GREEN BAY, Wis. – “Big” is the operative word with Tedarrell “T.J.” Slaton, the defensive lineman the Green Bay Packers selected in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
He was a big recruit coming out of American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla. – not on the defensive line but as a four-star offensive lineman.
He was a big man at Florida, tipping the scales at as much as 373 pounds before the Gators’ training staff limited his pizza intake.
And he could be a big steal for the Packers, who desperately need someone to take the pressure off Kenny Clark.
“I liked that one,” a scouting director said. “He’s a big dude. To me, he’s one of those cases where he probably didn’t play to his talent level so you punish him for it. But, at the same time, you could see it at his pro day.”
The scouting director was at the pro day. At 6-foot-4 and 330 pounds, Slaton ran his 40 in 5.09 seconds and posted an impressive Relative Athletic Score of 7.96. The workout had teams taking a second look.
“The dude’s 340 and he moves like he’s 290,” he said. “He’s explosive, he’s disruptive. We had him a little bit low. After the pro day, I was like, ‘Let’s watch this dude again.’ You go back and watch him, you’re like, ‘This dude could play in the league.’ I see all the reasons why teams had him lower. When you watch the full body of work, it’s a lot of inconsistency. He’s got some big-boy tendencies when he gets lazy. But, when he does it right, he can be a pretty disruptive run defender, for sure.”
The Packers gave Slaton jersey No. 93. It was a fitting choice. A scout provided a welcome comparison.
“To go way back, I could see a Gilbert Brown thing where he’s on the field on early downs to plug up space inside,” he said.
Of his 14 career starts, a dozen came as a senior, when he set a career high with 37 tackles. He added 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for losses. Over 45 career games, he recorded 98 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 10 TFLs and one pass defensed. Without anything resembling elite, consistent production, Slaton failed to stand out even in a terrible draft class of defensive linemen.
“Slaton was a guy we had a late-draftable grade on,” said Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy, who bypassed Slaton for the elite all-star game. “He’s a big body. He’s got talent to play in the league, there’s no doubt. Like with a lot of big guys, there’s a little up-and-down in his play. His consistency needs to even out, but he has talent to make it. It was a really thin interior D-line class. We were trying to bring the best players so we went more heavy on the edge than some of those inside guys.”
As much as scouts saw Slaton as a strong late-round value, it’s difficult to project a player becoming something in the NFL he never was against lesser competition in college. In his first three seasons at Florida, he started only twice – both as a sophomore. Playing somewhere around 340 pounds as a senior, he melted under a too-heavy workload.
He said he reported to Green Bay’s rookie camp at 326 pounds.
“The guy played like 40 snaps a game [44.7, actually] at 330-some pounds in Florida weather. It’s no wonder he was sort of invisible most of the time, funny as that is to say about someone at his size,” an area scout said. “Sometimes, less is more, you know what I mean? Get him up there, where it’s 30 degrees and he’s asked to play 20 snaps per game, you might have something. It was a good pick. The D-line class was (crappy) and he’s got some upside.”
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