|Class:||Junior||40 time:||4.64 (proj.)|
Though his skill set isn’t as desirable as it was before the NFL’s concussion crisis became widespread, Louisville’s Calvin Pryor is almost certainly the hardest hitter in the 2014 NFL Draft class and has a great chance to be a star at the next level.
Pryor, who recently declared for the draft after three seasons with the Cardinals, has a playing style reminiscent of Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Dashon Goldson. He invigorates his defense with his maximum effort on every play, and he’s productive in pretty much every facet of the game. He’s a very good tackler with fantastic form and does not make mistakes.
He’s physical enough that he would fit at the strong safety position, yet his athleticism and playmaking ability make him a prime candidate to play the free safety spot as well. He can come up in the box and make an impact as a run defender, and he’s effective when he lines up as a normal safety too.
If there’s one thing that might end up holding back Pryor in the NFL, it’s something that we don’t yet know much about: his ability in coverage. While Pryor has looked very fast and athletic whenever he’s been on the field at Louisville, he really hasn’t been tested a whole lot with covering receivers in the slot as Louisville runs a scheme where their safeties tend to either stay back or come up to play the run.
Because of his inexperience in the facet of the game, Pryor’s combine performance could play a bigger-than-usual role in determining whether he can slide into the end of the first round or falls to the second.
In addition, Pryor needs to make sure that he stays disciplined in this era of overaggressive officiating against defensive backs. While his hitting ability can definitely be a plus for whoever he ends up with, he needs to make sure that he stays under control and doesn’t end up hurting his team with costly penalties.
I currently have Pryor mocked to the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round in my 2014 Mock Draft. While he’s more of a second-round player due to his lack of big-time experience, he’s without question the second-best safety in the draft. If another team feels that the position is a major need, he could definitely go on day one.
- Ferocious hitter
- Consistent, aggressive tackler
- Effective when coming up to play in the box
- Interchangeable between strong and free safety positions
- Good projectable size
- Hasn’t been used much in man coverage, a skill he must have to succeed in a traditional free safety role
- Doesn’t have a whole lot of experience playing against prime competition
- His relentless hard hits may make him a target for fines or suspension in the NFL
Pryor had a very effective 2013 season, finishing second on the Cardinals with 75 total tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss. He also had three interceptions, four pass breakups and two forced fumbles. His greatest impact, however, came from the immense amount of energy that he provided to the Louisville defense with his all-out play and magnificent hitting ability.
2014 Draft Projection: First round