With the 2012 NFL season in the books, and the scouting combine in the rear-view, it's time to take a closer look at the 50 players we think will be the biggest difference-makers at the next level from this draft class. To that end, we're happy to continue this year's Shutdown 50 scouting reports (Hint: There may actually be more than 50). You can read last year's group here. The final 50 players were chosen and ranked based on game tape, combine and Pro Day results, overall positional value, and attributes and liabilities on and off the field.
#5: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
We continue this year's series with Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, whose life story reads like the defensive version of "The Blind Side." Michael Lewis' book about Michael Oher's nightmarish upbringing.
As NFL.com's Jeff Darlington recently revealed in an outstanding profile, Floyd tried to spend as much as time alone as possible in the North Philadelphia neighborhood where he grew up -- away from the man who abused him. The man he thought was his father.
"It was just me, you know?" Floyd told Darlington. "And it was great. I mean, I had a lot of time to think to myself. No one really asked how I felt about anything or how I was doing about anything. But if I could change anything in my life, honestly, I wouldn't change a thing."
Floyd was fifteen years old when he finally discovered that the man who had abused him mentally and physically throughout his childhood wasn't even his biological father. His real father was dead, and his mother had acquired a drug habit.
"People want to make excuses, saying some guys are just the products of their environment," Florida head coach Will Muschamp told Darlington. "Sharrif Floyd defies that theory. There is no reason he should be the kid he is right now. His background is as tough as anyone I've been around."
Floyd found help and a way to a new life through football and the care of a lot of people from high school into college. Though he didn't watch a football game until 2007, he went to Florida as perhaps the top high school defensive lineman in the country, and once he got a chance to shine at the NCAA level, there was no turning back.
At 6-foot-3 and 297 pounds, Floyd is a surprisingly advanced player for his experience level (just one full season as a starter), and after starting the final 11 games of the 2011 season at defensive end, he anchored inside in 2012 and dominated nearly every opponent he faced. He put together 46 tackles, 13.0 tackles for loss, one sack in the regular season, and two in the Sugar Bowl against Louisville. The third-ranked Gators lost that game in a 33-23 upset, but Floyd had made his mark. Stack all that on top of a combine performance in which he clocked a 4.92 in the 40-yard dash, and it's easy to see why he's at or near the top of the list at his position.
Pros: Produces legitimately and consistently from everywhere on the defensive front -- Floyd is a potential game-changer from end to one-tech shade tackle, though his NFL future is most likely inside for the most part. Hits the line with great speed and an outstanding hand-strike, which allows him to stay active against protection. Stack-and-shed player who bounces off initial contact and moves to make the play. Has perhaps the best overall array of hand moves of any defensive lineman in this draft class -- will use rip and swim moves to get free from wrestling matches. Presents an outstanding bull-rush when he uses leverage correctly. Accelerates quickly to full speed and can move through a pocket in a hurry.
Good wrap tackler who uses his upper-body strength to stop plays at the point of contact. Covers a lot of ground and can stop plays outside the numbers when he has free space. As an end, beats high-caliber tackles for pass pressures and could be even better outside with technique improvements. Has the agility to back off from the line into short coverage. Tough player who will play through pain -- cramped up against Texas A&M and came back into the game looking even better than before.
Cons: Could be a function of read-and-react fronts, but Floyd doesn't always fire off the snap with optimal quickness -- you'd like to see more explosiveness at times. Vulnerable to cut-blocks. Will lose his place when walled off to one side and flail at tackle attempts in space. Nice motor through the play, but tends to run himself out of the action at times. Needs to play under control more consistently. May have topped out from a physical stature perspective, which may limit his snaps inside the three-tech role.
Conclusion: Where Floyd stands out in this draft class is in the multiplicity of his game -- the varied ways in which he can affect opposing offenses as a true multi-gap weapon (not just as a big guy who stops things up when you move him around), and the different techniques he's learned that allow him to deal with blockers. The latter ability should prove especially valuable to NFL teams that must be frustrated by the overall lack of developed hand moves in this year's class of pass-rushers. This is a well-developed player with still more upside to come, and the kind of mentality that will bring him very close to the ultimate realization of his athletic potential.