The Jets did not make any earth-shattering moves by taking another quarterback, but they did go in a direction few expected them to go in. For the fifth consecutive season, the Jets elected to use their first-round pick on a defensive prospect, this time on Louisville standout Calvin Pryor.
In terms of both his hair and playing style, Pryor resembles Bob Sanders with his downhill physicality, able to make game-changing hits and interceptions with regularity. The 2013 AAC first-teamer notched three interceptions, two forced fumbles and 69 tackles from the deep safety position.
When watching Pryor, the quality that stands out the most is his closing speed. Explosive off his first step, Pryor can cover a lot of ground in a hurry and harness his speed into a huge hit. He knows how to lower his shoulder and deliver a strong blow without getting caught whiffing. His timing and ball skills make him even more dangerous as a potential game-changer in the back end of a defense.
In fact, there is even some concern that Pryor is too physical—his hitting style may not translate well to a league that has become stringent in its rules against big hits, especially in the secondary.
Pryor is also effective in run support, sifting through traffic to find the ball-carrier. He takes good angles and is rarely beat to the edge.
However, as explosive as he is, there are some holes in Pryor's game. For one, he was rarely asked to cover slot receivers or tight ends at Louisville, as he specialized in deep coverage. He has some stiffness in his hips when asked to change direction, and his average speed makes him susceptible to double-moves.
This should not be a major concern for the Jets, who have Antonio Allen on the roster to handle most of the man-to-man coverage responsibilities with tight ends.
For as many big hits as he makes, it is worth pondering how many of those big plays are a result of his superior athleticism—or if he has developed a habit of arriving a hair too late to allow the pass in the first place.
By selecting him in the first round over a wide receiver or quarterback, the Jets are obviously banking on Pryor making a big impact as a rookie by stealing a starting position.
Between the ascending Allen and veteran Dawan Landry, it is unclear whose job is now in jeopardy. What seems likely is that Pryor will take over the deep, Cover 1 duties once occupied by Landry, while Landry will be more of a specialist against the run—if the Jets don't decide to simply move on with Allen and Pryor alone.
Assuming both Landry and Allen are on the team, expect Allen to remain in his role as a man-to-man specialist, rotating with Landry depending on the opponents' personnel.
There is no doubt that Pryor will upgrade the Jets secondary over the long term, but the pick is still a bit of a head-scratcher when considering who else was available on the board. The Jets had a chance to upgrade their offense with Marqise Lee, Brandin Cooks, Jace Amaro or even Johnny Manziel—but they elected to use their most valuable draft resource to upgrade a position that was set for 2014.
Instead, the Jets appear to be favoring the philosophy of general manager John Idzik's former team, the Seattle Seahawks: building their defense around a stellar secondary that includes a safety who will set the tone for the rest of the defense.
In other words, Pryor is the New York Jets' version of Earl Thomas.
The Jets deserve credit for sticking to their board and taking the best player available while filling a need, but they may have passed on a chance to give their roster an even bigger upgrade.