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Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd projected as first-round draft pick

Notre Dame wide receiver Theo Riddick top jumps back wide receiver Michael Floyd after Floyd scored touchdown against Navy during

Notre Dame wide receiver Theo Riddick, top, jumps on the back of wide receiver Michael Floyd after Floyd scored a touchdown against Navy during the first half of an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

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Updated: December 4, 2011 11:14AM

Instead of participating in the 2012 NFL draft, perhaps the Bears could negotiate territorial rights to Notre Dame prospects.

Manti Te’o could be groomed to be Brian Urlacher’s successor if the junior linebacker declares himself eligible, which seems likely.

Harrison Smith could be the solution to the team’s merry-go-round at safety.

In the best fit of all, Michael Floyd could become Jay Cutler’s new favorite target, an ideal candidate to fill the Bears’ long-glaring need for a No. 1 receiver.

Floyd is one of college football’s most dominant receivers and has the ability to become an instant impact player in the NFL.

“The way the NFL is playing the game now, he has real value,” said Notre Dame TV analyst Mike Mayock, who is also NFL Network’s draft expert. “He’s going to make plays as a rookie before he learns how to run routes and has the size to make plays outside the numbers and in the red zone. He’s one of the best blocking wideouts in the country. NFL coaches will fall in love with his physicality.”

Floyd’s ability has never been the issue. He has had three alcohol-related brushes with the law in three years and was suspended indefinitely during the offseason by Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. That sort of things raises a red flag with NFL scouts who worry about his ability to handle the fame and fortune that come with being a high draft pick.

He will have to continue to address those concerns leading up to the draft or risk tumbling out of the first round.

“I’ve been really impressed by how he has gone about his business,” Mayock said. “There’s a work ethic and an attitude. I was at practice in August. I get to see more of the Notre Dame kids, which is nice. I came out of those August practices really impressed with how he went about his business. He was a little lighter, faster.

“I haven’t seen him drop a pass yet. The first half of last year, he dropped several passes, had a fumble or two. None of that is happening this year. What I’m seeing is a kid who is playing faster, who has incredible quick and strong hands. He can snatch the football. He’s aggressive pursuing every ball in the air. All those things show me he’s a more mature kid on and off the field.”

His unique combination of size (6-3, 224 pounds), speed and strength allows him to make plays despite always being the focus of an opponent’s defensive game plan. With 63 catches for 788 yards and five touchdowns, he has been Notre Dame’s best possession receiver and big-play threat.

“The guy was unbelievable,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “What Floyd did against us we have seen him do against everybody. The guy is a big-time receiver. You throw the hitch out to him and he stiff-arms guys, most of them for touchdowns. He’s catching the ball underneath. He’s catching balls over the top. The kid is a complete player.”

It’s not as if NFL scouts didn’t see Floyd coming. He was an impact player as a true freshman and is currently Notre Dame’s all-time leader in receptions (234), receiving yards (3,327), touchdown receptions (33) and 100-yard games (17).

Most draft experts rank him with South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery and Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon as the best receiving prospects in the draft. Mayock compares Floyd to former LSU and current Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl receiver Dwayne Bowe.

“Michael’s development has been fantastic,” former Notre Dame quarterback and current NFL Network analyst Joe Theismann said. “I’ve been able to watch him grow up as a man and a football player. He’s a man among boys. He’s a beast at that level. A year ago, he couldn’t have played pro football successfully. Now he can make that transition comfortably.

“His skill set suits the next level very well. He has worked real hard at coming out of his cuts and getting his head around. He has strong hands. You can throw the ball to Michael like [Detroit Lions quarterback] Matthew Stafford throws the ball to [Lions receiver] Calvin Johnson. Let him make a play. There are very few college defensive backs who can outmuscle him for the ball.”

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay ranks him as the 19th-best prospect in the 2012 draft while colleague Mel Kiper Jr. has him at 33rd. Either way, he could be available to the Bears, depending on where they finish.

It could be a perfect fit, providing his alcohol-related entanglements are behind him.

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