Height/weight: 5'11', 207 lbs.
It will be interesting to see what the acquisition of free agent defensive tackle Henry Melton does to the Cowboys' plans on Draft Day. Defensive tackle was an area of need after the departure of Pro-Bowler Jason Hatcher, and the addition of Melton - as long as he's fully recovered from ACL surgery - goes a long way toward filling that need. Safety is still a need for the Cowboys, and Louisville's Calvin Pryor is one of the top safeties in this year's draft class.
Previous draft breakdowns have covered four- and five-star recruits, and even the former no. 1 overall prospect in the country coming out of high school. Pryor, though, was just a three-star recruit out of Port St. Joe High School in Florida. He also played running back in high school, but committed to Louisville as the no. 31-ranked safety in the country. Pryor played in every game as a freshman and earned second team All-Big East honors as a sophomore. The hard-hitting safety tallied 218 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss and seven interceptions in his three-year career as a Cardinal.
Why he's a good fit for the Cowboys
If the 'Boys are looking for a safety in the first round - which would be a logical direction to go - they may not be forced to even make a choice. Pryor and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are the two safeties thought to be first round talents in this draft, and one or both could be off the board by the time the Cowboys' no. 16 pick comes up. Pryor is projected as high as no. 14 to Chicago, and as low as the second round. Projections for Clinton-Dix are similarly scattered. NFL analyst Charles Davis has Dallas taking Pryor at no. 16.
Rod Marinelli defenses are known for their ability to create turnovers, and Pryor grew into a turnover machine at Louisville. In addition to his seven interceptions, he forced nine fumbles at the collegiate level, largely due to his tendency to lay the wood on opposing ball carriers. Pryor could be the ideal safety for the new defensive coordinator for the variety of ways in which he can produce takeaways.
Pryor embraces his reputation as a hard hitter. He is known to make plays all over the field, especially against the running game. NFL Network's Mike Mayock compared Pryor to former Indianapolis Colts Pro-Bowler Bob Sanders.
'He flies around and hits people. He just explodes everywhere. I think he's a little better in the box than at the back end, but that might just be the way Louisville used him,' Mayock said
With Barry Church as the likely candidate to line up at free safety for the Dallas defense next season, the Cowboys could use a run-stopping safety like Pryor that can play strong safety and line up in the box. The Louisville product is essentially a linebacker with the body (measured in at 5-foot-11 at the combine, three inches shorter than his Louisville player bio lists him) and athleticism of a safety. Watch Pryor line up in the box and attack the UCF ground attack (and also haul in an impressive one-handed interception) here:
Between Pryor and Clinton-Dix, Pryor is the heavy hitter and Clinton-Dix is more of a ball hawk in pass coverage. Both ran a 4.58-second 40-yard dash at the combine.
Knowing his game
In the same Detroit News article previously cited, Pryor had this to say of his game:
'I feel like I am a very versatile player,' he said. 'I can drop in the middle of the field and cover a lot of range and just break on the ball...My first two years at Louisville, I played mostly in the middle of the field. But after becoming a playmaker, causing fumbles, getting interceptions, coaches started moving me around, having the ability to play all over the place.'
The Calvin Pryor that Calvin Pryor describes sounds like an asset to an NFL defense - especially one that ranked 30th in pass defense and 27th in run defense a year ago. Pryor is also a self-proclaimed second round possibility in the draft this year, saying that rather than worrying about going as high in the draft as possible, he's focused on mastering his craft.
Self-awareness and humility are both valuable intangibles for an organization that has no room for big egos. And, it minimizes the likelihood of a Sherman-esque tirade should Pryor become a shut-down defensive back.
Dallas needs help at the safety position, and Pryor is one of the top two if not the best safety in the draft. As I mentioned before, either or both of the top safeties could be off the board before Dallas makes its first selection. If only one of the two is available, either would make a valuable addition to the defense. If both are still on the board, Dallas could go with the more physical, hard-hitting Pryor to line up next to Church in the secondary. Dallas did finish in the top 10 in the NFL in takeaways last season (27), and Pryor would fit in well with that focus.
For whatever it's worth, several experts have prognosticated that Pryor could go to Philadelphia at no. 22. And, if you're the Cowboys, you have to like the idea of taking the top player off of a division rival's draft board.