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Possible position switch would be a challenge for Pryor

The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

The noted mouthpiece, media magnet and player agent Drew Rosenhaus has predicted that new client and embattled former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor will be a first-round selection in the NFL supplemental draft this summer. He also says the onetime Buckeyes star will be a quarterback.

Maybe Rosenhaus, attempting to rehabilitate Pryor's tattered image, will be right. After all, give Rosenhaus his due; for all the hyperbole, he is a magician, having earned millions yanking rabbits out of fedoras and touting contracts that looked much better coming out of his mouth or his ubiquitous cell phone than out of a fax machine. So perhaps he can convince some teams that Pryor isn't the talented but flawed and entitled superior athlete perception dictates. And maybe he can even persuade a general manager that his client could be at least a specialty/Wildcat quarterback, rather than something else.

It would take more than physical gifts for Terrelle Pryor to make it as a receiver. (AP)  
It would take more than physical gifts for Terrelle Pryor to make it as a receiver. (AP)  
But if he can't, and some club decides that Pryor's best chance of playing in the league is at wide receiver -- a quarterback chosen in any round of the supplemental draft since the Giants took Dave Brown in the first in 1992 -- onetime UCLA quarterback-turned-NFL-wide receiver Drew Bennett has some advice for the erstwhile Ohio State star: Buy into the change.

The first obstacle for Rosenhaus will be convincing personnel evaluators that Pryor, whom he said will be an "asset" in the NFL, isn't an ass, period. A possibly tougher sales job might be the pitch he could be forced to make at Pryor, a three-year starter for the Buckeyes at quarterback.

"The first time you come across the middle, and catch the ball, and somebody knocks your block off, you think, 'Whoa, what did I get myself into?'" Bennett said. "Your first reaction is to go back to playing quarterback if you can. So you really have to commit to the change. Put all that quarterback stuff out of your mind. Tell yourself, 'OK, I'm a receiver now. The other stuff is over.' Don't look back. Sell yourself on the switch and make the most of it."

Bennett, 32, played eight NFL seasons, making the Tennessee roster in 2001 as an undrafted free agent before balky knees eventually forced him into retirement. He caught 307 passes with three franchises, including 80 with the Titans in 2004, and averaged 47 receptions in a six-season span (2002-07). So Bennett knows a little bit about making the transition from a guy who throws passes to one who snags them.

And he isn't the only one. The NFL has several veterans who played quarterback either full- or part-time in college, and who have developed into good-to-excellent wide receivers. Among them are Hines Ward, Anquan Boldin, Matt Jones (whose career was derailed by drugs, not the inability to transition to receiver, as validated by his 65 catches in 2008), Antwaan Randle El, Brad Smith, Patrick Crayton, Marques Hagans and Julian Edelman. So while the transition is a difficult one, it can certainly be done, as the track record attests.

But Randle El says a player really has to want to do it.

The odds aren't insurmountable that Pryor could remake himself as a receiver -- or that a team which spends a supplemental choice to nab him will do so because of his potential versatility -- but the move isn't that effortless.

"It's a different skills-set, definitely, but it's still more mental than physical," Randle El said. "Your head has to be right, and still, it takes some time. It might not seem all that hard being on this [receiving] end, but it is."

It isn't as if Pryor hasn't tinkered with the wide receiver position before. In high school, he occasionally lined up at wide receiver and caught a 28-yard touchdown pass in Jeannette (Pa.) High School's state championship victory his senior year. During his three seasons in Columbus, Pryor notched three catches, including two for scores. But much of the time, Pryor simply relied on his size (estimated at 6-feet-5, 230-240 pounds), strength, speed and superior athleticism at the position. If he has to move to wide receiver in the NFL, he'll need more than physical tools.

As Smith pointed out, even draft prospects who spent their entire college careers at wide receiver often struggle at the outset of their NFL tenures.

"There's just so much involved," said Smith, who used to quarterback at Missouri. "It's more than just simply running routes. As familiar as quarterbacks are with all of the [verbiage] and stuff, it's still like learning a new language. Changing positions, any position, is hard. Going from quarterback to receiver ... it's no picnic."

The Carolina Panthers invested a third-round choice on former Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards in 2010, and even traded up to get the slot (giving up a second-round 2011 pick), projecting that he could play receiver. The Carolina brass is still convinced that Edwards can successfully make the change, and feels he faced some mitigating circumstances in his rookie campaign where he posted zero receptions.

