In 5 years of drafting, Mayhew and the Lions have only drafted one safety (unless you count Spievey who was originally drafted as a CB). I'm guessing that'll change this year unless the Lions free up a lot of cap space by extending Suh and pick up a FS in free agency. If the Lions choose to take a safety with their 1st round pick, it'll most likely be either HaHa Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor.
Last week we took a good look at HaHa Clinton-Dix. Mike Mayock has just recently given out his prospect position rankings for this years NFL draft, and has HHCD as his #2 safety. He has Louisville FS/SS Calvin Pryor as the top safety in this years class, which I agree with and stated so in my last FanPost. With the release of Louis Delmas, the Lions have an even bigger need at safety. The tricky part is to determine whether the Lions will go with a true FS like HHCD, a guy like Pryor who could play both FS and SS (like Quin), or a true SS like Bucannon. A lot of fans feel like the only way to go is to get a guy like HHCD that can play FS because they assume Quin is limited to a SS role, but that is just not true. Which is why I wouldn't be surprised if the Lions do go with a guy like Pryor or Bucannon early in the draft. Pryor is one of my favorite prospects in this draft, and has gained a lot of attention lately. He's been shooting up the boards quickly.
*Stats acquired from www.sports-reference.com (not considered official)
Here's an interesting stat for you. Calvin Pryor had more tackles in 2012 than Clinton-Dix had in 3 years at Alabama. Pryor is just a tackling machine. He had 9 forced fumbles at Louisville as well. That's 9 more than HHCD. Pryor was asked to play both the strong safety role and play a little bit of center field as well. It has been well documented that Pryor wouldn't look as good in the FS role, but can handle it if asked to do so. I like the idea of having Pryor on the Lions because Quin can also play both roles. So if the Lions end up having both Quin and Pryor out on the field, they can switch them around and involve them in plenty of different packages and have either one blitz, or cover a TE, etc.
Mayock said Louisville safety Calvin Pryor is like a bigger, stronger Bob Sanders.— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) February 18, 2014
Where do I sign up?
Another comparison I would like to make is with one of my favorite prospects from last year, Matt Elam. Pryor is a taller version of Matt Elam to me. Elam was used more in slot CB situations, and looked slightly better in coverage, but both were very vicious and good against the run.
Pryor is a very instinctive safety. Any time the ball is thrown to a receiver or handed off to a halfback, Pryor seems to materialize out of nowhere to make the tackle. He has incredible closing speed for a safety. When Pryor does attempt to tackle the ball carrier, the ball carrier promptly takes a seat.
When Pryor makes a hit/tackle, he almost never allows any yards after contact. As soon as he makes contact, the ball carrier is on the ground. This was a recurring theme after watching tape on him.
While Pryor is very instinctive and does a great job reacting to where the ball is, here is where the killer side comes in. There is no doubt in my mind that Pryor is going to get his fair share of penalties and flags. That comes with being as intense as he is and hard hitting. Honestly though, I'm okay with it as long as it's not happening every game and he's not lowering his head too much like Delmas and taking out his own teammates. I'm fairly confident that Pryor won't have that problem.
About 40 seconds after that first play, Pryor makes another big hit in the UCONN game and forces a fumble. After all the talk with Austin wanting his guys to cause turnovers, I think Pryor will be in serious consideration at #10.
One of my favorite plays from Pryor is 2:40 into the UCONN game. The LG rolls out and tries to cut block Pryor, but he does a great job of keeping his balance, spinning towards the ball carrier, and still makes the tackle.
Also, RIP to JJ Worton
Pryor was rarely asked to blitz at Louisville, but there were a couple plays where he was used in that role and made an impact. Like I said before, he has great closing speed as a safety. I mentioned it briefly already, and I'll touch on it more when I discuss why we should draft him, but I think having Pryor and Quin next to each other in different packages would be very fun to watch. Here is Pryor rushing off the edge, making a 6'5 Blake Bortles shit his pants before throwing the ball away and avoiding the sack. I'm interested to see how Pryor does on his 40-time, because on tape he looks extremely fast and is a missile on the field.
Can Pryor Play Center Field?
