Jonathan Cyprien is one of the best strong safety prospects in this year's draft. He's shot up draft boards and increased his draft stock immensely since his strong showing in the Senior Bowl. The Dallas Cowboys need to continue adding more vocal leaders to their team and Cyprien would fill that role back deep in the secondary. He is a very good athlete that possesses strong leadership qualities. His skill-set should be on par with what the Cowboys are looking for.
Let's take a closer look and see what the Cowboys would be getting if they drafted Cyprien.
Standing in at 6'0" and weighing 217 pounds, Cyprien is a long and lean prospect that has a great build to play safety in the NFL. Strong safeties generally need to be physical, and Cyprien plays the game violently and absolutely loves to be physical. During his time at Florida International, he was an established tackler and became the all-time leader at FIU in tackles. He has the ability to be a force against the run and make a lot of plays in the box or coming down and making the tackle.
Cyprien would instantly bring a physical presence and survey the field looking to dish out punishment. He is a thumper that will fly in and deliver a crushing blow. Receivers will think twice before they cross Cyprien's area again, and that's an added benefit for the entire defense.
For such a physical safety, Cyprien is a very good playmaker and has good ball skills. He has the vision to locate the football and the hands to then make a play. His size allows him to be physical with the receiver and he has the athleticism to jump up and get involved in the play while the ball is in the air. Cyprien attacks the football in the air and he isn't afraid to put his body on the line to make the play. He's also a natural at deflecting passes or jarring the ball loose.
Cyprien has plenty of experience playing closer to the line of scrimmage in the box, but he has also played in Cover 2 and Cover 3 coverages where he is responsible for covering a lot ground. Because he is strong against the run and excels in coverage, Cyprien fits the bill as an interchangeable safety. The Cowboys love versatility and multiplicity, so they should find his ability intriguing.
He's fast on tape and he is very quick and has excellent footwork for a larger safety. Because he can change directions quickly and open his hips up, Cyprien covers a lot of ground. His hitting ability gets the accolades, but he's very good in coverage and may be underrated in that area. He's actually one of the more balanced safeties in the draft.
Cyprien possesses good football intelligence and those instincts allow him to flow towards the play or ball carrier quickly. You can have all of the physical ability in the world, but good safeties must have instincts and Cyprien has good instincts. He has been a natural leader and he is very vocal. He has a strong passion for the game and his character makes him an even better prospect.
There are some flaws to his game, but one of his biggest concerns is his lack of play against a high level of competition. Florida International isn't exactly a powerhouse of a football program. Cyprien is going to be playing against better competition in the NFL and there could be a learning period while he adjusts to the elevated level of play.
As the last line of defense, the safety must take good angles. Cyprien is a gambler and his aggressiveness does play against him. If he learns to harness some of that aggression and take better angles, then he has the physical tools to become a consistent player deep in the secondary.
He's very good in zone coverage and Cyprien can play some man coverage, but he can get high in his stance and looks a little stiff. Kenny Vaccaro is nearly a cornerback in the way he can come down and cover wide receivers and tight ends, but Cyprien does not do that well yet.
Clearly he's a dynamic force that loves to hit, but that violence on the football field will get Cyprien into trouble. The velocity and location of his hits are going to draw flags in the NFL. Asking Cyprien to not play physical would be taking away his edge, but asking him to play smarter would eliminate some of the unnecessary hits and penalties.
There is some debate to where Cyprien will go in the 2013 NFL Draft. I see him as a legitimate first-round talent and it would be a miracle to see him last to the 47th overall pick when the Cowboys go on the clock in the second round. It may be a "reach" to take him at 18, but Cyprien is the type of safety who could have a long career in the NFL and make an instant impact.
I believe that he is scheme versatile and will fit as an interchangeable safety that can play against the run and make plays for you in coverage. The quality of safety play is down in every level of football. It's hard to find quality athletes at this position. If you have the opportunity to land a safety like Cyprien who can be a playmaker and a leader, then you seriously have to consider drafting him with a high draft pick.
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Jonathan Cyprien - Ultimate 2012 Highlights (via ThatHighlightChannel)