Through three days of practices here in Mobile, Ala., Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden stands out as the most polished quarterback on either Senior Bowl squad.
As the week began, Weeden wasn’t projected as a first- or second-round draft pick. Despite his strong statistics, early mock drafts have Weeden going in the third round because he is 28 years old. South teammate Nick Foles of Arizona was considered the best quarterback prospect here.
But as it turns out, Foles, fellow South quarterback Ryan Lindley and North quarterbacks Kirk Cousins, Kellen Moore and Russell Wilson all have had rather inconsistent weeks. Weeden, meanwhile, has been steady.
“I’ve been through the process before and I know that you can’t come out in one day and try to light the world on fire and expect it to happen,” the 6-foot-3, 219-pound Weeden said.
Weeden ranked second in the country last season with 4,727 passing yards and fourth with 37 touchdowns, so a solid showing during Senior Bowl practices shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. But his 13 interceptions (15th in college football) raised questions about his accuracy. And the fact that Weeden will turn 29 in October sparks more concerns.
Football is the second professional sport that Weeden has tried his hand at. The New York Yankees drafted Weeden – an All-State pitcher -- in 2002 with their second-round pick. He spent four seasons trying to make it to the big leagues before deciding to resume his football career and attend Oklahoma State.
After redshirting in 2007 and playing sparingly in 2008 and 2009, Weeden took over as the Cowboys’ starter in 2010. Last season, he led the team to an 11-1 regular season record and a 41-38 victory over Stanford and Andrew Luck in the Fiesta Bowl.
There’s no denying Weeden’s talent, but draft analysts wonder whether he’s too old for an NFL team to groom as a franchise quarterback. They doubt he could step right in and win right away.
Weeden believes that he is ready, however.
“I think my age is more of an advantage for me. I really do,” he said. “I haven’t been hit. You look back at my tape, and I haven’t been hit very much. My body’s extremely fresh, my arm’s fresh. All of the negative things that you would think would be there, just aren’t there. One advantage I do have is maturity.
“I still think my game translates very well to that level,” Weeden added. “You look back at all the guys that have had success in the NFL. A lot of the guys didn’t start until their late 20s, and if they won a Super Bowl, it wasn’t usually until their mid-30s, 36, 37. Kurt Warner’s a great example of that. My window’s obviously a little bit smaller, but it’s not as small as people are talking.”
Weeden thinks he would project much higher if he were in his early 20’s. But he said he doesn’t dwell on that or have any regrets about pursuing baseball first.
“The opportunity I had coming out of high school was just too good,” Weeden says with a smile and a distant look. “When I was drafted coming out of high school by the Yankees, I knew if it didn’t work out, I’d come back and play college football. I knew I had school paid for by the Yankees, so 18 years old, drafted out of high school, chance to pitch in the Big Leagues, got a pretty nice little chunk of change for an 18-year-old, it was a pretty easy decision,”
During this week’s practices – which scouts and team officials watch more closely than the Senior Bowl game itself – Weeden has appeared to be in control, and hasn’t displayed some of the jitters his fellow quarterbacks have. He has displayed good accuracy on short to mid-range passes and a strong arm on deep ones.
“He’s been great so far,” said Redskins and South team offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. “It’s all new to him, just like the other guys, but you can tell the game comes natural to him. He’s a real mature guy, older guy, obviously, and I’ve been impressed. He’s a good-looking kid and he’s done well so far.”
Said Redskins coach Mike Shanahan: “I think it’s no different how old you are, I think you’ve got to go out and perform. When you take a look at a quarterback, they would always like someone who was younger, but as talented as he is, you take a look at him and see what he can do in your system.”
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