In the eyes of most draftniks and scouts, it was a two-horse race for the the title of top safety in the 2014 NFL draft entering the scouting combine in Indianapolis.
Louisville's Calvin Pryor was one those candidates, and while Pryor didn't exactly blow the roof off of Lucas Oil Stadium in Tuesday's workouts, the 5'11", 207-pounder also didn't lose any ground in the race for No. 1 to Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
After checking into Indy quite a bit shorter than advertised, Pryor put up 18 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press, fourth among safeties.
However, the bench press ranks pretty low on the totem pole where defensive backs are concerned, and it was Tuesday's workouts where scouts really wanted to see Pryor and Clinton-Dix side-by-side.
During an appearance on the Kellogg's Komments podcast earlier this month (which I co-host), Pryor didn't mince words when asked which of the drills at the combine he thought were most important to his draft stock:
Guys know that I can play football. They know that I'm physical, that I have the strength to play. They just want to see how fast I can run, so I think the 40-yard dash will be very critical.
Pryor told us he was running in the high 4.5s while training, but it at first appeared that may have been on the optimistic side:
4.62 for Calvin Pryor on 1st attempt. Plays faster on tape. Let's see what he posts on his 2nd run.— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) February 25, 2014
As Bleacher Report NFC North Lead Writer Zach Kruse tweeted, Pryor's second attempt was slightly quicker:
Calvin Pryor's second 40: 4.60, unofficial. Runs 4.62, 4.60. Not great times for Louisville safety.— Zach Kruse (@zachkruse2) February 25, 2014
However, in a combine where the vast majority of 40 times have been adjusted up, Pryor actually caught a bit of a break when the official times were announced:
Calvin Pryor runs official 4.58 forty in Indy http://t.co/GmX9cDyY9z— Rotoworld NFL Draft (@Rotoworld_Draft) February 25, 2014
That 4.58 was the same time Clinton-Dix ran, and as Dan Shonka of Ourlads points out, it was a slightly better time than last year's top safety:
If you love #CalvinPryor like we do. Kenny Vaccaro ran a 4.62 last yr. Pretty good player.— Dan Shonka (@Ourlads_Shonka) February 25, 2014
Pryor struggled a bit in the leaping drills, turning in a so-so vertical and a broad jump that ranked toward the bottom at his position:
In the opinion of Bleacher Report's B.J. Kissel, those weren't the drills where Pryor stood to gain (or lose) money Tuesday. "When it comes to physicality at the safety position," Kissel wrote, "most draft enthusiasts already know about Louisville's Calvin Pryor."
Kissel believed that the most important thing Pryor needed to show at the combine was "to show teams he can be trusted to play in space."
Pryor didn't participate in the shuttle runs (where Clinton-Dix shined) or cone drill (where Clinton-Dix struggled), but according to Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the position drills were another story:
NFL Network said Calvin Pryor ran a 4.58 officially. He's killing the position drills. Solid work.— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) February 25, 2014
All in all, Kelly's assessment was pretty spot-on. It was by no means a great combine for Pryor, but it wasn't a train wreck by any stretch either, especially given that Clinton-Dix had a very comparable showing.
Who is the top safety prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft?
Unfortunately, it also did very little to clear the air between the two top safeties in this year's class. NFL teams in the back half of the first round with a need at safety hoping for some separation between the two were left wanting.
Instead, what they got was two similarly talented players with differing skill sets posting numbers that mirrored one another's.
And so it's back to the film room, and back to the debate of Clinton Dix's coverage skills vs. Pryor's physicality.
It's a debate that will likely rage well into the second week of May in New York City.