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Calvin Pryor is one of the premier defensive backs in the 2014 NFL draft class is one of the two safeties considered the best of the bunch.
A first-team All-AAC performer a season ago, the Louisville standout finished the year with 75 tackles, three interceptions, four pass breakups and a pair of forced fumbles. Since becoming a starter halfway through his freshman season in 2011, Pryor has forced eight career fumbles en route to earning a reputation for one of the best hitters in the college ranks.
Pryor has been praised for his ability to quickly diagnose plays and take correct angles to the ball-carrier. He excels in over-the-top coverage and has enough closing speed to play in man-to-man coverage. He’s also able to line up in the box and make plays from there.
A major knock of Pryor, however, is his speed. In terms of combine testing, Pryor is likely to clock in a 40 time of about 4.6, but on the football field he has showed good instincts in the defensive backfield with the ability to cover a lot of ground.
Pryor is ranked No. 21 overall by ESPN Scouts Inc. and the second-best prospect as the position behind only Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He is ranked No. 25 and No. 27 overall, according to Mel Kiper Jr. and CBS Sports, respectively, and No. 34 by Sports Illustrated.
One current pro Pryor has been likened to is Jonathan Cyprien, who was drafted in the first round of last year’s draft out of Florida International University. Both Cyprien and Pryor are hard-hitters with a knack for locating the football. Though Pryor played free safety at Louisville, he’s being scouted as a strong safety at the next level.
The first logical destination is 17th overall to the Dallas Cowboys, where one of the league’s worst pass defenses is in need of a more solid secondary. Jerry Jones will have to make a decision that — if he goes in the direction of drafting a safety — whether he likes Clinton-Dix or Pryor better.
The Green Bay Packers also have a tremendous need at safety, but already have Morgan Burnett at strong safety. Perhaps the Pack would take a chance on Pryor at his original position at free safety.
It seems unlikely that Pryor falls past the No. 22 pick and the Philadelphia Eagles. Three safeties on the Eagles roster — Nate Allen, Colt Anderson and Kurt Coleman — are all set to his free agency, and Patrick Chung’s roster spot is likely to be in jeopardy. Pryor would certainly upgrade the NFL’s worst pass defense.