Right now, one of the hottest names in 2013 NFL draft talk is Sharrif Floyd. A few months ago, however, Floyd was an outside consideration—a late-first-round pick among the most optimistic of analysts.
Without Floyd playing a single game, his stock has somehow skyrocketed into the top 10 and possibly top five. What was the driving force behind this abrupt change?
It all seemed to start with a single tweet from former NFL scout and current NFL.com writer Daniel Jeremiah:
This was the beginning of Floyd's seeming rise, but what about his play on the field made so many fall in love with him? What is so special about him?
Not to use a cop out, but it's a number of things. And it's this combination of skills that we will take a look at.
Despite not actually sacking the quarterback—in Floyd's defense, E.J. Manuel is pretty good at this sort of thing—Floyd showed great quickness and lateral ability to get around the guard and into the backfield. He completely dominated at the line of scrimmage, leaving the Florida State guard flat-footed and grasping at air.
This type of quickness isn't exactly common among such big men, and it is the main reason for Floyd's success and prominence as a draft prospect. He's far too quick for the majority of interior linemen to handle him.
On this play, Floyd demonstrates terrific burst. His great start alone gives him an advantage over the guard and allows him to penetrate the backfield, cutting off the running back and making a big play for the defense.
Floyd's combination of quickness and burst makes for a potentially excellent pass-rusher from the interior defensive line. His athleticism also pays off against the run, where he can disrupt plays in the backfield. Additionally, Floyd offers the ability to split out wide at times and can play in a variety of schemes.
In addition to excellent athletic ability, Floyd possesses power that, at times, simply dominates offensive linemen. Here, Floyd takes advantage of his quick jump off the snap, leverage and sheer strength to shove the left tackle—not Luke Joeckel—to the ground.
This was a tough play for the offensive tackle, but Floyd still showed a powerful punch that knocked the lineman off balance. This is the type of play a strong run defender has to be able to make.
It is this power that makes Floyd so versatile. If he were simply a one-dimensional speed player, he would be limited to playing the 3-technique in the NFL. Many players of Floyd's size—6'3", 297 pounds—are limited in this way. Floyd, however, is a viable option in a 3-4 scheme.
Floyd demonstrates surprisingly quick hands. He does a great job of punching and using his hands to both disengage from linemen and make a move into the backfield.
In addition to his quick hands, Floyd also possesses an excellent repertoire of moves. He often utilizes an excellent swim move as a pass-rusher, and he does a great job of ripping away from offensive linemen when defending the run.
Most highly ranked defensive tackles enter the draft with questions surrounding their motor. This certainly isn't an issue for Floyd, who is constantly rushing around the field. The Florida star plays with an urgency that isn't found just anywhere.
Rarely does Floyd take even a single play off, and he can be seen hustling through the whistle, even when a play is beyond hope. This alone leads to him making plays that he otherwise wouldn't.
In a draft loaded at defensive tackle, Floyd may be the unit's best at attacking the backfield. No other interior lineman possesses his combination of pure athleticism, strength and technique. This skill set makes him a viable option in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defense.
Right now, many are enamored with Floyd as a penetrator. Defensive tackles who can rush the passer are all the rage, and Floyd shows the ability to make a huge impact there. Floyd's lack of any glaring weaknesses makes this ability all the more appealing.
That's not to say Floyd doesn't have any flaws, though. He often plays too high, and his lack of length is a definite concern moving forward. He may end up in the top five, but he's more of a top-10 pick.
Floyd is yet another example of how much the NFL focuses on the passing game and upside in the draft. It is Floyd's potential to provide a pass rush that makes him such a high draft pick and hot name right now.