Discover more from The Auburn Observer
SEC in Fantasy, Week 10: Darius Slayton is turning into an absolute steal in the NFL
For a fifth-round pick, the former Auburn wide receiver has become a go-to target for a Giants team that is still, somehow, in playoff contention.
Thanks for checking out The Auburn Observer. This is a bonus post in a fun weekly series about Auburn players in the NFL and how they compare to their SEC counterparts. If you haven’t already, please subscribe using the button below to get regular posts sent to your inbox. If you enjoy our work, make sure to tell all your fellow Tigers fans to join us.
Darius Slayton headed to the locker room, favoring his left shoulder that was just slammed into the earth by Rodney McLeod. A five-step slant over the middle on the second play of the game resulted in a 22-yard catch and run for Slayton, already outpacing his one target, one catch, 8-yard performance a week ago in Washington.
But the violent end of the play resulted in Slayton coming off the field immediately, and then being taken into the locker room moments later as the Giants marched down the field on its opening drive against the Eagles.
The highs and lows of Slayton’s sophomore season would have found an even lower valley had the day ended there. After scoring eight touchdowns in 14 games during his rookie campaign, excitement and anticipation was through the roof for the young wide receiver from Norcross, Georgia. A two-touchdown, 102-yard game on opening day against the pesky Pittsburgh defense was just an extension of the brilliance he showed throughout 2019.
Those who said he should have stayed at Auburn for his senior year and every single team that passed on him until the 171st selection of the Draft were proven flatly wrong. The speedy, crisp route-running phenom got to the League right on time and showed that he belonged from the very first day.
Then came three consecutive games of only three catches. The targets were still there, but he failed to connect with Daniel Jones 11 times from Weeks 2 through 4. Whose fault? Doesn’t really matter. Jones has continued to be the guy for the G-Men. They believe in him and he believes in Slayton, his No. 1 wide receiver. They would just have to figure it out.
Week 5 brought a tasty matchup against a sweet-as-candy secondary in Dallas. Eight catches, 129 yards, and a very unfortunately deep penalty-nullified touchdown (that cost the offending receiver his job) later, all was right again. The monster numbers were there in the right matchup.
Then it became clear. Slayton was being keyed on. With a very limited rushing attack, pass rush and shadowing Darius Slayton became the focus of opposing teams. Over the next four games combined, he failed to reach the yardage total he gained against the Cowboys, catching just 10 balls for 126 yards and a lone touchdown in the first matchup with Washington.
The noise started to get louder after the second matchup against the Football Team. In 22 career games, his quarterback had only beaten one team located outside of Washington D.C. and that was in Tampa Bay in his first career start on September 22 — better known as Week 3 of 2019. Was he only capable of beating Washington? Is his promising number one pass-catcher doomed to a talent-wasted 14 games of loss-filled misery?
Slayton had to get out of that locker room and back onto the field. Somehow the division was on the line between his 2-7 team and the 3-4-1 Eagles. (We won’t even get into that.) He got his shoulder treated enough for him to get the clearance from the medical staff, and returned from the tunnel to a 7-3 first quarter lead. A couple plays after Slayton checked back into the game, Wayne Gallman made it a 14-3 advantage for the Giants.
His work was cut out for him with the Eagles sure to feature a more man-to-man coverage looks in the drives ahead. That meant that Slayton would likely be matched up with Darius Slay, one of the best shutdown corners in the NFL. Best versus best. It was about to get fun.
As a result of the respected shadow coverage of Slay, Slayton was only thrown to one time in quarters two and three — an eight-yard completion early in the second. The coverage adjustment was working for the Eagles, down just 21-17 headed into the fourth quarter. Something was going to have to give for the Giants to win and stay in the NFC East hunt.
The first play of the fourth, Slay was up to the task. An inside leveraged, inside breaking route was broken up by the three-time Pro Bowl corner, who locked and trailed, attached closely behind Slayton and got his hand in to swat the pass away at the last moment without interfering — excellent coverage. Two plays later on third down and four, Slayton lined up in the slot versus zone coverage, got tangled up with Sterling Shepard, and dropped a wide open sure first down that had the promise of much more.
