Lions' Antwaan Randle El, former NFL WR, was 'just too early' as college dual-threat QB

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — With Lamar Jackson coming to town this week, Detroit Lions receivers coach Antwaan Randle El can't help but wonder what might have been if he was still playing in the NFL today. 

Before a nine-year NFL career as a receiver, Lions receivers coach Antwaan Randle El was a dual-threat quarterback at Indiana.

A dual-threat college quarterback at the University of Indiana, Randle El was selected in the second round of the 2002 NFL draft and was promptly converted to wide receiver. He went on to have a lengthy and productive career for Pittsburgh and Washington at the new position, catching 370 passes across nine seasons.

But if he was coming out of college in 2021, he's convinced he could have succeeded at his collegiate position. 

"Ah, don't do that to me, man," Randle El said with a laugh when posed the question. "Yeah, no question. We talk about it all the time. You've got Kyler Murray and all them guys. I was just too early."

In four seasons at Indiana, Randle El passed for 7,469 yards and 42 touchdowns and rushed for another 3,895 yards and 44 more scores. The downside was he completed just 49.8% of his throws with 37 interceptions. 

Still, Jackson has shown some of those flaws can be ironed out at the next level. The 2019 MVP completed 57% of his passes and had 27 interceptions during three seasons at the University of Louisville. But in four seasons with the Ravens, and two more starts, his pro completion percentage is a health 64.1%, with seven fewer picks.

It's not that dual-threat quarterbacks like Jackson and Murray are new, but their style of play is far more embraced two decades after a guy like Randall Cunningham retired. 

"Guys back in the day, they paved the way, but people didn't really buy into it," Randle El said. "Now you're seeing it even more with these two guys and they're doing pretty good."

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers