Leonard Floyd Might Be a Reach, But the Bears Are Actually a Good Fit
When it comes to a combination of size, athleticism and projection, Leonard Floyd might be the defensive version of Carson Wentz. Sure, Floyd played in the SEC and has way more experience and college production to show for it, but there are a few similarities.
Floyd’s size -- 6’4” and 231 pounds -- is incredible for a linebacker, especially when mixed with his athleticism. Among linebackers, Floyd is second in this class in SPARQ -- a composite athleticism metric -- and in the 89th percentile among NFL players at the position.
The question facing Floyd pre-draft is whether that athleticism will translate to the NFL and what position he’ll play.
Floyd spent his time at the University of Georgia split between an edge rushing end and an off-ball linebacker. Most of his production came on the edge, but his frame is considered to be too small to hold up as a defensive end at the NFL level. What some see for Floyd as a professional is a Bruce Irvin-type role as a hybrid linebacker-pass rusher position.
It’s easy to see why teams would fall in love in Floyd’s athleticism. He has a lightning quick first step, which can help give him an advantage against offensive linemen even when he’s at a size disadvantage. He also has a spin move that, when it works, almost makes him untouchable before getting into the backfield. Watch it in perfection against Missouri:
He can also use the speed and athleticism to bend around tackles, another way to make up for the size disadvantage:
Moves like those have allowed Floyd to be such a presence in the backfield throughout his career. In his three years at Georgia, he totaled 26.5 tackles for loss, 17 sacks and five forced fumbles.
While the athleticism is there, the concern is how it will translate against NFL-level offensive linemen. As you may have noticed, the two plays above come from the same game against Missouri. Floyd also destroyed Vanderbilt earlier in the year, but didn't have as much of an impact with more top-level teams like Alabama. His play can come into question in more traditional linebacker responsibilities, too. The speed to run with receivers and tight ends in coverage is present, but the actual coverage skills might still be a work in progress.
A Nice Fit
While teams like the Giants were ready to place Floyd as a WILL in a 4-3, Floyd’s best NFL fit is likely as an outside linebacker in a 3-4, where he’ll get to play in Chicago. The Bears were one of the worst defenses in the league last season by our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric -- they ranked 31st in schedule-adjusted NEP per play on defense, better than only the New Orleans Saints.
The Bears didn’t get to the quarterback a lot, but they did manage to get there often. Chicago was just 22nd in total sacks, but ranked 11th in sack rate when adjusting for the amount of pass attempts. Floyd will be able to add to that rush as an outside linebacker, who will also be able to occasionally be in coverage.
With the addition of Floyd, the Bears now have Lamarr Houston and Pernell McPhee on the outside with Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan in the middle. There might not be a position group that got a bigger upgrade from 2015 to 2016. That type of talent could also help ease Floyd into figuring out his exact role at the professional level.