By Bryan Dietzler
With their first pick in 2016 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears selected, from the University of Georgia, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. Chicago had problems at the outside linebacker position in 2015 and they didn’t have much of a pass rush. Their hopes, by taking Floyd, were that they would be able to upgrade the pass rush and make it much better in 2016 and beyond.
There were some that questioned the pick as they felt a couple different things about it. First, they felt that the Bears didn’t need to trade up two spots to get Floyd because he wasn’t going to go anywhere prior to the Bears selection at number 11. Another feeling some had was that he went too early and may not have even been worthy of a first round selection. All that aside, the Bears thought that he was worthy of first round selection and they picked him hoping he will upgrade their defense.
The following is a detailed look at Floyd. There is some insight into his upside as well as his downside. At the end there is some detail about how he might fit in with the Bears and how he might perform in the future.
When looking at Floyd’s upside, it’s noted that he has a good combination of length and athleticism. He is very rangy and has great speed to chase down ball carriers from sideline to sideline. Floyd also has a good change of direction and for his body style, he has long limbs and twitch which allows him to get to the tackle from far away, he can bend very well and has the ideal height and frame to add more weight without losing speed.
Floyd can work well against the run, at times, and if he is not blocked he will chase the play down from the backside and stop it. When it comes to taking on blockers, Floyd is elusive in open areas and can get around blockers working his way through traffic to get to the ball. When he is in coverage, he shows the ability to be effective covering backs, tight ends and receivers but might need some additional work in that area.
Floyd’s specialty is rushing the passer. Some of the positives that he has in that area include that while acting as an edge rusher, he is able to burst off the line and cover a lot of ground with his long second and third strides. His best move is an up-field burst which is followed by a jump-cut that he adds an inside club to and gets to the quarterback that way. He is very good when blitzing underneath and is able to get through the A-gap when standing up. Overall, Floyd is a natural pass rusher who has a variety of pass rushing moves and a unique ability to get to the quarterback.
Floyd has several qualities related speed and quickness. He is very fast and has a very quick first step. He is explosive and gets up the field in a hurry. His quick first step and explosiveness off the edge forces offensive tackles to change their angles to meet the oncoming threat.
There are several other things about Floyd that can be considered positive. They include the fact that he is a very athletic performer and has good length. He is very well adept in pursuit and he has a unique ability to bend despite his tall and lanky frame. Speaking of his frame, he needs to work to add weight to it but not sacrifice any of the speed that he possesses. Floyd has experience lining up in a few different spots including on the edge, off the ball and over the slot.
Floyd is ready to come in and contribute as a starter immediately (and this may have justified that he be selected in the first round where he was picked) so that is an advantage. He plays well in space, runs hard all the time and can close in on a play very fast by taking fewer strides than other players have to take. When it comes to off the field issues, Floyd doesn’t have any and he loves the game of football.
Every player has a downside and there are a few things that can be considered drawbacks or things that Floyd needs to work on. One very noticeable thing about him is his frame. His is thin and somewhat gangly and therefore lacks the ideal strength that you would like to see a player at his position have. Being this thin will cause him problems when he matches up against bigger NFL players so he might be relegated to playing in sub-packages as opposed to being on the field more often. He also needs to add strength to shed blocks.
Floyd does not set the edge real well and he struggles to gain arm extension with blockers. He will often lose the fight for the neutral zone at the point of attack and when it comes to taking on blocks, he has problems shedding blocks which moves him down the field more instead of getting into the backfield to make the play. When it comes to making the tackle, Floyd is more of a pull down tackler that doesn’t possess much power or pop on his tackles.
When it comes to defending against the run, Floyd needs to get stronger. He has to get better and tougher against runs coming straight at him. Another thing that he needs to work on is his strength. He needs to improve the strength of his base and, overall, needs to get stronger so that he can maintain his feet. With that, due to his lack of strength in his lower body he will tend to lose his feet at times.
Due to some of these drawbacks, especially his size, Floyd may be relegated to situational play in sub-packages as he may not be an every down defender. For the Bears, this may mean that he would come into the game in passing situations only. It may appear that spending a first round pick on a situational player may not have been such a good idea.
There are a few other minor things that come to mind with Floyd that are drawbacks. One other item is that when he played in coverage, he looked rather awkward and perhaps shouldn’t be asked to cover receivers too much. There are some that feel that he had successful pass rushing production against lower competition in college (while perhaps not doing so well against tougher competition). Finally, Floyd won a lot of his battles in college thanks to his athleticism rather than pure pass rushing skill.
There is a lot to like about Floyd. He has all the skill to rush the passer and be effective at it. On the other hand, he may be too undersized to be an effective every down player in the league and may not be able to come into the game in certain situations. Being used just as a pass rusher may make it seem like the pick the Bears used on him is somewhat of a “wasted” pick because he may not be able to play that often (full time).
He has the skill and ability to be an effective pass rusher for the Bears if he can add some weight without reducing his speed which is one of his greatest assets. At the NFL Scouting Combine, Floyd showed up a little heavier and did display great speed for a player of his size so it looks like he can add weight and still be effective. The Bears will most likely have him add some weight and do some weight room work to get bigger and stronger to become a more effective NFL pass rusher.
Floyd is going to be one of those “wait and see” types of players. He should be able to step in and start right away but he is most likely not going to be a full-time starter at the outset. He will probably be used strictly as a pass rusher at the beginning of the season and then, as he feels more comfortable and the coaching staff feels more comfortable, he will be used on a regular basis. The Bears need to get a solid pass rush going and one of the ways that they are going to be able to do it is get Floyd going strong this season.
Predicting how Floyd is going perform this year is going to be a little bit difficult. He has a lot of work to do this offseason and in training camp to get NFL-ready but the coaching staff will push him along to get him prepared for the start of the 2016 season. If he is ready and if he can perform at or above the level he did in college then he could have a stellar first season with the Bears. There will be some growing pains but if the Bears can coach him up, get him physically ready and have him adjust to their scheme, he could be a solid player and a good contributor on defense for the Bears for several seasons to come.