Limited chances for Pryor to impress
Lockout allows for few opportunities to prove the various skills NFL quarterbacks need
The first question Terrelle Pryor likely asked himself after his Ohio State career imploded was how best he could prepare for the NFL's supplemental draft. The question he'll likely be facing soon is how to convince people that he has a future in the game. Pryor's odds of doing that are slim based on how rarely supplemental picks succeed in the league, and his chances decline even more when considering that he plays quarterback.
Of all the issues hanging over Pryor -- who's been working out in Florida in preparation for a pro day to take place once the NFL lockout ends -- the one deserving the most attention is the timing of his arrival into the league. The supplemental draft is supposed to take place no later than 10 days before the start of training camp, so at best he might have a week or two to showcase his skills to NFL decision-makers before the draft begins.
That means Pryor not only will have to blow away executives and coaches with his physical gifts, but he'll also have to find ways to impress them with his mind and his heart.
The days when NFL teams could fall in love with a quarterback's rocket arm and unparalleled athleticism are long gone. Today's teams are far more concerned with what really helps signal-callers succeed, traits like mental toughness, the ability to retain extensive information and the experience that comes from being tested time and again in college.
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"Playing quarterback is like playing point guard in basketball, and this kid is the equivalent of a power forward," one AFC personnel director said. "His biggest problem is that he's coming into the league in the summer of a lockout year, and he won't even work with a pro coach before training camp starts. He needs time to win people over with intangibles like work ethic and intelligence. And time isn't on his side."
To understand the factors working against Pryor at this point, consider the other quarterbacks who entered this year's regular draft in April. Cam Newton faced all sorts of scrutiny about his ego, his potential involvement in an alleged scandal at Auburn and his lack of experience in a conventional offense. Critics wondered about the accuracy of Jake Locker, the inconsistency of Blaine Gabbert and the injury history of Christian Ponder. Each of those players had months to answer his doubters in personal workouts and during interviews with teams. All were taken within the first 12 picks of the first round.
Even if Pryor had been able to play his entire senior season -- he left school amid allegations he made as much as $40,000 annually signing memorabilia and drove cars provided by dealers -- he would have needed as much time as this year's prospects to sell his potential.
For one thing, he didn't play in a program known for producing top-caliber NFL signal-callers. Only eight former Ohio State players have played quarterback in the NFL since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, and none has started more than 11 games in a season. The ones who, like Pryor, played under recently fired Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel were consistently disappointing. Only Troy Smith (eight starts) and Craig Krenzel (five) found teams willing to put them under center.
Pryor certainly has better career numbers than his predecessors (8,341 total yards, 74 touchdowns), but he apparently hasn't learned much about the sophisticated passing game. One league source said Pryor rarely was asked to read complicated defenses during his three seasons at Ohio State. If he couldn't find open receivers in the Buckeyes' spread offense, he improvised when his protection broke down. This isn't the kind of stuff, by the way, that makes general managers and coaches giddy about what they can do with such a prospect.
That doesn't mean Pryor won't have value. He is still 6-foot-6, 233 pounds and blessed with 4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash. It does mean he'll have to work hard to mask his deficiencies when sitting in front of NFL decision-makers once the lockout ends. These men are paid to make such prospects uncomfortable when grilling them about leading an offense, and Pryor can only do so much to convince them that his lack of experience at Ohio State won't be problematic at the next level.
That rawness hurts him even more because teams can't immediately use him as their No. 2 quarterback when the regular season begins, meaning his practice repetitions will be limited from the start.
"I don't know how you develop the guy quickly if he can't be your No. 2," said one AFC quarterbacks coach who has studied Pryor recently. "The whole thing about being a backup quarterback in the NFL is that you have to be somebody who can succeed without a lot of practice. He has some gifts that have value, but I don't see how you get him on the field."
Right now there are two scenarios that would benefit Pryor.
The first is landing with a team that already has a proven veteran quarterback, someone who can help Pryor learn what it means to be a professional. The other is joining a team that uses him creatively, possibly in the kind of "slash" role that Kordell Stewart played for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the mid-1990s. Stewart eventually earned a job as a starting quarterback because his coaches trusted him enough to give him the opportunity.
This, by the way, is how one proves his intangibles. If Pryor is going to be a quarterback at the next level, he will get there through patience, humility and an ability to learn quickly. This is probably not the way he wanted to come into the league, but it's the only way that makes sense now. After all, he barely has enough time to prepare for whatever pro day his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, can arrange for him once the lockout ends.
It will be interesting to see what people think of Pryor after his initial audition. We already know he has great physical ability, but that isn't what makes an NFL quarterback. The signal-callers who make it in the league know how to thrive under extreme pressure. Given how Pryor is starting his pro career, he's about to be under much duress.
Senior writer Jeffri Chadiha covers the NFL for ESPN.com.
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