2013 NFL Draft: Jonathan Cyprien Scouting Report
Jonathan Cyprien is one of the most dynamic, exciting prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft. He hails from Florida International University, so before the Senior Bowl, not many people were talking about him. But after making a name for himself in the Senior Bowl workouts, it’s pretty safe to say there’s not a chance he makes it all the way to April as a sleeper.
Late First-Early Second Round
Size/Athleticism: When you start watching FIU’s defense, Cyprien stands out immediately as the best athlete on the team. He’s big, lithe, and physical, and just looks like an NFL safety. My first impressions were: “He simultaneously plays bigger and smaller than 6002/209” and “He's like a WLB with the range of a FS who hits like a SS.” He loves to hit and can pack a punch, but he can also turn and run up the seam with tight ends or track receivers down the field. He can track the ball in the air and go up and get it, and he can blow up a screen by picking his way through traffic and planting the ballcarrier.
Mentality: He’s a really intense player. He was the vocal leader of the defense, and he brings an active and palpable passion to the field. When he lays hits, he lets you know about it. He’ll need to be careful to avoid penalties, but he’s smart enough to know where to draw the line. He strikes me as a guy who could have an Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu impact on the mentality of a defense (and, by extension, the entire team).
Football IQ: Cyprien isn't just a loose cannon on the field. He's a cerebral player, and you can see it on the tape. He identifies the run quickly, and typically plays with good leverage and agility to either blow the run up himself, or extend his blocker out and force the run back inside. FIU often used him in the box, almost as a weakside linebacker, and he did struggle to get off of blocks. When they played him back in two-deep coverage, he showed an uncanny ability to fly through traffic and make plays. He seems to be at his best playing downhill with the play in front of him. He also reads the quarterback well when dropping back in zone coverage. He shows a good understanding of receiver route trees in his ability to drop under routes to break up passes.
Speed: Perhaps the biggest concern about his game in projecting him to the next level is how he’ll handle playing at a much higher level of competition. The jump from the Sun Belt to the NFL is significant, to say the least; the game is played a lot faster at the higher levels. Cyprien’s calling card is his physicality, so it’ll be important that he tests well at the combine. If he runs the forty-yard dash in the 4.5 range or faster, he’ll all but guarantee himself a spot in the late first round. If he drops below the 4.6 threshold, he may be due for a drop on draft day.
Tackling: He’s not a poor tackler, per se. But he does tend to hit high, maybe a result of going for the kill-shot. Because he was on another level than the rest of his competition, he got away with it for the most part; but he’ll need to clean it up or he’ll bounce off a lot of NFL ballcarriers. His intense mentality also leads him to take really aggressive angles, which will burn him in the NFL. Both of these issues are definitely coachable, and he’s an extremely intelligent kid who seems to respond to coaching well, so his future is bright.
The idea of “draft stock” is a bit misleading for the general public. Draftniks talk about a guy’s value “rising” and “falling” based on the Senior Bowl, workouts, interviews, etc. But apart from big developments like arrests, suspensions, and injuries, most teams have their draft boards more or less set long before draft season begins.
So while we talk about Cyprien’s rising stock now, he’s assuredly been on the radar of NFL scouts for a long time. The Senior Bowl definitely helped his case, as it showed he can compete at a higher level. He’ll need to show he has the foot-speed and agility to stick with NFL receivers, but that’ll be the difference between him being able to play free safety and him sticking at strong safety.
As a pure strong safety, cover-2 enforcer, I’d give him a solid 2nd round grade. If he runs in the low 4.5 range with good marks in the 3-cone and short shuttle drills, proving he can run with NFL receivers, and maybe even be trusted in single-high coverage, I think he’s got a shot at being the number two safety in the class, behind only Kenny Vaccaro, who should go top-15.