Draft Profile: S – Jonathan Cyprien
Jonathan Cyprien, SS, Florida International is a possibility at the 31 spot. With Donte Whitner surrendering the most touchdowns of any safety and Dashon Goldson long term deal up in the air. The 49ers could take a safety at 31 and Cyprien is a good possibility.
Cyprien was lightly recruited out of North Miami Beach High, choosing FIU over Western Michigan, but his athleticism immediately stood out in the Sun Belt.
He appeared in all 12 games in 2009, earning honorable mention all-conference accolades while starting seven games and finishing second on the team with 78 tackles.
Cyprien would go on to earn second-team All-Sun Belt honors each of the next two seasons before emerging as a first-team pick in 2012 with a team-high 93 tackles and four interceptions. He closed his career having started every game the past three seasons, and leaves FIU with 45 career starts – the most by a safety in program history.
Cyprien became just the second Panther to be invited to the Senior Bowl, joining All-American T.Y. Hilton, who was invited in 2011 but missed the game due to injury. While he wasn’t able to impress in Mobile, Hilton demonstrated his big-play ability for Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts as a rookie, leading all rookies with seven touchdown receptions averaging a gaudy 17.2 yards on his 50 grabs.
It remains to be seen if Cyprien will enjoy the same immediate success in the NFL as his former FIU teammate. He certainly indicated the ability to do so by taking full advantage of his opportunity to practice at the Senior Bowl. Playing alongside more well known athletes including Southern California’s USC’s T.J. McDonald and Georgia’s Baccari Rambo, Cyprien was arguably the most impressive safety in Mobile, earning praise as one of the biggest risers at any position throughout the week of practice.
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.
Another talented safety from the Miami area, Cyprien did not attend the “U” but instead made a name for himself under Mario Cristobal at FIU. The interchangeable safety is a talker on the field and never plays half speed, as he showed during unpadded practices at the Senior Bowl.
The North Miami Beach native earned honorable mention All-Sun Belt notice as a true freshman, playing every game and picking up seven starts; he ranked second on the team with 78 tackles while also picking off one pass, breaking up three others, and forcing two fumbles. There was no sophomore slump, as he led the Panthers with 113 tackles (three for loss) while intercepting another pass, recording six pass breakups, and creating three fumbles. Before the 2011 season, Cyprien claimed the number seven jersey previously worn by 2011 Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ seventh-round pick Anthony Gaitor (he switched from the 25 sweater). While his tackle total decreased in his junior season (81), his tackles for loss (5.5) and passes defended (one INT, eight PBU) rose on his way to a second-straight second-team All-Sun Belt honor. His 11-tackle, two-pass-breakup effort against Louisville early in the year didn’t escape the notice of scouts, even with teammate T.Y. Hilton lighting up the Cardinals as a receiver and returner for 268 all-purpose yards.
In 2012, Cyprien drew enough recognition with his play to earn a Senior Bowl invitation. On the way to becoming FIU’s all-time leading tackle, Cyprien notched 93 total tackles his senior year, including 3.5 for loss. He added five pass breakups and four interceptions, along with one forced fumble.
Strengths: Looks and plays like a strong in-the-box safety with solid thickness throughout his build. Holds his ground against blocks from bigger opponents, and also runs through traffic to wrap up ballcarriers inside (sometimes as a fast edge blitzer). Possesses enough speed and athleticism to cover ground as a zone defender in the back half and line up against slot receivers inside. Closes on stretch runs and quick throws to outside receivers even when playing well back from the line. Beats receiver blocks with quickness or strength. His secure tackling in those situations is also notable, as he brings some attitude into his attempts unlike other defensive backs in this class. Used as a blitzer on run and pass plays, can overpower running back blocks.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t have elite range or the height/length combination to play as a single-deep safety. Quick enough to make a hit after the catch when deep, but is often a step slow to recognize the pass coming into his area. Aggressive in coverage, he can be sucked up by play action and will jump underneath routes, allowing plays over the top. Lacks elite change of direction and quickness in man coverage, and does not recover like a corner if beaten by a quick move off the line or in space.
NFL Comparison: Jordan Babineaux
Bottom Line: One of the hardest-hitting safeties in the 2013 draft class, Cyprien offers enough range to be reliable in box coverage while displaying an aggressive mentality againt ball carriers and receivers. He plays smart, and that might be the most improtant trait when looking at safeties. However, despite it being unique, Cyprien doesn’t have a very well known name … yet.