Said Edelman, a Kent State quarterback before New England drafted him as a slot receiver in the seventh round in 2009: "You can't just flip a switch."

Bennett, who noted that he never had spent an entire offseason as a full-time receiver until entering the NFL, said it wasn't until his third year with the Titans that he felt comfortable as a pass-catcher. Others seconded that emotion. Even though Boldin registered an NFL-rookie record 101 receptions with Arizona in 2003, he acknowledged he didn't "really catch up all the way" to the position until his second or third season in the league.

Besides merely running precise routes and catching the ball, Bennett said there were some other, less obvious concerns.

"Sometimes, even for guys who were running quarterbacks in college, the workload catches up to you," Bennett said. "You wouldn't think about it maybe, but running 35 or 40 routes a day ... it really gets to your legs. You're not used to the tempo, and it's a reality-check. It's just a different pace [than playing quarterback]."

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All of the QBs-turned-receivers interviewed agreed that having played quarterback provided them some insights into making the switch from pass-thrower to pass-catcher. Bennett noted that something seemingly as mundane as the quarterback's cadence or inflection could be even more understandable to a player making the change.

Minnesota second-year quarterback Joe Webb, an accomplished college QB at Alabama-Birmingham, was drafted by the Vikings in 2010 as a wide receiver and then was moved back to quarterback in his rookie training camp. He emphasized that his experience at quarterback helped him "immensely" in going to receiver.

"You know where everyone is supposed to be, how the routes are supposed to be run, all of that," Webb said. "So, yeah, there's definitely an advantage. But you still have to [transfer] it from your head to your actions. You might know what to do, but you still have to do it. And that's the hard part."

Working in Pryor's favor might be that he is incredibly fast and very fluid. He is said to have been the fastest player on the Ohio State roster, rumored to have been timed at a blistering 4.33 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which, if true, would have been a faster time than any of the 41 wide receivers posted at the combine four months ago.

Asked if quickness or speed was more important for playing wide receiver, Bennett said both components are essential.

"It's a speed game," Bennett said. "That could help a guy like Pryor. Just the threat of that kind of speed is beneficial. But, sure, there are a lot of other things, too."

Although he has made clear his intention of petitioning for the supplemental draft, sources said Thursday night that that the league had not yet received Pryor's paperwork for the summertime lottery.

NFL vice president Greg Aiello said via e-mail that, since the NFL has not yet set a date for the draft, which is expected to be in July, the league would not comment on specific players. Aiello did confirm that petitions for the supplemental draft are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and former NFL team personnel executive Greg Gabriel raised a critical point this week. Writing for the National Football Post, Gabriel noted that Pryor didn't quite fit comfortably into the criteria typically used by the NFL for determining supplemental eligibility.

Wrote Gabriel: "Pryor did not flunk out of school and still has a year of college eligibility. He was suspended for five games this season, but he still could have come back and played in the final seven games and a bowl game. He also could have transferred down to a school at a lower level of competition and played this year, or just transferred to another FBS school and [sat] out the year. In the past, players in the supplemental draft had lost the ability to finish their college careers because of grades or other circumstances."

Great point. Unlike former Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who was dismissed from the Gators' squad by first-year coach Will Muschamp and then transferred to Division II North Alabama for his final season of eligibility, Pryor voluntarily gave up his final college season and hired an agent.

There is a distinct difference. A player isn't eligible for the supplemental draft merely by declaring that he wants to be. Pryor certainly meets the NFL's "three-year rule," and thus, would have been eligible for the regular-phase draft in April, had he opted to leave school then. Chances are that he will be in the supplemental draft, but his eligibility isn't quite the slam-dunk many have made it out to be, and there are still some technicalities to be dealt with.

Predicting that Pryor will be a first-round pick in the supplemental draft was a seemingly clever move by Rosenhaus. If he isn't, the kid, who fielded no questions during his sham press conference this week, can say accurately that it wasn't him who made such claims.

If Pryor beats the odds and is a first-rounder, Rosenhaus can take credit for a great sales job. On the flip side, if Pryor lasts until the late rounds, Rosenhaus' competition will use his remarks in recruiting against him.


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