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Leonard Floyd: Roundtable Discussion, Part 1

Leonard Floyd has been a polarizing figure since he was drafted, but since he is not locked into Chicago for another two years (barring a trade), it’s probably worthwhile to take stock of what he offers the Bears.

NFL: Chicago Bears-Minicamp Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Leonard Floyd is an interesting player. He was selected in 2016 and was projected to be a Top 10 pick. Yet when he went in the Top 10 to the Bears, a team that needed an outside linebacker to develop, there was almost instantly backlash. Pace traded up to get him (never popular with some) and he skipped over the rapidly falling Laremy Tunsil for a player some feared would never have the size needed to stay healthy in the NFL.

Entering his fourth season, Floyd has proven to be a versatile player who has nevertheless had trouble staying healthy. The Bears picked up his fifth-year option, which means Floyd will probably be in Chicago for at least two more seasons. Yet, somehow, many believe he is facing another year where he must “prove himself.” With that in mind, it seemed time for the contributors at Windy City Gridiron to talk about Floyd’s value to the team and his potential future.

Joining the discussion are Erik Christopher Duerrwaechter, Ken Mitchell, Jacob Infante, WhiskeyRanger, Robert Schmitz, EJ Snyder, and Josh Sunderbruch.

For the first part, we are looking at the past, and in the second part we will be trying to speculate a little about the future.

1). How did you feel when Leonard Floyd was first drafted, and has your mind been changed since then?

ECD: When the Bears first drafted Leonard Floyd, after trading up for him in the 2016 draft, I felt they picked a raw yet extremely athletic player that had a high ceiling. Naturally, the expectation was for him to develop into the franchise pass rusher/edge defender of which is mandatory to have in the modern NFL. After all, he sought to model his game much like his idol, DeMarcus Ware.

After his first 3 seasons, my mind has been altered. He possesses the rare speed to chase down athletic QBs, and has feasted on Aaron Rodgers in head-on matchups throughout his career. With that being said, he also hasn’t consistently performed to his draft status, at least heading into his contract year(s). Last year’s addition of Khalil Mack further reduces the idea that he’s set to become a franchise edge player any time soon.

Ken: Fortunately, WCG has an archive section... since I don’t remember now how I felt about it, I went back and looked... here’s a comment I made on a Floyd Drafted article:

Fangio was the moving force behind this pick, and he’s proven he knows what to do with this fast, instinctive, athletic players. I understand some people don’t get the pick, but Fangio does… this is his next Aldon Smith type player (but without the off-the-field issues).

Here’s the thing, if you want a fast D, you gotta have some fast players. It’s that simple. 6’6 inch tall 4.6 guys generally don’t weigh in at 260 pounds coming out of college. Von Miller is 6’3 and was about 260, but then again Von Miller went #2 overall, so… there’s that…

This dude even dropped back into a safety slot from time to time at Georgia. A 6-6, 240 pound slotting into safety? That’s insane.

The other thing about Floyd is that he’s an SEC guy, so you know he played against the best competition out there.

Jacob: Admittedly, I was adamantly against the Bears picking Floyd back in 2016, so when he was not only selected, but traded up to select, I will admit that I dropped an expletive or two. That said, though, he has turned out to be better than I expected him to be. His skill set is a very good complement to Khalil Mack, and his athleticism and versatility makes him a solid chess piece in Chicago’s defense.

WhiskeyRanger: I thought he was undersized for the position (weight wise), but that he had the athleticism and length that you look for in a pass rusher. Overall, I was good with it. As far as if my mind has been changed, sort of. He hasn’t developed into a dominant pass rusher, but has become very good over all LB.

Robert S: Honestly I didn’t know how to feel -- drafting a pass rusher felt like the right move at the time, and he seemed to have solid bend around the edge, but concerns about his frame’s durability and the value we lost in our trade up to get him left me torn on how to feel about Leonard Floyd. But I’ve always been a proponent of waiting 2 or 3 years to see how draft picks develop, so I decided to give him time to let his play change my mind.

Three years later, I remain torn on Floyd. He’s clearly a useful coverage linebacker and matches up well with the modern “U” tight end, but he’s a spotty pass rusher that has yet to prove he can stay healthy for 16 games. He’s a useful player, certainly good when healthy, but his inability to blossom as a pass-rusher has left a bad taste in my mouth over the years.

EJ: The best way to describe how I felt was “satisfied”. He was a solid choice at a position of need. I wasn’t wild about the trade up, but I would have been less wild about settling for a lesser option if he’d gone a pick before the Bears (a la Aaron Donald and Leonard Williams). Compared to the other offerings that year (Shaq Lawson, Emanuel Ogbah, and Noah Spence were the next 3 similar players chosen), Floyd is easily the most well-rounded and able to execute varying roles within a defense. Has my mind changed? Not really. It would be nice to see Floyd develop a better counter move arsenal and get home on a sack or three more per season, but he’s been a very solid, versatile contributor in the role the Bears and Vic Fangio asked him to fulfill.

