Thursday, July 25, 2024

The Resurgence of Terrelle Pryor

Believe me, I am the first one banging my head against the wall thinking about Terrelle Pryor. In 2017 I made the sad mistake of taking Pryor in the 2nd round of my fantasy football draft.

The breakout seemed all too likely. After a 1000 yard season with the Cleveland Browns, the converted WR seemed ready to take his game even further with the Washington Redskins. Pryor looked like he was going to step into a new echelon with Kirk Cousins.

Boy was I wrong.

Pryor did not live up to the hype and fantasy owners were burned all over the country. Still, there might just be a little hope for the 29-year-old. But before we get into that let’s take a quick look back into what made Terrelle Pryor’s career so special.


Terrelle Pryor 2011 NFL Draft

Terrelle Pryor was one of the best QBs in Ohio State history. The dual-threat QB spread fear into opposing teams when he took the field. In 2011, his senior year, Pryor was suspended the first 5 games. Pryor decided to void his senior year and go directly to the NFL.

Due to his suspension, Pryor was deemed ineligible for the 2011 NFL Draft. That forced him to enlist himself in the supplemental draft. And while Pryor was a monster in college, the same skill set wasn’t so heralded in the NFL.

After his tenure with Ohio State, Pryor was drafted in the 3rd round of the supplemental draft to the Oakland Raiders. So what did the Raiders get in Pryor?

Terrelle Pryor was the definition of college QB. He had elite speed and consistently made plays with his 4.38 (40 time) wheels. While Pryor had great size at 6’4” 240 lbs, but his arm strength and accuracy were in heavy question.

Scouts questioned whether Pryor would be able to adjust to the NFL. Despite playing in a pro-style offense in OSU, Pryor frequently tucked the ball and ran even in passing situations. His footwork was poor, his arm strength and accuracy wavered at times, Pryor was an inconsistent passer at best.

The one thing nobody could strip away from Pryor was his mobility. Pryor’s speed and athleticism had him at a much higher ceiling than most QBs, albeit a lower floor. All factors considered, the Oakland Raiders found enough to draft Pryor in the aforementioned draft.


Tenure With Oakland Raiders

Pryor’s rookie year got off to a rocky start. In a move that stunned everyone, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell decided to carry over Pryor’s unserved suspension from college to his rookie season. Pryor spent the entire year on the bench never seeing any game action.

2012 was much of the same. Pryor sat on the bench most of the season until week 16 when starting QB Carson Palmer got hurt and Pryor finally got his chance to start. Pryor had a solid, but unspectacular game throwing the ball with 150 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT while only completing 46.43% of his passes. Pryor showed off his legs, however, with 9 rushes for 49 yards and a TD.

In 2013 things got a bit interesting. An offseason trade sent Palmer to the Arizona Cardinals. The Raiders preceded to trade for immensely overpaid Matt Flynn from the Seattle Seahawks. Despite being overpaid, Flynn projected as the starter for the Raiders.

Terrelle Pryor had other ideas, however. After a strong performance in the preseason, Pryor stole the starting job from Matt Flynn. In week 1 Pryor set the QB rushing record for the Raiders with 13 carries for 112 yards.

Pryor did more of the same for the first half of the season with fantastic rushing numbers while showing underachieving in the passing game. The season will forever be highlighted by this play.


On a simple read option, Pryor shows off his vision finding the wide open hole and hitting it for a jaw-dropping 93 yard TD. Those 93 yards marks the longest run in NFL history by a QB. Absolutely electrifying.

In week 9 Pryor suffered an MCL injury that knocked him out a few games. Upon return, Pryor was benched in favor of undrafted QB Matt McGloin. McGloin started a few games and was wholly ineffective. Pryor regained his starting job for the last week the 2013 season, only to struggle once again.

As a whole Pryor struggled in the passing game all season and the Raiders did not see enough in Pryor to invest in him for the future.


The Real Breakout

In the 2014 offseason, Pryor was traded to the Seahawks in exchange for a 7th round pick. Shortly after that, Pryor was cut. Pryor did not sign with any team for the rest of the 2014 season.  In January of 2015, Pryor signed with the Chiefs. 4 months later he was released. In May of 2015, Pryor signed with the Bengals. He was released 5 weeks later. Starting to see a trend?

