The 2012 NFL draft featured many interesting selections, ranging from the Buccaneers taking Alabama safety Mark Barron No. 7 overall to the Patriots taking unknown Illinois safety Tavon Wilson No. 48 overall, but the most interesting to me was the player that went in between Barron and Wilson: Brandon Weeden.
Cleveland decided to select the 28-year-old quarterback from Oklahoma State No. 22 overall, which raised some eyebrows as well as some applaud, and what was interesting about this pick was the schematic fit as well as the talent he brings to the team.
Scheme is often a forgotten aspect of evaluation, which is why there is always surprise about a particular selection being made in an unexpected draft slot. Weeden comes out of the Air Raid offense from college which hasn't had a good history of producing quarterbacks, yet has some similarities to NFL "pro-style' offenses.
Established in the late 1970s by BYU's Doug Scovil, the Air Raid scheme that Weeden operated in can be termed as a simplified version of the West Coast offense as the verbiage is not the same, but some of the concepts are. He threw a lot of crossing routes, most notably the "Mesh" concept (X and Y pictured running it) which has two receivers running shallow crosses at similar depths and creates a natural "rub" or pick on a defender in man coverage.
Weeden also threw many vertical passes during his collegiate career such as deep comebacks and outs which can also be seen in the principles of the West Coast offense that's ran throughout the NFL and more specifically with the Cleveland Browns.
While he does have good accuracy for the most part, Weeden's ball has a tendency to drift inside on outside breaking routes, which is not good because it gives the defensive back a chance to make a play on the ball.
An instance of this was against the Texas Longhorns last season, when receiver Josh Cooper ran an out route and Weeden threw it to the inside which could have given the defensive backs a chance to make a play on the ball had they been closer.
This play did not result in a turnover, however, it could at the next level where we're seeing a lot more press-man coverage out of two-high safety shells. Because of two safeties being deep, cornerbacks tend to squat on routes more and consequently are more aggressive downhill.
Along with ball placement issue on outside breaking routes, Weeden struggles with pressure at his feet. This may be of a lesser problem in Cleveland where Alex Mack can protect the interior rushers, but in college it was an issue because of his lack of mobility. He does not have quick feet and is similar to last year's third-round pick Ryan Mallett in this department in my opinion.
His issues under pressure also come from throwing the ball with inaccuracy as well as making bad decisions, sometimes forcing it into coverage which resulted in an interception, which once again was witnessed against Texas as well as Iowa State and on numerous other occasions.
These three issues are a few of his most significant in my opinion, but he also has talent that made the Browns draft him in the first round.
Weeden has a very strong arm and he is able to throw it from various different platforms to several different areas of the field.
At the college level, there is a boundary (short) and field (wide) side of the field and the most difficult throws are made into the field side, which he can do very well because of his arm velocity. He also has the ability to make the difficult seam throws because he has the requisite touch and arm strength to deliver the ball.
He also shows the ability to throw with anticipation, which is crucial at the professional level. Throwing with anticipation is an important aspect of playing quarterback because not every window is going to be open immediately, thus Weeden has to be able to throw the ball into areas of the field and allow his target to run under it for the catch.
These characteristics of his game are the reasons why he was so highly rated by many NFL teams and why he was drafted in the first round. Even though Weeden has a lot of room to improve his game, most notably his decision making and accuracy, he also offers a significant amount of talent to work with and most importantly, an upgrade and chance for success at the quarterback position. Unfortunately for him, because of his age, he'll have to learn quickly and likely on the job.
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