While the names of Reggie Ragland and Darron Lee have swirled when pundits project front-runners for the Falcons' first-round draft pick, there is another player who is quietly making a very strong case to become the linebacker Atlanta is longing for.
He also happens to have attended college 46 miles up the road from where the Falcons training facility is located, and Georgia football fans know exactly who he is.
For the past three seasons in Athens, Leonard Floyd has been the face of the Bulldogs' defense. Floyd was Georgia's defensive MVP for his play in the 2014 season where he had 8.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. In his final season, he led his team in sacks for the third straight year with 4.5 and was tied for the team lead with 10.5 tackles for loss.
NFL.com's Chad Reuter says Floyd’s sack totals don’t necessarily show the impact he is able to make, it's his versatility that is most impressive, and something Coach Dan Quinn values highly when it comes to his linebackers.
Quinn was asked multiple times throughout last season if he was concerned with his team's sack number, and although he'll be the first to tell you he would like that number to be higher, he takes multiple things into consideration when evaluating a player, starting first and foremost with athletic ability.
Despite not being able to finish his Combine workout due to a hamstring injury, Floyd's impressive showing in the drills he was able to participate in helped his stock as he proved to be not only one of the best linebackers in Indianapolis, but perhaps maybe one of the most athletic players in the entire draft class. His speed, athleticism and length exuded on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium.
His solid 40-yard dash time (4.60 seconds) and his 39.5-inch vertical coupled with his size and length caught the eyes of many NFL scouts and coaches. And the Falcons' attendance list at Georgia’s pro day proves every bit of that.
Draft analysts have recently added Floyd to their mock drafts, switching from the popular names of Ragland and Lee for the Falcons. NBC TV's Cris Collinsworth believes the UGA product could fill several roles for Atlanta.
"If you like the versatility of Jamie Collins from the Patriots, you will like Leonard Floyd. Floyd can rush the passer, play inside linebacker, and looks athletic enough to cover backs and tight ends, which is becoming such an important trait for linebackers," Collinsworth said of his pick for the Falcons. "Floyd is a little long-legged for coverage change of direction, but big plays come from guys like Jamie Collins and Ryan Shazier, and I expect the same from Floyd."