I’m going to give you a ton of analysis on Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor. But if you subscribe to the “Keep It Simple Stupid,” approach, here’s an executive summary:
All NFL prospects have physical talent. All NFL starters have technical skill. However, few NFL prospects in a given year become NFL starters because they don’t develop the techniques to play the position beyond the college level. The problem this presents to NFL personnel staff is that they have to project a player’s potential and physical talent. It is a significant part of that equation. As we have seen year after year, physical talent can be intoxicating if taken in large doses. And if you’ve ever been drunk, you understand how your judgment deteriorates.
Here’s a visual summary of what could happen to an NFL personnel staff as they view Pryor’s physical skills over time.
Physically, Terrelle Pryor has the tools to become a phenomenal NFL quarterback. But I took a hard look at his game for the 2011 Rookie Scouting Portfolio just in case he declared for the 2011 NFL Draft. The analysis ahead is what would have been included in the 2012 Rookie Scouting Portfolio if Pryor played for Ohio State through his senior year. It is my take on Pryor’s performance against Wisconsin on October 16, 2010.
Statistically, Pryor was 14-28, for 156 yards with no touchdowns and 1 interception through the air. On the ground he rushed for 56 yards on 18 attempts. He was sacked twice and fumbled the ball once. His receivers dropped one pass. Wisconsin won this game 31-18 in Madison. My overall score for Pryor in this game was a 40 on a 100-point scale. This equates to a street free agent who would benefit from playing in another league before trying to enter the NFL.
I’ll begin with overall strengths and weaknesses and the rest will be a more thorough breakdown:
Pryor has all of the physical tools to become a dominant NFL quarterback. He is also improving with his passing mechanics. When he’s focused and in rhythm, he can throw accurate passes with decent form. However, his improvement still remains in the basic stages of development. He is still far from consistent with his mechanics. His greatest strengths are his size, speed, and vision as a runner. He is excellent at avoiding pursuit in the pocket or as a runner in the open field. He’s big enough to run through arm tackles or hits and he has the agility to make sharp cuts and dips. If he learns how to refine his conceptual and mechanical technique as a passer he could develop into a great prospect. Right now he’s a dynamic athlete with a strong arm rather than a dynamic passer.
As good as he is at making defenders miss and buying time behind the line of scrimmage, Pryor lacks the ability to manipulate the pocket with tight movements. His tendency to scramble from one side of the field to the other actually creates more pressure and forces Pryor to either tuck and run, make quick throws into coverage that aren’t wise, or continue scrambling. Most of the time his choices heighten the risk of a sack, tire him out, and increase his chances of getting hit. This is far more evident against top competition and will only become a greater problem in the NFL if he doesn’t learn how to work the pocket more efficiently.
Pryor routinely throws the ball across his body, especially when flushed from the pocket. His passes tend to sink on him because he will over stride into this release. Right now he is not NFL-ready. He will need a simplified game plan with talented players around him to have initial success as a pro quarterback, and that will only come after he develops his footwork. If he can develop better footwork and learn to maneuver the pocket, he could become a much more accurate passer. Then Pryor might have a shot to learn the conceptual part of the game and develop better judgment as a field general.
Right now, he’s a long-term project, at best. He’ll need to exhibit a fantastic work ethic and vastly improved maturity to stick with a team long enough to earn long-term consideration as said project.
Accuracy: 2pts out of a possible 23pts.
- High completion rate (>60%) – 5pts: No
- Deep Accuracy – 2pts: No
- Intermediate Accuracy – 7pts: No
- Short Accuracy – 5pts: No
- Accuracy moving right – 2pts: Yes
- Accuracy moving left – 2pts: No
Pryor’s first attempt came on OSU’s opening offensive play from a 1×2 spread set with backs flanking each side of him in the shotgun. His primary target was DeVier Posey on a 12-yard in-cut. Pryor started down his target from the snap to his release, delivering the ball on-target for the first down and a total gain of 14 yards. On the play, Pryor demonstrated a quick release with his delivery and the ball landed in the receiver’s midsection in stride. This pass demonstrates there is potential for Pryor to become a solid thrower of the football in the intermediate range of the field.
