EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — On the surface, Shariff Floyd can appear menacing at 6-foot-3, 297 pounds. His ferocity on the football field led him to become a first-round draft pick by the Minnesota Vikings.
But up close, Floyd wears an easy smile. He’s soft spoken and articulate.
“I’m always calm,” Floyd said during his introductory press conference in Minnesota. “Never too high, never too low. But yes, I have to (be mean on the field). You can never play nice on the field.”
The Vikings are hoping for just that dichotomy with Floyd; tough as nails on the field, steady as a rock off the field. The contrast in personality is easy to see why the big defensive tackle, taken by Minnesota with the No. 23 pick in the draft out of Florida, took his slide in the draft in stride.
Floyd insists he’s not mad about dropping to No. 23, although many believed he was a top-5 pick before the draft. He seems to be just fine with his given situation after landing with the Vikings and isn’t out vowing to make those teams that passed on him pay the price.
“I can’t be mad at anybody,” Floyd said. “I don’t hold no grudges and everything happens for a reason and I’m glad to be here.”
Floyd said he didn’t enter the draft with the belief he was going to land somewhere in particular. He had seen the mocks, many of which had him going No. 3 to the Oakland Raiders. But he wasn’t putting any stock in the pre-draft talk.
His contact with the Vikings was limited to an interview at the Scouting Combine and a visit to Minnesota during the team’s top-30 visit where several players are at the Vikings’ facility together. Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman has said in the days after drafting Floyd, he didn’t see the Florida defensive tackle there for the Vikings in “1,000 scenarios.”
As Floyd dropped, Spielman got excited. He said there was even talk about trading up to ensure they got him. Patience ruled on draft night and was rewarded. Spielman said he talks to all of the players during the team’s top-30 about such situations.
“I said, ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-rounder, where you go in the first round, if you’re a seventh-rounder. Right now, you’re just coming in and you’re just trying to help us win ballgames, establish your role,'” Spielman said. “Who’s going to say, ‘He’s a first-round pick so he gets to go to the front of the line.’ You’re going to be in the back of the line just like everybody else. So, it’s what they do once they get here, regardless of where you came or how you came, it’s how you’re going to perform when you get here. That’s what’s going to count and that’s what’s going to matter to people the most.”
The on-field production would have warranted Floyd being drafted earlier. Floyd played all over the defensive line at Florida. As a senior, he settled in at tackle and had three sacks, 13 tackles for loss, 46 total tackles, a forced fumble and two blocked kicks. He was named a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection and a third-team All-American, the first defensive lineman at Florida to earn All-American honors since 2001.
Floyd is the likely successor to Kevin Williams along the defensive line for the Vikings, a move that would come next year with Williams’ contract expiring. In his rookie season, Floyd will try to make an impact rotating in, though he said he can help anywhere along the line. Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier doesn’t believe moving around has stunted Floyd’s development.
“We see it as a positive because we do some things on third down where we move guys around a little bit,” Frazier said. “And we like his versatility, the fact that he’s played multiple positions on the defensive line. So we see it as a plus. On the other side of that, maybe the fact that he didn’t just root at one position could have slowed down a little bit, but not so much for us. We like the fact that he’s played multiple positions.
Floyd said he’s most comfortable as a three-technique tackle, where Williams has been a longtime standout. Floyd said he stayed slimmed down at Florida, because the team liked to play fast. Yet, he said he could bulk up to 330 pounds and help at nose tackle if the Vikings needed him there.
“I’ve played at 330 at the All-American game, where I still had two sacks as a three-technique,” Floyd said. “It’s up to them. I’m flexible. I’m willing to do whatever they need as long as I don’t mess up this great figure.”
The jokes seem to come easy for the affable Floyd. On his first day in Minnesota after being drafted, he met with former Vikings’ defensive tackle Pat Williams, who himself was fun-loving but also fiery when he needed to be.
“Just make the game your own and do what you got to do and do it the right way,” Floyd said of what Williams told him. “You have a bunch of people around you that love the Minnesota Vikings and love being here so take advantage of everything you have in front of you.”