Dave Sittler: Weeden better than many NFL starters
BY DAVE SITTLER World Sports Columnist
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
1/17/12 at 4:30 AM
Go to Dave Sittler's BlogOriginal Print Headline: Weeden deserves NFL shot
Can a player sue the NFL for age discrimination? How about character assassination?
If so, Brandon Weeden might want to retain a lawyer as well as hiring an agent before the upcoming NFL draft.
After watching too many NFL regular-season games and every contest in the first two rounds of the playoffs, I'm more convinced than ever that Weeden can become a rookie starter.
All Oklahoma State's senior quarterback needs is the right team to select him. That means it has to be an NFL club that doesn't believe Weeden's age is a liability.
Judging by several NFL draft projections, Weeden is rated as a third-round pick. Many of those draft gurus also said the Cowboys' gunslinger would be a first-round selection if he was 22 instead of 28.
The difference between first- and third-round money is huge. So it's going to cost Weeden millions if every NFL general manager wimps out and makes the safe pick instead of gambling for immediate success.
OK, I'm pretty sure Weeden can't sue the NFL if teams use his age against him. But it'll be a crime if they do.
I also doubt if it's illegal for NFL personnel to kill Weeden's first-round hopes by characterizing him as the second-coming of Chris Weinke.
The Weinke comparison is weak. Yes, they both played pro baseball out of high school, and Weinke was also 28 when he was selected in the fourth round of the 2001 draft.
What about comparing talent? As OSU coach Mike Gundy repeatedly pointed out this season, "Weeden is better than Weinke."
He's also better right now than some NFL starting quarterbacks and a ton of backups. And the potential is there for him to be starting a year from now for an NFL playoff team.
Of the 12 quarterbacks in this year's playoffs, I maintain Weeden is at least the equal of three starters - Houston's T.J. Yates, Cincinnati's Andy Dalton and Denver's Tim Tebow.
Yes, I know Yates is the Texans' third-team quarterback who started only because of injuries. But some NFL people believe others will want Yates as a starter after he helped get Houston into the playoffs and won a game.
And Weeden's passing skills and mental toughness might be better than Joe Flacco, who has Baltimore in Sunday's AFC title game against New England.
Weeden's arm strength, accuracy and ability to make every throw are factors that separate him from Weinke.
It's also what makes him equal or better than these 2011 NFL regular-season starters: Colt McCoy, Kevin Kolb, Matt Moore, Tavaris Jackson, Mark Sanchez, Rex Grossman, John Skelton, Kyle Orton, Josh Freeman, Curtis Painter, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
One would think Weeden's draft stock would have improved when two projected first-rounders - Oklahoma's Landry Jones and USC's Matt Barkley - opted to stay in college.
But Weeden remains stuck in the third round on most draft boards. He's ranked the sixth-best quarterback in the draft behind Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Nick Foles and Kirk Cousins.
I'll give you Luck and RG3. But the only thing the other three have on Weeden is age. So while they aren't compared to Weinke, they will carry a clipboard on the sidelines for three or four years because they are not as pro-ready as Weeden.
Most consider Weinke a bust. But given the lower expectations of fourth-round picks, should he even be put in the bust category?
The Heisman Trophy winner from Florida State started 15 games as a rookie for the Panthers and only five more in a journeyman career that ended after six seasons.
Playing his final year in San Francisco, Weinke's career totals included 15 touchdown passes and 26 interceptions. He completed 386 of 709 passes for 3,904 yards and was 2-18 as a starter.
The only time over two years as a starter that the easygoing and affable Weeden came close to losing his cool was late in this past season. He finally was asked one too many questions about Weinke and reminded that he's older than Green Bay Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
"I know Aaron Rodgers is younger than I am," Weeden said. "I've heard it 500 times. Who gives a (darn)."
Unfortunately, a whole bunch of NFL people do. That's why Weeden better be prepared to hear age-related questions at least 500 more times between now and the draft.
Nowhere will the questioning be more relentless than at next month's NFL Combine in Indianapolis. That's the meat market where players are poked and prodded like cattle by NFL coaches, scouts and general managers.
But that's also where I think Weeden will start his climb out of the third round. The affable Edmond native will impress the pros with his maturity and leadership skills, and will blow them away when they witness his strength and precision throwing the ball.
"There were some people who thought (Weeden) was too old to play (effectively) in college," Gundy said. "But there's not any doubt that he can play at the next level."
Hopefully his agent won't need a lawyer to help him find a team willing to show Weeden some love and the money.
Several projections list OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden as a third-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft. Tulsa World file