However, Pryor’s timing on a 7-yard curl on 2nd and 7 with 8:57 in the first quarter was off. His pass arrived after the receiver made his break, which allowed the defensive back to jump the route and nearly intercept it. Pryor also stared down this primary receiver from snap to release and if he’s going to make this a habit, he needs to exhibit better anticipation on these timing routes. If an NFL quarterback stares down a receiver, he’s only going to be successful if the play is a quick-hitting pass or his accuracy and anticipation are pinpoint.
On a 1st and 10 throw from the opposite hash with 8:36 in the first quarter, the ball seemed to come off Pryor’s hand poorly. The ball was low, short and did not come off his hand with velocity. His target Posey had less of a chance to catch the pass than the zone linebacker, who nearly got a hand on the ball.
On the next play, Pryor threw the ball about four yards behind Posey on a designed throwback after rolling left. Posey ran a crossing route and was targeted in the middle of the field. The play was obviously designed for the opposing defense to chase Pryor and abandon their position so Pryor could use his athleticism to create an opening in the secondary and hit Posey on an easy pass. This is the kind of throw Pryor will have to make in the NFL with some level of accuracy if an NFL team is going to use his athleticism to beat defenses.
On a screen pass to RB Dan Herron on 1st and 10 with 11:46 in the half, Pryor exhibited some touch on the pass, but he nearly placed too much arc on the ball it was a rainbow-like throw. In the NFL, this kind of lollypop thrown with fast, instinctive, and smart defenders, could result in an interception or Pryor’s RB getting creamed. The raw potential to develop touch is there for Pryor, but at this stage of his development he should already be better with touch passes than he is.
Although he was not accurate earlier on a designed roll to the left, he was much better on a designed roll to the right. He rolled right, dropped three steps after the roll, planted his back foot, and completed a 24-yard corner route to his receiver Dane Sanzenbacher. Pryor exhibited good timing with his release if he can develop this kind of crisp execution with all of his throws, he’ll become an NFL quarterback. However this is the best throw I saw after five attempts.
Pryor followed up with good accuracy on another designed boot; throwing on the run while rolling right. He hit is WR Sanzenbacher for a 20-yard completion on a crossing route near the sideline with 2:36 in the third quarter.This and the corner route will be the types of throws on the move that will keep some NFL teams interested in his potential to develop into an accurate passer. The big “if,” will be how hard Pryor will work to attain that technical proficiency.
Once again, we see that Pryor is an effective thrower of the ball when moving to his right on a two-point conversion that cut the lead to 21-18 in the early fourth quarter. This is the third nice pass he threw moving to his right. This time Pryor exhibited good touch on a play action roll right and throw back to the left, hitting his tight end in the front corner of the end zone for the two-point conversion.
However, it became clear in this game that Pryor was not proficient throwing while on the move to his left on 1st and 10 with 6:47 left in the game. On a designed boot left, he overshot his RB on a drag route, hurrying the throw due to pressure coming near him. Pryor’s feet weren’t in sync with his release. The feet and the arm have to work in harmony in order to develop sound and accurate mechanics. Pryor will need to do a lot of drills to develop this kind of footwork and mechanics. Right now, it’s not second-nature to him. Otherwise, his footwork would have been smooth in this fourth-quarter pressure situation. The media likes to talk about heart, guts, and other intangibles that make players winners. These are real things, but good technique is the foundation for a player to exhibit the qualities that inspire and endure.
Another mechanical problem showed up on the next play. Pryor’s stride was too wide on a pass to his receiver at the first down marker in the left flat. This caused the ball to sink too low for a reception. On third down of the same series, Pryor’s throw was slightly better, but still too low on a designed roll left that finished with a short drop and throw. Pryor then under threw another pass to Posey with 3:03 in the game – a deep in-cut. On 4th and 3 he under threw Posey on a short curl at the sideline, but his receiver made a nice catch. This series of poor throws should be an indication to NFL personnel staff that they won’t be able to use Pryor’s athleticism until he develops more consistent footwork on the move – even with plays where they cut off half the field by moving him to one side.
