GAINESVILLE — When former Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd decided to forego his senior season to enter the NFL draft, no one questioned whether he had made the correct decision.
After a stellar junior season in which he was an integral part of a Gators' defense that ranked fifth nationally in scoring and total defense, Floyd was considered a solid draft pick. But since January, his status has skyrocketed.
Floyd is projected to be a Top 5 pick by several top analysts in Thursday night's draft. His rapid ascension comes as no surprise to Florida coach Will Muschamp. Talent, Muschamp said, is hard to hide.
"Turn on the tape," Muschamp said. "I mean, the guy can anchor, he can play the run, he's got great initial quickness, he can rush the passer. He's everything you want for an inside player. The NFL teams, they don't like to project — I've been there, I know. They want to see guys that play in 3-4 and 4-3. So they've seen him play 2-gap, they've seen him play nose, they've seen him play 4-technique, they've seen him play 1-gap, 3-technique, 5-technique, 9-technique. They've seen him play outside, they've seen him play inside. So from a general manager's perspective, talking to his owner and talking about spending money on a player, a clean player that's got no issues off the field, you know that's a very smart pick in my opinion. Because you've got a guy that can be a very dominating player that's got so many positive things surrounding him and he's been exposed positionally to so many different things within our scheme."
Floyd played in 37 games with 26 starts at Florida, recording 115 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, two blocked field goals and a forced fumble. This past season, he led the Gators with 13 tackles for loss and was fifth with 46 tackles. In his final collegiate game, the Sugar Bowl, Floyd had five tackles, including two for a loss of 12 yards.
While he did not work out at the Gators' Pro Day, his NFL combine and individual team workouts have helped boost his draft status.
"What I love about the kid is he's a prototypical three technique which is the defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense," said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, who has Floyd at No. 2 on his board behind Eric Fisher. "His quickness and ability to get off the field and disrupt the pass game is unique for a defensive tackle, and if you can get a defensive tackle that can affect the pass game, you've got something special. And he's also stout enough to play the run, so I have him No. 2 on my board. I love the kid."
Floyd's versatility is what has elevated his status. ESPN.com's Mel Kiper has him going at No. 3 to the Oakland Raiders in his latest mock draft. At 6 feet 3 and 303 pounds, Floyd has the size to play over the nose tackle, but also possesses the speed to rush the passer and get into the backfield quickly. As a sophomore, he played defensive end for the Gators, then excelled at defensive tackle this past season. He's also experienced at playing both the 4-3 and 3-4 defenses — and willing to go wherever a team needs him most.
"I think I'm good in both defenses," Floyd said. "I believe I can offer a team more in the 4-3, but I wouldn't mind playing both. I'll take the defense for what it is."
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.