The next series, with the score still at 21-17, Jones went back to his favorite target. The two biggest plays of the drive, a 16-yard catch and 7-yard catch, set up Graham Gano for a 35-yard field goal that put the Giants up a full touchdown.
The final connection between Jones and Slayton proved to be the difference in the game and, man, was it a beauty.
Facing second and 10 with just over four minutes to go and once again alone on an island against Slay, Slayton got outside leverage while the Giants backfield carried out a play action fake to Wayne Gallman. Slayton briefly chopped down his feet and slowed his momentum five yards into the route, then in a short burst, he quickly stacked Slay on his back, created separation, and got to top speed — a picture perfect move to set up a bomb to put the game away.
Instead, what Slayton received was a back shoulder lob towards the boundary hashes. So Slayton turned to locate the ball, kept the separation, and made an all-world adjustment by turning his ailing shoulder back towards the line of scrimmage and get both feet in bounds to complete the catch — a 40-yard hook-up that once again put the Giants in field goal range. Three plays later, Gano drove the ball through the uprights from 44 yards out to put the Eagles away.
Slayton’s masterclass in route running, coupled with his blazing speed was enough to beat one of the best in the business throughout the fourth quarter on Sunday with the game on the line, once again showing the NFL exactly what he is capable of when given the opportunity.
With Slayton’s big day for Auburn in mind, let’s take a look at how the rest of the conference performed in our year-long fantasy football competition during Week 10:
QB: Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins) – 14.7
RB: Josh Jacobs (Raiders) - 27.6
RB: Damien Harris (Patriots) – 12.1
WR: Jerry Jeudy (Broncos) – 8.8
WR: Cam Sims (Football Team) - 7.4
TE: Irv Smith Jr. (Vikings) – INJ
FLEX: Derrick Henry (Titans) - 11.4
TOTAL = 82
Though Tagovailoa’s stat lines have not been as flashy as others from the 2020 quarterback draft class, he has already eclipsed both Burrow and Herbert in wins as a starter in less than half the time. On Sunday in Miami, the familiar recipe of careful game management and tremendous defense and special teams play won a fourth consecutive game for the Dolphins.
Just like we said after his debut, Tua wasn’t flashy but didn’t have to be to outduel Justin Herbert, whose interception was costly. From a fantasy standpoint, you can likely find someone to outpace his turnover-free 15-25 for 169 yards, two touchdowns, and negative rushing total performance, but Miami will keep stacking up the wins. At 6-3, they are in a fantastic spot with the struggling Broncos, Jets, and Bengals due up next.
The Jacobs-Harris competition went to Josh Jacobs again, but it was much closer than the scoring total indicates. Strictly on the ground, Damien Harris narrowly outworked and outgained Jacobs, carrying the ball 22 times for 121 yards compared to Jacobs’ 21 carries for 112 yards. But it was Jacobs’ two end zone runs and work as a pass-catcher that made the difference, catching all four of his targets for 24 yards. Derrick Henry added 24 carries for 103 yards and a catch for six yards to the FLEX position on Thursday night.
Like several of its conference peers, Alabama felt the pain of the Bye Week Blues at the receiver position. With Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Amari Cooper all getting the week off, the Tide relied on Jerry Jeudy and Cam Sims fill at least a portion of the void. Jeudy turned in a 50% catch percentage in his eight targets for a total of 68 yards, while Sims also came down with four grabs for 54 yards in the Football Team’s close loss at Detroit.
RB: Jonathan Williams (Lions) - 0
TE: Hunter Henry (Chargers) – 11.0
FLEX: Jeremy Sprinkle (Football Team) – 0
TOTAL = 11
Remember Hunter Henry’s (somewhat unfortunate) consistency that we talked about here last week? In Weeks 8 and 9, Henry logged four catches for 33 yards. His four Week 10 catches went for just 30 yards. The difference this time? Justin Herbert found Henry on an extended rollout in the back of the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown in the third quarter. It was just Henry’s second time scoring this season, and he is now averaging 3.7 catches for 33 yards in his last seven games.
