With the 2012 NFL draft just a couple of days away, questions continue to swirl around key names as to where they will find themselves once the dust settles. The lingering questions are not around those players whom we know will go in the top 10, but rather around those who find themselves floating on that border between the first and second round.
One of the most intriguing names in the 2012 NFL draft is Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden. Easily the third-best college quarterback in 2011-2012, Weeden would be a consensus first-round pick if not for his highly unusual age at 28 years old.
Already a good story because of his age, Weeden's very unorthodox path to the NFL makes him all the more interesting.
Weeden was originally a baseball player drafted by the New York Yankees in the second round of the 2003 draft. After three seasons playing for four different teams, Weeden chose to leave professional baseball due to a gruesome throwing shoulder injury and a shaky ERA. He never elected for the major arm surgery needed to repair a torn labrum and tendonitis on his throwing shoulder, electing instead to pursue a career as a football player.
Enrolling in Oklahoma State University in 2006 as a redshirt freshman, Weeden proceeded to barely play until 2010, and then suffered yet another severe injury when he ruptured a tendon in his thumb. Regardless of his injury, he exploded onto the college football scene that year by racking up 4,277 passing yards, 34 touchdowns and 13 interceptions playing through the injury.
His injuries and history of playing through them have already earned him the "tough" label from quarterbacks guru Jon Gruden.
The 2011 season proved that Weeden is the real deal and ready to play in the NFL. He left his mark on the Oklahoma State Cowboys' record book as a senior in 2011, throwing for 4,727 yards, 37 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions.
Weeden was one of two players in the FBS to complete more than 400 passes and complete at least 72.4 percent of his passes—which were Cowboy records, along with his yards and touchdowns—all while leading Oklahoma State to an 11-1 record and a victory over Andrew Luck's Stanford squad in the Fiesta Bowl. His performance helped further a perception that Oklahoma State deserved the BCS title berth rather than Alabama, the eventual champions.
If Weeden were 22 years old, he could easily have been slated for a top-10 pick by some quarterback-needy team like the Cleveland Browns or Miami Dolphins. In the end though, GMs are going to have a hard time looking at a 28-year-old rookie as a first-rounder, which will eventually work to the advantage of both Weeden and the Cleveland Browns, provided the Browns are intelligent in this draft.
The Browns have a chance to change their fortunes overnight with smart drafting. It would be easy for them to panic and use the 22nd overall selection on Weeden, but the fact of the matter is that not one team picking between the 22nd pick and the Browns' pick at No. 36 will be looking for a quarterback.
The Browns have a chance to take a top-flight weapon at No. 4, either with Alabama's Trent Richardson or Weeden's favorite target on earth in Justin Blackmon. Following that, they can use the 22nd pick on a solid right tackle to give Joe Thomas a blocking buddy (or Kendall Wright to give him a weapon alongside Richardson), and then Weeden will be sitting pretty waiting for them at No. 36 overall in the second round.
The Browns will have drastically improved with just three picks, and suddenly have a savvy 28-year-old rookie to come and compete for the starting job.
Weeden has never been fond of teams nitpicking about his age, which makes sense considering the shelf-life of a quarterback gives him a shot for a 10-year career anyway. In the end, his age is going to work to his advantage, as he will get picked by a rebuilding team in need of his services and a bevvy of draft picks with which to surround him with a supporting cast.
It is easy to talk about where Weeden would get drafted if he were 22 years old, but the reality is, he is 28. He will be the No. 36 selection in the 2012 NFL draft, picked fourth in the second round by the Cleveland Browns to be the new face of their franchise. When the dust settles, being 28 will have only helped him on his journey.