While our focus remains firmly on what the Chicago Bears are planning for their first-round pick in the upcoming draft – which is just nine days away, mind you – the team’s first-round pick from the last draft, Leonard Floyd, returns to work.
As General Manager Ryan Pace embarks on finding the team’s next building block, Floyd is out to build on a productive rookie season and cement his status as an up-and-coming playmaker in Chicago.
Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune believes there is a lot to like about second-year pass rusher Leonard Floyd, and there’s no argument here. Floyd has the size (6-foot-6, 240 pounds) and athleticism to be an impact pass rusher at the NFL level. And the Bears could truly benefit from Floyd growing into that player.
Last season, Floyd picked up seven sacks in 12 games, and did so despite not recording his first full sack until the seventh game of the season (while playing for a team that played from behind for much of the year). The most memorable game of Floyd’s season, arguably, was his two-sack performance against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers – a game where Floyd created the team’s only touchdown with a sack, strip, and fumble recovery in the end zone.
But where does Floyd go from here?
Floyd is at the first crossroads of his career. He has the athleticism and talent to make major moves, but is still rough around the edges. Pro Football Focus handed Floyd a 65.1 grade as a rookie, which placed him 66th among 109 qualifying edge defenders and firmly in the below average category on the site’s grading scale. Floyd was the Bears’ second best pass rusher, however, with an above average 70.5 grade, and he did that while playing 129 fewer pass snaps than Willie Young, the team’s leader in that category. However, overall, Floyd ranked 54th and squarely in the middle of the pack. Further, his 41.4 run-defense grade ranked 92nd, according to PFF.
Making the most of the start of the offseason workout program will be key for Floyd, who can continue filling out his frame and working toward refining his skills to improve. Eventually, coaching can make a difference too, with Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio and the new outside linebackers coach, Brandon Staley, being in a position to help Floyd fulfill his promise.
Floyd has the highest upside of the team’s edge rushers and projects to be a focal point of the Bears’ defense in 2017 and beyond. If the team is to improve on last year’s 3-13 mark, Floyd will play a major role in doing so. As it stands right now, he just might be the most important defensive player on the Bears’ roster.