Not many people were talking about Darius Slayton in fantasy football last offseason. He was a fifth-round draft pick who missed the majority of OTAs and training camp with a hamstring injury.
His production profile and paltry draft equity suggested that finding any level of success in the NFL was always going to be a long shot for Slayton, and the lingering summer injury all but put the notion on ice, at least for his rookie season.
Despite that, I still named Slayton as one of my deep sleepers to watch for the New York Giants as part of my extensive deep sleeper series last summer. There were two things that stood out to me — the first was Slayton’s tantalizing athletic profile.
The second was the opportunity vacuum in New York, with almost every Giants receiver being either traded away or injured last summer.
Indeed, after missing the first two weeks of the season, Slayton stepped right in, racking up five targets in his debut and converting them into 82 yards and 11.2 fantasy points. He’d go on to average 12.1 points as a rookie.
Among all rookie WRs, here’s how Slayton ranked on a per-game basis:
- Fourth in points (tied with D.K. Metcalf)
- Fourth in targets (5.9/game)
- Seventh in receptions (3.4)
- Sixth in yards (52.9)
- He also averaged 2.3 fantasy points over expectation (reFPOE) per game, fourth among rookies
While efficiency can be fickle, Blair Andrews has shown that it matters when it comes to rookie receivers.
A pretty impressive showing for a fifth-round pick catching passes from a rookie quarterback.
So now that we have a more complete picture of Slayton, let’s get a grasp on his range of outcomes going forward. In this piece, I’ll use the RotoViz Screener to generate a list of comparable players based on their rookie seasons.
This is a fun one, so let’s dive in.
Using inputs of target volume, production, efficiency, age, weight, and draft position, I used the Screener to come up with the most similar rookie seasons to Slayton’s since 2000.
I was expecting some solid comps, but this list is insanely good, and as we’ll see in the next section, it’s not just upside — the floor is high as well.
Draft stock matters, but it’s far from a death knell for a WR’s career, as we see that guys like Stefon Diggs and Tyreek Hill have found success after being drafted in the same range, although it should be noted that Hill’s fall may have been more related to his behavior than ability.
Of far greater importance now is what Slayton has achieved at the NFL level, putting him on a clear trajectory to long-term fantasy relevance.
While those names listed above are the most comparable to Slayton, it’s still just a handful of names, which makes it hard to get a true picture of his range of outcomes.
So while it’s an exciting list at the top, let’s expand it out more to get a better picture of not only his ceiling but his floor.
Even the most encouraging of comps lists usually features at least a few busts, but who is the bust here?
Maybe you’ve never heard of Darrell Jackson, but he broke out as a 23-year-old sophomore for 1,083 yards and would record two other seasons of over 1,100 yards in his nine-year career.
Chris Chambers also went on to have a productive career, as did Donte’ Stallworth, Mike Wallace, and Santonio Holmes.
The only real dud here is Keary Colbert.
Given all this, it’s more than reasonable to suggest that it would be an upset if Slayton didn’t at least go on to have a solid career with multiple 800-yard seasons. And as we’ve already shown, the upside is there too.
What to Expect in Year 2
In short, big things.
Slayton was handed plenty of opportunities right out of the gate and made good on them. There’s every reason to believe a leap forward is in the cards.
That was certainly the case for his closest comps.
On the whole, Slayton’s comps averaged 176.1 raw PPR points in their sophomore seasons and 13.1 points per game. That’s back-end WR2 territory.
RotoViz has been leading the way in recent years in showing that second-year breakouts are the key to fantasy titles. Utilizing this strategy last year would’ve helped you land breakouts like D.J. Moore, Courtland Sutton, and Calvin Ridley.
Slayton currently not a hot-ticket item. He won’t have nearly as much hype as Moore, Ridley did last year. Nor will he be as pricey as a guy like Metcalf, with whom Slayton went point for point as a rookie. The Giants sophomore should be available in the sixth or seventh rounds of fantasy drafts, if not later.
He’s a priority target in that range in all formats.
In dynasty leagues, his cost of acquisition will be less than fellow sophomores Terry McLaurin and Deebo Samuel, and certainly less than Metcalf. Considering Slayton’s Diggs-like upside and a floor that appears as safe as any prospect’s that I can remember in recent years, I do expect his stock to start rising soon.
You may want to start sending out those trade offers today.