QB: Cam Newton (Patriots) – 16.8
RB: Peyton Barber (Football Team) - 1.9
RB: Kerryon Johnson (Lions) – 0.3
WR: Darius Slayton (Giants) – 11.8
TE: C.J. Uzomah (Bengals) - INJ
FLEX: Chandler Cox (Dolphins) - OUT
K: Daniel Carlson (Raiders) – 15
TOTAL = 45.8
Cam threw a touchdown pass for the first time since Week 3, had another rushing touchdown, and led the Patriots to an upset win over the Ravens through heavy wind and rain on Sunday night in Foxborough. He completed over 75% of his passes (13-17) and did not turn the ball over for a second consecutive week. Cam is now the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to rush for nine touchdowns in his first eight games of a season. It’s starting to look like those two ugly weeks in mid-October were just a byproduct of readjusting post-COVID diagnosis.
You know the story on the Auburn/NFL running backs: limited opportunities in crowded backfields leading to spare fantasy change. Technically, Peyton did outscore Kerryon for the first time since Week 1. Chandler Cox has now been a healthy inactive in two of the last three weeks.
Out in Las Vegas, Daniel Carlson had the best game of his professional career on Sunday afternoon. Legatron hit all three of his field goal attempts from 22, 24, and 52 and converted each of his four extra points. The 13-point performance is his highest mark in his NFL career.
QB: Jeff Driskel (Broncos) - OUT
RB: La’Mical Perine (Jets) – BYE
WR: Freddie Swain (Seahawks) - 5.2
WR: Van Jefferson (Rams) - 2
TE: Jordan Reed (49ers) - 8.7
FLEX: Trey Burton (Colts) – 3.9
TOTAL = 19.8
Lucky enough for Florida, Freddie Swain found himself involved in the offense for the first time since Week 5. The Seahawks most recent 6th rounder tallied season highs in targets (4), catches (3), and yards (37); good timing for an alumni team without its only running back and its top two receivers from a week ago. On the opposite sideline, Van Jefferson caught his only pass for 15 yards for the Rams in their win over the Seahawks.
Two of the five active fantasy players for UF were tight ends this week. Jordan Reed brought in five of six Nick Mullens’ throws for 62 yards, which is the most receiving yards Reed has gained in almost two years to the day. On Thursday, Trey Burton caught all three of his targets for 24 yards.
QB: Matthew Stafford (Lions) – 23
RB: D’Andre Swift (Lions) – 23.4
RB: Nick Chubb (Browns) - 18.6
WR: Chris Conley (Jaguars) - 6.3
WR: Isaiah McKenzie (Bills) - 5.2
TE: Isaac Nauta (Lions) – 0
FLEX: A.J. Green (Bengals) - 0
K: Rodrigo Blankenship (Colts) - 11
TOTAL = 87.5
It was a big day for the Detroit Dawgs. Matthew Stafford cleared concussion protocol in time to have his way with the Washington Football Team’s secondary for his highest completion percentage of the season (72.7%), 276 air yards, and three touchdown passes. His final touchdown went to D’Andre Swift, who went on a whip route out of the backfield, turned his hips up field, sprinted between the numbers and the boundary, and muscled his way through a Washington defensive back on his way to a 15-yard score.
Stafford wasn’t the only Georgia alum throwing touchdown passes on Sunday. During the first quarter of the wildly entertaining Bills-Cardinals game, Isaiah McKenzie went in motion to take a jet sweep hand-off in the red zone as he’s done several times this season. This time with the entire defense following him to the right, McKenzie tossed the ball back across the field to an awaiting Josh Allen (the same guy who gave HIM the ball seconds ago), and Allen worked his way into the end zone for what was like the fourth (?) most impressive touchdown of that game. But that wasn’t all of McKenzie’s contributions, no sir. He also caught a pass for two yards.
