Terrelle Pryor has to find some kind of meaningful employment to finance his new sports car collecting hobby now that he won’t be playing football at Ohio State anymore. We hear he’s kind of good at throwing a football, running with a football, handing off a football, scoring touchdowns with a football, and doing whatever else it is that quarterbacks do with a football in their hands.
The problem is that he’s not quite good enough at those things that quarterbacks do, or at least not as far as the NFL is concerned. So this is the part when we return to the question asked by our friendly headline, and ponder the future of a young man who made some poor decisions. And for that evaluation we turn to every draft prospect’s good friend/mortal enemy Mel Kiper.
As is often typical of quarterbacks who primarily rely on their legs to generate space and make plays, Pryor’s throwing ability and how it will transfer to the next level is a concern. In terms of his mobility and body type, Pryor is often compared to Cam Newton. But as Kiper notes in his ESPN Insider evaluation (subscription required, sorry), comparing Pryor to Newton isn’t fair to Newton.
Pryor is 6’6″ 233 pounds, while Newton is 6’5″, 248 pounds, so their size is indeed similar. However, Newton is far more advanced in terms of his mechanics, leading Kiper to believe that a more appropriate comparison for Pryor is Matt Jones, a classic jack of two trades, and master of none that Jacksonville selected 21st overall in 2005. As a quarterback for Arkansas in 2004, Jones passed for 2,073 yards, with 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He was asked to morph into a receiver in the NFL, a transition that led to Jones becoming an also-ran. That’s a depressing label for any player, but especially a first round pick.
Jones had 2,153 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns over five seasons, with his most productive year coming in 2008 (761 yards, two touchdowns). Jones was becoming a serviceable receiver–another awful label–until his mind and motivation derailed his transition, and he’s now retired from football.
Kiper also cited the failed attempt by Pat White to become a versatile wildcat athlete in Miami, and said that whether or not Pryor is stubborn with the quarterback position will greatly influence his NFL value.
While the comparison to Jones sounds good in terms of draft position, he’s also seen as a cautionary tale in terms of the value Jacksonville ultimately got for such a high pick. And there are other, more recent comparisons that don’t do Pryor any favors. Pat White was drafted by the Dolphins two years ago in Round 2, and his brief attempt to be an NFL quarterback is also a cautionary tale, to say the least. Tyrod Taylor fell all the way to the sixth round of this year’s draft after a great career at Virginia Tech because the “great athlete” label couldn’t overcome the fact that as either a quarterback or a receiver, he’d face a significant learning curve.
Pryor can choose to pursue the NFL through the supplemental draft this summer, the status of which is currently as uncertain as the rest of the league’s regular offseason calendar because of the lockout. His other option would be to continue his development by spending a season in either the CFL or UFL and then entering the 2012 draft. That option clearly comes with a major injury risk, but the greater risk lies in Pryor simply not producing a thorough body of work that compares favorably to his peers.
Before the Ohio State debacle completely unravelled, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King said that one head coach with a quarterback vacancy was unsure about Pryor because he hadn’t had the chance to study the former top recruit. Given the sheer volume of college prospects each year, teams usually focus on players who are expected to declare for the draft, which wasn’t the case with Pryor.
Scouts, coaches and general managers can read numbers, and they know that Pryor can pass at the college level. They can see his 2,772 passing yards in his junior year at Ohio State, and his 27 touchdowns with only 11 interceptions. His sterling completion percentage (65 percent) is in that stat line too, yet still talent evaluators feel that the true story of Pryor’s future lies beyond those numbers.
Merely being in peak physical condition and displaying elite athleticism isn’t enough of a repertoire to excel in the NFL. Like White and Taylor, Pryor has been called an “athlete”, which is another one of those vicious labels. There are two primary events at a prospect’s disposal that provide opportunties to shake those stereotypes: the Scouting Combine, and the Senior Bowl.
If Pryor decides to pursue the supplemental draft he won’t have access to either.