In the past few weeks Brandon Weeden has established himself as a legitimate Heisman candidate and, in the process, is starting to generate a buzz around his NFL Draft stock.
He may be one of the most controversial figures in this year’s draft class, and teams are likely to have a wide range of opinions on where he should be selected.
He’ll be a 28-year-old rookie next year, older than a significant portion of his teammates, some of whom may be five or six-year veterans.
So how do we evaluate him?
My belief is that a prospect’s age is only relevant in the context of his NFL-readiness.
Weeden’s rookie contract will likely span three to five years, which is still well within the range of a quarterback’s prime. However, if teams believe he needs two or three years of development, he may not be worth the trouble.
Take Tim Tebow as an extreme example. The Broncos were willing to take a chance on him as a 22-year-old, but would they have been willing to invest in him had he been 28? By the time a 28-year-old Tebow had fully developed he would be in his early 30s and his skills would begin to decline almost as soon as he reached his peak.
Take Aaron Rodgers as an extreme example on the other end of the spectrum. He’s two months younger than Weeden. Would you sign him to a five-year contract after this season? Of course.
Somewhere in between Tebow and Rodgers is where Weeden stands today.
My early assessment is that Weeden has the physical tools (arm strength and accuracy) to be effective at the next level, but I have concerns about his decision making ability for two reasons.
First, he has a tendency to force the ball into tight spaces – often when targeting Justin Blackmon. This is probably due to Blackmon’s elite skills, which occassionally makes a poor decision by Weeden look like a brilliant pass. This works at the college level, but he will rarely, if ever, have the luxury of taking advantage of mismatches in the NFL that Blackmon creates in college.
Second, Oklahoma State’s spread offense generates a lot of open space and easy throws – especially against some of the porous defenses in the Big 12. We’ve seen quarterbacks such as Zac Robinson excel in this system but fail to make an impact on the next level. Weeden may possess the skills to succeed in a more demanding system, but he simply hasn’t been tested yet. This will slow his progress in the NFL.
Ultimately I believe Weeden is worth a mid-round pick and could be a serviceable starter at some point in his career. However, I would not be comfortable investing in him as the future of my franchise. There are 21 and 22-year-olds available in every draft with Weeden’s skill set; it would be safer to wait for a younger option with a higher ceiling than to settle for Weeden.