Rex Ryan has a brand-new toy.
The Jets' coach was all smiles Thursday night as he sat alongside general manager John Idzik. Despite the team's needs at wide receiver, Idzik & Co. chose to go defense in the first round, selecting hard-hitting safety Calvin Pryor.
"This young man plays like a Jet," Ryan said of the former Louisville standout. "We pride ourselves on being a physical football team . . . This young man is an enforcer."
Ryan first became aware of Pryor through Idzik, who walked away impressed after attending a Louisville game this past fall. "[He told me] 'I just saw a guy that you're going to love,' " Ryan recalled of Idzik's first comments about Pryor.
The Jets made several school visits to Louisville and brought in Pryor for a visit. As he walked through the halls of the Jets' facility, he got the feeling the organization was high on him. Pryor said Ryan told him "I was their guy'' and that he fit into their defensive scheme.
Said Idzik: "Obviously, we're very excited with our first-round pick, Calvin Pryor. He fits us. He fits our profile . . . He just plays like a Jet."
Pryor started 32 of 38 games at free safety for Louisville, recording 218 tackles and two sacks. In the past two seasons, he had 175 tackles, five interceptions, 11 passes defensed and seven forced fumbles. "I've always been a hard hitter,'' said Pryor, who said he models his game after Seattle's Kam Chancellor and Tampa Bay's Dashon Goldson.
Pryor's physical style certainly will add some swag to the back end of Ryan's defense, but he said he's just concentrating on making the most of his opportunity and being a good teammate.
Asked about adjusting to the NFL, Pryor simply said: "Every team has a receiver or tight end that is a tough matchup. But I look forward to the competition.''
Despite all the chatter about trading up, Idzik stayed true to his character. He was steady, deliberate and practical -- and, above all, stuck to his board. Although Johnny Manziel still was available, Idzik stuck to his plan at No. 18. "Once he was available," Idzik said of Pryor, the Jets knew they had their man.
So for the fifth straight season, the Jets took a defensive player in the first round. The trend began in 2010 with the selection of Kyle Wilson and continued with Muhammad Wilkerson (2011), Quinton Coples (2012) and Dee Milliner and Sheldon Richardson (2013).
Within the first few minutes of Round 1, the Jets' needs in the defensive backfield became even more glaring. The Bills moved up from No. 9 to the fourth overall spot -- which had belonged to the Browns -- in order to steal the best receiver of the bunch, Sammy Watkins. Buffalo surrendered its first- and fourth-round picks in 2015 just to move up five spots for Watkins, who is considered a game-changer.
The Giants snatched up Odell Beckham Jr. -- a receiver Jets fans had been eyeing for their own roster -- with the 12th pick. Though wideouts Brandin Cooks and Marqise Lee still were on the board, the Jets chose to bolster their defense. But instead of taking a cornerback such as Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard, they picked up a safety to join Antonio Allen and Dawan Landry.
"This young man's got plenty of cover skills, range, hands for the interception," Ryan said. " . . . He can play deep, he can play up. And when we all looked at him and evaluated him, we all knew he could play for us."
Pryor is a thumper, similar to former Jet LaRon Landry (Dawan's brother). But the Jets aren't worried about his long-term durability. "That hasn't been his history," Idzik said, referring to injuries. "He usually inflicts it rather than receives it."