Darius Slayton – Emerging Star or Sell High?
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Image Credit: Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Darius Slayton.

In The Blitz, RotoViz writers react to the latest news and help you place it within the context of our 2020 research and recommendations.

The RotoViz Range of Outcomes tool loved Darius Slayton as a second-year breakout WR, projecting him ahead of fellow exciting sophomores like Marquise Brown and Deebo Samuel. His first-year comps were fantastic as well. Names like T.Y. Hilton, Tyreek Hill, and Stefon Diggs had Cort Smith saying you were probably way too low on Slayton.

It didn’t take long for Slayton to reward his believers, slicing through a tough Pittsburgh defense for two scores in Week 1.

Slayton authored the third high-end WR1 performance of his young career, grabbing a 23% target share and ranking fifth in points and fantasy points over expectation (FPOE).

Answering the volume question in Week 1 is encouraging. Slayton owned a 17% target share in his 14 active games a season ago, but he rarely played with the full complement of Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, and Golden Tate. Tate wasn’t active in this game either, but Slayton out-snapped Shepard and earned more targets than the inefficient Engram.

Can Slayton keep this up even when Tate returns? The answer will have you flooding the web with trade offers.

Darius Slayton Superstar

I loved Slayton’s production as a rookie, but I also wanted to load up on him in 2020 due to his physical mismatch abilities. Unlike Shepard and Tate – two solid secondary receivers – the Giants’ second-year stud has the makings of a franchise WR. Slayton is one of the most athletic receivers in the entire NFL.

Okay, so Slayton’s athletic, but so are John Ross and Donte Moncrief. How fast does Slayton actually play? And does it translate to the NFL field? For more detail on this, we can go to a not exactly unbiased source, but an important cheerleader for Slayton – head coach Joe Judge.

“I think he played fast. And that’s definitely something that’s kind of one of those, ‘Yeah, Joe, we got that, he’s a fast guy.’ But there’s a difference between being a fast guy and playing fast, and he plays fast. He comes off the ball fast, he makes decisions fast, he cuts fast, he plays aggressive in traffic to make the catches. That to me is something you can’t replicate. There’s a lot of people out there that can run a 40 at a good time. Then there are people that play fast as well. That’s something that definitely stands out with him.”

Slayton flashed his big-play ability with a 41-yard TD that gave the Giants an early lead. This was only a continuation of last year’s trend where he tied with Mecole Hardman for the NFL lead in receiving TDs scored from outside the red zone.

Slayton was once again piling up the FPOE after generating 32.9 points over expectation in 2020. While Slayton will be hard-pressed to provide these long scores every week, we want to chase the talent and out-sized production, not get worried that the efficiency is unsustainable.1 Two insights from Blair Andrews’ Wrong Read series underline the value in pursuing players like Slayton.

Receivers with plus efficiency have historically generated more volume and better efficiency the following year, and this is especially the case with players entering Year 2. Second-year receivers also create the largest increase in target share of any experience cohort. In looking at the crowded WR room with Shepard and Tate, we would expect Slayton to siphon targets from the elder statesmen.

Fantasy owners intuitively understand this – or are at least willing to play the upside card in the double-digit rounds of fantasy drafts – which helps explain why Slayton was selected ahead of Shepard and Tate in July and August before practice reports gave Slayton the edge in September.

How to Play It

The first move is to get Slayton into lineups, a mistake we made with our Chasing OT team last week in a 143-141 loss.2

The second is to explore trade opportunities in dynasty. You won’t get great prices after a 28-point explosion, but these types of games grease the wheels for sell-high trades. If you want to acquire Slayton, you may have to strike after a performance like this.3 When Slayton was added to the trade bait in one of my leagues this week, I offered a 2022 first and Josh Gordon. That trade was rejected without comment or counter.4

Slayton is not going to score from 40 yards out every week, and Engram is not going to drop multiple easy catches on most Sundays. Tate’s return could complicate matters and create a low weekly floor in an offense that runs through Saquon Barkley. These are all relevant concerns. Don’t expect a perfect, heartburn-free season from the rising star. If your leaguemates won’t sell this week, maybe they will after a dud. Keep those lines of communication open and don’t wildly overspend. But the sky’s the limit for Darius Slayton, in 2020 and beyond.

  1. The efficiency almost certainly is unsustainable, in part because it’s going to result in a lot more looks.  (back)
  2. Ryan Tannehill’s airmailed attempt to A.J. Brown on one of the final plays of Week 1 cemented the defeat.  (back)
  3. In many other situations, leaguemates will simply sit on a player, assuming his price will eventually rise.  (back)
  4. I would have offered a 2021 first, but that pick has been traded away.  (back)

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Shawn Siegele

Author of the original Zero RB article and 2013 NFFC Primetime Grand Champion. 11-time main event league winner. 2015, 2017, 2018 titles in MFL10 of Death.

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