At this point, Pryor realized his days of being a QB were likely coming to an end. He made a statement through his agent he would be open to playing the WR position the day after he was cut from the Bengals. The Cleveland Browns decided to claim Pryor through waivers.

Like a perfect script, Pryor was once again waived, this time by the Browns in the first week of the NFL season. He was resigned by the Browns in December after QB Josh McCown suffered a season-ending injury. Pryor had close to no impact the rest of the season ending with 1 reception for 42 yards.

In 2016 Pryor was retained for a low $1.671 million. In a very shocking turnout, Pryor was announced as one of the starting WRs for the 2016 season. Still, nobody took him seriously. Pryor didn’t care though, as he had a masterful season.

Pryor ended the season with 77 receptions, 1007 yards, and 4 TDs. It really was a quite a turn around from a player who played QB all his life. We have seen players convert positions before, but it is generally unsuccessful and even when it works it takes more than a few years. Pryor seemed to get it done in just one.

Pryor had a 1000 yard season that no one saw coming. More than that, he emerged as the no. 1 WR for this Browns squad. It was a great season for Pryor, but even greater for his checkbook.


Crash & Burn

Ah, now we get to the part that makes me want to punch myself and quit fantasy football forever.

After a breakout season with the Cleveland Browns, Pryor cashed in with a 1 year $8 million contract from the Washington Redskins. Pryor was to get a serious upgrade at QB with Kirk Cousins under center.

To add more fuel to the fire, the Redskins let their top receivers, alpha WR Pierre Garcon and deep threat DeSean Jackson, walk in free agency. Pryor was set to take both these roles. A big target who had very strong hands and could swallow targets, Pryor had the speed to go down the field and make plays as well.

It was a match made in heaven. Pryor was ready to fuel the fire and have an even larger breakout than the year before.

Yeah…not so much.

Pryor had a bad start to the season. He piled up 10 receptions, 116 yards, and 0 TDs in his first 3 games. Still, there was some hope. The targets were still there, the snap count was still high, fans held their breath hoping for the breakout to occur.

In week 4 against the Kansas Chiefs Pryor finally displayed why he was paid to be a no. 1 WR. He dropped a 3-70-1 line on the Chiefs, giving him his first TD of the season. Redskins fans breathed a sigh of relief as things seemed to be on the right track.

Yeah…if only it worked that way.

The next 5 games were even more brutal. Pryor put up 7 receptions, 54 yards, and 0 TDs while he was benched in favor of Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson. Even Ryan Grant took snaps above Pryor.

On November 21st, 2017 it was announced Pryor would have surgery on his ankle and would be sent to the injured reserve. It was reported that he had been dealing with this injury since week 2.

And that was all she wrote.

But I’m going to write a little more.


A New Hope

On March 25th, 2018 the New York Jets decided to give Terrelle Pryor a chance and sign him to a 1 year $4.5 million contract. While everyone has already cast off Terrelle Pryor, you just might want to take a 2nd look.

The first thing we should do is take a look at what made Terrelle Pryor so good in 2016. First off you have to commend this guy for successfully converting himself to the WR position. It’s never easy to change positions, and QB to WR is one of the tougher ones. So what does that tell you? First off he’s a hard worker.

Pryor’s prior (haha) experience at QB gives him an advantage. He knows where QB’s expect him to be, how to read coverages in defenses, and how to get open. He understands how to get into the soft spot of zones and where he will receive the ball.

The thing that most impresses you about Pryor is how he developed as a receiver. Pryor is a big & fast, but he doesn’t rely on just that to get open. He can burn players down the field without a doubt, but Pryor has worked hard to develop his route running.

This is a professional NFL route. When a player goes deep he generally likes to run along the sideline and use it to his advantage. With CB Darrelle Revis playing press coverage Pryor looks to go out into a full sprint down the sideline.

Revis gets fooled into thinking Pryor is going deep and is ready to turn around and run along with him. Pryor sees this and makes a nasty cut inside leaving Revis in the dust. Using his incredible change of speeds, Pryor makes that cut then runs the post route into a wide open middle of the field for an easy reception. Route running at it’s finest.

Let’s take a look at Pryor’s route running ability once again. Revis gives Pryor a big cushion, scared of Pryor’s ability to get down the field. Pryor starts the route with inside leverage, running a bit of a seam route. Revis turns his body almost completely away from the QB thinking Pryor will go deep.