However, Pryor has moments that will potentially intoxicate some NFL personnel. One of them came with 1:48 left in the game on the play after he took a sack: a 26-yard completion of a deep in-cut. This was Pryor’s best pass of the night, hitting his receiver Sanzenbacher under the safety and in stride. An overzealous evaluator could take a snapshot of this play and proclaim Pryor as a prospect with potential to make big plays in big moments after dealing with adversity.
A counterargument would be that this was a play where his receiver was wide open and a lot of time to deliver the ball. It was clear in this game when Pryor had time, was moving to his right, or standing in the pocket, and his receiver was wide open, his accuracy is good. Give these conditions to 95 percent of the major college QBs, and you’ll see accuracy as well.
Pryor’s final throw was an under thrown pass in the middle of the field that the undercutting defender intercepted. Pryor had time to throw, but did not put enough on the ball. He had this problem all night. He didn’t step into this throw and it needed that kind of velocity to get 25 yards down field. It was short by five yards.
Arm Strength: 11 points out of a possible 11 points.
- Deep velocity – 2pts: Yes
- Deep distance (>40 yards) – 2pts: Yes
- Intermediate velocity – 5pts: Yes
- Velocity on the move -2pts: Yes
Pryor’s first pass, the 12-yard completion of a square-in that resulted in a 14-yard gain, showed good velocity. On 2nd and 9 with 12:22 in the half, Pryor demonstrated good arm strength on a deep streak down the left sideline. He threw the ball 50 yards from the opposite hash and the pass arrived on target. However, the defender had the best position on the ball, nearly intercepting it.This was more about Pryor’s decision-making than his arm strength. A 50-yard throw from the opposite hash that arrives on-target is a sign of great physical potential to pay the quarterback position in the NFL. However, you need to know when to make that throw and that comes with excellent presnap understanding of the defense and the ability to disguise your intentions. Drew Brees doesn’t have Pryor’s arm, but he could make that throw successfully as well as other deep passes far more often because he understands when and when not to try it.
Pryor demonstrated nice zip on a 1st and 10 curl route for 12 yards in the right flat to Posey with 3:04 in the third quarter. Although the velocity was good, the lack of good mechanics with his feet caused the ball to be low, forcing the receiver to dive for the ball. There was a lot of open space for the receiver to run after the catch if the accuracy were better.
Later, Pryor vastly over threw a deep streak to Posey, delivering the ball on a line drive that covered 55 yards in the air, falling five yards out of the end zone.
There’s not much that needs to be said about Pryor’s arm strength. It’s pro caliber. He can throw from the opposite hash, he can throw the ball with velocity in the intermediate range, and he can throw for distance. However, his arm strength won’t show up in a positive way if he can’t develop consistently sound mechanics with his feet. Passes will continue to be off-target in every conceivable way (late, long, short, low, etc.) until he has control of his frame as he releases the ball.
Delivery: 6 points out of a possible 16 points.
- Delivers from a variety of platforms – 2pts: No
- Catchable ball (touch, spirals, etc.) – 4pts: No
- Quick release – 4pts: Yes
- Compact delivery – 4pts: No
- Good drop depth – 2pts: Yes
Pryor’s first attempt on the opening offensive play, the 12-yard in-cut, was an on-target delivery. He demonstrated a quick release that was over the top. His feet seemed well spaced as he threw the ball. On a pass to the FB in the flat with 13:48 in the first quarter, he did a nice job with his five-step drop, getting good depth. Again, his release was quick. The feet could be a little closer together, but on these passes his footwork was passable.
Although Pryor delivers some of his passes with good velocity and a quick, over the top release, the quality of his passes are wobbly and they lack that fine touch to drop between defenders. His timing and accuracy are inconsistent because he consistently doesn’t throw a tight spiral and his passes tend to wobble. I think this has to do with his footwork. He sets his feet reasonably well, but he tends to over stride during his release. When moving to his right, Pryor does a much better= job of keeping his feet under him than when he’s moving to his left. However as mentioned earlier with his accuracy, Pryor’s footwork fell apart in the fourth quarter and the quality of his passes followed. I would probably be too generous with awarding Pryor a positive score for a compact delivery, because he has a tendency to over stride.
