Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill have established themselves as the top three QBs in the 2012 NFL Draft. But who will be the fourth QB off the board (Kirk Cousins? Brock Osweiler? Brandon Weeden?), when will he go and who will take him?
Though there has been a lot of talk about Weeden and Osweiler, I think Cousins will be the next QB off the board after Luck, Griffin and Tannehill. Weeden's age (28) and Osweiler's question marks might not make them prototypical backups, in terms of the grooming process.
I'm not sure any of the remaining QBs get selected until the third round. There are two teams that tend to draft quarterbacks that I'd look for as possible landing spots for Cousins: Green Bay and Philadelphia. Both tend to replenish the quarterback pool regularly through the draft and I could see them using a third- or fourth-round pick to go that route again.
I'll go with Brock Osweiler, who made a stir with the talent he displayed during his pro day last Friday. His 15 collegiate starts might turn off some teams, as will his 6-foot-7 frame; it's difficult to ignore the lackluster play of tall NFL quarterbacks from the past like former Seattle Seahawks first-rounder Dan McGwire. Osweiler's upside and youth could actually help earn him higher grades from some teams than Oklahoma State's talented-but-over-aged Brandon Weeden (who turns 29 in October).
Arizona State's first-ever 4,000-yard passer has better athleticism than most tall signal-callers, as he was a former high school basketball recruit who committed to Gonzaga before turning his attention to football. Though still not fit for a movement system, Osweiler can learn to move within the pocket and deliver an accurate ball with velocity to every spot on the field. His pocket-passing game would make him a nice fit as a second-round pick for Denver, where he can utilize his strengths and learn behind new Broncos offensive leader Peyton Manning. The future Hall of Famer's multiple neck surgeries and age might lead the team to find a young apprentice sooner than later.
Brandon Weeden should be the fourth quarterback taken in the 2012 NFL Draft. He has all of the physical tools to emerge as a highly productive starter. He has one of the strongest arms in the draft and excels at making NFL-caliber throws at every level. His ability to put zip on every throw allows him to squeeze balls into tight windows, which is essential to success in the pro game. In addition, he shows good accuracy, touch and ball placement on throws within the 15-yard box designated as the sweet spot in most offenses.
Weeden's age has routinely been cited as a point of concern by evaluators, but his maturity and natural leadership skills should be viewed as an asset. Rather than stepping into the huddle overwhelmed by the NFL, Weeden will likely appear undaunted by the big stage following his time as a minor league player for a few MLB teams. Although that doesn't ensure immediate success for Weeden, it could give him a leg up on the competition among second-tier quarterbacks.
After the first three fly off the board on Thursday night, I don't believe we'll see another QB taken until the third round. Weeden has first-round ability, but his age works against him. Both Cousins and Osweiler are mid-round prospects due to the inconsistency of their performances.
If a team wants more immediate help, it will go with Weeden. I believe Cousins will be taken ahead of Osweiler based on superior talent, but not before the third round.
Brock Osweiler knocked the socks off scouts during his pro day, and he should grab the attention of a team with a veteran quarterback who can take some time to groom a quarterback of the future like the Broncos or Chiefs. But Brandon Weeden seems like a better fit for Kansas City, because it needs a polished quarterback who is ready to start right away -- not a project.
That said, I look for the Dolphins to move down in the draft to pick up some extra picks and grab Weeden (assuming the Browns go with Ryan Tannehill at No. 4). Although, that scenario is a savvy football move, meaning the Dolphins won't do that. Instead they'll just draft Weeden with the No. 8 pick -- an overdraft so severe, even Christian Ponder and the Vikings would find it laughable.
- Jason Smith NFL.com
Osweiler in the first? Don't be surprised in QB-crazed NFL
It's Osweiler. There's buzz about him after his pro day, while there's little chatter about the other two. I don't think it means he goes early, but he'll come off the board somewhere in the latter part of the first round, and he'll be allowed to sit, watch and develop, since he only started 15 games in college. I'm rooting for the kid because he took a risk by making tough throws at his pro day, and I love guts. But I'm also a realist, and this is part of a bigger discussion.
We're going to start seeing this every year: Quarterbacks getting taken way earlier than they should, simply because no one wants to miss out on someone who could be the next great one. Everyone has to have one or get left behind. As a result, teams will reach where they shouldn't. We saw it last year (Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder), and we'll see it this year and on and on. Osweiler is the perfect example. Suddenly he's a star in the making after 45 minutes of working out in front of scouts? That means more than his body of work for his entire career? Teams have to realize they can't will someone into being great, or talk themselves into a move that will need to be re-done in three years.
If the Browns are wise, they'll leave Ryan Tannehill for the Dolphins, take Justin Blackmon at No. 4, and then grab Brandon Weeden -- Blackmon's 28-year-old pal from Stillwater -- early in the second.
It's understandable why teams who don't have a top-tier QB are desperate to get one. That doesn't mean, though, that drafting guys like Cousins or Osweiler (or for that matter, reaching on a guy like Tannehill in the top 10) will magically transform their respective skills to justify use of a first-round pick.