Josh: Like Ken, I went back to my original public thoughts on the matter, but I want to admit that this was during a time when I a) was still not over drafting Kevin White and b) was very much in Pace’s camp regarding his trade moves. So, when he traded up to get Floyd I was both annoyed and relieved. Here is what I said in May of 2016:

I didn’t know what to make of the selection at the time, but I do like the guy’s versatility. With all the advantages that modern offenses have, “adaptability” might be the closest thing to a true requirement for defensive players.

This came, believe it or not, when I was defending Pace at least as often as I was criticizing him, and I was amazed at the criticism leveled at the pick.

2). Barring any real change this season, has Floyd been a bust, an overdraft, a pretty fair return on value, or a steal?

ECD: I’m going with “slightly fair value” here. To me, he’s certainly not a bust; he’s developed a well-rounded game when he’s fully healthy. I also wouldn’t say he’s an overdraft, as 9th overall is still an O-K spot to pick up a dependable -- not elite -- edge player.

Yet, we also haven’t seen a great amount of return on Floyd. And, he’s far from being a steal. His injuries have killed both momentum and development.

Considering what the Bears gave up to move up for Floyd, and what they have received in return, Floyd’s career has been a slight disappointment. Then again, he’s also a player who figures himself into any starting lineup on defense. His improvement as a run defender has been a key development in his overall game, and now, he just needs to take advantage of his one-on-one opportunities more often than what we’ve seen to this point.

Ken: Bust? Absolutely not, no way. He hasn’t lived up to all expectations of a high first round pick, but Kevin White shows us what a bust looks like.

Jacob: I would definitely not call Floyd a bust by any means, but I do think he was an overdraft in hindsight. He has been a good player—much better than his production indicates. He can pressure the quarterback well, and he can drop back in coverage and defend the run pretty well, too. However, when you select a pass rusher in the top 10 of any draft, you do so with the expectation that he will develop into a cornerstone for your defense, which Floyd is not. He simply hasn’t been able to stay healthy: he missed a combined 10 games in his first two seasons, and he dealt with a hand injury for the first two months of the 2018 season. Even when healthy, he has been good, not great. 15.5 sacks through three seasons is solid production, but it is far short from what a player selected in the top 10 should ideally be getting.

WhiskeyRanger: I’d say fair return. He hasn’t been flashy. Hasn’t racked up sacks. But he’s developed into a good starter and an important part of the rotation. When 50% of 1st round picks aren’t even starting in the NFL after 5 years, I’d say finding a solid starter is a win, even if it’s in the top 10.

Robert S: This question feels hard to answer -- while Leonard Floyd has certainly not played like the 9th best player from the 2016 draft, he’s returned so much more value than many recent Bears 1st rounders (Kevin White, Shea McClellin, Gabe Carimi, Chris Williams) that calling him anything close to a bust seems unfair. Ultimately I think he was an “overdraft”, but with an important caveat: Floyd became exactly the do-it-all linebacker many said he would coming out of Georgia, but the Bears drafted him to be a franchise pass rusher and I think that’s been the cause of his problems. Floyd’s “failure to meet expectations”, therefore, came more from the Bears picking the wrong player for the right role than Floyd underperforming, as it was always unrealistic to think that a pass rusher who hadn’t cracked 6.5 sacks in the SEC was going to morph into a premiere NFL EDGE rusher. So while I do think he was an overdraft at #9 overall, I don’t think it’s been his fault.

EJ: Calling him a bust is truly a reach at this point, no matter what you think of him. Overdraft? That could be argued in hindsight (especially given the trade up), but you have to consider what was available in the 2016 draft at the position the Bears needed (OLB). The options I listed above have not been world-beaters either. I’d say a fair return on value is about the closest we’ll get to categorizing Leonard Floyd in this case.

Josh: He has been almost perfectly a fair return on the investment. He is exactly what he needed to be--one of the best defenders available at the time he was selected, and a position fit in the defense who has caused no trouble or headaches at all. Two things probably need to be pointed out. The first is that Floyd has brought exactly zero drama with him. He has been a capable starter who has done his job. The second is that the idea that he was supposed to be a pure pass rusher is a fan creation--Pace emphasized his versatility from day one.

In summary (and reading between the lines), that’s four “fair values” and three “over-drafts.”

Next up, we will consider what sort of future Floyd has (with the Bears or elsewhere) and what our thoughts are on him moving forward.