Pryor’s footwork in the pocket is still in its development stages as a passer. He appears stiff with his drops or any attempt to slide and still maintain a good throwing stance as the pocket constricts. If he wants to play in the NFL, he won’t have nearly as many picture perfect pockets to operate from and he’ll need to have great footwork ingrained into him before he gets under center.
Decisions: 0 points out of a possible 14 points.
- Avoids locking onto one receiver – 3pts: No
- Plays with controlled aggression – 2pts: No
- Manipulates defense with eyes – 2pts: No
- Makes effective presnap reads – 2pts: No
- Throws ball away to avoid sacks – 3pts: No
- Checks down judiciously – 2pts: No
On a 2nd and 22 play action pass from the I formation with 13:49 in the first quarter, Pryor lacked patience in the pocket and the result was a check-down at inopportune time. He dropped five steps from center, looked down the middle of the field ,and then rushed a throw to his FB in the flat who was covered tightly at the line of scrimmage. As soon as the FB made the reception, the defender dropped him. There was as WR running a shallow cross who was open at the opposite hash and if Pryor waited just a beat longer, he could have completed a pass to a teammate with room to run.
There were several things Pryor lacked on this play:
- The ability to look at multiple receivers (locking onto one receiver).
- The conceptual understanding that dumping a 2nd and 22 pass to a tightly covered fullback was not much better than taking a sack and probably not as good as throwing the ball away (controlled aggression and checking down).
- The ability to move know that the WR was running open on the cross and use his initial lock-down of the fullback to his advantage (manipulating with his eyes).
Pryor is already operating a basic college offense. The fact that he’s making questionable decisions in it doesn’t bode well for the NFL.
On the next play, a 3rd and 21 with 13:01 in the first quarter, Pryor was too hesitant with his down field options and then forced a throw into tight coverage that was nearly intercepted. Pryor initially dropped from shotgun and looked down field to his right before turning back to the left. Hew waited too long, double-clutching the ball until he tried to force the ball to his WR Sanzenbacker on a corner route. If he throws the ball earlier, the receiver wouldn’t have been forced to fight for the ball between two defenders. Instead, Pryor’s lack of anticipation allowed the safety to come over the top and catch the ball. Fortunately for OSU, the Wisconsin safety landed out of bounds.
Once again, Pryor demonstrated a lack of patience on a 2nd and 10 crossing route with 8:30 in the first quarter. The play began with a designed roll to the left and ended with a throwback to DeVier Posey. Pryor threw the ball about four yards behind his receiver, who was in the middle of the field on his cross. If Pryor waited for Posey to clear the next window to the flat, he could have had an easier throw to a wide open player rather than attempting a throw across his body.
Pryor had two receivers running crosses of different depths on 2nd and 9 with 3:41 in the half and he once again made the wrong decision. The quarterback stared down the shallow cross to Posey, leading the receiver into the linebacker. However, he didn’t see that his receiver Sanzenbacher was open on a deeper cross 15 yards down field.
Pryor made another poor decision to throw the ball across the field after getting flushed to his right. He the ball across the field to the opposite hash to his receiver Brandon Saine with 4:00 in the game. The pass was nearly picked off as two defenders were able to cut off the receiver on the play.
The only patience I saw from Pryor in this game came as a runner on a play around right end for an eight-yard gain behind his pulling lineman with 6:28 in the third quarter. He’s going to be woefully predictable as an NFL quarterback if he doesn’t improve his ability to read the field and make quick, aggressive vertical throws. Based on the plays that have transpired thus far in this ball game, including the corner route he released late into double coverage that was intercepted, it’s very clear that he hesitates to pull the trigger on these plays when he first sees, if he sees them at all.
Ball Handling: 5 points out of a possible 8 points.
