NFL Draft primer

I have decided to take a break from analyzing NFL Draft prospects from my beloved Sun Belt Conference for at least one week and spotlight Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden. The owner of an interesting backstory, Weeden was impressive in Senior Bowl practices recently but was only 5 for 9 with two interceptions during the game on January 28. 28 also happens to be Brandon’s age. In 2002, the New York Yankees selected Brandon with their second-round pick in that year’s draft. Brandon made the New York-Penn League All-Star game in the Yankee system before he was traded to the Dodgers in the package that brought Kevin Brown to the Bronx. As a baseball player, Brandon never made it to Class AA. But in the 2012 NFL Draft, he has a chance to be the third quarterback taken in a relatively mediocre quarterback class that is extremely top-heavy.

At 6’4 218 pounds, Brandon drives the ball downfield and can fit throws in tight windows. He is an above-average athlete and can drop throws in between defenders. Worked primarily in a spread offense at Oklahoma State, but worked under center extensively during Senior Bowl workouts. While in college, Brandon got the ball out quick to playmakers like Justin Blackmon in space. Savvy and mature, rarely takes a sack and commands the huddle well, serving as an extension of his coach. Although he has prototypical height, Brandon has shaky accuracy when forced to scramble and operate outside the pocket. Inside it though, he can use his eyes to manipulate defenders and move the chains with his above-average arm.

Brandon rewrote the OSU passing record book. In his first full year as a starter, he threw for 4,277 yards in 2010 only to break his own record in 2011 with 4,727 yards. Led his Cowboys team to a 41-38 win in the Fiesta Bowl over consensus No. 1 pick Andrew Luck. His age is the major factor in his draft status. Baseball players like Fausto Carmona and Miguel Tejada have falsely represented their ages, and Weeden obviously can not lie about his age now. But, he has the arm strength and intangibles to contribute right away for a team that is ready to take that next step without waiting for the long development process that often comes with bringing a young, fresh-faced QB along. A team like Seattle is an intriguing landing spot for Brandon and some might say he is more composed than Pete Carroll, the head coach he might play for.  Looking for an upgrade over their current starting qb, Rex Grosssmen,  Washington also figures to be a potential fit for Brandon.  The staff of HC Mike Shannahan worked with Brandon during senior bowl practices as part of the South team.  As  a 29- year old rookie, Brandon would be younger than current signal-callers Grossmen and John Beck.

A quarterback over the age of 25 looking to be drafted is old in the eyes of talent evaluators. The prime example that comes to mind is Chris Weinke. The Cretin-Derham Hall product was drafted in the MLB Draft, like Brandon. He spent seven years in the Toronto Blue Jays farm system before deciding to take up Bobby Bowden on his lifetime scholarship offer. (Bowden granted Joe Mauer the same opportunity to play for Florida State if he wanted. But Bowden retired from college football after the 2009 season and Joe signed an 8 year contract extension worth 184 million.) Even though he started 16 games for Carolina in 2001 in his age-29 season (winning only one game, coincidentally against his hometown MN Vikings), he lost his job the next season to Rodney Peete. Weinke’s NFL career was not as remarkable as his highly-decorated Florida State collegiate career that included a national championship and a Heisman Trophy in 2000. But, he was a veteran backup who managed to keep a roster spot until 2008. Brandon is extremely mature.  My favorite thing about him is that he did not squander or lavishly spend his professional signing bonuses like many cautionary tales have. While he doesn’t have the upside due to his age, Brandon is a mature and consistent passer who would be a nice consolation prize to any team that misses out on Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III.