Back in February, Calvin Pryor stood before the national football media and boldly declared himself the best safety in the draft.
Two months later, people are beginning to come around to his point of view.
“Pryor is just lights out,” said ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper, who rates him as the best safety in this year’s class. “Pryor competes, has coverage ability ... His 40 time doesn’t reflect how good he is.’’
The unanswered question: Is safety a top priority for the Dolphins?
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With Reshad Jones and Louis Delmas the projected starters, it’s not exactly a need.
But if none of the offensive tackles left on the board when Dennis Hickey goes on the clock are worthy of the 19th overall pick, the Dolphins would likely either trade back or go with best player available. And so, Pryor could be tempting for 2015 and beyond.
Here’s why: Delmas is on a one-year deal. And Jones regressed last season after signing a huge contract, one that the Dolphins could extract themselves from after the 2015 season with little cap pain.
Considering Joe Philbin is likely in a win-now mode this year, the Dolphins might not be able to take the longview.
Then again, they’ve shown great interest in wide receivers this draft cycle, and they’re even more flush with talent there than in the secondary.
Either way, Pryor will go somewhere in the second third of the first round next week. And there is a growing likelihood that he’ll be the first Louisville player taken, with Teddy Brigdewater’s steady slide since the Combine.
What jumps out to scouts evaluating Pryor most is his physicality. He plays downhill with a head of steam.
“Perhaps the most explosive hitter in this year’s crop of safeties, Pryor is a big, physical hammer in the run game, bringing the ability to intimidate and erase,” draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki wrote on NFL.com. “Factor in his instincts and range and Pryor has the ability to start as a rookie.”
And lucky for whoever takes him, Pryor doesn’t have many miles on his body. A native of the Florida Panhandle, Pryor is still two months shy of his 22nd birthday.
An indication how much he developed in his three seasons at Louisville: Pryor was a three-star recruit coming out of high school. Rivals.com ranked him the nation’s 31st-best safety in his senior class.
Three years later, Pryor proudly declares himself the best pro prospect at his position. And it’s tough to argue. Pryor was first-team all-American Athletic Conference last year after a season in which he had 75 tackles and three interceptions.
“I can play strong safety, free safety, I can come up and hit, I feel I can cover,” Pryor said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “Just a playmaker. And I’m a leader.”
Most want to talk about Pryor’s physicality. At the Combine, he was more interested in talking about the muscle between his ears.
“Safety is all about angles,” he said. “Football is an angle game. You have to have an IQ and know what’s going on. You have to understand formations and how people are going in motion and you have to adjust to those things. So you have to be a smart football player at safety.”