When it’s all said and done, Teddy Bridgewater might not be the best Louisville player in this draft.
Futures: Louisville S Calvin Pryor
By Matt Waldman
One of my favorite football players during the past 15 years began his college career as a corner, but finished it playing both safety positions and earned a first-team All-America selection. The 39th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, he started all 16 games a rookie. Although he lost the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award to teammate Brian Urlacher, the linebacker often said that it was Mike Brown who was the true leader of the Bears’ vaunted defense.
Brown will turn 36 tomorrow. Due to a series of leg injuries, the two-time All-Pro didn’t have career longevity that will earn his former teammate Urlacher a good shot at the Hall of Fame. However, Brown had all the tools of a fine NFL pro: intensity, intelligence, and the versatility to play in the box or patrol the deepest outposts of the passing game.
So when a player earns a comparison to Brown, it gets my attention. Current Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford was Brown’s position coach from 2000-2004. Before Bedford moved with Charlie Strong to Austin, he was the defensive coordinator at Louisville working with junior safety Calvin Pryor, a player Bedford compares favorably to the former Bear.
“He had three games in a row where he hit somebody and they did not finish the game,” Bedford told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He doesn’t want to injury anybody, but he brings a certain physicality that if you’re going to throw the ball down the middle of the field, you’re going to pay a price . . . Calvin Pryor reminds me of a bigger Mike Brown . . . [Brown] was a coach on the field . . . That’s what makes great players. Understanding the entire defense. Calvin Pryor is a lot like that.”
I read this quote from Bradford after watching the six-foot-two-inch Pryor against Central Florida, Rutgers, and Connecticut. A colleague of mine recommended I watch Pryor in September and I’m late to the draftnik party. However, I understand why there are teams that have Pryor ranked higher than Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
The asset I value the most from Pryor’s game is aggression. He treads the fine line between disruption and recklessness, which can scare some evaluators.
However, good safeties take great angles in a hurry. It’s a skill rooted in confidence and belief of what the player sees on the field.
With notable exceptions where a player demonstrates a lack of overall football intelligence, I prefer an aggressive player with diagnostic skills that a coach can refine than a player that sees valuable keys but doesn’t trust his eyes. When considering the past path towards assertive play, I’d pick aggression over passivity as a football player’s behavioral baseline a majority of the time.