Jonathan Cyprien was a lightly recruited prep from a football hotbed, south Florida, but his NFL-caliber athleticism immediately stood outonce he enrolled at Sun Belt conference member FIU. He appeared in all 12 games in 2009, earning honorable mention all-conference accolades, playing every game and picking up seven starts; he ranked second on the team with 78 tackles while also picking off one pass, breaking up three others, and forcing two fumbles. Sophomore slump? No thank you sir! Cyprien led the Panthers with 113 tackles (three for loss) while intercepting another pass, recording six pass breakups, and creating three fumbles.
Although Cyprien's 2011 numbers dipped a bit (81 stops, 5.5 TFLs eight PBUs and a pick) he earned second-team All-Sun Belt honor for the second consecutive year. The following season, he emerged as a first-team pick, registering a team-high 93 tackles (3.5 for loss) and four interceptions. He leaves the Miami-based school as FIU's career leader in starts by a safety, with 45, and the program' all-time leading tackler.
At 6-foot and 217 pounds, Cyprien has ideal size and suggests that he will be a playmaker in the NFL: he exhibits very good ball skills, is a big hitter, an effective blitzer, and is active against the run, frequently meeting rival ballcarriers behind the line of scrimmage. While he is at his best against the run, Cyprien has flashed in zone defense versus crossing receivers. But don't trust my eyes; take a look at the tape. Here he is against a wide variety of teams: Sun Belt rivals Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic, as well as non-conference opponents Duke (ACC) and Louisville (Big East)
J-Cyp boasts good to very good measurables; at FIU's pro day, Cyprien ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds, did 18 reps at 225 pounds, notched a 9'11" broad jump and 4.44 second short shuttle and 7.01 second three-cone drill times. More importantly to observant Cowboys fans, he an "RKG"; Cyprien is a vocal and passionate leader on the field who competes hard on every play, bringing a physical edge to the position. At the Senior Bowl, In a talented safety group, Cyprien' aggressive playing style and active demeanor stood out: he practiced at full speed and left it all out on the field. At Combine interviews, scouts found him to be extremely driven and determined in interviews; by all accounts, he's the kind of player who "loves football."
Okay, so I like this kid...
...but you probably didn't hit the linky to read what I think. You want to hear from our gallery of scouting greats. Without further ado, I give you today's forensic five:
ESPN/ Scouts, Inc. (Gary Horton): 4th-rated S; 67th overall
Instincts/ Recognition: Appears to be quarterback of the defense and regularly gets players aligned pre snap but not a naturally instinctive player. Gets caught out of position too much. Flashes ability to jump routes but overaggressive and route recognition is just average. Takes cheese and gets caught jumping up in zone looks. Vulnerable to double moves. Bites on play action. Doesn't get head turned around in time to locate the ball when forced to turn back to the quarterback. Can launch at receivers and needs to develop better feel for when to pull up.
Cover skills: Range is above average on film. Covers deep half with ease and effective centerfielder when makes sound reads. Closes quickly and can deliver big hits when receivers catch the ball in front of him. Fluid, fast and strong enough to match up with tight ends. Doesn't match up as well with slot receivers. Balanced and good body control but tightness in hips and takes too long to transition in and out of cuts.
Ball skills: Big hands and can make routine plays but not a ball hawk. Body catches. Doesn't time jumps well and can do a better job of high-pointing in jump ball situations. Thumper that can separate receivers from the ball but looks for big hit more than big play. Ducks head and loses track of the ball.
Run support: Flashes ability to stack tight ends and strong enough to set edge when plays close to the line of scrimmage. Closes quickly and flashes the ability to deliver big hit when lines up deep but unreliable tackler. Angles play role. Not always in sound position to make plays and gets caught lunging. Fails to wrap up. Overwhelmed by offensive linemen and gets caught up in the wash between the tackles.
Intangibles: Pronounced: SIP-pree-en. Son of Kennel and Roselaure Cyprien. Four-year starter and team leader. Loves the game and reportedly has professional work ethic. Has graduated. Friends with Detroit DS Louis Delmas and Tampa Bay DC E.J. Biggers. Attended same high school- North Miami Beach.
CBSSports.com (Rob Rang): 2nd-rated SS; 42nd overall
Strengths: Well-built defender who certainly looks the part of an NFL safety. Aggressive playing style and active demeanor. Took advantage of the Senior Bowl opportunity, standing out with his full-speed effort from the first practice. Enjoys the physical nature of the position. Meets the ballcarrier with a pop and refuses to let up.