The Browns’ rushing attack was far too much for Houston on Sunday, as more nasty Cleveland weather set up the backfield for a record setting day. For the first time since 1966, two Browns’ running backs ran for over 100 yards in the same game. For Chubb, it was 19 carries, 126 yards, a touchdown, and what could have easily been another score to salt the game away. One thing we learned on Sunday: Nick Chubb is a Browns’ back NOT a Browns backer.
Chris Conley caught four passes for 43 yards and Rodrigo Blankenship hit a field goal from that same distance as well as from 24 and made all four of his extra point tries in the Colts win over the Titans.
RB: Benny Snell Jr. (Steelers) – 1.2
WR: Randall Cobb (Texans) – 5.6
WR: Lynn Bowden Jr. (Dolphins) - OUT
TOTAL = 6.8
Benny Snell Jr. ran the ball three times for 12 yards in the Steelers’ beatdown of the Bengals and Randall Cobb caught three of his five passes for 41 yards in the Texans’ loss.
QB: Joe Burrow (Bengals) – 12.5
RB: Leonard Fournette (Buccaneers) – 4
RB: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Chiefs) – BYE
WR: Justin Jefferson (Vikings) – 17.5
WR: D.J Chark (Jaguars) - 7.6
TE: Foster Moreau (Raiders) – 0
FLEX: Jarvis Landry (Browns) – 4.4
Fresh off the BYE week, Joe Burrow and the Bengals were greeted quite rudely by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He managed to throw for 213 yards and a touchdown by completing just 52.5% of his 40 pass attempts. After being sacked four times on Sunday, Burrow has now been dropped behind the line 32 times through nine games. Not great.
With RoJo clearly looking like the No. 1 running option in Tampa, Fournette managed 19 yards on eight carries with a pair of receptions for 11 yards. If it wasn’t for Week 2’s big game against these same Panthers he saw in Week 10, Fournette would be averaging exactly three yards a carry this year. Also, not great.
Chark and Landry were targeted five times by their respective quarterbacks in Week 10. Chark managed to catch four balls for 56 yards, while Landry caught three for just 29.
Justin Jefferson shined bright on Monday Night Football when he was the favorite target of Kirk Cousins, who threw his way 10 times against the Bears. Jefferson put the squeeze on eight of them for 135 yards. Last night marked the fourth time this season that JJ has broken the 100-yard receiving mark in his rookie season. Now this is great.
QB: Dak Prescott (Cowboys) – INJ
TE: Jordan Thomas (Patriots) - OUT
TOTAL = 0
After being turned loose by the Cardinals, Jordan Thomas was picked up by the Patriots. Although his status was trending toward being activated by Sunday night, Thomas was held out of the game versus the Ravens. NFL State fans, don’t get your hopes up quite yet but it looks like help just might be on the way soon.
For now, a doughnut.
QB: Drew Lock (Broncos) – 11
TE: Albert Okwuegbunam (Broncos) – IR
TOTAL = 11
The strategy of waiting until the fourth quarter to pick it up against softer defensive schemes didn’t work out this weekend for Drew Lock. Instead, he was intercepted on his first and last passes of the final period, making a total of four for the ballgame against the Raiders. That 23 of 47 for 257 and a touchdown won’t do much to overshadow that kind of carelessness with the football, and the Broncos felt the brunt of a four score beatdown in Vegas.
To make matters worse, it was confirmed that Albert Okwuegbunam tore his ACL against the Falcons last week, cutting his rookie season unfortunately short.
RB: Jordan Wilkins (Colts) – 2.8
WR: D.K. Metcalf (Seahawks) – 3.8
WR: A.J. Brown (Titans) – 2.6
TE: Evan Engram (Giants) – 2.5
FLEX: Dawson Knox (Bills) - 2.6
TOTAL = 14.3
I’m not even sure the best way to frame this up. We could talk about how Ole Miss was trending upward, how they totaled over 130 fantasy points in the past two weeks combined. Maybe how they are just two weeks removed from being the second highest scoring team of the week. Or how they had put two players on the All-SEC list in consecutive weeks. Or that they were getting a player back this week who had been out since Week 5 who would automatically help chip in at least at the FLEX.
