The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Truth: Terrelle Pryor

Jacob Feldman

Week three wasn’t quite as crazy as the first few weeks of the season, but there were still some very eyebrow raising occurrences. Things like Brian Quick catching his first touchdown pass in almost two calendar years, which consequently made our very own Jeff Miller roll around in a kiddie pool filled with mayonnaise in celebration! There are a lot of relatively unknown players who are starting to get opportunities because it seems like the injury bug has been so bad this year. In actuality, I doubt it is any worse than previous years, but it seems to be hitting a lot of key players, which gives that next tier of players some great opportunity. The question is who can we trust?

Let’s face it, people overreact to small sample sizes. This is especially true when it comes to the world of fantasy football. We have a very strong tendency to let what happens in just 60 minutes completely overpower and sometimes erase what we studied for months or what we’ve seen for years. Every once in a while we need to step back from the ledge, take a deep breath, and remember that extremes happen. Sometimes a perfect storm comes along and a player is great for a brief period before never being heard from again (Bryce Brown, I’m looking at you!). The exact opposite is of course true as well. There have been a ton of players who hit a little slump before leading more fantasy teams to the playoffs than beers consumed at a game in Lambeau Field!

That’s where I come in. For the last few years, I’ve been doing my best to be an objective voice of reason each and every week. I try to pick one or two “breakout” or slumping players each week. I take some time to objectively look at the good news, the bad news, and then give you what I hope is the truth about what you can expect moving forward. I’m not always right (then again, no one is!), but I like to think I’m right way more than I am wrong. I’m not afraid to say something unpopular or against the hype if it is what I believe. I was one of the first to tell you it is time to bail on Trent Richardson when the Browns traded him what seems like decades ago. I always felt Bryce Brown was a splash in the pan who wouldn’t hold dynasty value, and I was one of the voices telling you Allen Hurns was good enough to stay the starter opposite Allen Robinson. All three of those were rather unpopular takes at the time, but they are exactly what all of the evidence point towards. People just needed to step back and take it all in, and I’m just here to help you do that.

Through the first two weeks of the season I spent some time talking about a pair of young receivers in Willie Snead and Travis Benjamin. I’m going to stick to the receiver trend in week three, or at least I think I am, because I’m not exactly sure what we call Terrelle Pryor. He played most of his snaps at receiver, but took a healthy number of snaps as the wildcat quarterback as well as spending a little bit of time at safety. Because he’s such a unique case, took the time to watch each and every play he was involved in one more time to try and get a handle on what we can expect from him moving forward.

Terrelle Pryor, WR (?) CLE

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Week three Stats: Eight receptions on 13 targets for 144 yards, four rushes for 21 yards and a score, three completions on five attempts for 35 yards, a snap at safety, and he washed his hands in a kitchen sink.

Let me roll back the clock a few years to when Pryor was an electrifying dual threat quarterback at Ohio State. He was one of a handful of players who were hit with NCAA sanctions for receiving illicit benefits. Instead of sitting out the time in college, he decided to make the unprecedented move of being a top tier player who entered the NFL supplemental draft. He all kicked off a flurry of rule changes in dynasty leagues which didn’t account for the NFL supplemental draft in their bylaws. He was selected by the Raiders as a quarterback and there he sat for several years.

He started a handful of games, mostly in 2013, with very marginal success. He managed just a 57.4% completion rate in 2013 to go with an average yards per attempt of only 6.61 yards. Mix in his 7:11 touchdown to interception rate and it wasn’t pretty. At the time he seemed to only be willing to play quarterback, but a few years and a new team later that seems to have changed. He realized he isn’t an NFL caliber quarterback and seems much more willing to do whatever his team needs to him to in order to win, or another way to put it, willing to do whatever it takes to stay in the league.

The hype surrounding him started to heat back up this year after he had spent some time working on his receiver skills. No one has ever doubted Pryor’s physical abilities. He is without a doubt one of the more gifted athletes in the NFL. The question has always been how does he fit on an NFL team. This last week, the Browns seemed to have figured something out. Maybe he finally figured out the NFL game or maybe the Browns are just a terrible enough team that they are willing to try just about anything to get their fan base excited and maybe even win a game or two. Is week three something we can expect to see again or was it just a special performance by a gifted athlete which will amount to little more than a novelty?

