When Jets general manager John Idzik returned from watching Louisville play Central Florida he told head coach Rex Ryan there was a player he had to see. The Jets selected him at No. 18 overall on Thursday night, drawing to an end a long courtship with Louisville safety Calvin Pryor.
The consensus was the Jets would go offense with their first pick, especially with the need to grab a playmaker at tight end and wide receiver. The Jets' passing offense was second-worst in the league with rookie Geno Smith in charge last season. But most experts did not think Pryor would fall to the No. 18 spot in the draft.
“Once he was available, it was a pretty easy pick for us,” Idzik said. “He fits us; he fits our profile. He's a physical player on the field, he has range [and] he makes plays. [He] creates turnovers. Plays like a Jet.”
Pryor does not have prototypical size for a safety but is a physical specimen and likes to hit hard.
“He usually inflicts it — doesn't receive,” Idzik said. “When you look at his body size and his film, he has a nice thick frame. The measurables don't tell the full story.”
Ryan called Pryor “an enforcer.”
He was first team All-American Athletic Conference last season. Pryor had a nose for the ball with three interceptions and 75 tackles including 5 1/2 tackles for a loss.
The move came with Michigan State's Darqueeze Dennard still on the draft board and the Jets having a glaring need at cornerback. But Pryor's fit as a safety and the need at the position was too good for the Jets to pass up.
The Jets have not had a physical presence at safety since LaRon Landry left after the 2012 season.
Former Jets assistant coach Mike Pettine, now with the Browns, took the best cornerback in the draft No. 8 overall with the selection of Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert and the Steelers selected Kyle Fuller of Virginia Techat No. 15. Both players visited the Jets in late April. LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., another player thought to be a Jets target, went off the board at No. 12 to the Giants.
The Jets have not taken an offensive player in the first round since they traded up to select Mark Sanchez No. 5 overall in 2009.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.