How does a consensus top five pick plummet to 23rd overall? By @AJDownattheOne
General Manager Rick Spielman summed it up perfectly; "With Sharrif Floyd, I went through 1,000 scenarios with that 23rd and 25th pick," he said, "and I can just tell you honestly that he was not [available] in one of those scenarios".
I too can’t quite get my head around Floyd’s plummet. I can’t understand how this isn’t something more are talking about. He was the second best player available on our final draft board and I even went so far as to say that I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chiefs took him first overall! I’m not alone either; ESPN’s Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. also had Floyd similarly as high on their boards and NFL Networks Mike Mayock had Floyd as the second best player available too. Here’s what I said about Floyd in his draft profile:
"…On the field, Floyd has the body of a tackle but the quickness and strength of an end which allows him to sniff out plays in the backfield and make a play on the runner. He's relentless in his efforts to get after the passer and frequently looks to swat the ball at the line. He has a rare combination of explosive power, quickness and agility that separates him from any other defensive tackle in the draft. He doesn't come with a great number of starts but has unquantifiable potential to transition to the next level as a lineman in either the 4-3 or 3-4. He could very well be the best player in the draft and will be very tempting for those selecting with the first two picks."
So what happened? How does a consensus top five pick fall to 23rd overall? Normally when a player plummets on draft day it’s due to characters flaws, whether they be run-ins with the law, failed drug tests or a bad attitude in team interviews. In the 24-hour news cycle of 2013 however, nothing is secret and if a player comes under the header of any of the aforementioned, it’s reported. As far as I can tell, there have been no reports publically of any character concerns. Alternatively, injuries can cause draft stock to fall faster than the value of Enron shares. Floyd’s durability is unquestioned; no red flags were reported at the Combine upon medical evaluations and he played in all 36 games in which he was eligible at Florida.
The best reasoning I’ve come across for Floyd’s fall is due to a lack of statistical output from a pass rush perspective and apparently shorter-than-average arm length. As ESPN’s Kevin Seifert said "…if you're drafting a player in the top 5, you want him to be as close as perfect as possible from a physical and résumé standpoint" but that still doesn’t explain why he plummeted to 23rd overall.
For me, neither of those two justifications are good enough to justify Floyd falling as far as he did. One thing I’ve always worked by is that college production statistic wise should be looked at with a pinch of salt; it’s the film and tape that matters most – that’s the greatest indicator of talent and how it might translate at the next level. Statistics only tell half the story and can be misleading; Player X might rack up 15 sacks in his junior year before declaring for the draft but 6 of those sacks might have come against McNeese State and Northern Arizona, 4 could have come in blitz packages and 2 might have occurred because Player X was unblocked for whatever reason. That leaves only 3 sacks that were earned the way they will be in the NFL; through technique and psychical ability, by beating the lineman in front of you. What you’re left with is a player that looks great on paper but might not have the necessary skill set to translate at the next level.
It’s a two way street. Floyd might have only got 4.5 sacks in his two years starting in Gainesville but who were they against? Did they come in blitzes? Was he double teamed often? Were they actually sacks or are they sacks only on paper? (i.e. a fumbled quarterback/center exchange that the QB fell on and Floyd consequently jumped upon will be recognized as a sack statistically but he was just in the right place as a defensive tackle) Well seeing as I asked, his sacks came in three games, two of which were bowl games which says to me that Floyd isn’t fazed by playing on the biggest stage. He recorded 1.5 sacks against Ohio State in the 2012 Gator Bowl, 1 sack in a rivalry game against 10 Florida State last season (a 16 yard loss might I add, good pursuit of 16th overall pick EJ Manuel there) and 2 sacks in the Sugar Bowl against Louisville. According to ESPN Stats & Information, two of those three sacks last season came against double-teams when the Gators were rushing only four men. Players that don’t offer a threat aren’t double-teamed. Additionally, nine other players on Florida's defense had at least two sacks last season, tied for the third-most in the FBS. Whilst it would be an overstatement to attribute Floyd full credit for that stat, his presence up the middle undoubtedly contributed to others being able to find their way to the passer. So although Floyd didn’t fill the box score, he created opportunities for others and when he did find his way to the quarterback, it was against quality opposition and he fought through double teams on the way.
At the NFL Scouting Combine in February, Floyd's arms measured 31 3/4-inches. That’s shorter than your average defensive tackle and raises concerns that Floyd might struggle to get leverage against longer-armed NFL offensive lineman. The two defensive tackles selected before Floyd – Sheldon Richardson and Star Lotulelei at 13th and 14th respectively – both unsurprisingly had longer arms. Richardson’s measured at 34 1/2-inches and Lotulelei measured at 33 5/8-inches. For me, yes Floyd does have shorter arms but this is just another example of the over-analyzing of everything that happens at the NFL Combine and pro-days. His arms are 1 7/8-inches shorter than Lotulelei’s – NOT EVEN TWO INCHES! If this was a genuine reason that teams passed on a top five talent, the NFL has a big problem. It’s ludicrous.
Six teams that could have easily justified drafting Floyd and would have upgraded their current talent at tackle each passed on him. Tennessee at 10, Oakland at 12, New York at 13, Carolina at 14, New Orleans at 15, and San Francisco at 18 all let Floyd slip by. That so many teams passed on Floyd, including the likes of San Francisco and New Orleans causes alarm bells to ring for me. That in fact might be why he fell; when teams kept passing on him it caused teams to second guess their evaluation of him and opt to go elsewhere. There must be something that caused him to fall but I don’t know what. Statistical production and arm length just don’t cut it for me. Vince Wilfork hardly puts up magnificent sack figures but he sure makes the Patriots pass rusher better. As Kevin Seifert said; "A disruptor can do his work in many ways while falling short in sack totals (and arm length)." The Vikings landed a heck of a player. Time will tell if those teams were wrong to let Floyd slip by. Time might also tell what caused teams to shy from a consensus top five talent. In the meantime, who knows?