By: Will Burchfield
Darius Slay is nothing if not self-assured.
Ask him to name the best basketball player on the Lions and he’ll point to himself. Ask him to name the best dancer on the Lions and he’ll point to himself. Ask him to name the most lovable guy in the locker room and he’ll flash a smile that says you already know.
Then, just to be sure, he’ll point to himself.
That’s why it was surprising toward the end of his 2017 Pro-Bowl season when Slay almost scoffed at the notion that he’s one of the top-two cornerbacks in the NFL.
“Nah, I ain’t top two yet,” he said. “Not in the league.”
For all his bluster and bravado, Slay has some real real humility when it comes to his place in the game. Ask him to rank the best cornerbacks in the NFL and he defers to the vets. In December, Slay pointed to Patrick Peterson of the Cardinals, Richard Sherman of the Seahawks and Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. of the Broncos.
“I go by who does it the longest and staying at a high level with it,” Slay said. “Anybody can have (a great) year and then have a boo-boo in the next year, so I go by who’s been doing it the longest.”
Peterson, Sherman, Talib and Harris have a combined 19 Pro-Bowl nods and eight first team All-Pro selections.
“Those guys right there are going to stay at the top,” Slay said. “Everybody has their downfall, but they ain’t had their downfall yet.”
On Tuesday, Slay went public with his rankings via Twitter. A good deal of debate ensued.
Sherman, Harris and Talib, for their part, all appreciated the shoutout.
“Respect Big play,” said Sherman.
“Keep balling big play more success to come,” said Harris.
“Numbers don’t lie!!!” said Talib.
Others weren’t so agreeable. The Chargers’ Casey Hayward, coming off his second straight Pro-Bowl season, literally shushed Slay’s rankings. When Slay responded that “We coming up right behind the (top four),” Hayward quipped, “You might think you are coming behind them. I disagree!!”
Still, Hayward respected Slay’s list.
“They all been at the top of the game at some point,” Hayward said.
One fan questioned why Darrelle Revis, a seven-time Pro-Bowler and four-time All-Pro, wasn’t among Slay’s top five.
“Revis had his run as the best,” Slay said. “Him as a player knows it’s someone else’s turn to take over.”
Most the dissent came from Charles James II, a free agent cornerback who last played for the Colts in 2016. He was cut from the Jaguars prior to the 2017 season.
Slay pointed out the players within his top four have earned multiple Pro-Bowl and All-Pro selections.
Slay made it clear he wasn’t disputing the talent of Rodgers-Cromartie. But, like Revis, the 31-year-old has had his time in the sun. Case in point: Neither Rodgers-Cromartie nor Revis still travel with the opposition’s No. 1 receiver.
Janoris Jenkins is the top cornerback on the Giants and Marcus Peters is the top cornerback on the Chiefs.
James said that Rodgers-Cromartie could still be the Giants’ top guy and wondered if Slay also thinks Eli Apple is better than Rodgers-Cromartie. Slay laughed this off.
“DRC done made all the money (and) been to all the Pro Bowls. He just sitting back and relaxing and enjoying the game,” said Slay.
At least one fellow cornerback had some good humor about Slay’s rankings.
Amukamara, a 2011 first-round pick, played for the Bears last season, his third team in three years. He’s set to become an unrestricted free agent.