By Shawn Gallagher (DFW Moderator and Contributor).
In society we always try to put a positive spin on someone’s age. Saying things like “That woman is 45 years old, but she’s a cougar so she’ll be real fun to hang out with!” or “She’s a young girl, but she’s 18 and legal, so let’s party!” Someone’s age can always be used as a positive or negative and as dynasty owners we are usually very aware of a player’s age as it is often something we take into serious consideration when evaluating a player. This, of course, brings us to the case of 28-year-old Browns rookie Quarterback Brandon Weeden.
Weeden’s path to the NFL and the Cleveland Browns was an unconventional one. He originally tried to play professional baseball for several years as a pitcher in the New York Yankees organization, as well as a few other organizations. Weeden finally gave up his dreams of being an MLB pitcher in 2006 because of not being able break through to the majors. Later deciding to enroll at Oklahoma State University in 2007 to try to make it as a Quarterback. The breakthrough finally came in 2010 and 2011 as Weeden took over the starting QB job at OSU accumulating several big awards including: 2010 First-team all Big-12 Quarterback honors, last year led the 2011 OSU team to a 12-1 record, and a win in the 2012 Fiesta bowl. Weeden eventually broke several OSU school passing records in his short career there. Helping to raise his draft stock and propel him to the first round of the 2012 NFL draft. The Cleveland Browns drafted him with the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 draft, and at age 28, Weeden became the oldest player to ever be drafted in the first round of the NFL draft. So now the transition for Brandon Weeden begins as he tries to goes from “older guy in charge of buying beer for everyone in college” to “guy who picks up lunch and carries pads for Browns Veterans, all while being asked to save the franchise”. I’ll take some time now to chart some of the negatives and positives for Brandon Weeden as he begins his NFL Career.
1. 28 years old isn’t ideal for a rookie QB. Dynasty owners prefer younger players and the career window may not be quite as large for Weeden. Especially when most rookie QBs get started in the NFL around the age of 22 or 23.
2. Not terribly mobile as Weeden usually runs around a 4.9 second 40 yard dash and will certainly be a true “pocket passer” in the NFL.
3. The Browns offense, especially the receiving corps, isn’t seen as elite, is very young, and will need some time to grow and mature.
4. Other recent QBs like Chris Weinke and Drew Henson each tried Professional baseball before beginning their NFL careers in their mid to late 20’s and neither one really worked out once they reached the NFL. These two examples can’t be the most encouraging news for Brandon Weeden and his owners.
5. Weeden had the luxury of throwing to Justin Blackmon during his college career, which certainly helped Weeden’s own success and vice versa. It is fair to say that playing together in college certainly helped the draft stock of both Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden.
But let’s focus more on the Positives
1. In the case of maturity, Brandon Weeden’s age can be seen as a positive. I imagine that he’ll have a much easier time transitioning to the NFL game than most rookie QBs, and with that maturity, he should be less likely to have problems with the distractions that many of the younger players have. I’d be shocked to see Brandon Weeden in the news for gambling addiction, strippers, prostitutes, Marijuana, or Purple Drank at this point. Not impossible… but less possible. Weeden is older, happily married, and also already has experience playing another professional sport. I’d expect all those factors to work in his favor.
2. Arm strength and accuracy are definitely working in Weeden’s favor here as he already has one of the strongest arms in the NFL, and has shown quality accuracy during his career. It is the great arm strength and accuracy that could really help him have a longer NFL career overall. Weeden’s background as a former baseball pitcher can really translate into a power throwing arm at the NFL level. Check out this fun video showing Brandon Weeden’s tremendous accuracy as he is seen throwing a football at clay pigeons.
3. By playing baseball for several years and just recently getting back into football Brandon Weeden has mostly protected his body from serious and major injuries. While he is officially 28 years old his body doesn’t have the same wear and tear on it that most other QBs the same age have had in the NFL already. For example, 30-year-old Ben Roethlisberger seems to be a very old 30 considering the damage his body has been through with all of the injuries he’s sustained in his NFL career already. Younger QBs like Matthew Stafford and Sam Bradford have already had more injuries and surgeries than the older Weeden has had.
4. Kurt Warner is a recent example of a QB starting out at an older age and lasting in the NFL for over 10 years. Tony Romo also got started at a later age when he first became an NFL starting QB as well. Going back further, Hall of Famer Roger Staubach also served several years in the U.S. Military and started his NFL career at a later age and lasted 10 years with the Cowboys as well. If Weeden succeeds in the NFL he won’t be the first older rookie QB to do so. So there is hope here.
5. Having Trent Richardson as his new Running Back (and new best friend) could really be great for Weeden’s value. Richardson has the potential to someday be the best running back in football and someone who defenses must put their focus on. This, at the very least, should take some pressure off of Weeden and the passing game as other teams simply have to game plan for Richardson. It could end up being similar to several years ago when the Minnesota Vikings passing game seemed to really benefit from having Adrian Peterson in the backfield.
The landscape and situations in the NFL change so much that it really becomes a non-issue that Brandon Weeden will start his NFL career at the older age of 28. Consider that only 13 of the current projected NFL starting QBs in 2012 were starting for an NFL team 5 years ago in 2007 with the rest of the 2007 starting QBs either being out of the league or serving as a backup somewhere. The NFL lifespan for most QBs just isn’t that long in general. In the past 5 years (since 2007) The Cleveland Browns have gone through 8 different starting QBs in Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey, Bruce Gradkowksi, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, and Colt McCoy. So it isn’t like age really was a relevant issue here. We actually could argue that maybe a few of those QBs didn’t work out because they became a starting NFL QB at too YOUNG of an age. Who knows? Maybe if someone like Brady Quinn started his NFL career today at his current age of 27, he could’ve potentially worked out as a starting NFL Quarterback. You just never know with these situations. If Brandon Weeden has what it takes (which I believe he does) he could easily play 8-10 years in the NFL at a high level in both real life and for dynasty owners as a QB2 with QB1 potential as well.
When to take Weeden in a Dynasty Rookie Draft:
I would target Brandon Weeden sometime in the mid 2nd round of a dynasty rookie draft and easily rank him as the 3rd best dynasty rookie QB this year behind Andrew Luck and RG3 and ahead of Ryan Tannehill. If Weeden starts to look good in training camp this year I could easily see him moving up dynasty draft boards. Perhaps as high as the early 2nd round in rookie drafts. He becomes an absolute steal in any leagues where he falls to the 3rd round in these same rookie drafts. If you need a QB and miss out on Luck or RG3 then I would definitely suggest pulling the trigger and drafting Brandon Weeden a bit later. Oh and feel free to bring up his older age in an effort to deter league mates from drafting him in front of you.
In closing, I really like this cool quote by Brandon Weeden dealing with the age controversy.
“Such a big deal has been made of my age. I use it to my advantage. I think it’s a positive this year. I think it’s a positive for my future. It’s one of those deals, the way I look at it is, name one person who wouldn’t want to be in the position I am, and have the kind of path I’ve had?”