Vikings' pick at No. 23: Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings needed help in the middle. They got it in a place they didn't think was possible.
With the 23rd overall pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday night, the Vikings selected Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who had been projected by many as a top-five pick.
"I don't think any of us foresaw that he would come down to 23," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "I just don't recall us really talking about that. And if we did, we all said it would be a no-brainer, and it turned out to be just that. There wasn't any hesitation when we realized that he was going to be there."
Floyd, 21, played in 37 games (26 starts) over his three seasons with the Gators, finishing his career with 105 tackles (26 for loss), 4½ sacks and three blocked field goals.
The 6-foot-3, 297-pound Philadelphia native moved from end to the interior in 2012, when he led Florida with 13 tackles for loss and was named a Sporting News All-American.
"He can anchor. He can hold the point," Florida coach Will Muschamp said in a conference call with Twin Cities reporters. "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."
Despite projections, Floyd ended up being the third defensive tackle selected, after Sheldon Richardson (No. 13 to Jets) and Star Lotulelei (No. 14 to Carolina).
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said he sees Floyd as a natural undertackle -- the position Kevin Williams has held down for the past decade.
"He's a young player that's only going to get better," Spielman said. "He'll have a great opportunity to come in here, working with our defensive staff and with our defensive line. We expect a lot of big things from him, not only next year, but into the future years as well."
Williams, 32, took a pay cut last week that ensures he'll remain with the Vikings for an 11th season, meaning he figures to play in a rotation with the rookie.
"I think it's going to be a great combination for us," Frazier said. "Kevin is still a guy who's 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, very good football player for a long time."
How does Floyd feel about stepping into those shoes?
"He's a great player and a veteran and he's doing a great job," Floyd said of Williams, a five-time All-Pro and the Vikings' last first-round selection at defensive tackle (No. 9 in 2003).
"I'm just more excited to get in and learn from him and play under him."