Terrell is no Jamarcus

The Raiders’ selection of Terrell Pryor in the 3rd round of the NFL supplemental draft seemed obvious from the moment the athletic quarterback’s name began being mentioned as a possible eligible candidate. I can’t think of any now-rookie prospect (regular NFL draft included) who matched the stereotypical Al Davis pick as much as he did. Ridiculous speed? Check. Pryor’s 4.38 40-yard dash was only one one-hundredth of a second slower than the fastest time of any wide receiver to run at this past Aprils’ NFL combine, Edmond Gaines (4.37). Big program? Check. Al Davis simply loves the talent from the collegiate superpowers, and tOSU exemplifies that quality as much as any school. Freakish athleticism? That was never in question. Last year Pryor had his best season statistically, throwing for 2,772 yards and 27 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. He also ran for 754 yards and four scores while helping the Buckeyes win the Sugar Bowl. Assuming you didn’t catch him on his worst day, it was obvious his pure talent was adequate to dominate certain phases of the game. Everything considered, he simply screamed “RAIDER”.

 

Sadly for Raider fans, that’s not where the stereotypical similarities end. Year after year the Raiders pick the fastest players in the draft, but rarely has that speed manifested itself as success on the field. No, what the Raiders have realized is that speed kills, but sometimes, not who you intend. It takes more than that to put points on the board. Unfortunately for many members of their organization, their players, and the fans, the only person who has failed to completely accept the obvious faults behind this philosophy is the only one who runs the show, Mr. Grim Reaper himself, Al Davis. Recently, the Raiders have done much to improve their draft performance, which is a large reason behind the upward trend of their play, but certainly, there needs to be a balance. And this is why criticism of the Raiders selection of Pryor is warranted. It’s too fitting. Makes me wonder if Davis ever frequented a particular Columbus tattoo shop in his prior centuries of existence. Pryor has significant problems with his accuracy. He needs serious improvement with his progressions. He is a superior athlete at the most important position in the game. But in the NFL, the position simply requires more than that for consistent success.

 

So yes, send your silver-and-black obsessed friends a prodding text citing their unfortunate addiction. But while doing so, refrain from mentioning any of the following three words: 1. Ja 2. Marcus 3. Russell. If you do, I hope your friend reminds you of the $50 you still owe him from last year’s fantasy season. Because you’d be wrong to compare the two.

 

And here’s why. First of all, it’s a third round pick. I love the NFL draft as much as anyone. It’s unhealthy. And I recognize the value of accumulating picks and optimizing each and every one of them. As a quarterback alone, Pryor was probably not worth a third round pick in April. But who’s to say he wouldn’t be without another year at tOSU? Or for that matter, under professional coaching and guidance with the Raiders? You never know how much other teams value certain players (see Ponder, Christian). You can only play the game (the draft game, that is) and do your best to balance need with cost. So let’s do that.

 

First, the need: Pryor very well could be a first or second round talent next year if he were to improve his mechanics and accuracy. At the very least, selecting him at this point in the supplemental draft prevents the possibility that the Raiders could reach for him even further if instigated to do so amid rumors of another team trying to trade ahead of them (like happens frequently in April). It was reported they were interested in Colin Kaepernick before their local rivals the San Francisco 49ers prevented them from doing so. Pryor projects to have a similar skill set and could eventually be better overall if his potential is fulfilled. My critics (if I had any) would say the third round is too high. Well if you knew your Al Davis (and I do), you’d know the Raiders didn’t have a second or fourth round pick in next April’s draft after trading them away this past year. Therefore, the Raiders would have had to hope that no team would have claimed Pryor with the remaining picks in the third round, and any of the fourth round. I’m sure I’d have a lot fewer hypothetical critics if the Raiders had taken Pryor in the fifth, but that was certainly no guarantee. Yea, they may have reached. But I think they had to if they wanted him. (As a side note, the Raiders are likely to get significant compensatory picks in next April’s draft after losing Nnamdi Asomougha, Zach Miller, and Robert Gallery in free agency, with two possibly as high as the third round. However, these picks are awarded after the season based on performance, and therefore, were not eligible to use in Monday’s supplemental draft).

