The New Orleans Saints defensive tackles may look much different in the beginning of the season compared to the unit that played so well in 2018. Sheldon Rankins, the 12th overall selection of the 2016 draft, was playing as good as any defensive tackle in the league before he injured his Achilles tendon in the Saints divisional playoff win over the Philadelphia Eagles. While Rankins may not be back in the New Orleans lineup until midseason, fellow 2016 draftee David Onyemata (4th round) may miss the start of the year due to a potential league suspension stemming from an offseason arrest. Tyeler Davison, one of the team's best run defenders, was poached as a free agent by the hated Atlanta Falcons. The Saints utilized free agency to bring in former New England Patriot defensive tackle Malcom Brown, a first round draft pick in 2015, as well as versatile defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr., a second rounder in '15, in hopes of maintaining an effective interior rotation. The team also has Taylor Stallworth, an undrafted rookie from last year who gave the defense solid play. New Orleans may look to the draft to add another interior presence from what looks to be a talented class of lineman, which includes the subject of today's draft profile.
Chris Slayton, DT (Syracuse)
Slayton came to Syracuse from Crete Monee High School in Illinois, starting five games as a freshman and had a sack along with six tackles for loss. He was a full-time starter by his sophomore year and led his team with 4 sacks and 9 tackles for loss. He added 8.5 tackles for loss and a sack as a junior for the Orangemen, again starting every game. Slayton would be named honorable mention All-ACC last season, finishing with 3.5 sacks, 8 tackles for loss, and forcing a fumble.
Slayton's performance at the NFL Scouting Combine in February didn't wow many, but he did exhibit solid athleticism for a big man.
40-yd. dash = 5.13
Bench press = 28 reps
Vertical jump = 29 inches
Broad jump = 101 inches
20-yd. shuttle = 4.73
Slayton is a big interior defender whose game is built on pure power, but does have underrated quickness. He has a fast and powerful push off the snap, and has tremendous strength at the point of attack. He maintains a sturdy base, and keeps a good pad level to win leverage battles. Slayton delivers a devastating initial punch, and has good hand placement, often allowing him to simply forklift his blocker backwards. He possesses long arms and surprising foot speed in short areas to get around blockers, enabling him to get into the offensive backfield quickly. Slayton can manhandle opponents in one on one situations, and provides a handful for most double teams. He has a quick twitch reaction to a quarterback or running back once in the backfield, allowing him fast adjustments to cause negative plays for his defense. Slayton has the ability to collapse the pass pocket, and is a devastating run defender who can completely derail an opponent's running attack.
He is considered tall for an interior lineman, and Slayton can pop upright at the snap at times, allowing blockers to push him off his spot. He lacks the secondary pass rush moves necessary to be effective if his initial push is stalled. A consistent criticism of Slayton throughout his college career was his inconsistent motor and effort from play to play.
Chris Slayton is expected to be a Day 3 pick in this year's draft, most likely the sixth round according to NFL.com projections, due to somewhat low production and some questions about his play to play effort. He has the talent to be an instant impact for the defense that drafts him though. Slayton has the look of a potentially dominant run defender, one who has tremendous strength and good quickness off the snap, two highly valued commodities. He may not offer varied moves as a pass rusher, but has the strength and ability to push a pass pocket and command double teams inside. Slayton has the natural skills be a solid rotational player, with enough upside to work his way into an eventual starter with consistent effort and self motivation.