Terrelle Pryor took a couple thousand snaps at Ohio State over 35 career starts, and put up 783 passes. He hit more than 60 percent of those, for 6,170 yards and 57 touchdowns, putting him within easy reach of school records if he'd returned for his senior year. Since he won't be, though, the one play from his three-year stint as a Buckeye that may best define the rest of his career is this one, as a wide receiver for the first and only time in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl:
Pryor never lined up anywhere else except quarterback over the next two seasons, and if he was willing to take his tarnished act to Canada for the next year or two, the Saskatchewan Roughriders appeared to be more than willing to keep him there. But since he's now sworn off the CFL, too, Pryor is either banking on an immediate NFL future as a raw but promising receiver/tight end prospect or — according to virtually every scout in sight — risking being shunned by the league altogether if he insists on playing a position no one in the NFL seems to believe he can play:
Those question marks begin with the usual — footwork and mechanics, reading defenses, the foot injury that kept him out of spring practice — and extend to the now-blindingly obvious issues that forced Pryor's early exit from Columbus, of which Davis told the Columbus Dispatch, "people are terrified": "They want to really examine the kid as a person, because the stories you hear on the grapevine are not stories that excite you," he said. "Mentally, he's been a trigger guy since he first picked up a football. … Now he's going to stick his nose in someone's chest play in and play out [as a tight end] and not touch the ball 90 percent of the game, and be thrilled by that? Really?"
If Pryor is deemed eligible [for the NFL's supplemental draft] — which is not a guarantee, since he voluntarily left Ohio State and has not been declared ineligible — NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said he doesn't believe Pryor would be drafted before the fifth round.
"Based on what I've seen, he's not an NFL quarterback," Davis said, citing concerns about Pryor's accuracy and arm strength.
Teams that use a pick in the supplemental draft must give up a corresponding pick in the regular draft next year. If Pryor was eligible but not drafted, he could be signed as a free agent.
Columbus agent Jeff Chilcoat said of Pryor, "I've talked with a number of scouts, and nobody is in love with him. He has a lot of question marks."
If he has pretensions of playing in the NFL without a stopover in another league, yeah, really. Under the circumstances, Pryor's coveted size, speed (even it is a little exaggerated) and obvious athleticism aren't the golden tickets to opportunity they've been at every other stop in his life, or even that they would be if he hadn't left campus under a cloud of scandal at an awkward moment in the offseason.
As it stood six months ago, Pryor probably wasn't in line to go any higher than the third or fourth round as a developmental project, regardless of the position; that's why he decided to return to Ohio State, even after being put on ice for the first five games of the upcoming season by the NCAA. Now, even if he is eligible for the supplemental draft, and the league decides to actually hold a supplemental draft with the season still in flux over labor issues, the prospect of giving up a corresponding 2012 draft pick for a character risk who's barely played the position he's likely to play at the next level will drop him to a fifth or sixth-rounder at best. It may keep him from being selected altogether, in which case he'd have to catch on as a free agent — again, depending in large part on his willingness to switch positions and entirely on the league's willingness to resolve the lockout and actually stage a season.
All of which could have may have turned out very differently if Pryor had been back for his final season under center at Ohio State with a chance to convince the scouts he could be a viable quarterback. But once you decide to put your future up as collateral for a short-term payday, you have to play the cards you're dealt.
Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.
- Terrelle Pryor