We are about three months away from the 2012 NFL Draft. One of the most intriguing prospects in this year’s draft is the 28 year old signal caller from Oklahoma State, Brandon Weeden. All season long we saw what he was capable of doing but had that million dollar question in the back of our minds, is he too old to invest a high draft pick in?
Weeden was drafted by the New York Yankees in the second round back in 2002. He played five years of minor league baseball but knew that career was coming to an end when he partially tore his labrum. The pain was too much for him to continue to play baseball with but oddly enough he’s able to throw a football just fine. Brandon didn’t want to have surgery performed and seeing how the change of sports didn’t bother the injured shoulder, he never did. On top of his age, the injury that was never repaired will also be a serious concern for any organization thinking about using an early round pick on the quarterback.
If Weeden was a 22-year-old, healthy NFL prospect that still played football at the same high level as he does now, then he would probably go in the first round. But, he’s not and that’s not all bad. We’ve been focused on the negative so much that we haven’t realized the advantages that come with his age. While there is no sugar coating the concerns over his shoulder, the age may work to a team’s advantage.
Obviously, Brandon Weeden hasn’t proven himself against NFL defenses. Neither had Cam Newton, Sam Bradford, or Matt Stafford before they were drafted first overall. You have to trust your evaluations and the process. If an organization’s scouts grade him as a high to mid first round talent based on playing ability alone, then that team would have to heavily weigh drafting him as a fringe first/second rounder. The risk may be more than most fans could tolerate, but in an era where young quarterbacks are coming in and playing at a high level right away, what would lead you to believe that a mature, former professional athlete couldn’t do the same.
The case has been made that giving up a late first or second rounder is too much for a guy who will be 29 years old as rookie. These are the same people that said the Oakland Raiders made a wise choice giving up a first and second round pick for a 31 year old quarterback that had been playing catch the whole offseason and not participating in any live football action. Of course Carson Palmer had proven that he could play at the NFL level but he’s on the down slope of his career with just a few years remaining. Palmer had suffered even more severe injuries than Weeden and his body was beaten from many years playing college and professional football. Brandon’s body is fairly young in a football sense and he didn’t take a beaten in a Big 12 conference where they’re more known for offense than defense.
The reasons the Raiders paid such a lofty price for Palmer is because they felt he was their best chance to win now. There are a handful of teams that could be looking for that same solution. When free agency passes there will still be several teams that didn’t get Matt Flynn or whoever else they believe is the missing piece from making their team a contender. A few of these general managers and coaches may look to Weeden as a free agent more than a draft pick. They could justify it by realizing that they will get him for half the cost (draft picks) as Palmer and a much lesser salary due to the new CBA on rookie wages.
Here are a few teams that may take a look at him in the early stages of the second or even late first rounds:
New York Jets - Rex Ryan is watching the New York Giants play the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl! There isn’t any worse match up that he could think of. How bad does he want to win a Super Bowl? If he doesn’t get Peyton Manning, do you think he will be content drafting another rookie prospect that they have to develop? He could look at Weeden as the perfect solution. Mature, talented, and ready from day one. Is it a fair assessment to believe that Weeden could handle the NFL playoffs’ pressure as a rookie? No, but he’s probably better suited for it than any other prospect with the exception of Andrew Luck.
Washington Redskins - NFL coaches don’t get long Washington. Shanahan needs to find his signal caller and win this year. If he can’t draft RG3 or get the free agent quarterback of his choosing, then trading back and getting Weeden and another draft pick may look like the best solution. He’s getting a great look at the prospect this week and his Redskins’ drafted six players from last year’s Senior Bowl.
Seattle Seahawks – I’ve said numerous times that the Seahawks will be the 2012 version of the 2011 Detroit Lions. They are a team on the rise and they’ve built a very talented defense. If Pete Carroll can finally get a legitimate passer, Seattle could seriously contend in that division. This is the same coach that paid good money and picks for Charlie Whitehurst so he could sit on his bench for a few years. If he was that desperate for Whitehurst, then he wouldn’t hesitate for Weeden.
Houston Texans - This one might catch you off guard but if you ask anyone they will tell you that the Houston Texans are the team to watch out for. They made it to the second round of the NFL Playoffs with a 5th round draft pick and had to sign Jake Delhomme and Jeff Garcia as backups. The window for winning championships with current teams is small. I doubt that Gary Kubiak is extremely comfortable going into next year with Matt Schaub, who’s had a few seasons in Houston ended short due to injuries. His backup of choice would be Matt Leinart who was injured in his first start or TJ Yates. Houston could look at Weeden to compete with Schaub or at worst be his backup in case he goes down to injury to keep that train on the tracks.
Pittsburgh Steelers - Almost everything I said about the Texans I could repeat for the Steelers. Big Ben gets beat up every year and we expect him to fight through it. It cost them in the playoffs this year. They’ll be better prepared next year. Brandon Weeden may not be the answer but they won’t look to have just anyone step under center if Ben is injured again. This would be more if Weeden slid deeper into the second round though.
Other Teams: Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, or Arizona Cardinals.
The injury is a bigger concern to me than the age at this point. If he checked out with my medical staff, I would sign him and expect him to play 8 years in the NFL. If you can get 8 quality years out of him, without as much of a learning curve / maturity / professionalism etc. then it would be looked back upon as the steal of the 2012 draft.
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Jayson Braddock is an NFL Scout / NFL Writer & On-Air Personality. Jayson is also a football insider for the Dylan Gwinn show on 790 AM in Houston, TX - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports790.com. You can also catch Jayson on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio with Scott Engel and the morning crew every Thursday at 10:30am ET. You may email Jayson directly @ firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @JaysonBraddock
[Ed. Note: Also, make sure to check out the Opposing Views mock draft here.]