Pryor sniffs this out and makes a quick cut for the out route and getting open for another easy reception. After the catch, Pryor does not just go down. He uses his fantastic YAC ability to escape Revis’ tackle attempt and gain an additional 15 yards after the catch.


Here Pryor is matched up with Josh Norman, one of the best CBs in the NFL. In this play, Pryor displays why he is a true no. 1 WR. Pryor runs a streak down the left side of the field. Norman thinks Pryor is ready to run all the way down the field and Norman forgets to turn his head around.

QB Cody Kessler sees this and throws the ball up to Pryor. Pryor has the smarts and the instincts to read Norman and makes an incredible back shoulder grab over Norman. Chemistry on point. A tough contested catch.

I cannot stress how difficult the back shoulder throw and catch is. It is all about timing, chemistry, and precision. Both the QB and the receiver need to understand how the defense is playing the receiver on the spot.

The back shoulder is likely the most difficult play to defend in the NFL. If you got it, you got it. It is tough to catch and impossible to defend. Elite WRs need to be able to go up and make contested catches and Pryor shows that ability on this play.

Now we see Pryor’s YAC ability in full effect. With the Jets stacking the box and the Browns looking like they’re in run formation, Pryor is left one on one with Revis. Revis gives Pryor a huge cushion as not to get burned.

Pryor receives the screen pass and stays in stride. Instead of just blazing up field Pryor uses his fancy footwork to juke one way and turn what would be a 3 yard gain into an 11 yard gain. Pryor uses his fantastic YAC ability to get down the field, something he did all of 2016.

And here we see Pryor’s biggest asset. Speed. Pryor simply runs by Desmond Trufant, one of the best corners in the NFL. Pryor is too big and too fast. He is one of the best deep threats in the league when he is healthy.

Terrelle Pryor’s 2016 was no fluke. He showed real skill as a wide receiver. Contested catches, fantastic route running, YAC ability, deep ball prowess, Pryor displayed everything you can desire from your no. 1 WR.

Despite catching balls from backup caliber QBs, Pryor managed to put up a 1000 yard season. The one negative for Pryor was that he only caught 4 TDs, showing a lack of red zone dominance. The other side of the coin is, the Browns QBs couldn’t deliver Pryor the ball which left him with only 4 red zone targets.

Standing at 6’4” 240 lbs, Pryor has the size to dominate in the red zone. The hope when he came to Washington was that playing with Kirk Cousins would improve that red zone productivity. Obviously, that didn’t happen, as all facets of his game declined.

If you want to know why Pryor struggled, I really don’t have a good explanation. Perhaps it was the injury that hampered him all season. Or maybe he and Cousins just never developed that chemistry. Maybe because Pryor’s role changed into more of a route runner than a deep threat. We just don’t know.

The only thing definite was that Pryor and the Redskins weren’t a good fit. Now Pryor has moved on and will start over with the New York Jets.

The Jets have a whole logjam at QB. They traded up to no. 3 overall to draft their QB of the future in Sam Darnold. But to this point, Darnold has been buried on the depth chart behind Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater. It seems Darnold is destined to take over that starting job soon. Despite being a rookie, Darnold will be a big upgrade over whoever Pryor caught passes from in Cleveland.

The Jets are deep at WR. But they do not have anyone who has displayed WR1 prowess. The closest thing to that is Robby Anderson. Anderson emerged as the no. 1 WR last year, taking the league by surprise falling just short of a 1000 yard season dropping a 63-941-7 line for the Jets.

While Anderson is a great talent, he is much more a deep threat than a no. 1 WR. His blazing speed can take the top off a defense at any moment, but Anderson hasn’t shown the ability to make contested catches as a no. 1 guy should. Anderson has been dealing with a multitude of off the field issues, which might just have him catch a suspension.

Quincy Enunwa, Jermaine Kearse, have been solid receivers for the Jets, but neither has shown any game-breaking ability.

While there’s a good chance Pryor doesn’t start week 1, an impressive preseason could vault him up there. There is competition on the Jets receiving core, but none that Pryor’s talent can’t stomp.

Terrelle Pryor is far from a one-hit wonder. He has shown legitimate ability in all facets of an NFL wide receiver. He is not someone who just relies on his speed and/or size to get open, he has serious talent. While you may have already cast off Terrelle Pryor, beware, he’s coming back with a vengeance.

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