Vikings take Florida's Floyd with first pick at No. 23
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings are known for ending the fall of top prospects in the NFL Draft.
They did it again Thursday.
Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was once considered a potential top-five pick, but he slipped to No. 23 before Minnesota ended his slide with the first of what ended up as three first-round picks. Floyd becomes the understudy to veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams and possibly Williams' eventual replacement inside.
"I think it's going to be a great combination for us," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said of having Williams and Floyd together. "Kevin is still a guy who is viable for us. We're excited that he's back for another season, and he'll get a chance to tutor a guy who we think is going to be a very good football player for a long time; should be a great combination for our team."
Minnesota had run thousands of scenarios in trying to predict who might fall to No. 23. Floyd being available was never one of those options, though the Vikings were enamored of the athletic tackle.
"I can just tell you honestly, he was not in one of those scenarios," Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman said. "So for him to fall down to our lap, I know there was some conversations as he fell to potentially even move up. But as the names kept falling off the board, we had more than enough option to just sit there and let everything fall to us. And when Shariff fell to us, it was something that was very unexpected that he would come that far because we had him that high on our board. He's an under tackle who can play the run. He can rush the passer. He played some end his junior year, and then when they moved him back inside to his natural position, he really flourished and showed what he can be as a defensive tackle."
Floyd, in New York for the draft, didn't worry about his slide down the board.
"I didn't really come into this thing thinking I was going to go to a specific place," he said via teleconference. "I came in waiting for the best fit for me and that's how I looked at it. I didn't look at it I was going somewhere else. I was just waiting for the best ballclub to pick me, and I'm happy Spielman felt it in himself to pick me."
Floyd, 21, was an early draft entrant, coming off a season in which he had 46 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and three sacks for the Gators. The 6-foot-3, 297-pound Floyd is has experience all along the line but seems a logical replacement for the five-time All-Pro Williams.
Four of the Vikings' top six defensive lineman will be free agents after the 2013 season, including Williams, who restructured his contract this offseason to guarantee his 2013 salary but had the 2014 portion of his deal deleted in the process.
Minnesota is looking to get younger on defense, and Floyd can likely be a backup in 2013 before developing into a starter.
"I don't think there's any question the Vikings got better today," Florida coach Will Muschamp said. "He's an outstanding young man. First of all, he's going to be great in the locker room. He's an outstanding player. He's a guy, in my opinion, who's got huge upside as a player. He's really only played inside the one full year. He's going to continue to improve and get better with time. He can anchor, he can hold the point, he's got great initial quickness. He can disengage, he can give you some pass rush. He's an every down player inside in the NFL."
And as they've done in the past with the likes of Randy Moss and Percy Harvin, the Vikings weren't going to let him slip any further. Some mock drafts had Floyd going as high as No. 3 to the Oakland Raiders, but as offensive linemen ruled the first half of the first round, Floyd slipped and Minnesota didn't hesitate.
"Some of those offensive linemen pushed down some of that defense, and it worked in our favor because of a lot of our needs that we were trying to fill were on the defensive side of the ball," Spielman said. "I think the run on the offensive linemen had an integral part of those guys falling to us."
And the Vikings started their three-pick first round with a talent few saw dropping to No. 23.
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