However you want to frame it, you couldn’t have seen this performance coming. Ole Miss bottomed out in Week 10, and it wasn’t for lack of trying, as all five active players for the Rebs got on the fantasy board. There’s just not a whole lot to say for a team that has 80% of its players scoring under 3 fantasy points and all four below the 4 point mark. Yet, somehow we’ve managed to say a lot. Expect this week to be an outlier instead of the norm going forward.
RB: Mike Davis (Panthers) – 6.4
RB: Rico Dowdle (Cowboys) – 0
WR: Bryan Edwards (Raiders) - 2.1
WR: Damiere Byrd (Patriots) – 0
TE: Hayden Hurst (Falcons) – BYE
FLEX: Jared Cook (Saints) - 0
K: Ryan Succop (Buccaneers) - 17
TOTAL = 25.5
With Christian McCaffrey nursing another injury, Mike Davis stepped right back into full-time duty in the Panthers backfield this week. Reports are that he will do the same again in Week 11, which should provide a boost for the South Carolina fantasy team. However, Davis failed to reach double digits for the fourth consecutive week, and has now scored in the 6’s in three of those four games. That streak should snap against the Lions defense this coming Sunday.
It was a really slow day for the Gamecock pass catchers. Their number one receiver, Damiere Byrd, played 42 snaps without a target, while Jared Cook didn’t catch either of his two targets. Mix in one catch from Bryan Edwards, a BYE week for Hayden Hurst, and a low snap count for Alshon Jeffrey’s debut game of the season, and you have a grand total of 2.1 points out of five active players.
What a lifesaver Ryan Succop was this week. Supplying exactly two thirds of the South Carolina total for the week with his right foot, Succop hit all four of his field goals (21, 23, 24, 40) and three of his four extra points. His efforts save his alma mater from a miserable week and put his name back on the All-SEC list.
QB: Tyler Bray (Bears) - 0.7
RB: Alvin Kamara (Saints) – 31.3
RB: Jakob Johnson (Patriots) – 3
WR: Cordarrelle Patterson (Bears) – 11.9
WR: Marquez Callaway (Saints) - 0
TE: Jason Witten (Raiders) – 0
FLEX: Luke Stocker (Falcons) - BYE
TOTAL = 46.9
Alvin Kamara ran the ball eight times for just 15 yards, but he plunged his way across the goal line twice from inside two yards and added seven catches for 83 yards and another one yard score through the air. For a horse like Kamara to have 20% of his touches go for touchdowns on a regular workload … Scary stuff.
Cordarrelle Patterson made some history last night with this impressive 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half. That score tied the NFL record for most kick return touchdowns (8) with Leon Washington and Josh Cribbs.
We also got to see Tyler Bray at the end of that game, but we aren’t legally bound to talk about that so we won’t.
QB: Ryan Tannehill (Titans) – 10.8
RB: Trayveon Williams (Bengals) - 2.2
RB: Cullen Gillaspia (Texans) - 0
WR: Mike Evans (Buccaneers) – 16.7
WR: Josh Reynolds (Rams) – 13.4
TE: Jace Sternberger (Packers) – 0
FLEX: Christian Kirk (Cardinals) – 4.7
K: Randy Bullock (Bengals) - 4
TOTAL = 51.8
Tannehill has faced some stout defenses in three of his last four games, and that will not change as he prepares to visit the Ravens and Colts in his next two. Some key drops held Tannehill’s line to 15-27 for 147 yards and a touchdown. Thursday night was his lowest mark of the year, and he’ll look to bounce back in Baltimore before getting a shot at revenge in Week 12.
Mike Evans and Josh Reynolds had footballs thrown their way early and often on Sunday afternoon, with each of them reaching their season-high totals in targets. For Evans it was 11 Brady-thrown balls resulting in six catches for 77 yards and a trademark short yardage touchdown toss. Reynolds enjoyed a career day against the 2020 Seattle secondary, snatching eight of his ten intended targets out of the air and taking them for 94 yards in the Rams win over the Seahawks.
