Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville (HT: 5’11⅛” WT: 207 lbs.)
First Round: 18th Pick
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+ Great closing burst; able to step in front of passes just before a reception is completed
+ Fluid hips in coverage show upside as a cover safety
+ Extremely productive around the line of scrimmage
+ Excels as a linear player; delivers huge hits to force turnovers
+ Makes game-changing, highlight-reel plays that energize the entire stadium
+ Experienced playing in both safety roles
- Below-average height for a starting safety
- Doesn’t diagnose plays; instead recklessly attacks his first read
- Poor awareness in space; if the play isn’t in front of him, he’s lost
- Misses on easy tackles due to obsession with big hits
- Doesn’t fill running lanes with integrity, allowing chunk plays
- Lacks discipline in coverage, losing his man on double moves or holding the receiver
Pryor is a small safety who doesn’t meet the important six-foot threshold teams desire at safety. Most of the top safeties are over six feet tall, with few exceptions. He has good distance speed, but great short area closing speed. He is not an explosive athlete, as evidenced by his pedestrian vertical leaping ability.
Pryor was suspended three different occasions throughout 2013, due to unspecified team rule violations. He has no off-the-field incidents reported, but former head coach Charlie Strong was reportedly a tough-minded coach, so his suspensions should be considered flags.
At Louisville, Pryor was often in the box as a strong safety, attacking the line of scrimmage. For passing situations he rotated between deep Cover 2 zone and single-high zone coverages. He was often given free rein, with few responsibilities other than to read and react to the play.
Calvin has average ball skills overall. When he is located behind the intended receiver he is able to use his speed to contest the pass, sometimes intercepting it. If he is located in front of the play, he shows poor awareness in space. He doesn’t know what is happening behind him, essentially becoming a wandering man. At the point of contest, he has small hands, short arms and his vertical leap is limited, so he will struggle to challenge tight ends in coverage.
Against the Run/Tackling
Pryor delivers highlight hits against the run because he attacks the line of scrimmage with such aggression. He has issues toning down his desire for big hits, as he doesn’t form-tackle enough. He hits ball-carriers too high, losing leverage. For a smaller player who doesn’t have a big frame, he needs to become a more efficient tackler and use better judgment when lowering the boom.
Pryor’s recklessness when approaching the line of scrimmage causes him to attack the wrong running lanes. He will sprint through the offensive line to try to chase down the ball-carrier from behind, but NFL athletes are too good for that. He needs to play smarter, not harder in this instance. If Pryor can become more patient and read the direction of the play, he can become a high-quality run defender.
He has clean hip transfer when he breaks from his backpedal and cuts in and out of routes with the receiver. His ability to mirror the receiver is good enough to trust him to cover slot receivers. Pryor struggles with discipline on double-moves and pump-fakes, so he will need to bury himself in the film room to learn the tendencies of his opponents to improve.
Pryor struggles recognizing routes with consistency, but he flashed the ability to read the eyes of the quarterback and get to the point of contest in time to at least defend the pass. While in Cover 2, Pryor is able to focus on the middle of the field as an intimidator and roam to the sideline if he sees a streaking receiver coming toward him.
Pryor doesn’t worry much about technique, instead playing instinctually. He isn’t a horrible technician, especially in his backpedal, but he is inconsistent in every phase of the position. He tends to commit to his initial read of the play, which isn’t always correct, leading to blown coverages downfield and stressing the defense. Tackling is another area he can improve, as covered above.
Future Role/Scheme Versatility
Calvin Pryor is a traditional strong safety who should play in the box to reach his full effectiveness. He can play in Cover 2 schemes to take advantage of his hard-hitting nature and intimidation factor, but it would be unwise to count on Pryor as a single-high safety or in other schemes that require he anticipate routes heavily.