The Green Bay Packers' offseason has been one overshadowed by the controversy surrounding the face of their franchise in quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
With reports surfacing about Rodgers' disdain for the front office due to a long-brewing fracture in communication between both parties Thursday afternoon, the Packers were forced to enter draft night with the concerns of mending a broken relationship floating around the back of their minds.
Taking on the process with a level head, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst operated in a sustainable fashion. Electing to utilize the strategy of drafting strictly based on need, Green Bay did not bring in the flashy bunch many gravitate towards when recapping draft winners but undoubtedly got better in the process.
While their best pick may have been wide receiver out of Clemson Amari Rodgers to provide an enticing complement to Davante Adams and Robert Tonyan in the passing game, Gutekunst targeted four linemen (three offensive, one defensive), proving he is adamant about strengthening the trenches on each side of the ball.
As the lone defensive big man selected by Green Bay, former Florida Gators defensive tackle Tedarrell "T.J." Slaton travels to Lambeau to provide a monstrous presence to the middle of the Packers front four.
Is Slaton the answer the Packers are looking for to mend their woes in the rushing game shown over half the season in 2020?
Green Bay suffered from brief incompetence against the run last season, culminating in a rushing explosion by Dalvin Cook and the division-rival Vikings in the unforeseen loss to Minnesota at home in week 8.
Allowing a combined 226 yards and four touchdowns to Cook on that day, the Packers were in dire need of answers upfront. Patching the hole until the seasons close, the problems they faced early last season were still lying beneath the surface for them to address.
Targeting a nose tackle prospect in the draft to provide the run-stopping ability, Green Bay looked to get a project piece that could be developed into a contributor in the limited defensive tackle class.
By acquiring Slaton, who tallied 37 tackles, 3.5 TFL, and 1.5 sacks in his first year as a full-time starter for Florida, the Packers look to maximize his potential to stop the run. Despite the overall struggles seen by the Gators defense, Slaton assisted the unit against the run to be drastically better against the rush than against the pass. (71st ranked rushing defense compared to 100th against the pass).
For example, Slaton recorded a team-leading five total tackles to help Florida bounce back from a 75-yard touchdown run by Zamir White just 12 seconds into the UF vs. UGA game this past season.
Facing a historically talented Georgia Bulldogs rushing attack, Slaton would be vital for the Gators to hold the ground game to just 90 yards (165 yards total) and zero scores from that point forward.
Slaton will be utilized as an interior lineman as he was at Florida, asked to eat up space in the middle of the Green Bay defense beside Kenny Clark as the Packers' nose tackle.
Standing at 6-foot-4, 330-pounds, Slaton immediately became the heaviest player on the Green Bay roster upon his selection. As a result, the Packers front is now set to display an abundance of mass to opposing offenses, with Slaton playing at 1-tech and Clark playing at 3-tech at least in some packages.
Dating back to pre-draft last offseason, Slaton has been considered an NFL-caliber defensive tackle.
With a physical makeup that suggests Slaton is ready for the NFL game, continuing to grow from a technical standpoint will determine the volume in which he operates early on in his career.
The downsides of Slaton's game are his relative inexperience as a starter, playing in 45 games but starting in just 14 (12 in 2020, two in 2018) through his career and his low stamina resulting in a significant dropoff in production with higher snap counts.
Slaton weighed as much as 373 pounds during his UF career but after trimming down over the years, he was able to weigh-in at 330-pounds at Florida's pro day, something that could aid him from growing quickly fatigued at the next level.
While there may be more the organization needs to figure out in the coming months from a personnel standpoint, Slaton's standing as a first and second down contributor with his size (ranked in the 92nd percentile in weight of defensive tackles) and all-around average-or-better athleticism brings high upside for his future as a run stuffer.
Even if his playing time comes limitedly in year one, Slaton can be a crucial factor in providing relief for Clark in the middle upon his arrival and bring increased depth to the Packers' defensive front as a rookie.