Written by: Andy Cohen
In 2010, I saw it. I don’t know how I saw it, but I did. The aggressive tailgating that I had taken part in since 6am that particular morning of my freshman year had distorted my vision but I managed to witness a glimpse of the hidden future of one Terrelle Pryor. The Buckeye quarterback hands it off to his RB, Jordan Hall, who throws up a floating pass as Pryor breaks left, reels in the ball and he heads towards the end zone all in one motion. A friend next to me muttered “That behemoth should be lining up as a receiver, not throwing balls in the dirt!” I was too busy celebrating Pryor’s 4th all-purpose touchdown of the day to give what he said any consideration or ponder as to why he went basically untouched into the endzone. It could have been that it was a broken play against Eastern Michigan University. One thing was clear, Pryor had a knack for catching balls. Only a year earlier, Pryor had caught a fade route TD pass in the Fiesta Bowl against the Texas Longhorns. His freak athleticism allowed him to be a game changer anywhere he was placed on the field.
Now we sit at the outset of the 2017 NFL season and I am about to say: Terrelle Pryor is going to be among the Top 6 Fantasy Wide Receivers of 2017. No, I’m not the first to say this nor will I be the last, but the newest Redskin, who is in Washington on a “bet-on-himself” one-year deal is worth a long, long look.
Strength in Stature
Any football lover could totally gush at Pryor’s physical measurables. He is 6’ 5” and 230 pounds with a terrifying 4.38 second 40-yard dash. That’s faster than OBJ, Antonio Brown, and just a hair faster than Julio Jones’ 4.39 time. The man is an absolute beast. There’s simply no other way to interpret it. The physical gifts he has manifest themselves in a combination of strength and evasiveness that is extremely rare.
By the Numbers
Let’s take a look at his numbers from last year. Pryor managed 77 receptions on 140 targets, racking up 1,007 yards on his way to 4 scores. That yardage total was good for 22nd best in the league among all pass catchers, ahead of established NFL wide outs such as A.J. Green and Michael Crabtree. The 140 targets made him the 12th most targeted player in the league. This shows that he can handle the volume brought about by being part of a prolific air attack such as Washington’s. Pryor only dropped 4 of those 140 targets, a stat which showcases his true development as a pass catcher. This is supported by his performances against premier cornerbacks such as Janoris Jenkins
and Byron Maxwell last season, proving he can create separation against the best of them
If nothing else Pryor is efficient and the poor QB play in Cleveland may have limited him some last year. 43% of passes thrown his way were uncatchable or soundly defended by the defense. He only had 4 scores, which is nowhere near the amount needed for a true break-out season but the Browns only had 15 passing scores all of last year, a number that places them just one ahead of the league worst LA Rams (14 Passing TDs). These facts make Pryor’s potential numbers even more gaudy. With signal callers like Cody Kessler, Josh McCown, RG3, and Kevin Hogan throwing you the ball, there’s not much to hope for. They are not exactly a prized stable of pass throwers, but Pryor still managed to finish top 25 in yardage and show the professional football world that he is a legit, bona-fide starting NFL WR after his transition from quarterback.
The icing on the cake however, isn’t Pryor’s top notch physical attributes or his strong stats during a semi-breakout 2016. The real “pièce de ré·sis·tance” is the situation he currently falls into as a potential primary pass catcher on a premier passing offense in the NFL. Over the past 2 seasons with Kirk Cousins at the helm, the Washington Redskins have averaged 4,422.5 yards through the air and supplemented that number with finishing style with 24.2 PPG. To put this in perspective, over that same timespan, the Cleveland Browns averaged almost 1,000 less yards in the air with 3,523 yards and just 16.95 points per game. Even if Pryor only gets 10% of that additional yardage, a conservative prediction despite the Redskins much more talented pass catching corps, he would still land in the 1200+ yardage range and within striking distance of Antonio Brown’s 2016 number of 1,284 yards. If you need further proof of the additional opportunities that Pryor will be afforded, I will mention that the Redskins averaged a blistering 297.4 passing yards per game in 2016, good for 2nd in the league. Cleveland averaged 204, good for 28th best that year. The difference between the offenses are night and day. What’s more, the General of this passing attack, Kirk Cousins (also playing in a contract year), has plenty good to say about his new teammate after watching him in their matchup in 2016:
“When I watched him in Week 4 I believe it was against the Browns, I was really impressed with what he was able to do, the separation he was getting, the number of times they went his way and he was still producing. He had a great year last year, we just want to build on that and hopefully give him an opportunity to have even more success this season.”
Kirk Cousins is onboard and that means you should be too. Pryor’s size and strength makes him an ideal candidate for Cousin’s deep ball and he will have many more opportunities to prove this on a Washington Redskins team that ranked 2nd in the league last year in yards per pass attempt (7.8). Cousins added 69 passes of 20+ yards in 2016, good for 2nd in the league. He touched that up with 13 passes of 40+ yards, also 2nd in the NFL.
There are some concerns heading into the season. Some question whether he can carve out a significant role. Washington boasts a better personnel in general than Cleveland, and this hold true in the pass catching category with the undefendable Man/Beast that is TE Jordan Reed and the hard-to-tackle Jamison Crowder. I believe that effect is overstated, especially with Pierre Garcon’s 79 catches and 1,041 yards up for grabs and Desean Jackson’s departure to Tampa Bay. It’s my opinion that the increased volume will compensate for the increased talent that surrounds Pryor this year and that this will only lead to better mismatches for Pryor as opposing defenses pick their poison.
When all is said and done...
Terrelle Pryor deserves to be here. He has worked incredibly hard to change his game and make the switch from QB to WR where his physical talents can take hold. I never thought I’d say that about this specific football player. I took Anthropology 101 my freshman year at OSU and Pryor made it to one class, the final exam. 13 minutes in, he stood up and loudly asked the group of over 150 students “Can somebody give me a pencil?” What was he doing for the first 13 minutes??? Only he knows. The Terrelle Pryor I see today has come an incredibly long way and deserves to see the fruits of his labor come to fruition. He could have only dreamt of being in this position after being cut by the Seattle Seahawks in 2014, deemed unfit for even their 3rd string Quarterback duties.
Between his mini break-out production last year, his daunting physical stature, and the ideal situation that he has put himself in with the Redskins, it’s hard to see anything but success coming Pryor’s way and the same will go for you if you manage to nab him. He is every bit worth his current ADP in the mid 3rd round. Just because something is obvious doesn’t make it any less true. You can take my word for it, I have some Pryor knowledge