Vikings’ 25 and under top 10: Sharrif Floyd

Sharrif Floyd made big strides in 2014 and could work himself into being a long-term Viking with another year of improvement.

Sharrif Floyd was the first of three first-round selections for the Minnesota Vikings in the 2013 NFL Draft. After the NFL Scouting Combine, there were some experts that were saying he was one of the best players in the draft and had him being a top-10 pick. To the Vikings delight, however, he fell to them at No. 23 overall and they happily selected him.

Floyd was brought in to replace long-time defensive tackle standout Kevin Williams. Floyd struggled during his rookie season and his struggles were likely amplified by the success that Williams had during his career in Minnesota. And even though it was just his first year in the NFL, many people were already writing off Floyd as a bust.

It is not clear why Floyd struggled during his rookie season, but it seems that what the coaching staff at the time was trying to teach him did not quite click. Once Mike Zimmer took over as the Vikings new head coach and the scheme changed, everything seemed to change for the second-year defensive tackle and the potential he showed in college began to be realized.

The defensive tackle comes in at 6-foot-3, 311 pounds, and even with that size he still has a good first step and is very athletic. That is why it was so confusing for people when he struggled in his first season, posting 19 tackles, 2½ sacks and one forced fumble in 16 games. He was able to improve on those numbers during his second season even though he played in two fewer games. In 2014, Floyd recorded 42 tackles and 4½ sacks.

Even though Floyd officially played in 14 games during the 2014 season, it was realistically more like he played in 12 games. He struggled with injuries during the middle of the season and tried to play on multiple occasions in those two games where he had to be pulled after fewer than 20 snaps. Despite the injuries and limited snaps, though, Floyd was still able to put up improved numbers from his rookie season and, if he can stay healthy, should only continue to improve in 2015.

This season will be the third year of Floyd’s four-year rookie contract, which means the Vikings will have to be making a decision based on his future soon. If he is able to continue to show the development he had between his rookie and second season, and can stay healthy, you can be sure that the Vikings are going to want to give him a long-term deal and have him hold down the middle of their defensive line for years to come.

There are several young players on the Vikings’ roster that they are going to try to get deals done with, but one or two might have to be let go because there is not enough money to go around. Since Floyd was a first-round pick, he will have a fifth-year option that could be exercised in March. This should ultimately help his chances of staying with the team long-term because it gives the Vikings a longer amount of time to work something out with him.

Say the Vikings are not able to get something done with Floyd while he is still under contract, and he tests the free-agent market. What happens if he decides to leave and join some other team? Is there anyone else on the current roster that could replace him? Tom Johnson is currently 30 years old and his contract will be up in 2017 as well, and at the age of 32 it will be less likely that the team re-signs him instead of Floyd. The other reasonable option would be Shamar Stephen. He was a seventh-round pick by the team in 2014 and started in place of Floyd when he was injured. Stephen appears to be a solid defensive tackle but lacks the playmaking ability that Floyd has.

If Floyd continues to progress, though, it seems very unlikely that the Vikings will part ways with him. He is a young and athletic player that has the ability to be a run stopper as well as rush the passer and you can be sure the Vikings are going to want to keep they are going to do everything they can to keep him in Minnesota. But he has to continue to improve and show he can stay healthy.

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