ATHENS — Leonard Floyd didn’t need to be at the NFL draft in Chicago to make an impact. The Bears took care of that for him.
The Bears used the ninth overall selection to take the Georgia outside linebacker, making him the first player from the SEC to be picked in this year’s draft.
“I’m ready to perform for them,” Floyd said during an interview on the team’s web site.
Floyd watched the draft in Atlanta at his aunt’s house.
“It was pretty chill, until the draft started and then everybody got nervous,” Floyd said.
Bears personnel director Josh Lucas told the team’s web site that Floyd’s versatility was attractive to them.
“We think there’s multiple things he can do besides rush the passer,” Lucas said. “Should he have rushed more in college, yes. We’ll take advantage of that. But there are a bunch of things he can do for us.”
It’s the highest a Georgia player has been picked in the draft since A.J. Green went fourth overall to Cincinnati in 2011. Floyd also went one spot earlier than former Georgia teammate Todd Gurley did last year. The Bears traded up to get Floyd, sending their 11th overall pick and fourth-round pick.
Floyd grew up in tiny Eastman, a part of Dodge County in Central Georgia. He once said it was literally a one-stoplight town. Now he’ll be able to buy it more stoplights if needed.
Since Floyd arrived at Georgia, he’s been considered a special talent. He was a candidate to declare for the draft after the 2014 season, his sophomore season, but elected to stay in school one more year and improve his stock. It proved to be the right move.
While Floyd didn’t have a spectacular season — he had 4.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles-for-loss — he was a major reason Georgia’s defense carried the team.
The lean, athletic Floyd was used in multiple roles at Georgia, including both outside linebacker spots, nickel back and inside linebacker. He started 32 of the 38 games he appeared in during his three years at Georgia.
Floyd became the 12th player from the Mark Richt era at Georgia to go in the first round. Five of them went in the top 10: Jonathan Sullivan (sixth to New Orleans in 2003), Matt Stafford (first to Detroit in 2009), Green, Gurley and now Floyd.
The Bears already have one former Georgia outside linebacker. Cornelius Washington has been with the team in a reserve role since 2013.