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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Around The Draft: 58 Days

There are now 58 days to the NFL Draft.  I'm trying to break down one prospect per day that might be there in the first three rounds, trying to center somewhat around needs without beating 50 receivers and 10 OTs to death in this process.

Today I veer away from that pair of groups with Louisville FS Calvin Pryor.  One of the nice things about looking at certain positions that aren't as blue-chip as the skill positions or rush positions?  You can get a do-everything player that's top 2-3 in the group, or even top of the group.  Pryor and Ha'sean Clinton-Dix are the top safeties, and they're both rated around 20-25.  Both are good players - and I might get around to Clinton-Dix eventually.

Pryor is an old-school ballhawk who hits.  He's a good tackler who can come up and play the run, even blitz (and Carolina did bring its DBs a fair amount).

His 5'11, 205 lb frame runs a 4.58, and there's a bit of worry that all of that's topped out.  They're all more than acceptable numbers; some worry he's a little stiff in change of direction and that he doesn't have a lot of experience against slot receivers.  Those are things that won't harm Pryor in the pro game much at FS, in my opinion.

What might is whether he can reign in the hits in the pro game.  Hitters can gain a reputation, and while the trend is that you just get fined on appeal, you don't want a player to hurt you by missing time on suspension.  He's not intended to be vicious, just hard-hitting, it seems.  I don't know. It's not just a good thing to be a hitter anymore.

Pryor might or might not become a star - but the one thing the team needs defensively is stability in the defensive secondary.  While DBs coach Steve Wilks has made fantastic gumbo with the scraps he's been given, and you could argue that the CBs are the bigger need, one of the things I like symbolically about this move would be to give the secondary its long-term signal caller.  Having thrown a bunch of FS at the job in three years, Carolina could finally have one guy in there doing the job, and there's a value to that.

Pryor isn't the most cerebral player in the draft, the way Luke Kuechly is.  It's not a deficiency, either, but I bring that up more for stability than for the idea that Pryor and Kuechly would be the Wonder Twins of football intelligence.

What he brings to the team is the athleticism and ability that Mike Mitchell did - similarly, an athlete that could hit, Mitchell was a surprise at FS that currently looks to get paid somewhere other than Carolina.   Pryor brings that hitting attitude and aggression, but with better ball skills.

Ron Rivera does require you tackle as a DB. Pryor passes that test.  He also prefers a longer, lankier corner, but the 5'11 Pryor playing safety doesn't apply to that as much.  All signs suggest this is a smart pick, if he's the best player.  

To that end, don't forget that the rumors had Kenny Vaccaro (and then Tyler Eifert) as the pick if it wasn't Star Lotulelei.  Vaccaro would've been on a team that had already picked up Mitchell and still had Charles Godfrey and Haruki Nakamura on board.  Now, that group appears to be less likely to be here, and you never know about Quintin Mikell, either.  Nonetheless, the situation remains that Carolina wasn't afraid to go with a safety pick earlier than this one would be.
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