The Oakland Raiders selected Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor(notes) in the third round of the supplemental draft Monday. After his troubled – yet at times brilliant – college career, Pryor will be grateful that the Raiders are giving him a shot as a pro … no matter where they want to play him.
"I would like the opportunity to play quarterback," Pryor said, "but I'll do anything that the team needs me to do to win."
Given Al Davis' obsession with speed, it's not too far-fetched to believe that the Raiders owner was mesmerized by Pryor's 40-yard dash time of 4.38. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound athletic phenom may just make a great NFL wide receiver or tight end.
It's not without precedent.
Two recent Nebraska quarterbacks, 2001 Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch and Scott Frost, changed positions when they entered the NFL. As did two Kent State quarterbacks, Josh Cribbs and Julian Edelman(notes), with more success. In fact, the NFL has been converting college quarterbacks into other positions since the '70s, when teams were still reluctant to entrust African-Americans to take snaps under center.
Dennis Franklin, who led Michigan to three consecutive Big Ten titles with a 30-2-1 record in his three years as the Wolverines' starting quarterback, was not drafted until the sixth round in 1975. The Detroit Lions converted him to wide receiver, but his NFL career lasted just nine games.
Franklin’s contemporary Freddie Solomon, a quarterback at the University of Tampa who also converted to receiver, made much more impact in his NFL career. Solomon was Joe Montana’s go-to receiver bridging the eras of Dwight Clark and Jerry Rice, and won two Super Bowl rings in his 11 seasons as a pro.
In recent years, quarterback conversions are still done, not because of veiled racism but because of incompatible systems. Dual-threat college quarterbacks who thrived because of their speed and athleticism often found themselves with better opportunities as receivers or running backs in the league. Or in the cases of Brian Mitchell, Antwaan Randle El(notes) and Cribbs, they have made a name for themselves after making it to the NFL returning kicks.
We researched the history of the NFL over the past 40 years to find these conversion stories. After discarding players who played quarterback part-time in college – such as Hines Ward(notes) and Drew Bennett(notes) – we came up with our list of the top college QBs who switched positions:
The top five: