There was no dissension in the Jets draft room when their No. 18 pick in the first round rolled around. General Manager John Idzik and Coach Rex Ryan were on the same page as the selections unfolded before them. They were looking for the best player remaining at his position.
So when they saw Louisville safety Calvin Pryor, who is the epitome of blunt force trauma on the football field, was still available they wasted little time discussing what to do. It was the perfect marriage of need and value.
“He fits us. He fits our profile,’’ said Idzik. “He’s a physical presence on the field. He has range. He makes plays, creates turnovers. He just plays like a Jet.’’
Idzik, Ryan, Terry Bradway, Jets senior personnel executive, Jeff Bauer, Jets director of College Scouting spent hours breaking down film on the 5-11, 207-pound Pryor, watching his games live, visiting him at his Pro Day at Louisville and hosting him at the Jets training facility. After so much time they think they have found their man.
“I think when you look at the way we set up the board, we evaluate the player’s talent, regardless of position,’’ Ryan said. “Clearly this young man is, we think is special, when you take all of the attributes, his cover skills.’’
The Jets have many needs on the team, but they have 11 more draft picks to use over the next two days of the draft. They could use help on the offensive line. They need another playmaking wide receiver. And they could have used a cover cornerback. They’re confident that they can address those needs and stay within Idzik’s plan to build the team through the draft. Marqise Lee of Southern Cal is still available in a draft that was deep in playmaking receivers.
By going defense in the first round, the Jets continued a trend that has been the hallmark of Ryan’s tenure with the team. It was the fifth year in the row that the Jets have used the first round pick on a defensive player. But it was the first time that they have taken a safety.
Idzik would not say where Pryor fit on the Jets draft board. But Pryor was rated by most college football services as the No. 1 safety in the draft. Idzik went to see Louisville play the University of Central Florida last season. There were a few NFL quality players on the field that day, including both quarterbacks, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, who was drafted No. 32 in the first round by the Vikings, and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles, the first quarterback selected, going to the Jaguars at No. 3.
But it was Pryor who had Idzik raving when he returned to the Jets offices.
“He said, “Hey, I just saw a guy that you’re going to absolutely love,” Ryan said. “The first series of a game, he chases a guy down for a hit for a loss. Then he gets the knock out hit on a running back. He knocks the guy cold and then he has the one-handed interception against Central Florida, all in one series. I was like, ‘That was a pretty good start.’ The thing that I’m excited about is, John hits it on the head, this young man plays like a Jet. We pride ourselves in being a physical football team and he fits that profile.’’
Ryan called Pryor an enforcer in the mold of Ronnie Lott and Rodney Harrison and more recently the Seahawks safeties Cam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, one half of Seattle’s secondary which is called “The Legion of Boom.’’ Idzik is familiar with them having worked in Seattle’s front office for six years before taking over as Jets general manager two years ago.
It was Chancellor’s hit on Denver receiver Demaryius Thomas in the first quarter of Super Bowl XLVIII that many believe altered the course of the championship game for Seattle.
Ryan believes Pryor’s jarring power can be the difference maker in Jets games, too.
“Believe me, there is a huge thing with his hitting ability - big hits still win games,’’ Ryan said. “They’ll flip the momentum of a game faster than anything in my opinion, and I’ve always said that and this young man will provide that for us.’’
Pryor, who started 32 of 38 games in three years at Louisville, compares his playing style to Chancellor and Dashon Goldson of Tampa Bay.
“Those guys are big time hitters and they’re asked to do a lot,’’ he said.
The Jets are crowded at safety with Dewan Landry, Jaiquawn Jarrett and Antonio Allen, who alternated for most of the year. Pryor is expected to crack the starting line up as a rookie.
Ryan said he will use them all in some form or fashion. He has always been good at creating packages that include all the players he has on defense.
Pryor is from Port St. Joe, Florida, a small town (population 3,445 in 2010 U.S. Census) in the Florida panhandle. It is a giant leap from there to New York to play for the Jets.
“I come from a small town where there’s not a lot to do and coming to New York, which is a great marketing city,’’ Pryor said. “It’s going to be different. I look forward to adjusting. I look forward to it being my home for a while.’’