The Chicago Bears made a splash in the first round on Thursday night by trading up from No. 11 overall to acquire the No. 9 pick from Tampa Bay where they selected Georgia outside linebacker Leonard Floyd.
The Bears also sent a fourth-round pick (No. 106 overall) to the Buccaneers to move up two spots.
Floyd, a 6’6″, 244-pounder (weight at NFL Combine) has to put on weight to be a complete player in both coverage and the pass rushing aspect of the game. He completely destroyed the combine by leading all outside backers in the 40-yard dash (4.60-second), vertical jump (39.5-inch) and the broad jump (127.0-inch). His 40-time was even better than seven wide receivers.
Much like John Fox’s first draft with Denver in 2011 where they took stud outside linebacker Von Miller, the Bears went defense this year. Last year’s first-round pick, wide receiver Kevin White is a player with huge upside and Floyd is more of the same.
Floyd totaled 182 tackles (26.5 for a loss), 17 sacks, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries as a three-year starter for the Bulldogs appearing in 38 games with 32 starts. He was a finalist for the Butkus Award as a junior with 72 tackles (8.5 for a loss), 4.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. Playing inside linebacker last season, Floyd didn’t get a chance to showcase his repertoire of pass rushing moves too often something he’ll focus on with the Bears.
A thin framed player loaded with speed off the edge, Floyd can line up anywhere on the field. He needs to get stronger and his coverage skills have to improve for this to pan out. He joins veterans Willie Young (6’4″), Lamarr Houston (6’3″) and Pernell McPhee (6’3″) at outside linebacker. Houston and McPhee both weigh over 270 lbs, so Floyd needs to add mass to his upper body.
The Bears need playmakers and clearly they think Floyd can be one for year’s to come. It has the looks of a risky pick at first glance, but if anyone can make Floyd an all-around player that is defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
Remember when Fangio coached up Aldon Smith to double-digit sacks in consecutive seasons in San Francisco. Head coach John Fox did wonders with the selections of Julius Peppers in Carolina and Von Miller in Denver as well. Plus, general manager Ryan Pace knows talent. That is obvious. The trio gets the job done.
In a call with the Chicago media, Floyd said he’s comfortable doing pretty much anything in a 3-4 defense.
“I’m pretty good in coverage. I did a lot of covering of tight ends,” Floyd said.
He’ll come in and play a sub-package role earning around 25-30 snaps a game. The Bears didn’t have a young guy at the position to build around, but now they do. The linebacker position in Chicago is in a much better situation than just a few months ago.
“We spent a lot of time with this guy. He’s definitely fast and athletic,” Pace said Thursday. “He’s got such great length, guys don’t get into his body.”
Floyd will be examined from day one of OTA’s and beyond. He has huge upside and isn’t even close to hitting his ceiling at age 23. He’s flying to Chicago to meet with team officials.
Thoughts on the selection of Leonard Floyd at No. 9 for the Bears?
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