NFL draft 2013 position preview: Defensive linemen

This is the ninth in a series of 10 looks at the available prospects in the draft. Other installments: Safety | offensive line | cornerbacks | running backs | inside linebackers | wide receivers | pass-rushers | Today: Defensive line | Thursday: Quarterbacks

As he prepared for his junior season at Florida, defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd wrestled with concerns about his future. A highly touted prospect coming out of high school, he experienced immediate success, shining as a freshman and sophomore.

He hoped the NFL awaited following his junior season, but didn’t know if leaving school early was the right decision, or how his coach would take it. But just before the start of the season, Florida Coach Will Muschamp made the decision easy for Floyd.

“Before my season started I sat down with coach Muschamp and [defensive coordinator] Dan Quinn and Coach Muschamp said, ‘If you’re going in the first round this year I’m kicking you out,’ ” Floyd recalled at the combine in February. “So that took a chip off of my shoulder where I didn’t have to worry about what I was going to do after this season and it allowed me to focus on my team.”

With the pressure lifted, Floyd continued to live up to expectations. The 6-foot-3, 303-pounder moved back from end to tackle, and racked up 46 tackles for a second consecutive season. He increased his sack total — 6.5 in 2012 after notching 1.5 in 2011. Florida posted an 11-1 record before falling to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl.

“And at the end of the year, after the Sugar Bowl, coach came in and shook my hand and said, ‘Congratulations, now go make your name known in the league.’ And that was him telling me to get out of Florida. So I shook his hand, shook all the coaches hands, talked a little bit and he said if I ever needed anything, give him a call.”

Now, just less than four months later, Floyd is expected to go among the top five in the NFL Draft, as the consensus top interior lineman available.

“I have Sharrif Floyd No. 2 on my board,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock says. “I have [Central Michigan offensive tackle] Eric Fisher No. 1 and Sharrif Floyd No. 2, and that tells you how much I like Sharrif Floyd. What I love about the kid is he’s a prototypical three technique, which is the defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense. His quickness and ability to get off the field and disrupt the pass game is unique for a defensive tackle, and if you can get a defensive tackle that can affect the pass game, you’ve got something special. And he’s also stout enough to play the run, so I have him No. 2 on my board. I love the kid.”

ESPN analysts Todd McShay and Mel Kiper both project Floyd to go third overall to the Oakland Raiders.

Floyd has enjoyed the high expectations that have been placed upon him.

“It’s kind of like, you give me [that status] and I’m not giving it up. It’s that kind of a thing,” he said. “Honestly, they feel I’m at the top and I’m trying not to lose that right now. If they’re talking about me, let’s keep them talking about me.”

Floyd admittedly has some studying to do once he gets to the NFL. Asked what player his game most closely resembles, he confesses that he didn’t know because he doesn’t really watch pro football.

“I haven’t really watched the league in a long time … The first game I ever watched was the Super Bowl when the Colts won it in 2007,” Floyd said. “It wasn’t that there was no interest, I just didn’t know nothing about it, so there was no reason to watch it. Even when I started playing there was no interest in watching it because I liked to play it instead of sitting down and being still and watching a game.”

Jones’s top 10 defensive linemen:

1. Sharrif Floyd, Florida, 6-3, 297, 1st round.
2. Star Lotulelei, Utah, 6-3, 311, 1.
3. Sheldon Richardson, Missouri, 6-3, 294, 1.
4. Sylvester Williams, North Carolina, 6-3, 313, 1-2.
5. Jesse Williams, Alabama, 6-4, 323, 2.
6. Kawann Short, Purdue, 6-3, 299, 2.
7. Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State, 6-3, 320, 2.
8. John Jenkins, Georgia, 6-4, 346, 3.
9. Bennie Logan, LSU, 6-2, 309, 3.
10. Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern State, 6-1, 335, 3-4

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The Post’s position previews: Safety | offensive line | cornerbacks | running backs | inside linebackers | wide receivers | pass-rushers | tight ends

Team-by-team draft needs | Prospect reports, sortable by position & school

Opening Kick: Trade a pick this year for a better one next year?

Associated Press: No first rounder, no problem for Redskins, because of RGIII

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