As the Super Bowl has passed us by, the NFL offseason is officially underway. Free agency will be here quite shortly along with May’s NFL Draft. Last week I broke down two top free safety prospects in Stanford’s Ed Reynolds and Alabama’s Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix. This week I’ll start off with my top ranked safety in the entire draft: Louisville’s Calvin Pryor.
The ACC All-American from Port St. Joe, Florida stands at six feet, two inches and weighs 208 pounds. He has a long frame and throws his weight around often. It is safe to assume he could play at the same speed after bulking up to 215 or 220 pounds.
In his final season at Louisville, the junior caused five turnovers (three interceptions and two fumbles) while compiling 69 tackles, five and a half of those were for a loss. In his sophomore season he had 100 tackles and forced five fumbles while starting every game.
Pryor’s length is fantastic and he puts it on full display. He extends his arms for the ball like a wide receiver and displays plus strength when dragging down ball carriers.
Pryor is regarded as one of the most physical players in the entire draft. He has a ton of bone crushing, highlight reel hits. His physical presence is very reminiscent of LaRon Landry’s style of play during his tenure as a Jet. He also displays impressive open field tackling against tight ends and wide receivers.
His downhill speed is the best I’ve seen from all of the safeties in this draft class and his force behind his tackles have caused a lot of fumbles throughout his career.
Considering he offers much more against the run than players like Ed Reynolds and Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, his pass coverage does not show a significant drop off. While I think both of those players are slightly better between the 20′s, Pryor’s size is a force in the red zone.
He has all the potential to match up against larger wide receivers and tight ends extremely well in the end zone, a skill set that teams will highly value as passing attacks continue to develop in today’s NFL.
While Pryor plays like a locomotive, it sometimes backfires on him. At times he over pursues and misses due to a combination of taking a poor angle and simply moving too fast downhill.
If he can learn to dstinguish when to go for the big hit (which he is fully capable of) and when to slow down to wrap up a shiftier runner, he will be more stable against the run.
At times where he chooses to go low rather than shoulder through a player, he dives at the opposition’s feet. It is a strange habit that is easily fixed, but it jumps out on all of his missed tackles. If he can work on wrapping up at the legs rather than trying to trip up more elusive players, his missed tackles will significantly decrease.
While his range is certainly not a flaw, he shows less between the 20′s than the previous mentioned Clinton-Dix and Ed Reynolds. Teams looking for a true ball hawk may overlook Pryor, even though he seems to be a much more complete player.
How does he fit with the Jets?:
The Jets clearly need a true, young free safety, something they have not had since Kerry Rhodes was with the team. Pryor’s physical presence could have the same effect LaRon Landry had brought to the defense in 2012.
The Jets red zone defense was quite good and Pryor could make it even better. He needs time to develop his coverage in between the 20′s, as he is most likely not ready to take on tight ends in 1 on 1 man coverage.
The bottom line is that the Jets need guys who create turnovers to take their defense to the next level and that’s Pryor’s specialty. He has a knack for the big play by causing fumbles with hard hits and reading under thrown balls for interceptions.
I currently have Calvin Pryor as my top ranked free safety in the 2014 draft class. While that does not seem to be a popular opinion, it is hard to argue with the tape. He has a diverse skill set and the potential to take his game to the next level.
It is rare to find a guy with a ton of raw ability that also translates it on the field at such a young age. Pryor has been a starter for Louisville since his freshman season and had quite the impact for their defense throughout his career.
I see him falling between picks 18-35 in this draft and he is definitely a potential difference maker at the next level.
Follow Connor Rogers: @Real_CR3