 

The other factor you need to consider is cost. On Thursday, the Raiders signed Pryor to a four-year contract. Although the Raiders are usually tight-lipped about contract figures, Profootballtalk.com is reporting Pryor received base salary of $375,000 and a $586,000 signing bonus (In 2012, he’ll earn $485,000, and he’s eligible to earn a $20,300 incentive based on playing time. In 2013, the salary is $595,000 with a $40,700 play-time incentive.  And in 2014, the salary moves to $645,000, with a $61,100 play-time incentive). For the potential Pryor brings to the table, that’s not a lot of cheese to invest. Don’t forget, under the old CBA, JaMarcus made more than that four-year total in the time it took his turnovers to reach double digits. In the 3rd round of this past April’s draft, the Raiders took Miami cornerback Demarcus Van Dyke, who coincidentally at 4.24 had the fastest 40 yard dash time at this years draft combine. Seriously. If he turns out to be a huge bust and never cracks the starting unit, I doubt those mythical critics would be hooting and hollering like they are now. And that’s for a cornerback. You have to pay for quarterbacks in this league. Hall of Famers don’t just fall into your lap (shut up Bellichek. Go buy another hoodie.) And at this cost, the possibility that such an enormous physical talent could morph into a dynamic NFL player is well worth it. Not to mention, it’s not as if the Raiders have a long-term plan at quarterback. Guess how many quarterbacks they have signed beyond this year, not including Pryor? None. Zip. Zero. Jason Campbell has shown flashes of the talent that led Auburn to an undefeated season and his selection as a first rounder in 2005, but he was pulled multiple times last year in a season interrupted by a couple injuries. Is he the answer? Who knows, maybe. Kyle Boller? Please. I’m sorry, but if you’re that delirious, you didn’t make it this far down the page. Trent Edwards? Unlikely. No, there is certainly not a plethora of depth at the quarterback position. If Pryor turns out to be the real deal, they found a diamond in the rough. If not, so what? It’s only yet another third rounder who rode the pine for the length of his career. And come the third week of April, the name “Bill *DON’T ANSWER* Bellicheck” will appear on Al Davis’ iPhone, and if he can figure out how to slide the button unlocked, he’ll trade a 2013 first rounder for a chance to select some other proclaimed great who’s more than likely going to be a bust anyway.

 

And that potential-to-bust is about the only parallel between the Raider’s selection of Pryor and the one of the worst draft blunders in NFL history in Jamarcus Russel.

 

…(That’s right. He and Ryan Leaf are best buds. They both bring home the bacon. Ryan makes the media appearances. Jamarcus does the cooking (and most of the eating). On weekends they chuck the ol’ pigskin around, pretending to intercept the errant projectiles originating from their heaving motions. It gives them a chance to reflect and see how other people make a living – or I should say, the numerous NFL players who were signed to contracts and extensions as a direct result of being on the field at the same time as either of them.) Sorry. Suppresed emotions come out at some point. Years of depression-filled fandom can do that to you. Back to the point…

 

There has been much discussion about the possibility Pryor could be converted to a slot receiver or receiving tight end. He certainly has the athletic ability. He was a basketball star in high school. And we’ve seen the successful transitions of players like Antonio Gates and more recently Jimmy Graham. At the very worst, the Raiders can try Pryor out at quarterback. And if that turns up nothing great, throw him out there outside the hashes and see if he can make a play in the air. Jamarcus had the ability to play multiple positions too.  The problem was, he wasn’t any better than the linemen already under contract.

 

So send your friend that text. But make it good. Because Raider fans are used to it, and this is child’s play compared to the risks they’ve taken in recent memory. If Pryor turns out to be nothing, Al Davis looks no more senile than he already does. If he becomes a stud, well, maybe we’re all a little bit crazy.

 

-B. W.

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