Pryor has been criticized for his play as the deep safety, and I agree with the criticism to an extent. Pryor is much better at reacting to the run game than he is in the passing game. He delivers some big hits, but sometimes can be slightly late to arrive after the ball is thrown. I don't necessarily find it as concerning as some people who are dropping him down to the last 1st round/early 2nd. He's got a lot to learn still, but the biggest thing to me is that he doesn't give up many big plays in coverage. He'll make some big plays himself, which will make up for a lot.
Here you'll see Pryor make a phenomenal one handed catch in the endzone to pick off Blake Bortles, who some believe may be taken #1 overall in this years draft. This isn't the best decision by Bortles, as he's throwing off of his back foot and probably should have just thrown it away and settle for 3 points. Regardless, this shows how athletic Pryor can be. It's probably not ruled an interception in the NFL since he looked to gain full possession when his 2nd foot hits, but a lot of NFL safeties have trouble making two-handed grabs in the NFL, let alone one-handed grabs.
In this play, Pryor does a great job reading the QB's eyes. The QB takes the snap and immediately looks to his right to try and look off Pryor so he won't be able to make a play. Unfortunately for the QB, Pryor doesn't believe him one bit. He opens his hips towards the right side of the field but doesn't make a break that way, and immediately follows his eyes back to the left side of the field. This is where his great closing speed comes back into play, and he's able to take a bee-line straight to the point where the ball is going to be, and makes an incredible grab. He also does a great job of being aware of where the sideline is and keeps both feet in-bounds while securing the grab.
Pryor shows great awareness in this play. It's a third down and 3, and he lines up about a yard and a half passed the first down line. The TE is the target on this play and runs right to the first down marker. He makes his break back for a short curl route to try and move the chains for his offense. If you pause right when the TE makes his break, you will see that Pryor's back foot is already planted in the ground and is in the process of making his break towards the TE. As a result, Pryor is able to break up the pass and make a huge stop on 3rd down.
Pryor's recklessness brings some concerns. It is a concern with most safeties, and I saw similar plays where guys like Clinton-Dix and Bucannon would make the same mistake. Every so often you would see Pryor take a bad angle or commit to one side of the field on a play-action or zone read and give up a big play as a result.
Here you'll see UCF go with a read-option play. Pryor creeps up on the strong-side and makes the right read on whether the ball will get handed off. It looks like he assumes that Storm Johnson is going to continue to go forward and to his left, but Pryor takes a poor angle and allows Johnson to cut back and ends up gashing them for a big play.
Why We Should Draft Him
I briefly mentioned it before, but if the Lions take Calvin Pryor at #10 overall, expect them to use him and Quin in plenty of different packages. Both Pryor and Quin are interchangeable and could play both FS and SS when asked. Austin has already said he wants to be aggressive, and I could see both Pryor and Quin making an impact when being asked to blitz. I also think that Pryor would be a perfect fit to what Austin is looking for on defense. Austin has said that he wants to create more turnovers on defense and Pryor forced plenty of turnovers for Louisville. He forced 9 fumbles and had 7 interceptions in 3 years. Even though the Lions signed Don Carey to a 3 year deal, if the Lions took Pryor, I would expect him to be a day one starter. He's just that good.
Why We Shouldn't Draft Him
Pryor is very intense on the field and may remind some of Louis Delmas without knee issues. Although Pryor doesn't play with his head down as much as Delmas did, I could still see him racking up the personal fouls, whether they were warranted or not, he's going to hurt people. Some might not like to see that, and if it becomes a habit, it could ultimately hurt the team, especially on key plays. Pryor hasn't had to deal with many injuries, but the way he plays might suggest that he will take a beating over time. Also, Pryor might not be the best option if the Lions are focusing solely on a safety that can do well in pass coverage. If the Lions want to go that route, then Clinton-Dix might be the best option in the first round, as he's clearly the best safety in pass coverage in this draft.
Options for next write-up are probably between Eric Ebron, Odell Beckham Jr., Allen Robinson, Jordan Matthews, and anyone who makes a huge leap due to the combine results. But feel free to throw some names out there, since we've got plenty of time to go before the draft, and I'll try to get about one a week in.
That's it for 1st round safeties (unless one jumps into the top 10 after the combine). And I'd like to end it with this:
Again, discuss below, and rec it if you liked it. Thanks.