Good: When looking at the good things about Pryor, you pretty much have to start with his athletic ability. He’s 6’4” or 6’5” (depending on where you look) and between 220-230 pounds with sub 4.4 wheels. He was easily one of if not the best athletes in college during his time at Ohio State and even at the next level that hasn’t changed a whole lot. Granted, the Miami defense, outside of their front four, are pretty terrible, but he made an awful lot of them miss on numerous occasions. He took advantage of the 5-10 yard cushions the Miami cornerbacks were giving him on virtually every play. The majority of his big plays came on quick slants where he caught the ball within ten yards of the line, well inside the cushion the defenders were giving him, and then he made Miami look like fools as they tried to tackle him in the open field. He would turn a five yard catch into a 20+ yard gain, showing off his athleticism.

Another major plus for Pryor is the team he plays for. Considering the Browns are down to their third string quarterback and without both of their top receivers (Josh Gordon is back in rehab and Corey Coleman is out with a broken hand), Pryor is going to continue to receive the opportunity to be the focal point of the offense. There isn’t any reason the Browns have to stop using him the way they used him in week three. They almost won the game even though they have one of the least talented rosters in the league.

The third major plus I think we need to look at is he possesses exceptional instincts. When the Miami defense went into zone coverage, Pryor showed a natural talent for finding the soft spots in that coverage. He was able to sit down and give the rookie quarterback a great target for a nice gain. He also shows those instincts when he is moving with the ball. Part of making the defenders miss was his superb athleticism, but it was also knowing what the defenders were going to do before they did it.

Bad: At first glance, it seems like Pryor actually played quarterback, but I wouldn’t go that far. Every snap he took at quarterback was in the shotgun, and the vast majority were in the wildcat mold. The only difference from when Miami made it famous in the NFL a few years ago is that Pryor can actually throw the ball a little bit. Although he can throw it a bit, he is still a very subpar quarterback like he was back in 2013. His three completions were a pair of bubble screens and one quick slant. One of his two incompletions was a terrible overthrow on a bootleg which hit the defender right in the hands and should have been picked off. From that point forward, he didn’t throw again aside from the two screen plays, so I think the Browns realized designed pass plays aren’t in their best interest.

The other glaring concern for me is that Pryor is still an extremely raw receiver. When he did need to make a contested catch, he struggled. He was also out of position a few times. He was on the inside of the corner when he should have been on the outside and vice versa. His route tree is still very limited and consists mostly of quick slants and go routes. He did have one nice little curl route where the defender slipped, and he caught the pass for a gain, but otherwise he’s still pretty limited when it comes to routes. If he wasn’t given a 5-10 yard cushion on almost every play, I think he would have struggled a lot more to produce like he did. He has great instincts, but the technique just isn’t there yet.

Ugly Truth:  Pryor is and always has been a tantalizing athlete with off the charts potential. The issue is he’s such a great athlete with fantastic instincts that his technique is definitely lacking. This lack of technique makes him a subpar quarterback and a very raw receiver. He’s made improvements in the receiving department, but it seems to me like he still has a very long way to go.

With that said, his usage with the Browns last week was very promising. Eventually defenses will figure things out and clamp down a bit on him, but he’s versatile enough that he should give you something each and every week, especially since there isn’t a whole lot else on the Browns’ offense right now. I wouldn’t expect 165 yards rushing/receiving and another 35 passing yards each and every week, but with his ability he is a big play waiting to happen every time he touches the ball, and he was touching the ball an awful lot last week.

I think better defenses will figure out a way to contain Pryor, since he really is just about their only weapon right now. I also worry a little bit about what will happen when players like Coleman come back as well as long term when they add more talent, but for now it seems to be the Terrelle Pryor show in Cleveland.

Final Verdict: Overall, it is tough to ignore talent like his, and he’s definitely exciting. If I can get him at WR4 prices, I’m going for it. I don’t think he’ll be a major long term asset or that he’ll be able to repeat week 3 production, but for that price I’m willing to take a shot on the upside. For the time being, I would give him a shot as a flex play and just hope for a big play. He’s a gamble, but I think I’m willing to roll the dice. 


jacob feldman