By Chris Emma–
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) — When Leonard Floyd visited with the Bears leading up to the NFL Draft, he didn’t want to leave Halas Hall. The Bears’ rich tradition combined with their coaching staff and personnel created the ideal situation in Chicago.
Floyd returned to Halas Hall on Friday as the Bears’ new linebacker, after they selected him ninth overall in the first round Thursday.
“I felt like it was a dream come true being drafted by the Bears,” Floyd said.
During those many meetings with the Bears, Floyd felt he had vibed with general manager Ryan Pace, coach John Fox and the team’s brass. Those feelings were mutual, with the Bears moving up two spots in the draft order to select Floyd. In swapping first-round picks with Tampa Bay, Chicago also sent off one of its fourth-round picks.
For Pace and the Bears, it was a worthwhile move to trade up for a player they loved.
“We said all along that we wanted to improve the athleticism and the speed of our defense,” Pace said Thursday. “We’ve definitely done that with Leonard Floyd.”
Added Floyd: “I feel like we can do some great things together.”
The Bears view Floyd as an outside linebacker in their base 3-4 defense and acknowledged the NFL’s passing elements make him a great fit in their sub packages, too.
When Floyd remained on the board, Pace realized the Giants were in line to take their guy, so he made the move to swoop in.
Floyd didn’t produce eye-popping numbers at Georgia, though he points to a versatile role in the Bulldogs’ 3-4 defense that didn’t put him in position for pass rushing. The Bears will largely use Floyd as an edge rusher opposite Pernell McPhee.
The Bears’ greatest concern for Floyd is his size, which is below the prototypical 3-4 edge rusher in the NFL. Floyd checked into Lake Forest at 240 pounds, which is down from his 244 mark at the NFL Combine. The team believes he will remain the same great athlete with added size.
Floyd feels the same.
“I definitely believe I’ll be able to bring that same amount of speed,” Floyd said of bulking up to the Bears’ liking.
Floyd felt an instant connection with the Bears franchise during that first visit to Halas Hall. The Georgia native fit right in to Chicago’s team and quickly saw his future there.
Such a possibility came to fruition when the Bears took a chance on Floyd.
“They believe in me, and I believe in them,” Floyd said. “We can get the job done.”