One of the biggest positions of need for the Jacksonville Jaguars heading into the NFL Draft is wide receiver. Realistically, this has been one of the team's biggest needs since Jimmy Smith retired after the 2005 NFL season. The team has swung and missed in the first round of the draft and in free agency, but the 2012 NFL Draft is loaded with good wide receiver prospects, so there should be a guy or two the Jaguars can target.
One player in particular who has grown on me the more and more I continue to go back and watch games, including being pushed by my friend and former North Carolina safety Michael Felder to go back and watch 2010 games, is Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd. I mentioned before the Jaguars need to be looking for that "X" wide receiver, and Floyd is a guy in the draft who I think can eventually become that receiver they're looking for.
Against Michigan last season, Floyd finished up the game with 13 catches for 159 yards and no touchdowns. Michigan ultimately won the game, but in the game Floyd showed the many different ways he can be used in the offense. For Floyd's first catch, the Michigan defense is playing off coverage, and it's pretty deep because you can't even see the corner in the frame. Floyd runs a corner route and undercuts the zone the corner is in, securing the football as he heads to the sideline for the first down. Floyd does a good job shielding the ball from the corner breaking in and hauling in the catch. While I'd prefer him to catch it with his hands rather than allow it into his body like he did, he hauled in the reception.
The next three catches by Floyd are some quick passing concepts, used to get him the ball in his hands and let him use his run after the catch ability. At 6'3" and 224 pounds, Floyd is a tough receiver to bring down and does a nice job not giving defenders a solid target to bring down. On the slant route where Floyd picks up the first down after the catch, he does a nice job slapping away the press, getting inside position, and securing the football as the safety is coming in on him. The safety misses and Floyd is able to pick up some extra yards by essentially running over the corner.
On the next play, Floyd once again catches a little short quick pass and shows off the deceptive speed he has, squaring up the defender and just beating him to the angle for the first down and another additional 10 yards or so.
After a few incompletions and an interception by Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees, Floyd is able to make a nice catch on the sideline down the field. He beats the jam of the Michigan corner and is able to run past him, slowing down to get in position for the Rees pass and going up for the football, catching it cleanly with both hands, and bringing it down in bounds. Floyd begins to create separation, but Rees throws up a jump ball and because Floyd beat the corner's jam attempt, he's able to put himself in good position to go up for the ball and win.
One of the big benefits of Floyd is he excels lining up anywhere on the field. You can line up him as the X receiver, the Z receiver or in the slot and do a lot of different things. In 2011, Notre Dame utilized Floyd a lot on quick passes and slants, I'm guessing because their quarterback tends to be slow on his deeper progressions and becomes erratic down the field. Floyd can get down the football field if need be and he wins a lot of jump balls and contested passes. He also does a nice job of being physical and using his size after the catch and picking up first downs. This area is something I think will translate to the NFL for Floyd, whereas with Justin Blackmon I'm not so sure it will.
Here's another game cut up of Floyd against South Florida in the first game of the season. He ended the game with 12 catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns.
The very first catch in this game gives you another idea of what Floyd does with the ball in his hands. While he did run in the 4.3 and 4.4 range in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, I don't feel he necessarily plays that fast. Floyd does however seem to accelerate quickly when he's got the ball, as evidenced by his first catch against South Florida. The corner tries to jump the route and misses, Floyd plucks the ball with both hands cleanly and the cuts to the hole in the middle of the field to pick up a chunk of yardage.
There is another real nice play by Floyd later in the game cut, where Floyd beats the corner playing press and just runs past him. Floyd makes the extended leaping catch, using both hands to catch it cleanly, and come down with the football for a chunk of yardage. You can skip to that play by following this link. If you keep watching the game, South Florida had so much trouble trying to jam Floyd at the line of scrimmage, they even put a linebacker over him to try and not allow him to beat the bump coverage, but he uses his quickness to get past the linebacker on a short route over the middle to pick up yardage.
The big negative with Michael Floyd that a team is going to have to look into are his off the field troubles with alcohol. Floyd has been busted for a DUI and has two other underage drinking incidents on his resume, but after being reinstated by Notre Dame after his DUI arrest in March of 2011, he seems to have cleaned up his act. As far as Michael Floyd on the football field, the only real big worry is if he can beat guys deep in the NFL because he didn't show much of that his senior season, but after watching 5-6 game cuts of just Floyd, it's easy to see why his YPC took a dip in 2011 and 2010 as opposed to 2009 and 2008 when he was playing with Jimmy Clausen.
The big question is where do you take Michael Floyd in the draft, especially if you're the Jaguars. Do you go ahead and make that move and draft him at No. 7 overall if you can't move out of the spot? I think if you've done your homework on the personal side of Floyd, and don't think the alcohol is going to be a problem, you can get away with trying to address that need. Ideally though, if you could drop back in the middle teens and still land Floyd, that's probably the best value. Reportedly after the DUI incident, Floyd moved back into the Notre Dame dorms and put his focus back on football.
For me, Michael Floyd is the best receiver in this class, but I'm still not sure I'd spend a Top 10 pick on him.