As we continue to rank the top 25 players on the New York Jets, we reach the only rookie to appear on this list. Free safety Calvin Pryor was a mild surprise in the first round for the Jets this year, although the concerns had much more do to with his fit and the Jets’ other needs than Pryor’s talent. Pryor almost didn’t make the list, simply because we don’t know how good rookies will be until they actually set foot on the field. However, Pryor is has the talent and opportunity to make a huge impact this season, and it is clear that he deserves to be mentioned among the Jets’ better players.
Pryor was mostly known for his hard hitting run support at Louisville, where recorded 75 tackles and two forced fumbles as a junior. However, Pryor showed that he is capable against the pass as well, with three interceptions as a junior and seven for his career. Given that Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen are strictly strong safeties, Pryor will be the starting free safety this season. Although most agree he is not the type of rangy ballhawk the Jets need in centerfield, he has the versatility and coverage skills to make an impact early.
The most important thing for Pryor is to quickly learn the Jets’ defense and adjust to playing deeper. The Jets ranked just 22nd in the NFL in pass defense last season, by far their worst year under Rex Ryan. Many of their problems can be attributed to the lack of a quality free safety to secure the back end and prevent big plays. Pryor has the athleticism and the ball skills to fix a lot of those issues, as long he can adjust to the speed of the NFL and frequently playing further away from the line of scrimmage.
The Jets bet big on Pryor in the draft, as they chose not to fill more pressing needs at wide receiver and cornerback. However, Pryor has everything it takes it to be an immediate impact player, and the Jets are hoping he will solidify their secondary for years to come. It might be a bit of a stretch to rank him this high before he’s ever played a down, but the guess here is that he will prove himself quickly.