Later in the month in the Iron Bowl, Slayton scored on a 52-yard strike at Alabama. Throw in his postseason production and Slayton finished his junior year as one of the hottest receivers in the game. 

That, alone, wasn't Slayton's reason for declaring himself eligible for the 2019 NFL Draft. For Slayton, it was a multi-faceted, family decision. 

"All season along, I was really just letting my parents kind of monitor that as far as just what people were saying as far as my stock," Slayton explained. "Once the season was over, after the bowl game, I sat down with my parents and we talked it out and just felt like that was the best decision for me."

Now specifically preparing for the next level, Slayton is an intriguing prospect. He, even without a senior year, ranks 11th in Auburn history with 1,605 career receiving yards. Slayton is a home run threat, potential that headlines his profile. Notably, Slayton averaged over 20.3 yards per catch for the Tigers, one of the best rates ever in the SEC. He finished third in the league in yards per reception in each of the last two seasons, at 19.1 and 22.2 yards, respectively.

At 6'2'', 190 pounds, Slayton is, fast, dynamic and, given the finish to his career, rising. The boost of his grand finale could be a sign of things to come. 

Entering the 2018 season, an NFL.com story listed Slayton as one of college football's fastest players, citing that he was timed, in high school, at 4.35 in the forty yard dash and 10.53 in the 100-meter, the latter with a pulled groin. Upcoming testing should only improve Slayton's stock as his measurables will likely meet or surpass the professional standard. Wherever Slayton gets to run next, he will make the most of his chance.

"Obviously, I think I will test really well if I am able to get invited to the combine. If not, I think I will test really well at the pro day," Slayton added. "Also, I'm a pretty smart football player so I feel like I will be able to impress teams and general managers with my football IQ. I'm just looking forward to the opportunity."

Ahead of competing against the best the sport has to offer, Slayton has honed his talents in college football's toughest conference. He, having proved himself on the big stage, has experience that only an SEC schedule can provide. Slayton faced Georgia four times and the likes of Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State three times, also playing Clemson twice, Central Florida, Oklahoma and Washington out of conference. This past fall, Slayton went up against the top three corners in this draft class: Deandre Baker, Byron Murphy and Greedy Williams. 

Every league game was a challenge, a grind that has Slayton better suited for what awaits.    

"I definitely think it does," he stated. "You go up against top-notch talent every Saturday. Even the guys that aren't 'brand name' guys, every team has good players in the SEC. There is no such thing as a really, really bad SEC team. Having to do that week-in and week out-and always competing definitely prepares you."

Slayton's college quarterback, Jarrett Stidham, is a standout Slayton is making the transition with. In two years at Auburn after transferring from Baylor, Stidham completed 63.6% of his passes, throwing or 5,952 yards, 36 scores and just eleven interceptions. Stidham, like Slayton, decided to forgo his senior senior of eligibility on the Plains. The last four completions between the two all went for touchdowns.   

"It was a lot of fun," Slayton shared of playing with Stidham. "Jarrett is a really good player, a really talented player. I know this past season he took a lot of criticism or whatever, but at the end of the day he is a really good quarterback and I enjoyed my time playing with him."

The next few months will be busy for Slayton, with the speedster look to proving himself, however he can, for NFL teams. Slayton's last audition was about as good as it gets. When professional scouts want an example of all that he can do, they won't have to look far back to find it. 

Slayton has the size and skills needed to make the jump. He also has the proper perspective.      

"You really have no idea where you are going to end up, who is going to draft you, who likes you, who doesn't," he acknowledged. "But, at the same time, it's really exciting because you dream of an opportunity like this. To have this opportunity, I'm just trying to soak it all in and take it one day at a time."

Fresh off a performance for the ages, Slayton has made his move. Consider his last game a springboard forward.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports