The Free Agency Period has slowed down a lot, and a player that I really wanted us to get is TJ Ward, who we could've afforded, but unfortunately he signed with the Broncos. The alternate way of finding star players in free agency is to find them in the draft and if the Lions don't trade up it is very likely we draft either Calvin Pryor, Anthony Barr, Aaron Donald, HaHa Clinton Dix, Darqueze Dennard, Justin Gilbert, CJ Molsey, Eric Ebron or Taylor Lewan. If Mike Evans, Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews don't fall or we trade up for Khalil Mack, Jadaveon Clowney or Sammy Watkins then my top option would be Calvin Pryor, because frankly, I want TJ Ward.
Pryor ran a 4.58 at the NFL Combine, whilst Ward ran a 4.56, so their speed is very similar and neither result is bad for a 207-211lbs strong safety. Then Pryor had 18 reps on the bench press, Ward had 19 reps, so their strength is amazing for sub 215lbs players, let alone safeties, whilst Pryor posted a 34.5" vertical and Ward posted 34", so they do possess very good leaping ability. Finally, Pryor posted 116" broad jump, whilst TJ Ward posted 121", neither is bad, but they aren't spectacular.
Height is very popular now amongst secondary players, due to the Legion of Boom's success, neither Pryor or Ward would qualify for LOB because they are both 5'10", they are not undersized, but don't fit in with the height craze. TJ Ward has short arms at 30 3/4", whilst Pryor has 31 3/8", so in all likelihood, he will rack up more picks. Finally, for safeties they are a few pounds heavier than the rest at 207lbs (Pryor) and 211lbs (Ward), which would result in a slower 40 time.
Calvin Pryor: I looked at his game against the UCF Knights and what stood out to me was his blitz ability for a safety, he pressured Blake Bortles on multiple occasions and one time Bortles threw it out of bounds to avoid the sack. Another key feature of his game is his hard hitting, when he got a hand on someone he did not let them go, but he commits too much on tackles, which results in misses. He is dominate in the run game and is a playmaker, but is not to be trusted in man to man coverage and often misreads plays. In conclusion he offers versatility in the run game, coverage and blitzes, but misses too many tackles by over committing, but he sure is a hard hitter, which forces many fumbles.
TJ Ward: Game footage was tough to find, but I found a great read on Pro Football Focus.
Now that the great Antoine Winfield has retired, Ward has taken the title of the NFL’s best run-stopping defensive back. For the second straight season his run defense grade led all safeties. His 20 run stops were also the most of any defensive back, and he continually showed the ability to thwart bigger blockers at the point of attack.
If Thomas is renowned for his ability to cover ground in coverage, Ward is equally rangy against the run. On multiple occasions we’ve noticed him start more than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage at the snap, only to quickly read the handoff and stop it for a short gain. That same speed also serves him well as a blitzer, where his five quarterback pressures on just 20 pass rushes earned one of the top pass rushing marks by a safety this season.
Some players’ focus on the run comes at a detriment to their pass coverage, but Ward certainly holds his own there. His only passing touchdown allowed all season was on a tough back-shoulder throw to Joseph Fauria.
Ward is obviously a fantastic player and he adds a physicality that no other Browns defensive back brings to the table, but if there is one aspect of his game that gave you cause for concern in 2013, it was how many tackles he missed. With 13 he was tied for the 15th most by a safety in the entire league, missing a tackle once every 9.4 attempted. Missed tackles are an underrated stat in my opinion, with every miss a potential touchdown – especially when it comes from the last line of defense.
You rarely hear Ward’s named as the best safety in the league, but his top-notch run defense and solid coverage certainly earns him a place in the discussion.
-Gordon McGuinness and Pete Damilatis
Overall, they possess very similar athletic traits and measurables, but their style of game is too similar to think Pryor will not succeed in this league. I am fine if we draft him at 10 or trade down and gain a 3rd Rounder for him.
A link to the PFF article will be below. Comment your thoughts on him and rec this if you liked it.