Commentary

Terrelle Pryor a low-risk pick by Raiders

Updated: August 24, 2011, 12:45 PM ET
By Jemele Hill | ESPN.com

Is Al Davis building a track team or a football squad?

In the 2009, 2010 and 2011 drafts, Oakland took the player who had run the fastest 40-yard dash at the combine -- Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford and DeMarcus Van Dyke, respectively. On Monday in the third round of the supplemental draft the Raiders added Terrelle Pryor, who ran the fourth-fastest time among this year's prospects at his workout day last week.

[+] EnlargeJacoby Ford
Tim Umphrey/Getty ImagesJacoby Ford was a fourth-round pick out of Clemson. He caught 25 passes for 470 yards and ran 10 times for 155 yards as a rookie.

But casting aside the obvious jokes about Davis and the Raiders' uncontrollable attraction to athletic players who don't produce, selecting Pryor isn't all that risky.

The questions about Pryor's quarterbacking abilities are valid, even though his 31-4 record (before this past season was vacated) as a starter at Ohio State is pretty remarkable. Pryor certainly racked up a lot of wins, but mostly against teams the Buckeyes should have beaten. His accuracy is inconsistent. Today's NFL has made room for non-traditional, athletic quarterbacks such as Michael Vick, Cam Newton and Vince Young, but those players always illustrated some deftness as pocket passers. Pryor, though, still can't be trusted to win a game with his arm.

But if you're the Raiders and your quarterback options this season are Jason Campbell, Trent Edwards and Kyle Boller, what do you really have to lose by taking Pryor?

Campbell was benched last season for Bruce Gradkowski. He was knocked out of Saturday's exhibition against the 49ers with a possible concussion. Edwards is 14-19 as a starter and he has never finished above .500. Boller is 20-26 and has thrown 48 touchdowns and 51 interceptions.

So Pryor doesn't exactly have to beat out Ken Stabler and Rich Gannon when he's done with his five-game suspension.

The Raiders, who sacrificed a third-round pick in 2012 to obtain Pryor, will pay him about $2.3 million over four years, which includes a signing bonus of nearly $600,000.

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
Matthew Stockman/Getty ImagesTerrelle Pryor ran away from defenders in college.

But at least the Raiders didn't commit the same mistake the Denver Broncos did. The Broncos selected Tim Tebow with the 25th overall pick and gave him a contract worth $9.7 million, plus a $1.5 million bonus if he reached minimum playing time. Despite that commitment Denver doesn't appear confident Tebow is the quarterback of the future. There are rumors the Broncos may either cut or trade Tebow, who isn't going to be the starter Week 1, and so far, it looks as if the former Heisman Trophy winner was a wasted pick.

Regardless of what you think of Pryor's character or whether you believe he's solely responsible for Ohio State's current predicament with the NCAA, Pryor earning a start at quarterback in the NFL isn't all that far-fetched or unreasonable.

Tebow, currently uncertain of even a backup position, started three games last season. Brian St. Pierre started a game for the Panthers last season. Alex Smith is 19-31 in the NFL, but the 49ers still extended his contract. Even though he's raw, Pryor probably can't be worse.

In 2007, after a holdout, the Raiders gave No. 1 pick JaMarcus Russell, another workout wonder, a six-year $61 million contract with $32 million guaranteed. Compared to that, selecting Pryor in the supplemental draft was like buying brand-name toothpaste from a dollar store.

Let's say Pryor bombs at quarterback. Let's say he's the worst quarterback in the history of mankind. Depending on whose stopwatch you believe, the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Pryor still ran the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds.

[+] EnlargeAntwaan Randle El
Allen Kee/Getty ImagesAntwaan Randle El threw a touchdown pass in Super Bowl XL.

Position change, anyone?

As much as Pryor apologists make it seem as though moving to tight end or wide receiver would be insulting, there is no shame in Pryor converting to another position and a higher number if it increases his chances of having a long-term NFL career.

Hines Ward was a quarterback, wide receiver and tailback at Georgia. Antonio Gates, a former basketball player, never played college football but will likely be a Hall of Famer as a tight end. Kordell "Slash" Stewart and Antwaan Randle El transitioned from dynamic college quarterbacks to dangerous multitalented NFL players. Great athletes put in the right position make plays.

I'm often as confused as anyone by the Raiders' strategy, but gambling on Pryor makes some sense. Besides, if Davis were Bill Belichick, we'd be calling this move genius.

Jemele Hill can be reached at jemeleespn@gmail.com.

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