- Play fakes – 1pt: No
- Center exchange – 2pts: Yes
- Pump fakes – 1pt: Yes
- Ball security while running – 1 pt: No
- Maintains ball security when hit – 2pts: Yes
Pryor attempted an option pitch on a pistol formation run heading to left end, but he bounced the football off the fingertips of his tailback for a loss of 12 yards. On a 1st and 10 run of 22 yards with 9:50 in the first quarter, Pryor switched the ball to his left arm once he cut to the sideline. Good awareness of how to protect the ball.
On a 3rd and 10 with 8:26 in the first quarter, Pryor used a decent shoulder fake before climbing the pocket and delivering a pass over the middle to his receiver just inches shy of the first down marker. Although the replay booth overruled the completion, the shoulder fake was a nice move to set up the throw. If he can develop more consistent footwork and patience to go with this type of fake, he’ll look more like a veteran player.
There were moments during Pryor’s 17-yard scramble with 12:18 in the half that he held the ball low while in the pocket. With defenders around him, Pryor needs to stop carrying the ball like a loaf of bread with his non-sideline arm, especially as he approaches the sideline with defenders in pursuit and close the ball. He may have a big hand, but carrying the football this way is dangerous. He cost his team possessions in the NFL if he doesn’t fix it.
Pocket Presence: 5 points out of a possible 18 points.
- Climbs pocket effectively – 5pts: No
- Willing to take a hit to deliver the ball – 2pts: No
- Senses pass rush – 5pts: Yes
- Manages outside pressure – 3pts: No
- Managers pressure up the middle – 3pts: No
Pryor’s footwork in the pocket is still in its development stages as a passer. He appears stiff with his drops or any attempt to slide and still maintain a good throwing stance as the pocket constricts. In fact, he really doesn’t slide as much as he bursts a few steps, makes a halting stop, and then tries to throw. This hampers his accuracy. Pryor needs to learn to climb the pocket with better footwork that doesn’t consist of running and stopping.
Pryor showed this exact issue on a 3rd and 10 pass over the middle with 7:30 in the first quarter. It took a near-amazing catch attempt to even get the replay booth to examine if the result was a completion.
Pryor gained 17 yards on a 3rd and 9 passing play with 12:17 in the half when he dropped back, felt the pocket begin to constrict, and took off to the left flat. He broke a tackle attempt by the DE off the left edge and quickly getting to the left sideline, eluded a cornerback at the sideline with a nice little dip away from the defender, and then tight-roped the boundary. Although a nice play, a better pocket quarterback climbs this pocket and finds a receiver down field with the amount of room that was available to Pryor. Unfortunately, the first thing Pryor did to react to the pressure was drop his eyes from his receivers and look for place to run.
This is very Atlanta Falcons-era-Michael Vick, and will inhibit his ability to operate from the pocket if he doesn’t work to improve it.
Pryor got tripped up by the right DE coming clean around the edge on 3rd and 9 with 3:38 in the half. Pryor felt the pressure and tried to climb the pocket a step, but he did not climb far enough. This is another example that Pryor’s feel for pressure is not refined.
On 3rd and 8 from a 2×2 shotgun formation with his RB flanking his right, Pryor dropped against Wisconsin’s four-man front and scanned down field with four yards of space between him and the closest offensive linemen blocking a defensive lineman. As another second passed, the left defensive end got up field but was still well contained by the left tackle and Pryor could have climbed this deep pocket to either make a throw, throw the ball away, or break the pocket through a nice gap to the left flat. Instead, Pryor rolled right and nullified his offensive lineman’s work. His poor choice freed the three Wisconsin defensive linemen getting blocked on the right side to release and chase.
This was particularly helpful to RDE J.J. Watt, who was double-teamed until Pryor’s poor decision in the pocket gave the DE optimal position to release and use his speed to beat the offensive linemen around the corner. Pryor had to then reverse his field to the left to avoid Watt, but this opened the lane for two more defenders and forced the QB to throw the ball across his body. Fortunately for Pryor, all of this worked. His WR Sanzenbacher had worked back to the middle of the field from a deep seem route up the right hash, giving the QB a target to hit 14 yards down field.
While I liked Pryor’s composure to find the receiver, he created a lot this pressure himself. More times than not, his lack of ability to manipulate the pocket with tight movements will hurt him in the NFL.
