Weeden Through The Draft

Why the projected second round quarterback draft pick out of Oklahoma St. is poised to have a better rookie season than both RG3 and Andrew Luck.

There is a saying sports: “if you’ve been drafted once, you’ve been drafted a million times.” And by that logic, on April 26th  at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, somewhere late in the second round Brandon Weeden will be drafted by a professional sports team for the two millionth time.  Who drafted him the first time? The freaking New York Yankees.

After the circus that went on in Indy this year it’s no surprise that the Colts have blatantly announced they will take Andrew Luck with number one overall draft pick. Luck is just as comfortable in front of the camera as the rest of 2012 quarter back draft class and had stated in several pre trade deadline interviews that, if it were to play out that way, he would be okay with sitting behind Manning for a few seasons. We all know that’s bull and Luck got what he wanted, but he’s got his work cut out for him in Indy and will have the added weight of a barrage of media attention that might just cut into this year’s “Tebow Time.” If Tebow fades into the Jets bench the main 2012 NFL story line may well be the comparing and dissecting of every move made by both Manning and Luck throughout the course of the season. Though the 2010 Colts rosters looked almost identical to the 2011 sans-Manning roster, the difference in numbers show just how important Manning was to the overall success of the franchise. It also shows the dangers of building too much around one player.

That being said, Luck is the man with hands in which the Colts organization is putting the future of the franchise. He’s the long-term man. But with a supposedly healthy Manning at your disposal and a void at the wide receiver position, why didn’t the Colts consider taking Oklahoma St. wide receiver Justin Blackmon with the number one overall pick?* They would potentially have one of the best quarterbacks in the league throwing to one of the best rookie receivers in the league. The Colts decision to release Manning and choose Luck only reiterates they are planning for the future; which is exactly where Luck will shine. Way in the future. And Indianapolis is okay with that. Basically, with a Manning/Blackmon roster, the Colts get back to the playoffs sooner, but with Luck they get more playoff appearances overall.

*It’s interesting to note how the number one draft pick is sometimes determined, not by actual comparison of athletic ability, but the needs of individual teams and the order in which they fall. Had the Panthers, and not the Colts, ended the season with the first or second pick, neither Griffin nor Luck would be in the discussion of going first to a team obviously confident in Cam Newton.

Luck will undoubtedly spend most of next season unwillingly answering to the media the question “Did the Colts do the right thing?” Even though Luck is a more NFL ready quarterback than Griffin, the circus he stepped into will ensure that the first couple years of his NFL career revolve more around dealing with pressure and media, rather than any spider three Y bananas.

Luck had an amazing year last year including such feats as not winning a Heisman, and suffering a devastating bowl game loss at the hands of one Brandon Weeden.*

*More accurately, much of the credit for Oklahoma St. victory over Stanford in this year’s Fiesta Bowl goes to three botch field goal attempts by Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson, and a 186 yd., three touchdown performance by Oklahoma St. receiver and projected first round draft pick Justin Blackmon who, given the chance, probably could have nailed the kicks Williamson missed. Like a boss.

Griffin, too, made a strong statement this offseason by choosing not to attend a private workout with the Indianapolis Colts. More specifically that statement was “I think I’m better off going to the Redskins.” Though touting a better overall roster than Indy, RG3 won’t be without his own set of hardships in Washington who traded up with the Rams to secure him at the number two pick. He’ll likely walk right into the starting quarterback position over Rex Grossman in a last ditch effort by Mike Shannihan to save his own job. Griffin has an amazing skill set as a mobile quarterback, but how effective that can really be in the present-day NFL is still being tested. It will take some time at the pro level for him to learn when to break out of the pocket, and when to just set his feet and throw; with the latter option almost always being preferred.

Let’s be clear. Robert Griffin is not Cam Newton. Griffin’s abilities in the pocket under pressure don’t touch Newton’s and his abilities to make big plays with his feet are reliant upon defenses leaving him way too much room and uncontested lanes; but hey, that’s what you get in college football. Here in the NFL, in the hardest conference in the NFC, which is also home to reigning Superbowl Champions, it’s going to be a hard road ahead for Griffin; likely full of downtrodden postgame interviews and the bleak realization that everyone is DC is a Ravens fan anyway.

