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Senior Bowl: Brandon Weeden Impresses in Practice, But How Do We Account for Age?

One of the big issues this week at the Senior Bowl, and perhaps the biggest issue for teams that look at quarterback options heading into the draft, is the question of Brandon Weeden. According to reports coming out of Mobile this week, Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden has been by far the best quarterback in the practice sessions.

The issue, of course, is Weeden’s age, as the signal caller played professional baseball. He was born in 1983, and will turn 29 years old during the next NFL season. He is older than 8 of the 12 quarterbacks who started in the playoffs this year. If he is a real prospect for the NFL, he should be looking dominant against 22 and 23 year old comparables.

So as we watch today, I must say that I do not envy scouts and teams trying to make an assessment of Brandon Weeden. The only other quarterback who followed the Weeden path, Chris Weinke of Florida State a decade ago, was a mid-round selection, and got an opportunity to start right away and took a team to a 1-15 record. That’s one case, though, and certainly shouldn’t be viewed as dispositive of anything relating to Weeden.

Here’s a quick chart showing the peak season among all with at least 400 pass attempts (as measured by Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt) for all QB’s who had at least one above average season since 1990, and were at least 32 by the last season.

The median point is age 29, the same age that Weeden will be next season, and the average age at peak season was 29.5. Individual results, of course, may vary quite a bit, but if you are evaluating Weeden, I think you have to view him as being near his peak right now. I also don’t necessarily see evidence that lack of playing time is a contributor to late peak–Randall Cunningham, Rich Gannon, Phil Simms and Vinny Testaverde were among the late peakers, and started in the NFL by age 25.

Does that mean he is not draftable, though? Of course not. We have seen teams willing to trade picks for unproven players approaching age 27 to 29, in order to get a potential starting quarterback. It just means that teams have to try to put his performance in context when evaluating him as a prospect. Only 2 QB’s peaked before age 25 (Marino and Kosar) and that’s older than most other prospects teams have to evaluate. Half have peaked by Weeden’s age.

If a team thinks he is an immediate average or better starter in this league, then yes, they should spend a pick on him. A starting quarterback is worth a 2nd round pick, regardless of age. They just need to look through the age noise while playing against guys 6-7 years younger to project whether he will be a starter right away against the best in the business. In some ways, there is value there. You don’t have to plan on a second contract, and get a 29-year old quarterback at rookie pick prices for 4 years. That can be quite the bargain, if in fact he is ready to move in. If his age is accounting for his superiority, though, and he is not ready to compete against the big boys, it is a wasted pick.

I’m glad I’m not the one making the call, but there is both upside and downside risk with taking a chance on Weeden, and good luck to the team making that call.

[photo via Getty]

 

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