NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Rex Ryan saw game film of Calvin Pryor and liked what he saw — and heard.
Boom! Pop! Pow!
Ryan and the New York Jets expect plenty of those hard hits from their first-round draft pick. They selected the Louisville safety at No. 18 on Thursday night, helping bolster a secondary that ranked 22nd in pass defense last season.
“We pride ourselves in being a physical football team, and he fits that profile,” Ryan said. “This young man is an enforcer.”
Pryor, who earned the nickname “Louisville Slugger” in college, could compete with Antonio Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett for a starting spot opposite Dawan Landry.
“When I came in for a visit, I felt like I fit that scheme very well,” Pryor said on a conference call, adding that the Jets run the same type of defense Louisville did.
It is the fifth straight year the Jets have selected a defensive player with their first pick. They took cornerback Dee Milliner last year at No. 9.
Many fans and media speculated that the Jets would take a wide receiver — possibly LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr., who went to the Giants at No. 12, or Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, who was available — or cornerback — particularly Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard.
Instead, they went with a safety who was widely considered the best available at his position. Pryor impressed general manager John Idzik and Ryan when they saw him in action, and then on his visit to the team’s facility. Idzik first made Ryan aware of Pryor during the college football season.
“He said, ‘I just saw a guy who you are going to absolutely love,'” Ryan recalled.
So, Ryan took a look at the video and watched Pryor chase down a Central Florida player for a loss, then put a “knockout hit” on a running back, followed by a one-handed interception of a pass by Blake Bortles, a fellow first-rounder — all on the first series of the game.
Ryan stressed the importance of playmaking safeties by pointing out the performances of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor in Seattle’s Super Bowl-winning secondary.
“It’s how we want to play defense,” Ryan said. “And, I think this young man is going to step in and fit right in with the guys we already have.”
The 5-foot-11 Pryor earned the starting job at safety midway through his freshman season and quickly became a team leader. Pryor had seven interceptions, nine forced fumbles and 218 tackles in three seasons at Louisville.
“He fits our profile,” Idzik said. “He’s a physical presence on the field. He has range, makes plays and creates turnovers.”
The Jets insisted they aren’t worried about his long-term durability with the mix of his size and physical play.
“That certainly hasn’t been his history,” Idzik said. “He usually inflicts it instead of receives it.”
The selection of Pryor kicked off a draft for the Jets in which they entered with 12 picks, the first time they had that many since 1998.
Idzik wouldn’t discuss whether the Jets considered Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who was still available when New York was on the clock. The GM did acknowledge that the Jets fielded several calls — and made calls themselves — about teams that were interested in trading up or down.
“We stuck to our philosophy. We stuck to our board,” Idzik said. “Calvin was our guy.”
Pryor, from Port St. Joe, Florida, wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school, and he believes that was mainly because he split time among football, basketball and baseball.
“The town was small and I never went to camps,” he said. “I played all three sports growing up, so I never had the chance to separate myself and show them that I was a heck of a football player. I played AAU basketball and AAU baseball, so I was all over the place.”
While Ryan declined to compare Pryor to any current NFL safety — something that has gotten the coach in some trouble in the past — the first-rounder said he might be similar to Chancellor and Tampa Bay’s Dashon Goldson.
“They’re big-time hitters,” Pryor said. “And they’re asked to do a lot.”
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