Go take a look through the expert mock drafts and one name you’re going to see repeatedly selected by the Baltimore Ravens is Louisville safety Calvin Pryor. Since so many draftniks view Pryor as the pick general manager Ozzie Newsome will make, I thought I’d take a look at his film myself and come to my own conclusions.
Pryor is generally considered to be the second-best safety in this class, but I don’t think he’s a good fit for what the Ravens are looking for in their free safety. But that’s the purpose of these scouting reports—to sift through the noise of prospect rankings and sort out which players are the best fit for Baltimore.
This is the second scouting report in this series (you can check out the Jimmie Ward report here), and just like the last one, I will be evaluating four aspects of safety play: physical tools, tackling, run support and pass coverage.
The first thing you notice about Pryor when you turn on the film is his speed. He ran an OK 4.58-second 40-yard dash at the combine, but he plays much faster in games.
He has a good combination of strength and speed, but his quickness in particular means he has great range and closing speed and can make plays out of nowhere. Pryor is the fastest (on film) safety in the class, which makes him an alluring prospect.
He measured in at 5’11” and 207 pounds at the combine, which is the same height as Ward—a surprising realization when you consider that one of the knocks on Ward is that he isn’t tall enough to cover NFL tight ends.
Pryor is definitely a first-class athlete, which is becoming a requirement for the safety position.
This is an area that is somewhat of a concern. “Aggressive” is an adjective that you’re going to see a lot, but it’s most prevalent when you watch him tackle ball-carriers. Actually, tackle might not be the most accurate term.
Instead, Pryor launches himself at opponents like a missile—and that has its pros and cons. On the positive side, it means that he can make huge hits that pump up his teammates and create fumbles. Just see the first highlight on this video to see the physicality that he brings to the table:
On the flip side, however, it also means that he misses more than his fair share of tackles and can be a flag magnet of sorts. Unlike Ward, Pryor misses far too many open-field tackles because he’s attacking downhill so hard that he takes bad angles.
Furthermore, against NFL players with the agility and vision to make sharp cuts, Pryor will need to rein in his tackling and start to display better form by focusing on wrapping up when he makes a hit and keeping his eyes on the target.
Given Matt Elam’s propensity to fly at ball-carriers in a similar fashion, it would be a scary proposition for the Ravens to have two hyperaggressive safeties.
Run support is the best aspect of Pryor’s game because his aggression generally plays in his favor. When he comes up into the box, he’s so explosive that he frequently knifes through blockers and makes plays in the backfield.
Even when he’s playing at normal safety depth, he has great instincts against the run and utilizes his elite closing speed.
Pryor uses his hands well to shed blockers, so he’s a very dangerous player to a running back regardless of where he is on the field.
As with every facet of his game, Pryor’s overaggressiveness means that he sometimes overpursues and gives up a big running play, but more often than not he’s able to find the running back.
This is the most important category for the Ravens’ new free safety, and it’s the area where Pryor has the most questions. That’s not to say that he can’t develop into a special player against the pass, but he hasn’t shown it consistently on film.
Let’s start with what he has shown: range and ball skills. When he reads the play correctly, Pryor can get to the ball in an instant. In that regard, he fits what the Ravens want since he has the sideline-to-sideline range to play as a true center fielder.
While Ward is better at making plays on the ball, Pryor is very good at converting interceptions thanks to his natural hands and ability to adjust to the ball midflight. Take a look at his ridiculous interception against Blake Bortles and UCF for evidence of this:
That said, he didn’t spend much time as a single-high safety for Louisville, and based on his film, it doesn’t look like he’d have the discipline to play as the lone last line of defense for the Ravens defense.
Furthermore, he didn’t make that many plays in deep coverage and his timing on pass breakups down the field is a little shaky, which results in some pass interference penalties.
On film, Pryor looks much more solid in coverage when he’s set in zone coverage and is driving toward the line of scrimmage as opposed to running downfield with receivers. Once again, that’s not to say that he can’t do it, but we haven’t seen a lot of it from his Louisville tape.
In a vacuum, Pryor’s athletic gifts, high motor and punishing hits might make him the second-best safety prospect in this draft, but the Ravens aren’t drafting in a vacuum. Newsome is adding players who fit the Baltimore defense, and Pryor bears too many similarities to Elam and isn’t a good fit as a result.
The Ravens need a safety who can come in and be a pass-first defender. Obviously, versatility is important, but a center fielder to shore up the back line is crucial. Asking Pryor to do that would be taking away from his biggest skill as a disruptive force near the line of scrimmage.
Pryor’s talent and physical gifts are undeniable, but he doesn’t make sense for the Ravens in the first round. He plays more like a strong safety who is good in coverage—like Elam—as opposed to a free safety who’s good against the run.
Note: All heights, weights and combine results are courtesy of NFL.com’s official draft page
Shehan Peiris is B/R’s Lead Featured Columnist covering the Baltimore Ravens and a co-host of Ravens Central Radio, a weekly podcast on the Pro Football Central radio network that focuses on all things Ravens-related. For the latest Ravens news, draft analysis and links to episodes of Ravens Central Radio, follow me on Twitter:
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