For the first time in 20 years, the Chicago Bears traded up in the first round of the NFL Draft, taking University of Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd with the ninth overall pick.
It cost the Bears a fourth round draft pick to move up, but with the New York Giants lurking in the 10th spot, the Bears felt it was necessary to make the jump to grab their guy.
But what exactly did the Bears get in Floyd? After all, scouts have knocked his lack of strength in the run-up to the draft, saying that he won’t be able to force his way into the backfield, and he has also had some injury concerns, dealing with a shoulder issue during the 2014 season with the Bulldogs.
Although both of those concerns are legitimate, there is plenty to like about Floyd when it comes to the tape. He is an incredibly fast player on the field, hitting gaps with speed and ferocity. He is also an incredibly versatile player, who can play both inside and outside linebacker in the 3-4 system. He also can play linebacker in a 4-3 defense if Vic Fangio presents different looks, and that will give the team some added incentive to keep teams guessing.
Mike Mayock of the NFL Network had a great comparison for Floyd’s skillset, saying that he is similar to Aldon Smith, who was drafted by Fangio while he was in San Franicsco.
“He has the best burst and get-off in this entire draft,” Mayock said. “He’s a sub-package, designated pass rusher on Day 1, just like Aldon Smith was in San Francisco.”
The Bears went into the NFL Draft dedicated to the idea of improving their speed on defense, and Floyd certainly gives them that element. The Bears could potentially have three new starters in their linebacking corps for 2016, with Jerrell Freeman, Floyd, and Danny Trevathan likely joining Pernell McPhee in the Bears’ system.
Bolstering the front seven is a huge priority for this team, and although they will need to add at least one secondary piece as well, their focus on upgrading their athleticism could have some significant impact in the coming year.