While I appreciate the incredible American interest in the NFL Draft as a
media-created phenomenon meant to sustain a massive cottage industry genuine extension of the interest in the NFL, I can't do the traditional NFL Draft profile for Florida players. I just can't: It feels too much like analyzing something that has already been analyzed to death, and I'm not sure I can add anything that someone else hasn't already seen and explained from that angle.
Instead, for Sharrif Floyd on down to Xavier Nixon, I'll be profiling players over the next three days in terms of what Florida fans know about them that the next batch of fans lucky enough to get to cheer for them should know.
Because Floyd's going to be the first player off the board, we begin with him.
If there's one thing that is most important to know about Sharrif Floyd, it is that he has worked very hard to get to where he is, and deserves all the good things coming to him. As a Florida defensive tackle, Floyd was universally beloved by his coaches, fellow players, and fans to a degree that I don't think Tim Tebow even matched: While some people were rubbed the wrong way by Tebow, one way or another, there's almost nothing that could rub anyone the wrong way about Floyd. (The only two things I could think of: 1) How his adoption skirts NCAA rules and 2) Using a photograph without licensing it for those letters to fans, which got cleared up.)
That's rare for a member of Urban Meyer's final recruiting class, which was boom or bust in a big way: Floyd, Dominique Easley, Matt Elam, and Ronald Powell should all be top draft picks in 2013 or 2014, but 10 members of that class have transferred from Florida, and that quartet of big names was thought to be cocky to an absurd degree in the fall of 2010, with Easley and Powell both getting tagged with transfer rumors from almost the minute they set foot on the practice field. Floyd, on the other hand, kept his head down, played in all 13 games, and was named to the SEC's All-Freshman team.
Floyd then missed the first two games of the 2011 season thanks to some grade-A NCAA bullshit, and played out of position at defensive end for much of the year, but was still Florida's most consistent defensive lineman on a unit that sent Jaye Howard to the NFL. Easley and Powell struggled with finding their place at Florida, and with injuries, but Floyd was the heart of the defense even that fall, with Will Muschamp defending him vehemently against charges of wrongdoing in the NCAA episode, calling him "what is good about college athletics," and saying "I have two sons at home. If they end up like Sharrif I will consider myself a successful father."
Floyd moved back to defensive tackle for the 2012 season, and spent it wreaking havoc. He had 13 tackles for loss, and often commanded double-teams, allowing Easley and the rest of the line to make the splash plays that helped make Florida the No. 4 run defense in the country. Floyd also got pass pressure when necessary, but didn't get a sack until the final game of the regular season, at Florida State — and not until late in the second half.
But that sack was huge, and a very nice play: As you can see at 5:32 of the above video, Floyd fights past a double-team and bears down on EJ Manuel, who had previously evaded Floyd a couple of times, but trips him up and then whips him down. That turned a second and 10 from the Florida 28 into a third and 26 at the Florida 44, and effectively ended Florida State's last chance to stay in the game, given the Seminoles' 10-point deficit. And on the last play of that drive, Floyd knifes through two linemen for a pressure that helps lead to an incomplete pass.
Those were only two plays in a season full of them, ones that got Floyd selected to the All-SEC first team and named a third-team All-American by the Associated Press.
Floyd's smart, too, and well-spoken, qualities that helped him set the mold for a Florida team that has more Sharrif Floyd-like players (Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler are each impressively mature and calm) than it used to, and is likely much improved because of it. That clip shows how much Floyd learned from Muschamp, and defensive line coaches Dan Quinn and Bryant Young (cross-training at tackle and end, Floyd likely gleaned more from both than any other Gators lineman), and part of why people like going to bat for him: He's a hard-working young man whose confidence is the residue of that work, and he's not one to take success for granted or dwell on disappointments.
If I could tailor the mental makeup of my ideal football player, I'd make sure to include Floyd's will to win and interest in learning; if you were listing qualities you would want in a representative of your organization, Floyd would have at least two thirds of the list. Those two things make Floyd as close to a sure thing as there is in this NFL Draft, in my mind, and are likely to serve him well for the rest of his life. (Floyd using @sharrifrozay as his Twitter handle briefly is also endearing, as using Sharrif Rozay Floyd as his Facebook name.)
My only concerns about Floyd at the NFL level are about his lack of a standout physical attribute. He's not huge, or unusually fast or strong, and he might struggle to be more than a solid starter because of that. There are worse problems than a top draft pick turning into merely a solid player, but Floyd's floor being higher than many other prospects doesn't mean that his floor will be a satisfying level of play.
But if I've learned anything about Sharrif Floyd over the last three years, it's that you can bet on him to not disappoint you. You'll make your money back.