Let the speculation begin.
On Tuesday in Miami Fl., a week after announcing his decision to withdraw from Ohio State University and to forgo his senior season, quarterback Terrelle Pryor told the media that he will enter the NFL's supplemental draft.
The news has quickly stirred much debate among football pundits as to how successful the 6-foot-6, 233-pound quarterback can be at the professional level, particularly given his unique skill set and obvious questions of maturity.
It's an interesting situation for many teams with quarterback needs, including the Oakland Raiders. Amidst the lockout and looming uncertainty of whether the 2011 season will begin on time, the Raiders have continued to work this offseason to improve upon last year's 8-8 finish, their best record since going to the Super Bowl in 2002.
A large part of that success, of course, was quarterback Jason Campbell. Campbell's 2010 statistics would hardly be considered overly impressive by elite standards, but given the offense's dramatic turnaround and success in the 12 of 13 games Campbell started—save for a dismal Week 6 performance against San Francisco—Campbell figures to be a central figure in an upturn of fortunes for the Raiders franchise. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this month, wide receiver/return specialist Nick Miller said of Campbell, "He is reaching out to people, taking charge of situations and people are looking at him.
You can feel it. The whole vibe has changed … the quarterback is the leader of the team and he's definitely the guy now."
But although Campbell is the unquestioned leader of the Raider offense this year, there is no guarantee he'll even be with the team beyond the 2011 season. It's a contract year for Campbell, and although he's gotten public support from owner Al Davis and first-year head coach Hue Jackson, the Raiders are in a wait-and-see mode to determine if Campbell deserves an extension beyond this season—whenever this season begins or even exists, that is.
With Bruce Gradkowski likely gone, the Raiders do not have a solid backup plan for the future after Campbell. There was wide speculation entering this year's draft that the Raiders were considering trading up for Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick, but those supposed plans were dismissed after the 49ers selected Kaepernick in the second round—a move some believe was in response to the Raiders' interest.
The Raiders did not select any quarterback in the draft and look content to enter the next season—again, whenever that may be—with their current stable of Campbell and Kyle Boller, and with Charlie Frye and J.T. O'Sullivan as existing possibilities.
Enter Terrelle Pryor.
Pryor has drawn comparisons to two other physically similar and mobile quarterbacks, this year's number one overall pick Cam Newton and 2006 first round pick Vince Young. Like Newton and Young, Pryor is considered a dual-threat quarterback, whose running ability is unquestioned, but whose ability to pass and run a pro-style offense is cause for concern. Add to that the fact that all three quarterbacks have had their fair share of controversy, there is somewhat of an established template as to how teams will approach Pryor in the supplemental draft.
At Pryor's press conference on Tuesday, Pryor's agent Drew Rosenhaus said that his client is worth a first-round selection in the supplemental draft. "Terrell Pryor will be a great—not a good quarterback—a great quarterback in the National Football League," said Rosenhaus.
But many scouts and draft experts believe otherwise. Any successful pick in the supplemental draft would mean that a team would have to forfeit a similar pick in the 2012 draft, and current predictions place Pryor as a mid-round pick, no higher than the third round.
Of course, the same was said early on about Cam Newton, before the Carolina Panthers selected the Auburn product first overall. Despite serious questions of Newton's ability to digest and execute a complicated, pro-style offense, ultimately it was Newton's unique ability to run and pass that made him impossible to pass up for the Panthers, and it's the same sort of ability that might move Pryor up on some teams' supplemental draft boards.
But Pryor's situation is unique in that while he might be a first round talent, a team who selects him with a mid to later round pick in the supplemental draft would potentially be getting him at a bargain price.
Now enter the Oakland Raiders, who in the past have dealt out questionably exorbitant contracts to players, but this year, have been far more selective—as evidenced by the likely departures of cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, and offensive guard Robert Gallery.
As the quarterback situation is uncertain beyond this year for the Raiders, it's a logical assumption that the team would be interested in a young and promising prospect such as Pryor. If selected, Pryor could sit behind Campbell for a season or be utilized as a dynamic weapon in certain offensive packages.
It's a comfortable notion, however, that all would sit well in the locker room should Campbell be asked to help develop his eventual replacement. Again, Campbell has taken great strides this offseason to assert himself as a leader in the Raiders locker room—something the offense has sorely lacked since the days of Rich Gannon.
What's more, should the Raiders include Pryor in their plans for the future and if Campbell would be gracious as his role as a mentor, Pryor's troubles at Ohio State are cause for concern. In the past two years, the Raiders have been especially mindful of the type of players they have brought into the fold. For a young locker room that is still developing under the guidance of veterans like Campbell and defensive tackle Richard Seymour, Pryor would represent the biggest threat to an emerging team's mindset and overall character.
Ultimately, Pryor's future prospects will come down to character—not skill—and if the Raiders would be willing to take on such a threat to their developing, young team. After all, when Ryan Mallett dropped to the New England Patriots in the third round, it was viewed as an ideal situation for a young quarterback with questionable character to be drafted by a veteran, established team.
The Raiders are not yet (and still quite a way from) the Patriots. Although Campbell, Seymour, and Hugh Jackson have definitely changed the locker room environment, winning is yet the ultimate solution to most problems in sports, and the Raiders will need more than an 8-8 to truly change their fortunes. Pryor might be difficult to pass up in the supplemental draft, but the Raiders have far greater immediate concerns, such as the status of tight end Zach Miller, holes on the offensive line, and the secondary's transition without Asomugha. Once the Raiders have answered those questions, they can then worry about the future of the quarterback position.
After all, as is the case most every offseason, there will be another dog and pony show of the next great quarterback talent. Perhaps not Pryor, but the Raiders will have other options, and hopefully, they will be in a better position to take on such a player.