NFL Draft: Breaking down safety Jonathan Cyprien

Apr 2, 2013, 6:56 PM | Updated: 8:55 pm
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As we move closer to draft day, the names of the players the Arizona Cardinals are bringing in for pre-draft workouts will begin to trickle in.

Thus far, we know the Cardinals have met with Oregon pass rusher Dion Jordan and North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon — and I talked about both of those prospects and how they would fit in with the Cardinals and what they are looking to do.

Monday we learned that Jonathan Cyprien, the hard-hitting Florida International safety, would be making a visit with the Cardinals coaching staff.

The intrigue makes sense, as Cyprien would be an excellent piece in the back end of new coordinator Todd Bowles’ defense, and could be the long-term replacement for either Adrian Wilson or at free safety.

The Good

Can be a free or strong safety

Cyprien is well-put together at six-feet, 217 pounds, and looks the part of a prototype NFL safety. He moves well and consistently plays with a reckless abandon at full speed.

He shows a willingness to attack the line of scrimmage as a downhill in-the-box safety playing near the line of scrimmage. He consistently makes plays in the run game, whether it is by setting the edge, attacking blockers and shedding them to go after the ball carrier or hunting down the ball and knifing through the offensive line to make a play.

Cyprien also shows a comfort dropping into coverage in zone as a free safety or lining up against slot receivers or tight ends.

His athleticism allows him to be moved around the defensive backfield and make plays at all levels of the field, which is something Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles would be able to take advantage of.

Closing Speed

When you watch Cyprien play, one of the things that consistently pops on film is how he is shutting plays down.

Whether it is in coverage — like the interception of Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater (likely the top QB prospect in the 2014 draft), or recognizing a screen play and attacking it before it can get set up, Cyprien attacks without hesitation.

What you like about Cyprien is that he shows that closing speed at all levels of the defense, no matter if he is lined up as a free safety and closing on an unsuspecting receiver or playing in the box and shutting down a running play like a linebacker.

When asked to blitz, Cyprien makes it look natural. He shows the ability to make a blocker miss or meet them head-on and shed them to get pressure on the quarterback.

The Bad


What makes Cyprien so enticing as a prospect may also be his biggest hindrance moving forward. While he is consistently around the ball and making plays, he can be a step late.

That is because he was sucked up into coverage off of a play fake or he jumped an underneath route instead of staying in his coverage and making the play in front of him — he is always looking to make the big play.

He can get too physical at the line in his jams of receivers and they can take advantage and get a step, where he struggles to recover and again can give up a big play.

The Cyprien


While Cyprien is a willing, able and sometimes technically-sound tackler, he does some things that are worrisome.

He can take on runners too high at times, which is okay playing against the Florida Atlantics and Western Kentuckys of the world, but in the NFL he’ll get shrugged off.

He does a phenomenal job of breaking down and form tackling near the line of scrimmage, but too often will look for a big hit when tackling in the secondary.

Cyprien can also be prone to headhunting and costly penalties. He is always looking to dislodge the ball from the receiver, and when he does that he’ll pick up cheap personal fouls.

Overall, Cyprien is the type of guy who could thrive playing under a secondary coach who has turned into a defensive coordinator like Todd Bowles.

He can line up all over the field and be used at different levels as a weapon to combat the Russell Wilson/Colin Kaepernick read-option craze.

He has the ability to make plays in the secondary or coming up toward the line of scrimmage.

The problem, and what is slightly puzzling to me about the Cardinals having a visit with Cyprien, is that he is a guy I have a top-25 grade on, and with the Rams and 49ers both having needs at safety and two picks before the Cardinals select in round two, I am not sure he’ll be an option for them.

Does that mean the Cardinals like him enough to trade up if he is there? Is he a target if the Cardinals are able to move down in round 1?

All I know is he would be a great addition to the Cardinals secondary, if they can figure out a way to grab him.

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