Is Brandon Weeden a first-round prospect?

Outside of whether or not the Vikings and/or Browns will pull off a surprise in the top 5 and seeing if any team will touch Janoris Jenkins in the first 32 picks, one of the biggest questions heading into the 2012 NFL Draft is whether or not Brandon Weeden is worth a first-round selection.

The Oklahoma State quarterback completed 766 of his 1,102 pass attempts for 9,260 yards and 75 touchdowns in 30 games while in college. He’s currently viewed as a second-round prospect but the recent buzz is that the Browns may select him with the 22nd overall pick in next week’s draft.

But is he worthy of first-round consideration?

What impresses me most about Weeden is his ability to throw the deep out. That’s the one throw that separates the college quarterback from the NFL arm. If a prospect can’t make that throw, then he’s looking at a mid-round grade or there’s a very good chance that he won’t be selected at all.

Weeden also does a nice job of surveying the field, working through his progressions, and recognizing when he needs to either deliver a fastball or take a little off in order to get the proper touch. While some have criticized his pocket presence, I actually think he moves around a little better than given credit for. He’s no RGIII but he’s not a stature either.

When it comes to his measurables, Weeden checks out there, too. At 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds, he’s got average size for a NFL quarterback and his forty time of 4.89 is slightly above average for a pro signal caller.

But there are three very distinct reasons why I wouldn’t take him in the first round. The first two are legitimate issues while the third I would be willing to look past if I were an NFL general manager, but it’s still worth noting.

For starters, Weeden was in the shotgun his entire collegiate career. That doesn’t mean that he can’t learn to play from under center but when he’s never done it then how confident can a team be that he’ll be successful? It may take Weeden two years before he’s comfortable in a pro-style offense.

Which brings me to Weeden’s age. There are some benefits to him being 28, such as his maturity level and leadership abilities. But if he needs one or two years before he’s ready to start (which is a possibility given the fact he played in a spread system at Oklahoma State), he might be 30 by the time he sees the field.

Then again, his age is the thing that bothers me the least. If he winds up playing at the same level as Drew Brees, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, who cares if he’s 28 or 38?

No, the thing that bothers me the most is the fact that he didn’t face a ton of pressure while playing in the ultra-soft Big 12. And when opponents did get defenders in his face, he didn’t perform very well. He would rush his throws, display poor footwork, or throw into coverage to avoid sacks. Those aren’t the best qualities to have in quarterback, especially considering defenses are light years better in the NFL than in the Big 12.

Thus, would I draft Brandon Weeden at No. 22 overall? No, but I think he’s an intriguing second-round prospect that is definitely worth a look at No. 37 if I’m the Browns. While his age is a knock against him, Weeden is a better quarterback prospect than Colt McCoy was coming out of Texas based on his arm strength alone.

It would be interesting to see the former Big 12 quarterbacks battle it out in Cleveland for the next few years, but if I’m a Browns fan I’m hoping that the key piece in the Julio Jones trade (i.e. the 22nd overall pick) isn’t invested in Weeden.

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