Tyler Wilson a realistic option as Raiders starter?
Tyler Wilson threw for 7,765 yards and 52 touchdowns during his college career, exactly 24 yards and five touchdowns more than E.J. Manuel at Florida State. Obviously, NFL prospect analysis goes well beyond stats — Manuel also rushed for 827 yards to Wilson’s -44, and Florida State won five more games than Arkansas from 2009-12.
Still, there was a 96-pick gap between when Manuel came off the board at No. 16 overall in this year’s draft and when the Raiders nabbed Wilson at 112. Considering that Wilson could wind up with just as much of a shot to start in Week 1 as Manuel (or the four other QBs taken in the top 115), Oakland might reap a pretty nice return on its investment.
Wilson took a very tiny step toward that possibility over the weekend, when he opened some eyes at the Raiders’ rookie camp.
He was so impressive, in fact, that Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times wrote that ”Wilson is on track to push Matt Flynn for the starting job right away and certainly push (Terrelle) Pryor for the backup spot held by Matt Leinart last season.”
Wilson himself urged a little caution.
“Obviously, I have a lot to learn,” Wilson said in a post-practice interview on Raiders.com. “The playbook’s one of those things that you have to dive in and really attack, and I’ve got a lot of work to do there to get up to speed, because there’s been veteran guys that have been here and are ahead of me right now. So I’m playing catch-up from that point.
“I do think I can bring some things to the table, skill set-wise, but again, I’ve got to play catch-up. I’m going to use this as an opportunity and compete like heck, for sure.”
And why wouldn’t the Raiders leave that “opportunity” on the table for Wilson?
Flynn is the team’s projected starter, following an offseason trade with Seattle. But Oakland was uncertain enough about Flynn’s potential (one year after Russell Wilson beat him out for the Seahawks’ job) that the franchise reworked the QB’s contract so it owes him no guaranteed money beyond 2013. In other words, the Raiders already have a fail-safe in place to move on without Flynn next season.
Pryor, meanwhile, seems to be fighting an uphill battle of his own. The Raiders’ coaching staff continues to say that he’ll get a shot at the starting job come training camp — and he may very well be in the mix — but his salary (a combined $1.3 million base over the next two seasons) makes him even more expendable than Flynn, and he has yet to really make any headway in Oakland after being inherited by the team’s current staff.
The uncertain situations atop the Raiders’ QB depth chart are what led to the selection of Wilson in the first place. It’s possible the former Razorback could throw the whole situation into flux in the coming weeks.
“Well, I’ve liked the way Tyler’s commanded the huddle,” head coach Dennis Allen said Saturday. “I like the way he’s gone through his reads. Obviously, picking up a new system, I think there’s still a little bit of rust there but throwing the ball, I think he’s done a nice job. I don’t have any question about his arm strength and his accuracy.”
One bonus for Wilson: Both Flynn and Pryor have to learn a new system, too, with the Raiders bringing in Greg Olson to run the offense following the end of the 2012 season. The two incumbents had a head start, but it’s not as if Wilson is years behind there.
The experience gap is there in some regard, especially when Wilson is stacked up against the veteran Flynn, but it’s not as drastic as those facing, say, Manuel against Kevin Kolb in Buffalo or Geno Smith with Mark Sanchez in New York. Flynn and Pryor also have just three combined NFL starts (two for Flynn in Green Bay, one for Pryor last season).
“I’m comfortable out there; it’s fun, it’s football,” Wilson said over the weekend. “There’s a lot going through your head, and I’ve always tried not to show that — just be cool and … calm and let the guys know that even if I’m not right the first time, we’ll get it right eventually.”
Basing anything of substance on a rookie-camp performance is premature. While those minicamps give coaches a chance to evaluate their talent, the relatively relaxed atmosphere is a far cry even from what NFL newcomers will see at OTAs or in the preseason.
The Raiders will reconvene for a full-team workouts on May 20, with mandatory minicamp set for June 11-13 and the preseason opener on Aug. 9.
Those events will give everyone a much better feel for where Wilson stands in relation to Flynn and Pryor. For now, though, he’s off and running.
“I knew they’d throw a lot at ya, they want to see kind of how you handle the intensity,” Wilson said. “There’s a lot that goes into it, how you mesh with the other guys and how you are around the facility. That’s a big part of this weekend, just soaking up, digesting as much of that as possible.
“This has been a big step for me, for sure.”
Big enough, it seems, for Wilson to have solidified himself as a contender to run the Raiders’ offense in 2013.