Editor's Note: Promoted FanPost
Jonathan Cyprien, SS, Florida International
Arm length: 30 1/2"
Hand length: 10 1/8"
Patriot Great Comparison: Lawyer Milloy
I won't be shy on my opinion: this player is my favorite DB prospect. Until recently, Jonathan Cyprien was a relative unknown in the big scheme of the NFL Draft. Cyprien was a three year starter at the strong safety position at Florida International, and is currently projected as an early second-round pick (#44 draft prospect according to CBS). An impressive showing at the Senior Bowl changed that to the point where he is now being viewed as an option for the Patriots' first-round pick. In this day and age of the NFL where there are more spread-out passing attacks, safeties are going to be overvalued sightly. This year's safety class is very uninspiring with only Kenny Vaccaro being considered at a first round grade.
In terms of fitting with the Patriots' main defensive scheme, Cyprien fits most of the descriptions that Belichick likes to have in his safeties. He can play a deep half very well in a Cover 2 scheme, can line up in the slot in man coverage, and is very physical in the run game. Cyprien does have a few questions that pop up such as taking very aggressive angles towards the ball and his straight-line speed. While the former can be fixed with good coaching and mentoring by veterans, the latter is going to be a physical issue until at least the combine. Those issues aside, Cyprien has below-average-to-decent arm length for other players his height, but he comes equipped with very large hands, which could be a plus for him when he is reacting and attacking the football in order to create turnovers. While it may take some time for Cyprien to get accustomed to playing in a full-time safety role, he could end up becoming the missing link (and physical presence) in the secondary that has been missing since Rodney Harrison went down in 2006 with a torn ACL.
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.
Even though Cyprien comes from a small school in the college football world, his rise has pegged him on equal footing as Matt Elam--a much more well-known prospect from Florida. From the description, his best games have come against quality teams. Cyprien would fit into the "strong safety" slot, and his weaknesses as a center fielder-type safety coupled with his straight line speed are offset by Devin McCourty's range and quickness should they elect to keep McCourty at "free safety.". Generally when the Patriots draft in the first round, they look for value that also fills a need--ideal for a team that is arguably one good safety away from being a very good defense. What I like from him is that his skill sets complement Devin McCourty's very well where McCourty can play center field and Cyprien can cover the middle in the intermediate zones. Unless the team brings in a veteran safety, Cyprien would be a good bet to out-seat incumbent strong safety Steve Gregory. There will be growing pains early in the season, but be patient--this guy is worth it.
2012 Stats: 12 games, 12 starts, 93 tackles, 4 INT, 4 PD
Statistically looking at the 2012 season, Cyprien does not post gaudy numbers. However, his 93 tackles (about 7.58 tackles per game) are nothing to sneeze at, and having a safety who is a sure tackler is a must. He intercepted 4 passes and deflected 4 more (ESPN Stats not official), which would be about 0.67 pass disruptions per game. His best games of 2012 came against Florida Atlantic, Troy, Akron and Central Florida. Looking at the sheer number of tackles, the best role to put Cyprien in would be the in-the-box safety on the early downs covering RBs and TEs, then shifting to a cover 2 or robber coverage as a deep safety on the passing downs. This would be similar to how the Patriots utilized Steve Gregory in 2012.
Johnathan Cyprien vs Western Kentucky (2012) (via Aaron Aloysius)
Johnathan Cyprien vs Louisville (2012) (via Aaron Aloysius)
Johnathan Cyprien vs Florida Atlantic (2012) (via Aaron Aloysius)
Senior Bowl Day 3 (NORTH PRACTICE - Safety Drills).mp4 (via Neil Stratton)- Cyprien is #37