Good ball skills. Shows the ability to extend and snatch the ball out of the air. Has consistently played well against so-called "top" competition over his career, enjoying standout performances in past years against the likes of Texas A&M, Rutgers, Maryland and Louisville, among others.
Weaknesses: Some have concerns about Cyprien's straight-line speed. Played a lot of two-deep coverage at FIU, showing the ability to play halves but not necessarily operate as a true centerfielder. Takes highly aggressive angles to the ball and consistently tackles ballcarriers high, two potential areas of concern considering the significant jump in competition he'll be making. There may be some initial struggles.
Compares to: Morgan Burnett, SS, Green Bay Packers -- Surrounded by big names in the Packers' secondary, Burnett is quietly emerging as one of the league's better young safeties. He was targeted early by opponents as a rookie before going down with a torn ACL. Hopefully Cyprien won't have to deal with an injury, but he could struggle through similar growing pains. Once acclimated to the speed of the NFL, however, he also could rise quickly.
Pro Football Weekly (Nolan Nawrocki): 3rd-rated SS; 84th overall
Positives: Very good size and musculature. Big hands. Fluid and athletic to bend and re-direct. Smooth pedal. Clean plant and drive. Plays fast and physical - has striking ability. Fills in run support. Can man up tight ends. Has a 38 ½-inch vertical leap. Times blitzes. Vocal on-field leader. Has special-teams experience and should contribute readily on kick coverage. Stood out against better competition at the Senior Bowl. Productive, 42-game starter with upside.
Negatives: Short arms. Average eyes, instincts and anticipation. Lacks centerfielder range. Steps falsely versus play-action. Could stand to improve zone awareness and route recognition. Doesn't take on blocks with force. Takes some bad angles. Can be late to locate the football in coverage and tends to clutch and grab. Long-term durability could be an issue given his style of play.
Summary: Athletic, physical strong safety who can seek and destroy in the box and function in halves, quarters or thirds coverage. Has immediate special-teams value and should step into a starting role sooner than later. Showed improvement as a senior but instincts and football intelligence must continue to improve.
Ourlads (Dan Shonka): 2nd-rated SS; 48th overall
Four-year starter who is the all-time leader in career tackles with 365 to his credit. Aggressive and physical in the run game. A face up contact player with a nose for the ball. Reacts quickly to run reads. Hits with an explosive force. Runs through the ball carrier. Big strong hands. Good range. Can play in a robber or deep halves scheme. Locks up tight ends. Athletic feet to stay off the ground. Hip flexibility with change of direction quickness. Has burst quickness and acceleration to the collision point. Possesses man-to-man and zone cover ability but can get better on route recognition. Suddenness to drive on the ball. Look up physical ability for safeties and Cyprien's picture is there. A contact player who is a heavy hitter. A competitor who is mentally tough. Talent to contribute early and provide impact play.
And here's our resident superduperscout's report on Cyprien. And, yes, I'm referring to Archie.
Our panel of elite draftniks has him slotted anywhere from a early-to-mid second (Rang and Shonka) to the third round (Nawrocki). I'm more inclined to drink the Kool-Aid Rang and Shonka are selling; Cyprien is one of the most complete safeties in this year’s draft class and has been perched high atop the safety boards since the Senior Bowl. Although I'm going to place him in round two on my "little board," I seriously doubt he'll last anywhere near that long. On the other hand, I'm not sure he presents optimal value at #18.
Assuming the Cowboys don't draft another safety (i.e., Kenny Vacarro) at 18, they'll be praying for Cyprien and his enticing combination of athletic ability, physicality and passion for the game to fall to 47. But here's the problem: Cyprien has had nearly a dozen combined visits and private workouts with teams other than the Cowboys. Take a look at where those teams draft, and you'll see clearly the late first-early second round gauntlet through which he'll have to pass to make it to the Cowboys: Texans (27); Falcons (30); 49ers (31 and 34); Jaguars (33); Cardinals (38); Jets (39); Titans (40); Dolphins (42); Panthers (44). And, in the event they want to trade up, the Redskins (51) have also expressed interest.
I can't see all these teams passing on him. That said, if they do, I will be excited enough at hearing his name read that I'll add five inches to my pre-Combine vertical. That's right, I'll double it.
Next up: Georgia Southern safety J. J. Wilcox