Wed, 12 May 2021

Green Bay adds depth with selection of massive defensive lineman T.J. Slaton and athletic corner Shemar Jean-Charles Wes Hodkiewicz

GREEN BAY - The Packers turned their attention back to the defense in the fifth round, drafting Florida defensive lineman T.J. Slaton at No. 173 and Appalachian State cornerback Shemar Jean-Charles at No. 178.

The 6-foot-4, 330-pound Slaton played in 45 games for the Gators, posting 98 tackles and 3½ career sacks. After trimming down a bit this past year, Slaton won a full-time starting role, recording 37 tackles, 1½ sacks and five QB hurries.

Despite not having an overwhelming amount of college production, Slaton's athleticism for his size made him difficult to pass up in the fifth round.

The senior defensive tackle showed burst when he clocked a 1.68-second time in the 10-yard dash and a respectable 5.09 in the 40 at his March 31 pro day, on top of a 29-inch vertical.

"Being athletic definitely helps," said Slaton, a native of Fort Launderdale who played for former Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Surtain at American Heritage High School.

"You're definitely quicker than the O-lineman, hand speed is faster. Definitely played to my athleticism on the defensive side of the ball and definitely helped me in this draft and definitely helped me on the field and get my name out there."

Slaton feels he still has a room to grow, mentioning how he still wants to improve his hands and endurance at the next level. Last year was a step in the right direction, as he averaged around 60 defensive plays per game for the Gators.

While Slaton was praised by many scouts for the discipline he showed as a senior in getting down to 330 pounds, he said he hopes (with the Packers' blessing) to get even leaner and possibly play more in the 320 range.

More than anything, Slaton is excited to work alongside a Pro Bowl defensive tackle like Kenny Clark.

"Playing with Clark, I'm going up there willing to learn," Slaton said. "Get all the advice that he can give me and see if we can click on the field together and really cause some disruption."

Five picks later, the Packers used their fifth-round compensatory pick on Jean-Charles, who was a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award (nation's top defender) and Thorpe Award (nation's top defensive back) this past year.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound cornerback had just two interceptions in his two years as a starter but led the country with 27 passes defensed over that stretch, including an FBS-best 16 breakups as a senior.

While Jean-Charles remarked "there's nothing pretty about my game," he is a relentless defender who plays "hard and with a lot of heart." According to Pro Football Focus, Jean-Charles gave up just five completions on 35 targets in single coverage last year.

"A lot of that comes from my preparation," Jean-Charles said. "My football IQ's very high, a testament to a lot of my coaches and mentors that I was around in the offseason, and just being able to understand offenses and understand what I'll possibly get before it happens. It allows me to play just a little bit faster."

A two-star recruit out of Miramar, Fla., Jean-Charles played inside and outside in the secondary at Appalachian State and everywhere on special teams. He'll happily do it again in the pros.

Athletically, Jean-Charles made some noise at his April 1 pro day when he did 19 bench reps of 225 with a 35-inch vertical.

He's the second cornerback the Packers have drafted this weekend, following first-round pick Eric Stokes, out of Georgia, on Thursday night. The two rookies join a secondary that returns its top five defensive backs from last year's No. 6-rated pass defense.

"At the end of the day, I have athletic ability but, once you grasp that mental aspect of the game, it makes it so much slower and makes it so much easier to go out there and just do what feels natural," Jean-Charles said. "At the end of the day, a lot of repetitions and a lot of things that I was able to display on the field play hand in hand, and I was able to go out there and show the world what I can do."

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