Will we see Florence do this in Carolina? - Rick Stewart
In the biggest splash since Mike Tolbert, Gettleman decided "we can have nice things too" and signed a relatively known name throughout the NFL. And then they signed Drayton Florence.
Gotcha didn't I? In all seriousness, Drayton Florence can be described a journeyman in this league, who has more starts in his career than the combined games PLAYED of every other cornerback on the Panthers roster (that's a scary thought isn't it?). Florence worked with Rivera in San Diego, though Rivera was a linebacker coach the one year they crossed paths in this league.
Florence would be selected 46th overall in the second round of the 2003 NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers, behind fellow teammate, cornerback Sammy Davis Jr., who was selected 30th overall and is no longer in this league. Florence was originally drafted to play as a nickel corner and safety, but managed to work his way into the starting lineup by his second season. In 13 games played with only 5 starts, Florence logged 4 interceptions and 7 pass deflections. Florence would record 10 interceptions and 44 pass deflections in the 4 seasons with starts as a Charger. But, as happens with many cornerbacks, they get a big contract after being relatively successful in this league.
In 2008, Florence would receive a six year, 36 million dollar contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. After only one year and eight starts, Florence would be cut. Now, most of the time when a cornerback sees this kind of fall from grace, it can be tough to bounce back. However, Florence played arguably his best football as a Buffalo Bill from 2009-2011, clocking in 45 starts, 7 interceptions, 38 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, and two touchdowns.
It is very hard to gauge exactly how good Drayton Florence is against the run and pass, as most of the information out there is either a few years old or a few highlights here and there. However, Football Outsiders had some good rankings for Drayton Florence during his time in Buffalo. Florence's "success rate" had him ranked 7th overall in the league among all corners.
Success Rate, to remind everyone, is the percentage of passes that don't manage to get at least 45 percent of needed yards on first down, 60 percent of needed yards on second down, or 100 percent of needed yards on third down.
In another article from 2009, Football Outsiders had Drayton Florence ranked fifth in "run plays", as in solo or assisted tackles on a run play, not a completed pass.
Is this concrete proof that Drayton Florence is a great player? Absolutely not. In fact, Football Outsiders player profile on the guy has him anywhere from the top 10 in the league one year to the bottom 95 the next year. He is not consistently an elite player at any particular skill, but we are getting what we paid for here. A one year deal for just above the bare minimum is all Carolina can afford right now. Florence has been around this league, and the only major concern with Florence right now is health, after being sidelined by injury for most of 2012.
Where He Fits
Looking at the Carolina roster from a pure "who-we-have-right-now" perspective, Florence would easily find a place. His versatility will cater to the coaching staff, something that we all know Rivera likes. If Carolina elects not to draft a corner, we will likely see a combination of Florence, Josh Thomas, James Dockery, and Josh Norman. Florence has experience at both the nickel cornerback and outside corner positions. Florence also possesses the ability to shift to safety, because we all know that you can never have too many backup plans when it comes to injury in the Carolinas.
The dream scenario here is that Carolina finds a cornerback in the first or second round, signs a few more Florence-esque free agents in the secondary, and our front seven continues its dominance so that the weak secondary isn't torched every single week. However, Norman has a great deal of work to do, as do the other two youngsters on the roster. Florence will undoubtedly step in as at least the nickel, though my gut tells me he stays on the field more than any other corner we possess right now.
So begin to learn Florence's name here folks, I believe he might just stick with us after training camp this year. He's not as big of a name (like Derek Anderson or Ben Hartsock) as some fans might hope, but this is all Carolina can do right now with the way cap is.
Oh! And you thought I wasn't going to include any highlights? Well, here is Florence's best play of his ENTIRE career. I mean, how could you not be afraid of this guy?
Jets vs. Bills: Mark Sanchez Gets Punked By Drayton Florence (11/6/11)
And a big thanks to Football Outsiders for their in depth information. All credit goes to them for their info for this analysis.