I’ve had the opportunity to run through a couple of OSU games this weekend to have a look at quarterback Terrelle Pryor. He’s entering the supplemental draft whenever that takes place (we’re relying on a new CBA again) and it’s not entirely obvious what his future holds. His departure from Ohio State was shambolic and will concern teams just as much as any faults within his on-field game (and we’ll come to the actual football soon).
First the background on his exit from Ohio State.
Pryor was due to miss the first five games of the 2011 college season along with four teammates due to a NCAA sanction for selling memorabilia. As it turns out, that was just the start of the mayhem. The Columbus Dispatch reported that the NCAA and Ohio State would conduct an investigation over 50 cars bought by players, family members and friends. Sports Illustrated added that Pryor drove up to eight cars during his time at OSU. What’s more, it’s understood he was driving on a suspended license. ESPN have since published a subsequent report alleging that Pryor made thousands of dollars autographing memorabilia for a local booster, a charge which has been denied by Pryor’s attorney.
The end product of all this negative press is the decision to quit college football and head to the supplemental draft. To some extent it’s understandable – would Pryor’s suspension be extended pending further NCAA investigation? Could he miss a whole year? With coach Jim Tressell leaving and with so much negativity existing around the team, would it surmount to potentially a wasted season? All legitimate reasons to justify Pryor’s decision from a pure business point of view, yet you have to ask at the same time whether it’s a major cop out? With OSU being investigated and facing a huge task on the field, rather than face the music or stand by his teammates Pryor has simply bailed for higher ground.
It’d be easy to read too much into that, but teams do want to see responsibility and they want to see leadership from big name college quarterbacks. Perhaps you ignore certain things when you’re considering a low level investment in a talented running back or corner, but Pryor plays the most important position on the team. They need to know they can trust this guy to put the offense on his shoulders and drag it across the desert. They need to know that the day he becomes part of their franchise, football will win the day and not controversy.
Pryor’s agent Drew Rosenhaus has predicted at least one team is going to make a first round investment via the supplemental draft. Even if Pryor was such a talented quarterback to warrant that consideration, the off-the-field issues would render it a near impossibility. Which team is going to spend their 2012 first round pick on Terrelle Pryor before a ball has been kicked in anger to begin the new season? The answer is obvious. The question really becomes – at what point does Pryor go from being too much of a risk, to becoming a calculated gamble or even a worthy project?
When you throw on the tape it’s very easy to determine what is Pryor’s defining strength – evasiveness. When it’s third and ten, you’re pass rush has penetrated into the backfield and is just about to make the sack – he finds a way to avoid the pressure and make a gain instead of taking the loss. Sometimes, he even gets a new set of downs. He glides as a runner and looks every part an athlete – 6-6 and 235lbs of fluid, stylish running ability. Unfortunately, that is the one big positive.
As a passer there’s absolutely nothing to write home about. He lacks any kind of touch or feel with the football, often throwing a poor spiral or struggling to put the ball into the best possible place for his receivers. On several occasions he’ll get bailed out by his wide-outs fighting to make a play or just being better than the individual they’re competing with. Despite having great athletic qualities, there’s no great deep ball or velocity and certainly his accuracy downfield is patchy at best. The problem is, he doesn’t compensate with a tidy intermediate game. He’s a thrower, not a passer. When things get tough, sometimes he’ll just toss it up for grabs.
It’s hard to imagine any scheme where Pryor could fit in without major technique building. He’s being coached during this pre-CBA holding period by Ken Anderson who also worked with Cam Newton. That’s a positive, but I can’t stress enough the vast amount of space between Newton and Pryor in terms of their passing ability. Despite a lot of suggestions to the contrary, Newton is a much more established and polished passer than people give him credit for. He can make several pro-style throws with ease, he spins the ball effectively with good touch and he’s got a much better deep ball. Newton is what Pryor was expected to be when he started at OSU. Right now, they are incomparable players except for size and athletic ability. Newton is ready to play quarterback in the NFL, while Pryor isn’t close.
I could see a handful of different scenarios in the supplemental draft – one being that no NFL team makes a bid for Pryor and he’s left contemplating his next move. That is a very real prospect in my opinion. On the other hand, the athletic qualities are good enough for at least one team to bring him in for a late round flier and test him out. In that round 5-7 range you’re never expecting anything but potential and a chance of sticking around. At the very least, Pryor’s athletic brilliance should secure some interest. Anything higher than that for me is severe wishful thinking.
Would the Seahawks show interest? They’ve been willing to take on a project in the first year of the Pete Carroll regime and Pryor could do worse than get a shot somewhere where competition is the very nature of the programme. Carroll wants his quarterback to be able to move and extend plays, while also keeping a defense honest and being able to limit turnovers. Despite his sometimes careless nature, Pryor had 11 interceptions in both the 2009 and 2010 seasons but scored 45 passing touchdowns. The numbers are slightly deceptive though – Pryor had poor-to-average games against Miami (FL), Wisconsin and Iowa averaging 49% completions and recording a 2-3 touchdown-interception ratio. No such troubles of course against Marshall, Eastern Michigan or Indiana (75% completions on average, 10-0 TD-INT ratio).
It’s also worth mentioning that the eleven picks were spread out – Pryor had only three regular season games in 2010 without an interception.
Whether that alone will be enough to put off the Seahawks entirely remains to be seen, although you imagine that like the rest of the league the OSU-exit and the lack of polished passing ability will do most damage. Even so, it may be Carroll who sees the potential which in fairness exists if only from a physical stand point. Putting him on the bench for a year behind a veteran or two and taking a slow approach may pay dividends down the line. Maybe. If someone is going to take a shot on Pryor, it’s as likely to be the Seahawks as anyone else. Pryor has to hope someone will be willing to take on that challenge whenever the supplemental draft takes place – otherwise he better prepare for the Canadian Football League.
Terrelle Pryor vs Arkansas – Sugar Bowl (Tape provided by JMPasq):