EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — From the moment the Minnesota Vikings drafted Sharrif Floyd in the first round of April’s draft, ending the Florida’s defensive tackles unexpected slide down the board, the topic of how Floyd would be used in his first season was debated.
Defensive tackle wasn’t the team’s biggest need on draft day, with Minnesota’s top four tackles from last year returning this season. But the Vikings felt like Floyd was too special of a talent to pass up and they will likely have holes to fill along the defensive line next season with five of the top six linemen slated for free agency.
Floyd was seen as the perfect replacement for longtime 3-technique tackle Kevin Williams. But with Williams back for one more season with Minnesota, could Floyd also play nose tackle next to Williams this season? Not according to coach Leslie Frazier.
Speaking at the end of last week’s minicamp, Frazier indicated that Floyd will be used strictly on a rotational basis with Williams and likely won’t be spending any time at nose tackle in place of Letroy Guion or Fred Evans.
“Well, that wouldn’t be a bad problem to have,” Frazier said of playing Williams and Floyd on the field together. “We’d go for that and then we’d make a decision based on the fact that they are playing at a high level. I don’t foresee such a drop off with Letroy or Fred for that to happen. But if for some reason that were to happen, then we’d have to consider it. But I don’t envision those guys not playing up to par.”
Instead, Frazier sees Floyd evolving into a rotation with Williams and hopefully increasing the rookie’s snaps as the season progresses.
“I’d like to be able to get him in a rotation system where he’s a part of what we’re doing with our four down where he’s getting in sometimes with Kevin and just rotating,” Frazier said. “Hopefully to the point where he’s productive enough where he can warrant increased reps as the year goes on. That would be optimal if he’s able to get in the rotation, have success and we can gradually add more to his plate as the season goes on.”
Williams’s long tenure with the Vikings is almost assuredly over after this season following a contract restructuring that he agreed to this offseason. In getting his 2013 salary guaranteed, and reduced, the final year of Williams’ contract for 2014 was voided. Floyd, as expected when he was drafted No. 23 overall, is William’s eventual replacement.
Floyd played all over the line while at Florida. He said he went from nose tackle to the 3-technique to even out as far as a wide-nine on the line, with his weight fluctuating from 290 pounds to 330 pounds in college to meet the demands of where the Gators lined him up.
But Floyd said he is most comfortable at the 3-technique currently manned by Williams. He won’t get the chance to start right away, but that’s not to say Floyd wouldn’t be ready.
“The one thing about him — I was just mentioning a second ago about young guys playing situational football and the situations are new to them and they make some mistakes — but he’s game ready,” Minnesota defensive coordinator Alan Williams said last week. “He had a good coach at Florida and they prepared him well. So it’s not too much different what we’re doing here so a lot of things translate over to what he did in college. We’re looking for good things from him.”
Alan Williams has seen some of the same skills during the team’s offseason program that had the Vikings anxious on draft day as Floyd got closer to their first pick at No. 23
“He’s quick twitch,” Alan Williams said. “He can anchor in the run. He’s very disruptive at the three (technique). And he has good pass rush moves. I know his stats may not have shown it. But he’s been tremendous in these OTAs. He’s another one we can’t wait to get the pads on to kind of see what happens when we get the pads on, if he’s still productive.”
As for that wait on draft day to see if Floyd would still be around?
“Nervousness, that he fell and how much we were going to have to wait,” Alan Williams said. “We had a little space in there and he kept falling and falling. And boy I’ll tell you, when it got down close to us, just nervousness that, ‘Hey he’s right within our grasp, but is he really going to be there when we pick.’ Jubilation, you name it. We felt it when we had it. He’s a good, good football player.”
He just won’t be one of the few rookies who are starting right from Day 1.