In the early days of the 2014 offseason, one of the first names that was discussed as a potential first-round pick for the Dallas Cowboys was Louisville free safety Calvin Pryor. However, the early romance with Pryor was quickly forgotten as the massive crush developed on Aaron Donald. Now, there are a variety of names that many Dallas fans would rather see called out as the pick in the first round.
I was mulling whether Pryor was a good person for the last in my series of posts about players many did not think the Cowboys would take. I actually teetered back and forth between him and Ryan Shazier before I decided to do my most recent one on the linebacker. With that one posted, I was still unsure if I should add this one or leave my little exercise in mental preparation as it was. My hesitation was largely due to the question of whether Pryor was really believable as an alternative.
I soon found out he obviously is to nationally-known draft gurus Mel Kiper and Todd McShay. As Dave Halprin has already covered, they both mocked him to the Cowboys in their latest projections. Objectively, I don't think any one mock is worth more than any other. But Kiper and McShay have a lot of contacts around the league. Maybe they know a few things I don't. So here are the arguments for and against Pryor being taken by Dallas at 16, at least as I see them.
Calvin Pryor FS Lousiville
How he winds up as an option at 16: It would pretty much have to be a case of every other target being gone, coupled with a first-round grade for him. From what I can see, the three names that have to be gone before this point are Donald, Zack Martin, and Anthony Barr. In both Kiper and McShay's mock, that was not the case, and I agree with Dave that I can't see the Cowboys taking Pryor with one of those names still out there.
But it is not a real stretch to see those "most wanted" players all gone in the real world when Dallas gets its turn. A minor run on offensive and defensive linemen would take those options off the board, and many mocks do have them all gone before Dallas goes on the clock. If the Cowboys also have a first round grade on him, then he could become the pick.
Why this would make sense for the Cowboys: While we have all been affected by a certain amount of tunnel vision where a handful of defensive linemen and offensive tackle/guard Martin are the only names we want to see selected by Dallas, the safety position is probably the next greatest need after the D line. With the acquisition of Henry Melton, Terrell McClain, and Jeremy Mincey, as well as re-signing Anthony Spencer, safety might just be a higher need.
I would agree that drafting for need is not a good strategy, but I am talking here about need intersecting with best player available that fits the team. And reaching for a lineman here is more of an error than taking a player that you have a first round grade on.
Dallas needs the help. There may be a belief that this is the year Matt Johnson finally gets to show us what he can do, but until he actually starts to play, he is about as much help to the team as a unicorn. And there are only four safeties currently on the roster, including Jeff Heath. Pryor would be in the mix for a starting job from day one. He is seen as a solid cover player who also brings it when he has to make a tackle. That kind of attitude is always needed at his position.
Why this is just not a good idea: The question remains as to whether Pryor actually fits the need the Cowboys have for someone who can play the single high safety. Pryor is considered to be stronger playing in the box, which is not where Dallas would need him. This is the kind of decision the team needs to have made well in advance.
There may be better options for Dallas later in the draft. Jimmie Ward from Northern Illinois is seen as a better free safety candidate by some (he is considered a strong safety on some sites, and a free safety at others, so it appears he has the potential), and there is even talk of converting cornerback Jason Verrett of TCU over to safety. They both were visitors to Dallas, and Pryor was not. This may indicate something about how the team has them ranked on their boards. Even if Pryor is the best option, he may well be available later if Dallas can find a partner for a trade back.
Again, this all is going to come down to how the Cowboys grade and slot him. He is a hard call, because he is not clearly a "top half of the first round" player, which is what Dallas wants and should be trying to get with their first round pick. But he would certainly fill a need for Dallas. So would this be a failed pick, or one you could see the reason for?