This from respected draft analyst Greg Cosell during an NFL Network appearance (h/t The Score):
I think Sharrif Floyd is going to be an All-Pro type player right from Day One. I’ve spoken to people in the SEC who say he’s as good a kid as he is a player, and that’s really important when you draft someone No. 1.
Intriguing, especially because Floyd was considered a mid-first-round pick a few months ago.
Let's dive into the reasoning behind his ascension.
Star Lotulelei's Heart Condition
At the end of the 2012 college football season, Utah's Star Lotulelei was the consensus top defensive tackle in the 2013 draft class.
The 6'2'', 311-pound line of scrimmage disruptor was essentially a lock for the top five, and due to his immense scheme versatility, some believed he could be the No. 1 overall pick.
However, on the eve of Lotulelei's chance to show off his tremendous skills at the NFL Scouting Combine, ESPN reported he had a heart condition that would keep him from participating in any activities.
There's a lot of mystery surrounding this "condition"—Bleacher Report's Dave Siebert wrote an insightful breakdown here—and there's no telling how it'll ultimately affect his draft stock.
A medical red flag certainly doesn't help.
With that, Floyd, to some, became the top defensive tackle by default, and frankly, Lotulelei's ailment forced many to take a closer and more extensive look at Floyd's collegiate footage.
Missouri's Sheldon Richardson, despite being quite the menacing defensive tackle in his own right, for some reason simply didn't receive the bump Floyd did—potentially due to the Florida prospect having more upside.
Geno Atkins' Dominance
Geno Atkins is an undersized defensive tackle who has become one of the most effective defenders in the NFL.
Undoubtedly underrated, the 6'1'', 300-pound interior defensive lineman has accumulated 20 sacks in the last two seasons combined, including 12.5 in 2012.
If it weren't for J.J. Watt, Atkins would be the transcendent defensive lineman everyone's talking about.
Floyd's overall game bears a striking resemblance to Atkins', and people are taking notice.
@christrapasso Very, very similar. Both play low, get great push.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 4, 2013
When it comes to penetrating, pass-rushing defensive tackles, Atkins has become the gold standard. Floyd's stock has seen a considerable boost due to the growing sentiment that Floyd could be Atkins 2.0.
No Top QB
After the Kansas City Chiefs traded for quarterback Alex Smith, they basically took Geno Smith out of the picture at No. 1 overall.
But even before that, Geno Smith wasn't the consensus must-have quarterback—a guy light years ahead of the rest of the signal-caller class.
Because of that, there's been plenty of differing opinion in regards to which player is the best overall prospect in the class, and the variance in viewpoint has allowed Floyd to slip into the discussion.
Bleacher Report's Sigmund Bloom wrote an exquisite scouting report on Floyd, highlighting his strengths and weaknesses.
In it, Bloom evaluates Floyd's initial burst and inherent strength at the point of attack and explains how that combination will help him flourish as both a pass-rusher and run-stuffer.
See for yourself:
This was written about Floyd's scheme versatility:
Floyd's first-step strength and size makes him a candidate to be a two-gap, 3-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3, but his overall power and quickness would be maximized as a one-gap, 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4. He can also play defensive end on obvious rundowns and rush the passer from a three-man front in the nickel and dime defensive sets.
To some, Floyd can be effective in multiple positions across the defensive line. Because scheme versatility is always a valuable asset, his stock has risen.
This Always Happens
Every year, a talented prospect who begins the pre-draft process somewhat under the radar becomes a favorite of draftniks and experiences a significant draft-stock inflation.
In 2012, Alabama safety Mark Barron went from a late first-round prospect to the hottest defender who ultimately went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 7.
In 2011, Christian Ponder, a quarterback who started as a sure-fire second-rounder became a favorite of some and went No. 12 overall to the Minnesota Vikings.
Floyd is a young (he will be 20 when he's drafted) and athletic defensive lineman who plays with a noticeable mean streak and has scheme versatility.
This year, he's the favorite.
Admittedly, this perennial practice of tweaking players' draft stocks without any games occurring is media-driven, and honestly, can be ridiculous.
However, with months of evaluation time, scouting combine and pro days, opinions are bound to change and prospects will always, sometimes unfairly, see their draft stocks shift from January to April.