Over the last three weekends of action in the NFL, Notre Dame great Michael Floyd has gone from a second year player struggling to live up to the hype of a first round pick to one of the NFL’s fastest rising young stars at wide receivers thanks to a torrid 3-game outburst. Such is life in the NFL. Struggling second year player one minute, super sophomore the next.
Through the first nine games of his second season with the Arizona Cardinals, Michael Floyd had caught just 36 passes for 464 yards. Solid numbers, but not the kind of numbers the Cardinals likely hoped from from a player they invested a first round pick on two Aprils ago. Something happened in the 10th game of the season, though. Floyd caught fire.
Three weeks ago against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Floyd hauled in 6 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinals 27-14 win over the Jags. A week later in a rout of the Colts, Floyd pulled in another 7 passes for 104 yards giving him back to back 100 yard performances for the first time in his professional career and the first time in his overall playing career since Floyd put up 154 and 159 yards in back to back weeks against South Florida and Michigan to start the 2011 season for Notre Dame.
This past weekend Floyd just missed out on a third consecutive 100 yard performance with 99 yards on five catches, but did reach the endzone for the fourth time this season. With that performance, Floyd has racked up 396 yards on 18 receptions, with two touchdowns in the last three weeks. That’s an average of 132 yards and 6 receptions a game and that is precisely the kind of production the Cardinals were hoping Floyd would provide to their struggling passing attack when they made him 13th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
With his recent outburst, Floyd looks like a virtual lock to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark in just his second season in the NFL. Want to take a guess who the last Notre Dame alum to do that was? I’ll save you the effort, it was Tim Brown all the way back in 2001. That means it’s been 12 years since a former Notre Dame wide receiver has eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark in the NFL. To put that another way, this year’s incoming freshmen were 5 or 6 years old the last time a Golden Domer broke 1,000 yards receiving in the NFL.
If Floyd continues playing at the level he’s been, not only will he establish himself as one of the game’s better young wide receivers, he will also serve as a reminder to recruits glued to their TV’s watching football on Sundays that Notre Dame can produce elite NFL receivers – something Notre Dame hasn’t had since Tim Brown.
Kelly and staff have done a great job building a deep receiving corps with players already on campus like Corey Robinson, Will Fuller, DaVaris Daniels, and Torii Hunter among others and with incoming recruits like Justin Brent and Corey Holmes, but for the most part Kelly hasn’t been able to get the attention of the elite, 5-star receivers like he has at other positions. In fact, since Kelly arrived at Notre Dame’s he’s recruited a 5-star player at running back, quarterback, offensive line, defensive line, defensive back, and linebacker, but not at wide receiver.
As Floyd continues to put up big numbers on Sundays though, Kelly and his staff will have more and more ammunition in their arsenal when they hit the recruiting trail in search of adding more elite talent to Notre Dame’s deep wide receiving corps. Right now, Floyd is on pace for a 1,147 yard, 72 reception season – a yardage total that would more than double his output from his rookie season and rival the production from the later years of Tim Brown’s career.
Floyd began to show signs that his recent production would become the norm for him at the end of his rookie season. After getting off to a very slow start as a rookie in 2012, Floyd exploded in week 17 with 8 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown – a performance that actually skewed some statistics that looked rather pedestrian heading into the final week of his rookie year. That level of production, or the lack there of, was a stark contrast to what Floyd was accustomed to from his days at Notre Dame when he came a major factor in the Irish aerial attack from day one of his freshman season.
As Floyd recently told ESPN, his rookie season and the experience he gained a year ago, has made his recent success possible. “Just being more comfortable out there on the field, getting more reps, just believing in yourself that you can get the job done and basically having that year under you, you realize that you’re a lot more comfortable, you realize what’s going on out there,” Floyd told ESPN’s John Weinfuss before last week’s game against the Eagles.
Notre Dame hasn’t had an elite NFL wide receiver to tout to recruits in a long time. Jeff Samardzija was an elite college receiver, but he choose a career in Major League Baseball. Golden Tate was a 2nd round pick of the Seahawks two years before Floyd went a round earlier, but he hasn’t had quite the level of success Floyd has reached this year even though he too is starting to emerge as a legit receiving threat for Seattle. The closest thing to a star NFL receiver Notre Dame has had since Brown is David Givens but injuries derailed his NFL career just as it had begun to take off.
Floyd had his ups and downs off the field while at Notre Dame, but on the field, he was a dominant player from day one. As the all-time leader in almost every receiving category at Notre Dame heads to the finish line of his second season, he is beginning to show that he can be that dominant player at the next level as well. If he does, it would be great for one of Notre Dame’s all time greats and it would be great for Notre Dame and the Irish coaching staff as they continue to work on upgrading the Irish roster on the recruiting front.