Green Bay Packers: A Look at TJ Slaton & What he Adds to Defense

Sep 8, 2018; Gainesville, FL, USA; Kentucky Wildcats running back Benny Snell Jr. (26) runs with the ball as Florida Gators defensive lineman Tedarrell Slaton (56) defends at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Florida Gators 27-16. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 8, 2018; Gainesville, FL, USA; Kentucky Wildcats running back Benny Snell Jr. (26) runs with the ball as Florida Gators defensive lineman Tedarrell Slaton (56) defends at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Florida Gators 27-16. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

‘Get Kenny Clark some help’ was the mantra of many this offseason and has been for the last few offseasons as well–and understandably so. Unfortunately for the Green Bay Packers, this was a very thin interior defensive line draft class, and as should have been expected, the value or the opportunity to select that position early on likely never presented itself.

However, on Day 3, Green Bay was able to land TJ Slaton from Florida, who really is a terrific fit for this new Joe Barry defense. This interior defensive line will feature a nose tackle along with two tackles lined up in 4/4i-tech and as Ross Uglem of Packer Report describes it in the CheeseheadTV Draft Guide, “this is a ‘one-gap’ defensive system where players are penetrating upfield, not stacking the offensive linemen and working wither side of him.”

Standing 6’4″ and weighing 330 pounds, Slaton will fill that nose tackle role here in Green Bay, a position that really only Clark would have been able to line up as prior to Slaton’s arrival. What this does is it gives the Packers the flexibility to move Clark to the 4/4i-tech alignment, providing him with more one-on-one opportunities and the chance to make even more impact plays–which for opposing offenses is scary to think about.

Slaton has three years of experience at Florida, but 2020 was his only true season as a starter. During his 2018 and 2019 seasons that included 478 combined snaps, Slaton tallied 15 pressures, three sacks, and five tackles for loss. In 2020 as a starter which included 536 snaps, Slaton recorded 19 pressures, two sacks, and 3.5 tackles for loss, according to PFF ($$).

When it comes to Slaton’s skill-set and what he’s asked to do, he’s likely never going to be someone who fills the stat sheet or puts up huge pressure and sack totals. He is a run-defender who will be on the field for first and second downs; he takes up space in the middle and can occupy multiple blockers. The stat sheet may not reflect Slaton’s presence, but his teammates will certainly feel it with an impactful nose tackle helping against the run and creating opportunities for the other interior defensive linemen, edge rushers, and linebackers around him to make plays.

Now with all that said, given Slaton’s athleticism at that size, I do believe there is the opportunity for him to become more than just a run defender–even if rushing the passer is never his strong suit, 19 pressures this past season isn’t anything to turn your nose up at. But early on, he will be a very niche player, and the expectations shouldn’t be that Slaton is going to make a huge impact right away. With only one year of starting experience, his game is still a bit raw, and development is needed.

For more on what Slaton can add to this Green Bay Packers team, here is a look at what several draft analysts had to say about him in their pre-draft reports:

Pro Football Focus Draft Guide ($$)

"Slaton flashed early in his career when he had seven run stops on only 43 such snaps as afreshman in 2017. Those flashes never quite translated once he garnered a larger role, though. In fact, his lowest-graded season came in 2020 — his lone campaign with a full-time role. While he doesn’t give up on plays, his effectiveness noticeably wanes on a higher workload. If you’re going to get by as a pure gap-plugger in the NFL, you better be in on every single snap. That hasn’t been close to the case for Slaton."

Jordan Reid – The Draft Network

"“Tedarrell Slaton is an impressively built interior defensive line prospect. He’s listed at nearly 360 pounds, but looks much slimmer than his listed weight—he looks around 330 pounds and carries his weight well with an evenly distributed body structure. Leverage is the name of his game and he often starts low in his stance. He’s able to remain at that level throughout the duration of reps. An extremely powerful player at the point of attack, he makes it difficult for double teams to move him off of his spots. He’s a true head-up 0-technique that thrives with maintaining both A-gaps. Slaton wins strictly off of bull rush attempts and it’s a method that’s been highly effective for him to this point in his career.He also incorporates a quick swim move when able to jump the snap. He’s been treated primarily as a two-down defender and he won’t provide much value on third down or obvious passing situations. As a run defender, there are stretches of inconsistencies of where he can make plays while engaged on single blocks, but he fails to make an impact and thus falls victim to runs being exploited through his gap. He has the arm strength to reach out and stop rushers in their tracks, but he often doesn’t reach out and make an effort to make those types of plays often. There are periods where Slaton has struggled with maintaining his balance when knocked out of plays and he has some reps of where he will randomly fall to the ground.”"

Lance Zierlein –

"“Massive man with evenly distributed body weight that will have him pegged as a nose in either even or odd fronts. While the traits say run-plugger, the tape does not. He doesn’t control the point of attack with power and frequently gave ground to double teams and angle blocks. He has the power to handle single blocks and might be able to strengthen the anchor if his bend and leverage can be improved. He’s a try-hard rusher whose athleticism creates more pressure than expected. He has late-round value and might become a developmental prospect on a practice squad.”"

Tony Pauline – Pro Football Network

"“Positives: Large, wide-bodied gap occupier who flashes power. Fires off the snap, uses his hands well, and keeps his feet moving. Strong in his lower body, and bullrushes blockers off the line of scrimmage to penetrate the backfield. Plays with proper lean.Negatives: Was a little too large at Florida, tipping the scales at more than 350 pounds. Average production in college and isn’t much of a pass rusher.Analysis: Slaton displayed the ability to clog the middle of the field and push the pocket at the college level, but he must round into a complete defensive lineman if he’s to play on Sundays. He’s dropped almost 30 pounds since the end of his senior season and is headed in the right direction. Slaton’s size and power will get consideration from two-gap defenses, and at the very least, he’s worth stashing on a practice squad next fall.”"