FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Three months after he rocked Demaryius Thomas in Super Bowl XLVIII, Kam Chancellor's big hit still was reverberating in the state of New Jersey -- specifically, in the New York Jets' draft room.
On Thursday night, the Jets used their first-round pick on safety Calvin Pryor, in part, because he reminds them of Chancellor, the Seattle Seahawks' sledgehammer. The NFL is a copy-cat league, as we all know, and general manager John Idzik -- a former Seahawks executive -- wants to incorporate Seattle's best into his own team.
Commenting on Pryor, Rex Ryan mentioned the Seahawks' stud safety tandem, Chancellor and Earl Thomas, specifically noting Chancellor's tone-setting tackle from the Super Bowl. Ryan is an old-school defensive coach, and he still gets amped by rock 'em, sock 'em football -- an element that was missing last season in his secondary.
"You can see how those plays and those hits can impact a game," Ryan said. "All you have to do is look at the Super Bowl, the play of Chancellor back there and Earl Thomas. It's how we want to play defense. ... Big hits win games. They'll flip the momentum of a game faster than anything, in my opinion."
Pryor is a good prospect, a solid value at 18, but was he the best choice for the Jets? They should've taken Darqueze Dennard, the best man-to-man cornerback in the draft. The Jets are shy on talent at cornerback, and that's a concern because Ryan's defense relies on cornerback play. At least they didn't go for a wide receiver at 18; that would've been a reach. Quarterback Johnny Manziel still was on the board, but they didn't want to buy a ticket to that circus.
So, in a surprise, the Jets went for the safety, an indication Ryan is catching up to the rest of the NFL. Previously, he never placed a high value on safeties, preferring the front office spend the big bucks on the corners. Under Ryan, they've filled the safety spots with modestly priced free agents and low draft picks. The biggest splurge came in 2012, when they gave LaRon Landry a one-year contract for $3.5 million.
Now they have a Landry-type safety in Pryor, who isn't the biggest (5-foot-11, 207 pounds) or the fastest (4.58 in the 40) but provides a physical presence in the secondary. He's not exactly what they need -- they need a ball hawk -- but he's better than what they had. Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen were invisible for long stretches last season, contributing to a subpar pass defense. No team intercepted fewer passes on throws of at least 15 yards than the Jets (two). No team produced fewer takeaways over the past two seasons than the Jets (38).
Pryor caught Idzik's eye during the season. After scouting a Louisville-Central Florida game, Idzik told Ryan, "Hey, I just saw a guy you're absolutely going to love." He popped in a DVD. It showed Pryor making three big plays in one series. Ryan's eyes popped.
"We pride ourselves on being a physical football team and he fits that profile," Ryan said. "This young man is an enforcer."