Terrelle Pryor the perfect low-risk backup plan for Raiders 

Terrelle Pryor hails from suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s “Cradle of Quarterbacks.” But unlike the local legends who preceded him: George Blanda, Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly, Terrelle is a more gifted runner than passer. So while it’s no surprise that speed-obsessed Al Davis would take a flyer on Pryor in the NFL supplemental draft, the question now is what can he do for the Raiders?

Physically, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound former Ohio State quarterback most closely resembles Vince Young.

However, if you thought Young was fast, clocked at 4.58 seconds in the 40-yard dash when he came out of Texas, wait until you see Pryor, who ran a 4.36 at his pro day Saturday. That’s as quick as Michael Vick was when he came into the league. Of course, athleticism means very little if you can’t read defenses and make the right throws.

Pryor has an NFL arm, but is wildly inconsistent and not an accomplished pocket passer. Then again, the same was said of Vick during his early days in Atlanta. Former Falcons coach Jim Mora once rolled his eyes when privately asked about how well his young quarterback was learning the West Coast offense. Vick had a long and troubled path to the top, but he is now one of the game’s elite quarterbacks.

Of course, Pryor has had his own off-the-field problems. But illegally contacting an agent and selling a jersey and Big Ten championship ring hardly make him a candidate for America’s Most Wanted. By most accounts, Pryor is a bright, although somewhat arrogant, 22-year-old who got caught up in the fanfare of Buckeye-mania.

In three years as a starter, he lost only four games (31-4) while guiding Ohio State to the Big Ten title as a sophomore, when he was Rose Bowl MVP, and last season threw 27 touchdown passes and only 11 interceptions in leading his team to victory in the Sugar Bowl. With a league-mandated five-game suspension beginning at the start of the regular season, Pryor won’t have much of a chance to learn the Raiders’ offense when he is expected to join the team later this week.

However, he could almost instantly be a wicked wild-card weapon. Beyond that is anyone’s guess. But the investment is modest, his contract will probably be in the neighborhood of $1 million per season, while the upside could be significant. Raiders coach Hue Jackson may be singing the praises of starting quarterback Jason Campbell, but the 29-year-old veteran has been nothing if inconsistent his entire NFL career. Besides, Campbell, and  backups Trent Edwards and Kyle Boller, will all be free agents in 2012. Watching the Raiders’ offensive line continue to struggle in pass protection, Pryor could be fast-tracked into the mix quicker than you think.

KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on the KGO morning news. He can be reached at RichWalcoff@gmail.com.

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