Mailbag: What to make of Terrelle Pryor?

Happy Tuesday, friends. We got an email from one of our readers today, by the name of Daniel Henderson. It’s easy for us to think sometimes that our reader base = our commenter base, but the reality is that for every person who comments, we have many, many regular readers who don’t.

Here’s Daniel’s question:

I was wondering if any of you guys noticed Kiszla on twitter yesterday being the only person in the media who i could find ripping hard on the non-nfl QB-ness of Pryor. Fully expected a comment somewhere today about it! All the other pundits seem very high on Pryor.  Thoughts?

Oh, I have some thoughts.  Hit the jump, and we’ll count the thoughts.

Here’s one thought – speaking for myself, I consider Kiszla to not have much credibility as an opinion-giver on football. I’m being nicer about it than I have in the past, but I’d say that he’s pretty mentally underpowered, and that he shows little football-specific knowledge. His value proposition to the Denver Post seems to be that he’s willing to say silly and contrarian things.

Newspapers have long operated under the belief that they need “columnists” who do this sort of thing. To me, if I were running a struggling newspaper, columnists would be the first cost-savings targets I’d identify. How many people actually buy the Post to read what people like Woody Paige or Kiszla think about anything? They can read some opinionated jerk (like me!) for free on the internet any time they want to.

As for the substance of the question, I was surprised by Pryor’s solid play as a passer last night. I think he’s got a way to go before the Raiders can be totally sure he’s their QB of the future, but he showed some really good signs. I was impressed with the touch he showed at times, and he definitely has an NFL-level arm. I also was impressed with the way he stepped up in the pocket to get away from outside pressure while keeping good balance, and his eyes downfield.

Before last night, I wondered if Pryor could ever be a legitimate NFL passer, based mainly on seeing him a lot in college, and a little bit in 2012 and 2013. Today, I’ve seen encouraging progress in his game shine through against a good defense.

Pryor doesn’t have quite the velocity on his throws or the pure foot speed of Colin Kaepernick, but he’s not far behind in either category. From what I saw last night, I would call Pryor and Kaepernick similar players. Kaepernick has been anointed (very prematurely) as a superstar, but he’s completing only 56.4% (27th in the NFL) of his passes for 5.20 adjusted net yards per attempt (24th) in 2013. Pryor is completing 65.4% (11th) for 5.94 ANY/A (17th). We need to consider small sample sizes, but so far, the comparison doesn’t seem far-fetched, based on either stats or film.

If he can grow into the mental requirements of playing QB at a high level, (which is a big “if” for every highly-touted young QB other than Andrew Luck), I think that Pryor can be the Raiders’ starter for the ongoing future. What we’re going to see is that some of these guys will make it, and some of them won’t. I see clearly observable mental and technique growth from Pryor since he came into the NFL, and that’s a good sign. You'd rather see good talent and good growth (like Pryor) than awesome talent and little growth (like Cam Newton).

I’d like to say one thing for the Raiders as a team, and that is that they’re much better than I thought they were. They’re well-coached, and they play hard. The rag-tag bunch of castoffs that they have playing defense isn’t nearly as awful as I thought they’d be. Pryor has to give them some hope, both to be competitive this year, and to improve as a program into the future. I credit Dennis Allen and Reggie McKenzie for the job they’re doing so far, and I readily admit that I had a poor initial read on them, based upon the preseason and their look on paper.

1.  I’m not in the arguing business, I’m in the saying what I think business.
2.  I get my information from my eyes.

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