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Leonard Floyd 2016 NFL Draft scouting report

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One could argue that Floyd is the best linebacker fit for the Ryan defense in this year's draft class

The 2016 NFL Draft is almost here, and before we know it, the Buffalo Bills will be turning in their card with their first first-round pick in two years.

Historically, the Bills have drafted a player who visited them pre-draft with their first-round pick. Leading up to the draft, we'll be looking at key visitors for Buffalo, to see who makes sense for them at No. 19 overall.

One hybrid player who has to appeal to Buffalo is Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd. Let's take a closer look.

Personal

Floyd is from Atlanta, Georgia. He was a football and track athlete at Dodge County High School, where he played defensive end and tight end and competed in discus and shot put. In order to make his classwork NCAA eligible, he attended Hargrave Military Academy for a year after graduation. Floyd is actually the fourth notable defender in this draft class to attend Hargrave; the others are Jarran Reed, Shaq Lawson, and Kevin Dodd.

Out of Hargrave, Floyd was ranked the No. 1 prep school outside linebacker and a four-star prospect. Floyd joined the Georgia Bulldogs in 2013, starting eight games as a true freshman. That year, he led the team with 6.5 sacks and collected 55 tackles. As a sophomore, he added six more sacks, and he followed that up with a 4.5-sack season as a junior in 2015. While his sack totals weren't outstanding, he generated plenty of pressure, averaging 13 quarterback hurries per season. In his final season, Georgia switched him to more of a hybrid inside-outside linebacker role from the 3-4 outside linebacker role he was originally playing.

Floyd, who is 23 years old, turns 24 on September 8 in his rookie season. He majored in sociology in school. Georgia uses a rotating captain system, and he was named a captain for four games of his junior year.

Raw talent

Floyd is a magnificent combination of size and athletic ability, but his rare traits do make him a bit of a man without a true position in most NFL defenses. Standing 6'6" and weighing in at 244 pounds, Floyd has the build of a player like Manny Lawson, Scott Fujita, or Dion Jordan.

His 4.6-second 40-yard dash, 1.59-second 10-yard split, 39.5-inch vertical leap, and 10'7" broad jump are all excellent numbers for an outside linebacker (and outstanding for a defensive end). His 4.32-second short shuttle and 7.18-second three-cone drill were both below average times for an outside linebacker, suggesting that Floyd may be a little top-heavy when trying to change direction in a small space.

Now, these numbers are all impressive, but the player comparisons leave something to be desired. Jordan was billed as the future of NFL edge rushers, yet he has been a total bust. Lawson and Fujita put up very similar numbers through their careers - around 2.4 sacks per season, 2.5 passes defended per season, and one to three turnovers generated each year. That's the question with Floyd: he's a gifted athlete, but does the NFL know how to help him become a playmaker?

In this scouting report, we're going to treat him as an off-the-ball linebacker, with similar lenses to Darron Lee and Reggie Ragland. Although all three players likely have different roles in the context of Rex Ryan's defensive scheme, their responsibilities for stopping the run, defending the pass, and generating a pass rush are all important. In Floyd's case, he could theoretically usurp Lawson's role and play as a full-time strong-side linebacker who can rush the passer from time to time.

Run defense and block shedding

Floyd has good awareness of where the ball is going, and that helps him maintain gap integrity. I only saw him misread a play once out of around 180 snaps in my viewing sample. He doesn't hesitate on the field, and moves like he knows what his responsibilities are. Floyd has a fast first step and attacks downhill, but his lack of core power relative to his tall build is often exposed while he is playing. He ends up engaged in a shoving match with the offensive tackle or tight end opposite him, rarely shedding blocks while maintaining his position for a tackle. Generally, what I saw was Floyd cleaning up a lot of run plays that were defeated by funneling them inside.

On outside runs, Floyd's great athletic ability stands out. He can chase a player down from behind for a loss, and is a dangerous defender when unblocked.

Pass coverage and fluidity in space

Floyd is still developing his comfort in coverage, and Georgia had him rushing the passer on many passing downs, but this is an area where I think he'll show aptitude in the NFL. His size-speed combination is ideal for an outside linebacker, and he's shown comfort dropping back to zone coverages. I've seen him operate out of the slot a few times, and I think he could potentially be a great coverage linebacker, with his length being a particularly unique asset in that phase.

Pass rushing aptitude

The hope with Floyd two years ago was that he would develop into an elite, DeMarcus Ware-type pass rusher. Unfortunately, his abilities plateaued in college, and I'm not sure if he can do much better than eight sacks per season. His lack of core power stands out in this arena; if an offensive lineman grabs hold, Floyd's usually not coming free. Where I've seen Floyd at his best is when he's attacking with a frenetic swim or rip move. His long arms and ability to bend his body give him an advantage over most tackles, but he sometimes allows himself to ride too far past the pocket, taking himself out of the play entirely. Too often, Floyd rushes the passer with a straightforward approach that doesn't really threaten tackles at all.

Let's be clear, here: in terms of pure linebacking prospects, Floyd is one of the best pass rushers you'll find. I'm just saying that I don't think he'll ever be a great pure edge rusher. It's the Jordan dilemma. For the record, I had similar concerns with Anthony Barr; he didn't have a strong core, struggled when engaged with linemen, and Minnesota converted him to an off-the-ball linebacker, making him excel. This is what would play to Floyd's strengths. When he's a change of pace pass rusher, he's dangerous.

Final word

At this stage of the draft process, rumor has it that there's not really a chance Floyd will be available when the Bills pick at No. 19, with some analysts thinking he could go as early as the fifth pick if Jacksonville is worried about Myles Jack's knee injury.

Looking at the raw talent and football comfort present, it's obvious why teams are excited about Floyd. That said, the team that drafts him needs to be extra careful not to pigeonhole him, lest they end up sentencing him to the same fate as Jordan, who was miscast as a 4-3 defensive end and failed to generate meaningful pressure in his career. Use Floyd as a moving chess piece who can play inside linebacker, cover tight ends, move into the slot, and rush the passer, and you'll have a major defensive upgrade. If he's on the board when Buffalo is picking, he'd make a lot of sense for this team.