Florham Park, NJ – For most of the draft process everyone had the Jets drafting a wide receiver or tight end in the first round, but over the past couple of weeks that trend turned to cornerbacks.
After months of speculation the Jets finally made their selection and took a safety, Calvin Pryor, from Louisville.
The board seemed to be falling exactly the way the Jets were hoping and still the Jets surprised us by taking Pryor. Pryor is a great player and will be an outstanding in-the-box strong safety, but the fact that they passed on cornerback Darqueze Dennard, free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and to a lesser extent receiver Brandin Cooks is rather surprising.
Pryor is a devastating tackler that will blow up running backs, run through blockers and crush receivers that dare come across the middle. He was not asked to play much man-coverage as a free safety in college, as he played much more of a strong safety role, and he works best in tight spaces, but John Idzik and Rex Ryan both said they were impressed with his coverage ability multiple times.
Pryor earned a starting role in Louisville’s secondary with six games left in his freshman season and was an unquestioned starter at safety for the following two-and-a-half seasons before entering the draft after his junior season.
“We did a lot of homework on Calvin.” Idzik said, “He fits us, he fits our profile. He’s a physical presence on the field, has range, makes plays, creates turnovers and just plays like a Jet. So, we’re very happy to have Calvin on board.”
Before everyone starts guessing that this was a Ryan pick or an Idzik pick, Idzik said he went to watch Louisville play the University of Central Florida during last season and came back telling Ryan that he was going to fall in love with this kid.
“John had told me, during the year, ‘hey, I just saw a guy that you’re going to absolutely love.'” Ryan said, “The first series of the game he chased a guy down for a hit for a loss, then he gets the knockout hit and knocks a guy cold. Then he has the one-handed interception against Central Florida, all in one series. I was like, “I think that was a pretty good start.’
“But what I’m excited about is, John hits it on the head, this young man plays like a Jet. We pride ourselves on being a physical football team and he fits that profile. I mean this young man is an enforcer and I think that’s, you see some of those plays and hits and see how that can affect a game, just look at the Super Bowl and the play of (Kam) Chancellor back there and Earl Thomas. It’s how we want to play defense and I think this young man is going to step in and fit right in with the guys we already have.”
Pryor was considered more of strong safety, with some scouts questioning his range and coverage ability, but if the Jets had those concerns they didn’t show it and probably wouldn’t have drafted him at 18.
“As far as the coverage, and man stuff and all of that, I don’t think he played as much man, but this young man has plenty of cover skills.” Ryan said, “He’s got range, he’s got hands for the interceptions. So, he can play deep, he can play up. All those types of things, when we all looked at him and evaluated him we knew he had plenty of coverage skills.”
Idzik said it simply came down to taking the best player available, they made inquiries to trade up and listened to offers to trade down, but ultimately decided to jump on Pryor. But Idzik did admit this was one of those good cases of need marrying value.
“I guess you could say that.” Idzik said, “I think the overriding factor is he was the best player on our board.”
“Believe me there is a huge thing with his hitting ability.” Ryan said about what impressed him the most, “Big hits will win games and they’ll flip the momentum of a game faster than anything in my opinion.”
One concern with a hard-hitting safety like Pryor is that with the enforcement on “illegal hits” by defensive backs would a player like Pryor be susceptible to drawing a lot of flags? But the Jets insist that is not a worry of theirs.
“In viewing his tape, when he makes the impact hits they aren’t illegal hits.” Idzik said. “They’re just hard hits. So, we like having that style of play on our side.”
Pryor said he didn’t talk to anyone from the Jets during his pro day, but got a good feeling from the Jets when he visited them in Florham Park.
“I came in for a visit and I felt I fit that team very well and Coach Rex, a defensive-minded coach, he wanted me to go deep and slide back there and help improve their secondary. He felt like I was a great fit.”
Pryor said he feels like they ran a similar defense at Louisville as the Jets run and he will fit right in with this unit. He compared himself to Kam Chancellor and Dashon Goldson and looks forward to coming in, competing and helping make this defense better and he’s already on a mission to learn and absorb as much information as possible to become a better player.
“It’ll be great because Coach Ryan is going to be able to coach me up and teach me some things that I wasn’t able learn to in college.” Pryor said. “He’ll look for me to make an impact right away and he’s going to everything in his power to.”