Need To Know: Jonathan Cyprien

The Packers need a safety and they need to become more physical; Florida International's Jonathan Cyprien is a physical safety. Cyprien, who earned his degree in 3.5 years, showed his potential with a dominant Senior Bowl.

The Baltimore Ravens won a Super Bowl with a future Hall of Famer, Ed Reed, at safety. The San Francisco 49ers got there with perhaps the best safety tandem in the league with Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner.

In 2010, the Green Bay Packers had the great Nick Collins roaming center field.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have won two Super Bowls with Troy Polamalu.

The New England Patriots won back-to-back Super Bowls after acquiring Rodney Harrison.

The Green Bay Packers have a hole at safety, a void only exacerbated with Charles Woodson's release. Morgan Burnett had a solid third season in the league, M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian showed ability in flashes, and big Sean Richardson is an intriguing prospect. What the Packers don't have is someone in the mold of Reed, Polamalu or Collins at a position that is taking on a greater prominence with more teams throwing the ball and more teams turning to dual-threat quarterbacks.

If the Packers aren't confident one of those three could join Burnett in giving the team a championship-caliber tandem at safety, they'll likely dive into a deep class of safeties. One of the leaders of the group is Florida International's Jonathan Cyprien (6-0, 217).

Cyprien says he patterns his game after Louis Delmas, the Detroit Lions safety who was a high school teammate at North Miami Beach High School, and Polamalu. Like Delmas and Polamalu, Cyprien's calling card is his physical play. He started the final 45 games of his career and earned all-conference accolades all four seasons. He was first-team all-Sun Belt as a senior, when he had a team-high four interceptions. For his career, he rang up a school-record 365 tackles, along with seven interceptions and six forced fumbles.

Clearly, the Sun Belt is not the SEC. Cyprien's strong week at the Senior Bowl, however, put some of those doubts to rest. He packed a punch from the first day of practices, serving notice that he wasn't just a small-school star.

"I like his toughness. I like his aggressiveness," said Raiders coach Dennis Allen, whose staff coached Cyprien at the Senior Bowl.

By the end of the week, he had emerged as the best of the eight safeties selected to the college showcase.

"Not too many," Cyprien said at the Scouting Combine about teams questioning the level of competition. "Teams are aware that I did come from Florida International, but I think there's a lot of talent in the Sun Belt Conference — not just from Florida International, but the entire conference."

Cyprien ranked fifth among safeties with a 38.5-inch vertical at the Scouting Combine. He didn't run the 40 in Indy but did at his pro day. His 4.64 probably is the only thing keeping him out of the first round. If he's there in the second, the Packers might pull the trigger in adding a physical, fiery presence the defense sorely lacked.

Along with his hitting ability, Cyprien has to rank among the smartest safeties in the draft. He earned his degree in hospitality management in just 3.5 years.

"I think that shows a lot, because what you do off the field does translate to what you do on the field," he said.

At the Combine, Cyprien spoke at the same podium as all the top safeties in the draft. All of them proclaimed themselves the best of a superb crop of safeties.

Cyprien said the same, but was more interested in walking the walk than talking the talk.

"I think I'm the No. 1 guy because I can bring a lot to a team and contribute to a team winning games (by) making plays (and) leadership," he said. "I can come in and say it all I want but, at the end of the day, when I have my opportunity, I just want to shine and do what I have to do to prove that I am."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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