Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 scouting staff recently ranked the 48 best outside linebackers on pass rush, run defense, coverage skills, and tackling – you know, the important stuff – and the Bears came away with not one, but two (!) of the top-15 players at the position with Leonard Floyd ranking 13th and Willie Young checking in at 14th.
That both finished as high as they did despite each finishing the season on injured reserve is a pretty significant testament to their production while healthy.
Especially Floyd, who’s dreams of stardom were rudely interrupted when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 11. That said … despite his high ranking league-wide, BR’s scouting staff gave a rather critical assessment of the second-year Georgia product:
“Leonard Floyd is a unique pass-rusher. Sporting a tall, thin build at 6’4″, 251 pounds, he looks like a pure outside speed rusher with bend and burst, but he is not that type of player. He’s a stiff pass-rusher who has to win with careful footwork and a devastating outside-inside counter move. Such a niche style makes Floyd somewhat predictable and one-dimensional as an edge-rusher, though he’s still effective from time to time.”
And when the NFL1000 scouts ranked the top edge rushers, Floyd came in at 47th. And while that is still in the top half of the 123 players, there is clearly room for improvement.
Floyd appeared to have taken a big step in his development until a knee injury ended his season after Week 11. He was off to another slow start before finding his footing in Week 4 against the Packers, which started a six-game run in which he picked up 5.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss, eight QB hits, and a safety. Things were looking good until a knee injury ended Floyd’s season early. But if he comes back 100 percent for training camp, it’s easy to imagine Floyd recapturing the magic that made him a fearsome edge defender despite starting slowly for the second straight year.
If the Bears’ defense is going to rank in the top-10 for a second straight season, the group needs its outside linebackers to be healthy and productive. Long term, it starts with Floyd living up to the hype that comes with being a top-10 pick.