I have many regrets as a youth. One of them was not taking team sports seriously. Granted, I played my share of little league baseball games, where I was usually just somewhere out in left field kicking at dandelions. And I had a brief little league soccer career where I was usually just out kicking other kids in the shins. But to be honest with you, my Friday night lights where usually shining down upon a gridiron of guitar strings and grip tape. So now, at the same age as Brandon Weeden, I, like many guys, overcompensate for the athletic shortcomings of my youth by forcefully exerting my contrived athletic prowess as an adult: arguing about sports in smoke-filled bars, taking fantasy football way too seriously, and not being afraid to get T’d up in my 28 and over YMCA basketball league if it proves to you that I own more paint than Sherwin Williams.

And Brandon Weeden gives me hope.

Although Weeden enters the draft six years older than his quarterback counterparts, he was actually four years younger than both of them are now the first time he was drafted by (statistically) one of the best teams in baseball.  The New York Yankess took Brandon Weeden with their first pick in the 2002 MLB draft out of Santa Fe high school in Edmond, Oklahoma, describing him as a “phenomenal athlete with a lightning quick arm.”Weeden himself remembers signing his contract with the Yankees thinking, “If this doesn’t work out, there’s always college football.” Whether or not Weeden’s minor league baseball career “worked out” is subject to debate. After his debut 2002 season with the Yankees he was traded to the Dodgers. After that, traded to the Kansas City Royals. Following issues with the rotator cuff of his right arm and developing tendonitis, Weeden decided to forgo surgery to back to college, just like he thought he might. He just didn’t think he would be doing it at the age of 24. Walking on as a redshirt he saw only a little action until the 2011 season where he literary rewrote the Oklahoma St. school record book.

 

The way things are shaping up now, the Cleveland Browns will likely be presented with the decision whether or not to draft Alabama Running back Trent Richardson with their first pick or go with a quarterback. Of the quarterbacks they could likely choose from are either Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M, or Brandon Weeden. If they choose to go with Tannehill (and certain other variables fall into place) it’s very possible that, as some analysts predict, both Blackmon and Weeden could end up in Miami which could be huge. It’s an almost unheard of scenario where an elite bowl-winning QB/WR combo is drafted right into the same team with a high probability of both starting. The chemistry between the two was more present than ever during their overtime win over Andrew Luck and Stanford in last year’s Fiesta Bowl.

 

But that’s not to say that Weeden couldn’t be immediately productive elsewhere. His success will hinge primarily on the team on which he lands. Knowing that Weeden’s shelf life isn’t going to be nearly as long as other rookies (although I wonder if you could even call him a rookie) plus understanding his experience and skill set, the decision to draft Weeden almost certainly implies the intent to either start him immediately, or give him a fighting chance to win the starting position. Barring injury, Weeden could walk into a role as starting quarterback and help a team for at least five years, and then at least another five from the bench. His edge over Griffin and Luck is that the production will begin immediately, not two or three seasons down the road. Besides, who’s really looking to spend 8 years trying to rebuild their team?*

*The Colts

Though mechanically there will be a few areas trainers will want to address with Weeden, his acuity and mental toughness gives him an edge over many rookies. His athletic experience, mature demeanor, and calm poise will elevate him to a leader in the locker room and, with a team like Miami, failure and media pressure won’t likely take the same toll on him as it will Luck and RG3. “I’ve already been a pro,” Weeden said. “From a maturity standpoint, I think I’m able to handle more thrown on my plate, quicker than the next guy. When I make the transition to the NFL, being a starting quarterback in the NFL is obviously extremely tough, but I think everything I’ve been through, my age, my maturity, is definitely going to help me make the transition to the next level. There’s a lot more positives than negatives, for sure.”

This all very presumptuous of course.  Weeden may just pull a Chris Wienkie who, at the age of 28 was the oldest person to ever win a Heisman, then get drafted in the fourth round by the Carolina Panthers in 2001, go 1-15, and never be heard from again. Hell, he might not get drafted at all. Actually, that’s unlikely. As the meat market that is the NFL draft rapidly approaches, Weeden’s name is popping up more and more in front offices around the NFL and may be sleeper come fantasy time. Though it’s unlikely Weeden will go undrafted, here’s hoping to wherever he lands, he plays.

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