I have spent the past few weeks on this board openly salivating over Brandin Cooks, completely falling in love with the kid. I went into last night hoping against hope that he'd be there at 18. He was the only one I really wanted. There were other guys I liked (CJ Mosely, Dennard, Bridgewater, Haha, and Pryor), but Cooks was the one I wanted.
So when they read out Calvin Pryor's name, why wasn't I disappointed?
My initial reaction was shock. I mean, Pryor's name had come up in conversation on this board and one or two mocks had him going to us, but after weeks of WR or CB hearing a safety was a shock. But after the shock all I could feel is elation. And the reason for that ultimately comes down to the often overlooked importance of the Safety position and getting the BPA.
Let's start with the BPA argument. With who was left on the board I think we can all agree Pryor would at least be in the conversation ... along with Dennard, Cooks, and Haha Clinton-Dix. As a straight up comparison, I am so much higher on Pryor than Clinton-Dix. Partially just because I think he's a flat out better player, partially because I think he's more of a sure thing, and partially because he's more of a Rex player.
As far as Dennard ... I was starting to waver on him as we approached the draft. Dennard and Gilbert were the best CBs in this draft, but that just means while this draft is deep at the position, it's not so strong at the top. If Milliner were in this draft he'd be above both of them. I just point this out because while I like Dennard and think he's a good fit for Rex, I think it's important to recognize that his ceiling is #2 CB while Pryor's ceiling is one of the best safeties in the league and the QB of our defense.
Cooks is harder. As I said, I love him, but teams aren't crazy to pass on him because of his height. Every talented short receiver gets compared to Steve Smith, but none have been able to reach that level since Steve Smith. I say this because that's who's game Cooks reminds me of and he probably represents Cooks ceiling, one history says he's not likely to meet. I personally wouldn't bet against Cooks and think he's one of 4 receivers in this draft with the opportunity to be special, but opportunity is not the same as a guarantee. He could end up just a very rich man's Kerley which is probably his floor.
The point is Pryor is as close to a sure thing as you're going to get. And we should be able to see it right away. The advantaged to going Safety in the first round are: The position has one of the highest success rates for first round picks and generally provide much better rookie seasons than CBs.
Which brings me to the importance of the safety position.
Coming into this offseason we all knew the Jets two biggest weaknesses were passing offense and passing defense. Whatever we did in the first round would probably have to contribute to these in some way for us to be successful in the coming year.
We spent free agency building up our passing offense. Not enough to be satisfied yet, but it's greatly improved, but we did nothing for our pass defense other than hoping Milliner improves and Cromartie's loss is addition by subtraction. This is why we are all focusing on CBs and WRs
Part of the reason I was leaning WR is because of the steep steep learning curve at CB (as we all experienced last year) and the lack of high ceilings among the 1st rounders. I wanted to take a swing on a developmental player in the 3rd or 4th round who wouldn't start right away and instead get minutes as part of a rotation with Patterson and Walls (thereby helping develop the rookie by getting them experience while not relying on them, protecting Patterson from injury, and not forcing ourselves to be over-reliant on Walls or Patterson in case they suck).
However a safety can improve our secondary immediately. And one thing that's overlooked by a couple of people and beat writers (cimini) grumbling that we still desperately need a CB is that while we should still pick up a CB in this draft (preferably round 3 or 4), the need is no longer as desperate. Great safety play can diminish the impact of poor CB play and in fact improve CB play.
Want proof ... ok, Seattle has the most vaunted secondary in the league. Everyone is going out and getting big corners to try to copy them. Except outside of Richard Sherman, can you name a CB on that team off the top of your head? We all know that they love changing out D-linemen and Linebackers. The real key to their defense is Earl Thomas and to an extent Kam Chancellor. Earl Thomas is that team's MVP. Sherman may get the headlines, but they could survive an injury to him, I don't think they'd survive a Thomas injury.
Look at how different the Pittsburgh defense is when Polamalu is injured. It's a completely different team. When Polamalu is healthy, their defense seems dominant, when he's not, they aren't that scary.
I've heard Pryor compared to Polamalu a bit, but how about the guy I've heard him compared to the most: Bob Sanders.
Those Indy teams had a terrible terrible defense except when Bob Sanders was healthy. He transformed the entire defense. That team had no one on defense other than their two blue chippers Dwight Freeney and Bob Sanders. and Pryor is bigger and more durable than Sanders.
Ok, but if I still haven't convinced you ... remember how much better our secondary was when we had LaRon Landry was our safety. How he deservedly made the Pro Bowl that year? Well when I first saw footage of Pryor I couldn't think of anyone other than LaRon Landry. He reminded me so much of him. Well, we just got a younger, faster, more durable LaRon Landry with better hands. Our team just got a whole lot better and solidified a major weakness.
Now on to WR, TE, CB in the coming rounds and then some LBs and OLs in the later rounds and I'll be as happy as can be.