With Pryor, Raiders prove that sometimes reputations are earned
Sometimes the stereotypes are accurate, and the past is indeed prologue. Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis has always coveted freakish athletes in terms of size and speed, so naturally he stayed true to his track record Monday and spent a third-round pick on Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor in the NFL's twice-rescheduled supplemental draft.
Given the Raiders' history, it's no surprise to see them gamble on Pryor's eye-opening measurables, with his 4.38 speed and powerfully built 6-foot-5, 232-pound frame. Davis has always sought after the "wow'' factor in the draft, and in that respect Pryor perfectly fit the mold of an Oakland pick.
But now the question becomes how long it will take for Pryor to fit the mold of an efficient NFL quarterback, and how best to use his rare blend of athletic gifts in the pro game? Despite possessing a strong arm, fast feet and plenty of size, Pryor is a long way from being the kind of polished passer who will thrive in the NFL. It's going to take time and work for him to be in position to lead an offense that requires much more than athleticism, but in going to the Raiders, Pryor might have found an NFL home where he'll have a chance to get on the field and make an impact much faster than he might have elsewhere.
The reality in Oakland is that the Raiders quarterback position has been a revolving door since Rich Gannon won the MVP and led the team to a Super Bowl in 2002, and the depth chart Pryor is joining isn't what anyone would call rock solid. You've Jason Campbell, Trent Edwards and Kyler Boller. That's not exactly Joe Montana, Steve Young and Steve Bono standing in Pryor's path to the field.
Campbell will start for a second season in Oakland, but he's entering the last year of his contract and has had a tenuous grasp on the No. 1 job since he first got to the Bay Area last summer. When you factor in Edwards and Boller, I wonder if there's another NFL roster that features three one-time starting QBs that have been given up on by at least one organization each (and more in the case of Edwards and Boller).
Pryor's throwing mechanics are the part of his game that is least NFL ready as he prepares to report to Oakland and begin his pro career. In the opinion of one NFL head coach I spoke with this month, it's not a natural throwing motion, and much like Denver's Tim Tebow, he'll need to prove he can alter it or perhaps face being asked to change positions once he's in the league. If nothing else, Davis and the Raiders have the option to be patient with him -- after all, they waited three long years for JaMarcus Russell to prove himself -- and Oakland clearly wants and needs him to succeed at quarterback, which has been a franchise weak spot.
It's a mistake if the Raiders are thinking about Pryor having any significant role in their 2011 season, unless it's merely as a Wildcat quarterback or some other limited and situation-specific assignment. As tempting as it will be to find ways to use his athleticism, Pryor might be best served if he gets a redshirt rookie season in Oakland, learning more about the intricacies of the pro game and the quarterback position. Perhaps Raiders head coach Hue Jackson, with his offensive background, can fast track Pryor's development in ways not readily apparent just yet.
But you can't say the marriage of the Raiders and Pryor doesn't make sense. It almost had to happen. He's a big, fast and supremely gifted athlete, and he went to the one franchise that above all others prioritizes size, speed and athleticism. In retrospect, Pryor was destined to be a Raider. We just don't know yet whether his destiny includes being an NFL success story, or just another reach by a team that's still searching for its next franchise quarterback.