No Florida Gators football player eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft has received more buzz in recent days than defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd.
Deciding to forego his final season of eligibility in order to enter the draft as a junior, Floyd was originally projected simply as a first-round pick but is now firmly cemented to go in the top half of of the first round and perhaps within the first five selections.
Most notably, Floyd’s rise has occurred simply from front office personnel, scouts and analysts watching film. The 2013 NFL Scouting Combine does not begin for another week and Florida’s Pro Day is scheduled for March 12.
OGGOA spoke with a pair of talent evaluators on Wednesday – ESPN insider Mel Kiper, Jr. and NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah – to gauge what makes Floyd so special and why he is already highly coveted this early in the process.
Kiper believes that Floyd stands out amongst a “flat-out loaded” group of defensive tackles that is looking like the deepest position in the draft.
“Sharrif Floyd is skyrocketing up the draft board,” Kiper said Wednesday.
“What you like about the kid, first of all, he’s got enormous functional strength, natural strength. He plays strong. He’s a guy that has quickness. He comes into that backfield. He was the most underrated defensive lineman all year in the country. No. 73 was wreaking havoc all the time. You look at him, and it was a mystery to me: Why wasn’t he being more discussed as one of the top defensive players in all of college football? It was beyond me. He was that good at Florida.
“Matt Elam certainly had a great career at Florida, but I’ll tell you what, Sharrif Floyd as a penetrator, as a guy who’s disruptive, did so many great things for that Florida defense. And he has scheme versatility. To me, if he’s there at 15 for the Saints…he could go a little earlier than that. Carolina is obviously looking at a defensive tackle at 14. I’d be surprised if he was not off the board past the middle of the first round.”
Jeremiah is even higher on Floyd but took umbrage with the notion that he is shooting up draft boards. Rather, he notes that those involved with the process are finally getting around to paying closer attention to him on film.
“I hate the term ‘rocketing up the draft boards’ because to me, personally, I watched him and I put him way up there. It wasn’t like I watched him, thought he was a second round pick and then all of a sudden a bolt of lightning hit me and I said he’s a top-five pick,” he said. “These juniors, you haven’t had your chance to do your homework on them. The seniors, a lot of people have been studying them all year long. The juniors, it just takes longer for you to start to process.”
Jeremiah, a scout with three different NFL teams before deciding to become an analyst, believes Floyd is a player that teams in a need of a defensive tackle should strongly consider trading up to draft. He sees Floyd as “the most dynamic three-technique in the draft” and a player that jumped out on film immediately.
“When I started the process of watching him, I thought, ‘This is a top-10 pick all day long.’ And then I picked up the phone and called a couple friends around the league that I highly respect. All of them think it’s a no-brainer, he’s a slam-dunk top-10 pick,” Jeremiah said in a phone conversation Wednesday.
“When I watched him on this year’s tape, I didn’t think he’d have any trouble playing a five-technique in a 3-4, but I think you’d be wasting him. He has the athletic ability to play the three-technique and get up the field. That’s where he belongs.”
What stands out most to Jeremiah are Floyd’s elite characteristics, which he believes a player needs in order to prove to teams he is worth being picked as high as he projects Floyd – easily in the top 10 and perhaps one of the first five players to be selected.
“I think he’s got NFL size, first and foremost. You have to like that about him. You’re looking for qualities that you have that are kind of elite qualities. If you’re picking somebody up in the top part of the draft, you don’t want somebody who is kind of good at everything. You want somebody who has some elite characteristics, and to me, his quickness is elite,” he said.
“He’s got quick feet, quick hands. He’s very nimble, athletic. I just love the way he can get around blocks. A lot of times guys get around blocks and they’re segmented in their movement. He doesn’t do that; he can wrap around blockers all in one motion. It’s not a two-step process. That’s stuff that kind of jumps out at you when you watch him. He’s got lateral range and can make plays down the line of scrimmage.”
While Floyd may not be “skyrocketing up draft boards” in Jeremiah’s terms, the analyst does believe that the sky is the limit for a player with his ability.
“I think he’s just tapping into what he can be as a pass rusher,” Jeremiah said. “He has all the tools. If you have quick feet, quick hands and you’ve got some explosiveness at the snap, coaches can teach you how to properly pass rush. I think he’s got all the tools to be a really good interior pressure player. To me, there’s just so much more potential for the kid. He’s just scratching the surface of what he can do.”
Should Floyd fulfill these lofty expectations set forth by Kiper and Jeremiah, he will be the highest Gators defensive lineman drafted since Derrick Harvey went No. 8 overall to Jacksonville in 2008. And if he goes No. 3 overall like Jeremiah projected in his latest mock draft, Floyd would join Gerard Warren (Cleveland – 2001) as the highest-drafted Florida defensive tackle in program history.
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