Another example of Pryor’s reckless play in the pocket came on 3rd and 6 with 0:54 in the third quarter. Pryor lines up in the shotgun in a 2×2 receiver look with his back flanking him to the right against a four-man defensive front with the linebackers set deep. He drops from his snap looking right, feels the pressure up the middle and climbs the pocket to the right, just past this oncoming DT.
Pryor correctly anticipates that the RDE getting blocked by the RT will slide off the assignment inside and sack him. What Pryor does to avoid this is truly amazing, but hard for me to imagine he could do again: he suddenly changes direction with a dip inside the DE and ducks under his right tackle so close that you can’t see space between them as he goes by. Pryor then comes out the other side, runs to his right, looks down field with the DE redirecting his pursuit, and throws a looping jump pass across his body towards the middle of the field. The pass covers nine yards and his receiver Sanzenbacher makes a leaping grab in front of coverage for the first down. While I have doubts he’ll be able to execute in the NFL if he continues these tendencies, I’ll stay open to the possibility if he can develop better conceptual skills to diagnose defensive tendencies and vastly improved footwork to become more consistently accurate.
Pryor was sacked second time with 2:10 left in the game when he tried to slide back and to the left of the RDE. Moving backwards is a common tendency for athletic quarterbacks in college football. Tim Tebow. Mike Vick. Donovan McNabb. Vince Young. All guilty. The key is to learn to step into the pocket. If he learns to do this, he’ll be in a much better position to prevent negative plays as an NFL quarterback.
Scrambling: 5 points out of a possible 5 points.
- Positive yardage when breaking the pocket – 2pts: Yes
- Positive yardage when pocket collapses – 1pt: Yes
- Capable of big gains as a runner – 2pts: Yes
The Buckeyes have a designed run for Pryor where he’s in the shotgun. They flank a back to Pryor’s left and use an unbalanced line to the left with a tight end, a wing back, and a receiver all bunched to that side. At the snap, the tailback and the entire offensive line slant right while the quarterback follows his wing back and receiver into the flat on the left. The play looks a lot like a quick WR screen by the time Pyror begins to turn the corner.
Pryor got a huge area off the left flat to run, gaining 10 yards before he even had to use a blocker, much less change direction. He was quick enough to dip outside the block and eliminate the angle of a corner that broke down too soon, getting to the sideline for a 22-yard gain.
When Pryor scrambles, he runs a lot like Daunte Culpepper or Ben Roethlisberger early in their careers. He broke the pocket on a 3rd and 7 with 8:55 in the first quarter once he saw the linebackers drop deep, showing good acceleration as he weaved through the flat. He finished the run by lowering his shoulder into safety at the marker and then ran over the defender for the first down.
Pryor gained 17 yards on a 3rd and 9 passing play with 12:17 in the half when he dropped back, felt the pocket begin to constrict, and took off for the left flat. He broke a tackle attempt by the DE off the left edge and quickly got to the left sideline. He then eluded a cornerback at the sideline with a nice little dip away from the defender and then tight-roped the boundary for the rest of the yardage.
He took an option read around right end, dipping away from one defender and using a stiff arm to push the other to the ground, but he was tripped up by that player, limiting his gain to five yards despite a lot of open space in the flat ahead of him.
Pryor is still a better runner than he his a passer at this stage of his career. On a designed keeper off right guard with 10:50 in the third quarter, he burst through the hole, veered to the right flat, and then slowed down and spun away from a defender reaching for him to get another 3-4 yards on a 13-yard gain and a first down, putting OSU in the red zone.
As we have seen with Ben Roethlisberger, Vince Young, Daunte Culpepper, Donovan McNabb, and Steve McNair, quarterbacks that run the ball a lot eventually wear down and get hurt. Either they become better pocket passers deliver production with greater efficiency and economy or they tend to fall apart and lose the athleticism that earned them an opportunity. Pryor may be able to make winning plays outside the pocket in certain situations, but in order to get to those situations he’ll need to produce inside the pocket on a consistent basis.