Rethink what "franchise QB" means
Brandon Weeden is a good test case for the way we think about NFL quarterbacks, particularly as it relates to the draft. For instance, when I hear the term "franchise quarterback," I immediately think of guys like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Troy Aikman or John Elway. Everybody does. We do this because we see how a team can get a quarterback at a young age, develop him through struggles (Aikman went 1-14 in his first 15 NFL starts), then reap the benefits of years of good play.
But a franchise quarterback doesn't need to be a 15-year starter. We're looking too much at the exceptions and not enough at the reality. Those players are not something you can really plan for. You can't assume one starter will span three or four coaches, several general managers and multitudes of new players.
Weeden is an older player (he'll be 29 this fall) but one who, if he were 22, might be the second quarterback off the draft board. He really is that good, but his age is holding him back. Still, were he to get starts early in his NFL career -- and succeed -- you would be looking at a player who could easily give a franchise seven or eight very good years.
Is that something to scoff at?
Weeden is smart, has excellent mechanics and can drill the deep, intermediate throws with as much pace as any other quarterback, right there with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. He's accurate, although he has flashes of inconsistency. He gets through his progressions. He's a leader and will command respect early, and he won't be overwhelmed by an NFL playbook.
He is, quite simply, ready to help a team early on. But that's just the thing: You draft him believing that he has to help a team early on.
Given the choice of a better career for him or Brock Osweiler, I'll take Weeden, because I think his floor is much higher. The good thing about Weeden is that at 28, he's already a very good player, and there's not a ton left to project. In Osweiler, there's talent but still a ton of mystery. Someone will draft Weeden to play early, and I think he'll play well.
Mel Kiper has been the premier name in NFL draft prospect evaluations for more than three decades. He started putting out his annual draft guides in 1978, and started contributing to ESPN as an analyst in 1984. For more from Mel, check out his annual draft publications or his ESPN home page. He can also be found on Twitter here.
Overlook flaws, focus on upside
When we consider which Day 2 quarterback will have the best NFL career, four names are in play: Brandon Weeden, Brock Osweiler, Nick Foles and Kirk Cousins. It seems like a better than 50-50 possibility that Weeden will be the first one off the board, so of course he's Mel's pick.
Weeden (maturity, leadership), Foles (pure pocket passer) and Cousins (best intangibles) all have impressive traits. Osweiler is the least NFL-ready right now, but he is the most gifted and has the best chance to be a long-term, successful NFL starter.
It's easy to write Osweiler off if you look only at his 15 career starts, Arizona State's five-game losing streak to end 2011 and his performance in a blowout bowl loss to Boise State. However, there's a lot more to this guy than what's on the surface.
First, standing 6 feet and 6 7/8 inches is not a worry for Osweiler, a former Gonzaga basketball recruit with good mobility. He shows natural feel for the pass rush and has the toughness to take big hits in order to deliver throws.
Osweiler's long strides are deceptive, and he's more agile than expected. He seeks first downs when running and is willing to fight for yards after contact.
His mechanics do need polish, specifically throwing with balance. He will lock on to targets, telegraph throws and force balls at times. However, his tape makes you believe those flaws are correctable.
When Osweiler's base is sturdy and his footwork is proper, he spins the ball with high rpm and naturally into tight spots. He flashes ability to get through progressions, and his height allows him to see the entire field.
He doesn't appear to be a well-coached player, but the right NFL staff and work on fundamentals will help Osweiler improve significantly. Given time and practice reps, he will better understand ball security, learn to be savvy with his eyes (looking off safeties, for example) and gain confidence in his reads.
Osweiler's intangibles and work ethic are also plus characteristics. People around the NFL like what he brings to the table. He's a first-in, last-out player, and that's critical at this position.
The ceiling is high, and landing with a team like the Denver Broncos would be perfect. Osweiler could watch and learn from Peyton Manning and be ready to realize his potential when his number is finally called.
Todd McShay is the director of college scouting for Scouts Inc. He has been evaluating prospects for the NFL draft since 1998. Follow McShay on Twitter: @McShay13