Christian Kirk took his backseat to Nuk in Week 10, catching four passes for 27 yards and witnessing one of the best game-winning connections we have ever seen.
RB: Khari Blasingame (Titans) – 1.8
RB: Ke’Shawn Vaughn (Buccaneers) - OUT
WR: Trent Sherfield (Cardinals) - 0
TOTAL = 1.8
Blasingame caught a pass for 13 yards for his highest fantasy output of the year, and putting VANDY ON THE BOARD!
FANTASY STANDINGS THROUGH WEEK 10
1. Alabama: 937 (last week - 1)
2. Georgia: 778.1 (3)
3. LSU: 737.2 (2)
4. Texas A&M: 583.1 (4)
5. South Carolina: 447.1 (5)
6. Auburn: 435.7 (6)
7. Ole Miss: 370.6 (7)
8. Tennessee: 319 (8)
9. Florida: 240.5 (9)
10. Mississippi State: 151.9 (10)
11. Missouri: 118 (12)
12. Kentucky: 103.7 (11)
13. Arkansas: 72 (13)
14. Vanderbilt: 18.2 (14)
WEEK 10 ALL-SEC FANTASY TEAM
QB: Matthew Stafford (Georgia/Lions) – 23.0
RB: Alvin Kamara (Tennessee/Saints) – 31.3
RB: Josh Jacobs (Alabama/Raiders) – 27.6
WR: Justin Jefferson (LSU/Vikings) - 17.5
WR: Mike Evans (Texas A&M/Buccaneers) - 16.7
TE: Hunter Henry (Arkansas/Chargers) - 11.0
FLEX: D’Andre Swift (Georgia/Lions) - 23.4
K: Ryan Succop (South Carolina/Buccaneers) - 17
TOTAL = 167.5
Of course Alvin Kamara is back on the list. He played, didn’t he? This is, however, only the second time this season that Kamara has put up the highest weekly score in the conference. The NFL’s number one fantasy running back is averaging 23.7 points per game and has been an All-SEC performer eight times out of the nine weeks he’s been active.
Hunter Henry is this week’s only debutant on the All-SEC team. Tight end scoring was down throughout the NFL this week, and the SEC was no different. Henry’s touchdown catch skyrocketed him up the weekly rankings
Stafford and Swift are representing the UGA/Lions on the list for the second time. For Stafford, he has been the top quarterback in the conference twice in the last three weeks, while Swift is back at the All-SEC FLEX position as he was in Week 6. Also getting to the list a second time in Week 10 is Mike Evans. Texas A&M has had at least one all-conference player in nine out of 10 weeks.
Ryan Succop and Justin Jefferson got to all-conference status for the third time. With his 100+ yard performance on Monday night, Justin Jefferson now has four such games on the season — outpacing all of his fellow rookie wide outs by at least two. Succop is just one all-conference selection behind Randy Bullock for the top kicking spot.
Josh Jacobs is back as an honoree for a fourth time, and is now tied for second most of all SEC alumni. Every week Jacobs has been the top Tide back, he has made it to the All-SEC squad.
As for the standings, Georgia zoomed past LSU for second place and is now more than 40 points up on the Bayou Bengals. Auburn continues to close the distance on that top five spot, now just 11.4 points behind. Cam Newton, Darius Slayton, and the kicking game versus Mike Davis, Ryan Succop, and the Gamecock tight ends is a matchup worth keeping an eye on after Slayton and the Giants return in Week 12.
Week 11 has six teams on a BYE week, the last long list of resting teams in the NFL season. Fortunately for us, not many players in our competition will get the week off. We will be back to recap all of the scoring, name the All-SEC team, and update the standings on Tuesday right here at the Auburn Observer.
If you would like to order a two-pack of our new Auburn Observer stickers for $2, follow the instructions at this link.