Philadelphia Eagles‘ Nate Allen has been a starter since he entered the NFL in 2010 and is coming off a career-high 94 tackles last season. While enjoying his most productive year since his rookie season, Allen still graded out as the No. 49 safety on Pro Football Focus in 2013. Even at his best, Allen is simply not a difference maker and will likely sign elsewhere next season.
With or without Allen, Philadelphia’s front office knows that it must improve the secondary in order to win a championship. Though the Eagles are looking forward to second-year safety Earl Wolff emerging as a true playmaker in 2014, the defensive backfield continues to be the team’s more glaring weakness.
Those familiar with the Eagles’ challenges in the secondary believe the team needs to draft Calvin Pryor from the University of Louisville. Likened to former Baltimore Ravens‘ star Ed Reed, praise for Pryor has been mounting. Louisville coaches tout him as one of the best players that they have ever coached, and scouts rave about Pryor’s instincts and ball skills in pass coverage. Against the run, he was regarded as one of the most physical players in college football last season. In addition to his strength and athleticism, Pryor is also known for his leadership skills and deep knowledge of the game.
In the wake of Seattle Seahawks‘ Kam Chancellor‘s dominant performance in the Superbowl, elite safeties are more coveted than ever. A decade ago, safeties were rarely drafted in the first round. As league-wide passing attempts steadily rise, highly versatile safeties like Mark Barron and Eric Berry are sneaking into the top 10 of the NFL Draft, and with the position currently in talent-deficient transition phase, even more safeties will be drafted in the early rounds.
The Eagles’ front office undoubtedly recognizes this trend, but still hopes that Pryor will fall to pick No. 22. Most NFL Draft experts believe Pryor is an ideal fit for the Eagles and agree that he will likely be available to the Eagles in the first round. In fact, all four CBS Sports draftniks predicted that Pryor will be selected by Philadelphia in their most recent mock drafts.
Meanwhile, the buzz around Pryor is only getting stronger. Some Draft insiders now have him leap-frogging HaHa Clinton-Dix, the consensus All-American safety from the University of Alabama. The Chicago Bears‘ feature one of the NFL’s worse safety duos in Chris Conte and Major Wright and hold pick No. 14. It is becoming increasingly likely that Chicago will select either Clinton-Dix or Pryor in order to help fix their aging defense. If Clinton-Dix is picked early, the Bears would be content with Pryor and the Eagles would be without a first round-graded safety when the music stops.
It seems everyone wants to see a Calvin Pryor/Philadelphia Eagles marriage, but the other NFL teams may have something to say about the proposal.