Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor has been the team's most pleasant surprise of 2013. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
The quarterback class for April’s NFL draft is as rich as it’s ever been.
Though it’s not yet certain which underclassmen will declare for the NFL, the group of juniors and seniors that includes Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, Ryan Shazier of Ohio State, Tajh Boyd of Clemson and Zach Mettenberger of LSU could also be enriched if younger players such as Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, Brett Hundley of UCLA and Marcus Mariota of Oregon decide to make the leap to pro football.
For an NFL team such as the Raiders that has struggled to find an elite-level QB for many years, it means there could be a pot of gold at the end of another rough season.
Yet the emergence of third-year pro Terrelle Pryor at quarterback may have changed the Raiders’ thinking.
Though Pryor still has bad games – such as the 10-sack, three-interception nightmare he experienced in Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs – he’s also been the team’s most pleasant surprise in 2013, combining a much more accurate passing arm and leadership skills with breakaway running ability.
In five starts for the Raiders (2-4), Pryor has completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 1,061 yards, five TDs and five interceptions, while also averaging 6.7 yards on 43 carries.
His success, says Chris Wesseling of NFL.com, has put Pryor in a new light in Oakland as perhaps the team’s quarterback of the future. Even after Pryor’s outing in Kansas City – which had a lot to do with a damaged and porous offensive line – Wesseling notes that Raiders head coach Dennis Allen is talking about Pryor as a building block of a franchise trying to re-establish itself under general manager Reggie McKenzie.
“He’s still a young player,” Allen told the media Monday. “He’s still got a lot of growing to do and a lot of getting better to do. He’s a talented player and we’re going to continue to try to build with him and try to grow with him.”
Allen knows there are growing pains with Pryor, especially with a young quarterback who’s trying to get the job done without a great supporting cast. But the upside can be nights when Pryor looks fabulous, such as he did in a victory over the Chargers on Oct. 6.
Allen says he’s just looking for Pryor to “continue to grow” and learn each week.
“Now the key is, does he learn from it?” Allen said this week. “Does he move forward from it and does he play better against Pittsburgh? That’s what we’re looking for.”
The Raiders, with a bye this week, next play on Oct. 27 against the visiting Steelers.
Pryor has shown this season that his biggest critic has been himself. On Monday, he was critical of his play in Kansas City, for making bad protection calls, forcing throws and not executing.
“I need to be on top of my game. I just wasn’t,” he said.
And, he’s not buying into any talk that he’s the Raiders’ building-block quarterback.
“I don’t like the future-type talk,” Pryor told reporters, in response to Allen’s comment that the Raiders hope to “build with him.”
“I think DA is saying it because he wants it to be that way," he said. "If I play like I played (vs. the Chiefs), I won’t be around very long.”
But, if Pryor continues to show growth, guides the Raiders to some unexpected victories and gains the trust and respect of his coaches and teammates through the rest of this season, the Raiders may find themselves with a leg up going into McKenzie’s third season of rebuilding.
They won’t have to use a probable high pick on one of the marquee quarterbacks available, and can instead use it to land a playmaker at another position. As Wesseling notes, it will be a win-win situation for the Raiders.
“Pryor’s dynamic athleticism has been his calling card through six weeks,” Wesseling wrote. “If the Raiders are truly going to build around him, he will have to continue to make steady progress in mechanics, accuracy, field vision and decision-making. So far, so good.”