Fantasy Football: The Case Against Terrelle Pryor
Today, ladies and gentlemen of the court, you will be presented with a mountain of evidence to prove why the defendant, Terrelle Pryor Sr. of the Washington Redskins, is guilty on multiple counts of … impersonating a wide receiver. That’s right, this former quarterback has donned a receiver’s gloves and snuck his way to the top of the WR depth chart in the nation’s capital. Worse, flocks of fantasy analysts, including the defendant’s counsel, have lent credence to this wideout forgery and elevated Pryor all the way to the third round of drafts.
I ask you to avoid getting caught up in Jason Moore’s Terrelle-Pryor-Crossfire and review the arguments presented with an open mind.
The Prior Pryor
Long before Terrelle Pryor was going as the No. 13 WR in fantasy (per Fantasy Football Calculator’s ADP) he was picked up by the Raiders in the third round of the NFL’s 2011 Supplemental Draft, after a flashy quarterback career at Ohio State. Pryor then bounced around the rosters of the Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, and Cincinnati Bengals — all in a span of five years — before finally switching his position to wide receiver and making the Cleveland Browns in 2015.
While Pryor’s would certainly make for a great story if it pans out, a brief look at the history of converted QBs is less than flowery. All the names of note — including Hines Ward, Josh Cribbs, and Julian Edelman — made their transition to WR before or immediately upon entering the NFL (two of them also happened to come from Kent State). And Ward was the only true WR1 of the bunch.
Many will point to Pryor’s “electric” 2016 season (77 receptions, 1,007 yards, four TDs), as a sign of things to come. I agree, but not in the way they propose. Pryor was the clear leader and only decent option on that Browns team, feasting on 140 targets, and he maxed out at the WR18. The situation in Washington is a lot more crowded.
The Swamp (of Pass-Catchers) in Washington
Unlike in Cleveland — where the next best pass-catchers last year were 55-reception Gary Barnidge and 53-reception running back, Duke Johnson — the Redskins are stocked with legitimate receiving weapons.
Jordan Reed is just about the most dominant PPR tight-end in football and will be the focal point of this offense when healthy. Regardless of what anyone might say about Pryor’s ascension, Reed already sits atop Kirk Cousins‘ target list and will continue to do so.
Jamison Crowder already broke out in 2016 with 847 yards and seven scores, but he is entering his hallowed third-year as a WR and should play more out of the slot in 2017, where he excels. Crowder led all slot receivers in separation at target, and received excellent marks in Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception, garnering comparisons to Doug Baldwin (grab a copy of the Ultimate Draft Kit for more).
Then there’s second-year quasi-rookie, Josh Doctson, who missed all of 2016 to injury after the Redskins drafted him 22nd overall in the NFL draft. Doctson projects as a Dez Bryant-esque red zone monster, with off-the-charts explosiveness and contested catch ability. In Week 2 last season (one of his only games played), Kirk Cousins hit Doctson for a 57-yard gain that could’ve been a touchdown if thrown better, and targeted him three times in the end zone over the course of the game.
Combining what we’ve seen in Washington in recent years with the current roster outlook, dubbing Pryor as a 120-plus target WR1 seems a little premature.
Throw in a Count of Extortion, Your Honor!
I’m not entirely sure who’s responsible for Pryor’s exorbitant draft price, but 32nd overall as the WR13 is straight-up extortion. He is going ahead of perennial studs like Demaryius Thomas and Michael Crabtree, as well as guys with their own question marks but far more upside like Keenan Allen and Alshon Jeffery.
Listen, Pryor is an athletic phenomenon on the order of Rob Gronkowski or Leonard Fournette. His combination of size and speed is otherworldly, I admit. But it takes a lot more than physical freak status to be a reliable, elite receiver in the NFL. It takes polished routes, timing, an intricate understanding of responsibilities and assignments, and trust from your quarterback.
To return value on where he’s being drafted, Pryor would need to post numbers on the order of 1,200 yards and eight to nine touchdowns. The Redskins haven’t had a 1,200 yard receiver since 2013 and Reed, Crowder, and Doctson will all be effective in the red zone, putting a ceiling on Pryor’s numbers that is well below the WR13.
Yes, Pryor is flashy, and maybe there’s a contingent of fans rooting for a sort of from-the-ashes storyline. But as you should know by now, opportunity should always trump narrative when it comes to fantasy production.
You’ve heard the guys say that you don’t win a league at the draft. But spending a third-round pick on an unproven converted-QB in an extremely busy receiving corps could go a long way towards doing the exact opposite. Don’t fall for Pryor’s nifty WR disguise and avoid at all costs in drafts!