It has been many months since Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four of his teammates were suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season, when speculation that the 2010 Manning Award finalist would be moving on early to the NFL began.
The anticipation of Pryor's early defection greatly intensified when head coach Jim Tressel resigned May 30 amid an investigation by Ohio State and the NCAA that several players had been receiving inappropriate benefits from a local tattoo parlor and automobile dealerships.
|Most talent evaluators project Pryor as a possible convert to a different position. (Getty Images)|
That perception doesn't match reality, according to two high-ranking NFL sources.
One characterized Pryor as a "mid-round pick at best" if he were to leave Ohio State early by applying for next month's NFL supplemental draft.
"[Pryor] is a nice college player playing in a system that caters to his strengths," said a source from an NFC team speaking on the condition of anonymity. "He's a basketball player playing football, though, when it comes to the NFL. He's not a quarterback. He doesn't have the makeup, the release or the accuracy for it."
Some fans differ on the claim that Pryor lacks the accuracy to be a successful quarterback in the NFL. In his third season as a starter in an offense that blends the option with a pro-style attack, Pryor led the Big Ten with 27 touchdown passes and finished third in passing efficiency (157.9). He completed 65 percent of his passes last season and has shown better than average accuracy on some of the more difficult throws -- including when rolling out to either direction or deep downfield.
"Sure, the stats and highlight reels say he's a star," the source countered, "but show me the ability to read the defense and progress to his next option. Defenses are scared of his running ability -- and they should be -- but in our league, he'll need to make pre- and post-snap adjustments and stick throws on third down. I haven't seen him do that consistently."
A second NFL talent evaluator also speaking on the condition of anonymity expressed reservations about Pryor's ability to transition to the NFL, but based more on his lack of maturity than his physical talent.
"He is a classic example of a very highly recruited player signing with a big program that hasn't matured into the type of player most NFL teams are looking for," said the source, a longtime talent evaluator for an AFC team. "There is obviously a lot of hype around him. I can't speak for the entire NFL, of course, but I can tell you that media and fan hype doesn't mean he's a top prospect."
Pryor has flaws even as a talented athlete with the upside to warrant early round consideration. NFLDraftScout.com currently has him rated as a second-third round value and No. 4 among senior quarterbacks entering the 2011 season.
Given that the '11 draft featured four quarterbacks selected among the first 12 picks and that there are still several NFL teams desperate for help at the position due to the fact that there has been no free agency or veteran trades, Pryor might appear to be in good position to make the supplemental draft leap. Furthermore, Pryor wouldn't necessarily be far behind his fellow rookies by getting drafted in July rather than April. The Class of 2011 hasn't been to any rookie minicamps.
The AFC scout thought the argument for leaving school early for the supplemental draft was valid for some players, but he didn't think Pryor was one of them.
"I would be surprised if he came out [for the supplemental draft]," he said. "Sure, some teams need quarterbacks, but there always are. The timing might be right for some players to take advantage of, but it is wrong in my opinion for [Pryor]. Teams would look at it like he was running away from his problems, rather than facing them. No one wants that kind of guy, especially not as a potential face of the franchise."
The AFC scout thought that Pryor's best move was to return to Ohio State for his senior season.
"So, he'll miss the first month," he said. "That still gives him time to mature into a leader and improve on the field too. Look at last year. The Auburn quarterback [Cam Newton] went No. 1 with only one year as a starter. This guy will have four."
Pryor has 35 career starts under his belt and, assuming he is eligible and healthy to play the final seven regular-season games of this season, he'd have plenty of time to change the evaluation of scouts. Ohio State could be in position to play in the Big Ten championship game and a bowl should the off-field distractions not negatively impact the Buckeyes' on-field performance.
Pryor is a likely candidate for a Senior Bowl invitation or another senior all-star game if he's not eligible to play in October as expected. With as many as 10 more games to improve his stock, the glaring issues so prevalent in June evaluations could be distant history come next April.
Many talent evaluators -- including this one -- project Pryor as a possible convert to a different position. At 6-foot-6, 235 pounds and reportedly running in the 4.4-4.5 range, Pryor could prove a Vincent Jackson-like threat as a wide receiver or tight end. His ability to transition to those positions, of course, would largely be determined by his straight-line speed, route-running ability and hands.
Most importantly, Pryor would have to be willing to make the switch. Considering the success he's had as a quarterback, it might be difficult to convince him that he's better suited to catch the ball six or eight times a game, rather than handling it on every snap at the game's most valuable position.
The switch would require Pryor to check his ego at the door -- which is precisely why both sources were uncertain if he would do it.
"He isn't one of those guys that you can just make into another position," the NFC scout said. "He's going to run well and people are going to get excited about him, but he isn't a football player. What you've seen at Ohio State -- on the field and off -- is what you get with him."
Rob Rang is Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.