Mayock: Louisville's Pryor not right fit for Eagles

Mayock: Louisville's Pryor not right fit for Eagles
May 5, 2014, 10:45 am
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Louisville's Calvin Pryor is one of two safeties projected to go in the first round. (USA Today Images)

The chances of the Eagles' coming away with an impact safety Thursday night in the first round seem to diminish by the day.

On Thursday, Howie Roseman dropped some big hints when he called the safety class “not a good overall group.” He then spent a few minutes talking up his in-house guys, especially free-agent signing Malcolm Jenkins and incumbents Nate Allen and Earl Wolff.

Mike Mayock of the NFL Network suggested that of the two of the first-round-caliber safeties, only one really fits the Eagles’ defensive scheme. But he also expects former Alabama safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix to be off the board before the Eagles pick at 22.

“I think Clinton-Dix will definitely be off the board,” Mayock said. “[Calvin] Pryor may or may not. I'm not sure Pryor fits what they do.”

The book on Pryor is that he’s more of a free safety who makes more plays outside the box than inside. The Eagles, under head coach Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Billy Davis, prefer their safeties to have the versatility to play inside and outside the box and also move into the slot and cover tight ends.

If the coaches don’t have interchangeable safeties, they can’t be as creative or selective in their blitz and nickel packages.

In the second round, Mayock said Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward and Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner would be appealing to the Eagles because each can play both positions.

After those two, pickings are slim.

“From my perspective, they're looking for a guy that can play strong or free safety, has to have both those skill sets,” Mayock said. “In the third round, the only safety I have is Terrence Brooks from Florida State. After that there's a bunch of guys, Brock Vereen that can play corner or safety. Dontae Johnson from North Carolina State can play corner or safety. Those guys would be appealing to the Eagles.”

One safety commonly linked to the Eagles in the second round is former Washington State defensive back Deone Bucannon.

Mayock has Bucannon ranked as his fourth overall safety, but also not an ideal fit for the Eagles’ defensive alignment.

“I love him, but he's a little bit more of a box safety than he is a free safety,” Mayock said. “He's a really good football player that's going to go in the second round. He could work. But, again, I think what they like is they want somebody to pair with Malcolm Jenkins that can play free and strong.”

If Clinton-Dix is gone before the Eagles pick at 22, and if Ward and Joyner are each gone before the Eagles make their 54th overall pick, it doesn’t seem feasible that the Eagles will come out of this year’s draft with an impact safety.

They could draft one later, but the odds of that guy supplanting Allen or Wolff to start opposite Jenkins aren’t favorable.

Knowing that this year’s safety crop lacked depth, Roseman solidified the position in free agency, signing Jenkins and reserve Chris Maragos before bringing back Allen on a one-year deal. It’s far from the league’s most star-studded group, but the Eagles have enough capable bodies at the position to avoid reaching in the draft.

Although they appeared to hit on Wolff, a fifth-round pick out of N.C. State last year, the Eagles have struggled to draft talented safeties since they let franchise icon Brian Dawkins leave for Denver in free agency after the 2009 season and let Quintin Mikell leave for St. Louis after 2010.

Since the start of 2008, the Eagles have drafted safeties Quintin Demps, Macho Harris, Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Jaiquawn Jarrett and Wolff, but only Allen and Wolff are still on the roster.

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