It’s been many years since the University of Notre Dame has sent a top notch receiver to the NFL, but that’s set to change this April when Michael Floyd gets drafted in what’s likely to be the first round. Floyd, who holds multiple school receiving records, is one of the draft’s best at his position.
Character aside, Floyd’s skill-set is one of the best at the position, and he offers much to a team’s offense at the next level. But what is it that makes Floyd a top talent in 2012? Is it his ability to snatch sky-high passes? Or is it his menacing running style after the catch? Perhaps both?
There were many questions about Floyd’s size and character when he came to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis earlier this year, but from a physical standpoint he passed the eye-test, checking in at 6’2″ and 220 pounds. Some expected Floyd to have greater stature, but overall he plays bigger than his height. His long arms, which span 78 inches, and leaping ability (36 1/2″ vertical jump) enable him to reach over defensive backs and pluck passes out of the air.
Route running can be difficult to judge with collegiate receivers. You expect them to be a bit raw in this aspect of their game, but how raw is too raw? And how good is too good?
Based off of my evaluation of multiple games during the 2011 season, I can safely say that he is a quality route runner. He’s able to break down when running comeback or hook routes, and he can also create space on intermediate and vertical routes before developing further down the field.
He also exhibits the ability to set up defensive backs when running his routes, stemming outside before breaking inside and showing an inside break before going outside on a corner route with an inside release.
Route running and separation can be linked together, but so can long speed and quickness. In short, there are many aspects of creating separation against defensive backs and this aspect of Floyd’s game shows well on tape. He can separate from defensive backs in short levels of the field by getting physical while using his head and shoulders to mislead defensive backs at the second and third levels of the field.
For the most part, the tapes show that he has quick feet in short area to separate while also having the long speed to break away enough from defensive backs to win deep down the sideline. Although I’d like to see more space created between himself and the sideline when running go routes, it is able to be coached at the next level and is not a significant issue.
Tracking the Ball
Tracking the ball requires great focus and anticipation from pass catchers, and it’s something that Floyd also does well. He has moments in which he appears to wander off or lose focus when attempting to make a highlight-reel catch, but the majority of the time, he’s able to haul in passes with quality concentration wherever they are placed. Inaccuracy is something Floyd has had to contend with often due to the average quarterback talents throwing him the ball during his time at Notre Dame.
Releasing off the line of scrimmage is a significant part of a wide receiver’s game, whether he’s on or off the line initially, but it’s something that is not often seen in the college game. The majority of collegiate cornerbacks play off the line of scrimmage with a cushion between themselves and the opponent. However, even when they do play press coverage, they’re often not very good at it.
Despite this, it’s still important to note how the receiver reacts to bump-and-run coverage. Is he easily knocked off his route? Or does his superior upper body strength prevail? In the Golden Domer’s case, the latter holds true, as Floyd’s upper body strength and long arms enable him to deal with contact and continue developing into his route.
The key to playing receiver is catching the football, and if a receiver struggles to consistently catch the ball, he should be knocked for it. Floyd doesn’t have issues catching the ball, as he exhibits an impressive catching radius that reminds some of Larry Fitzgerald.
Despite his smaller than anticipated size, Floyd plays bigger and uses his long arms to haul in passes. He can also cleanly catch a pass thrown away from his body–which is a strongly-desired trait at the position–as well as trap it into his body. He appears to be a natural at catching passes, and it’s easily one of the strongest points of his game.
Yards After Catch
“Chunk yardage” is the term that NFL coaches like to use in today’s NFL when describing yards after the catch, and for good reason, as it’s a significant aspect of the game.
Floyd has shown on numerous occasions that he’s able to catch passes and turn up-field to pick up more yards. He appears to be well coached in this aspect of the game, and he also shows that he is instinctive when running with the ball after the catch. He’s able find open areas by crossing the field and picking up significant yardage, and his physicality and overall strength enable him to shake off tacklers.
The 2012 receiver class is deep with size, speed, yards after the catch ability, and overall explosiveness, but few have all of those traits in their game.
Floyd is a high-flying pass catcher who can beat you deep with superior footwork and speed, or catch the ball and punish you with an instinctive and bruising running style. Because of this ability along with his quality hands, he is one of the top prospects in the draft, and arguably the top in his class.
But where will he go in the draft? The pick when a player comes off the draft board doesn’t always indicate how good the player is, as there are many other factors that contribute to a draft grade and choice. One of which is character — which is a significant red flag for Floyd.