January 6, 2012

Osweiler facing long NFL odds

It's unclear how familiar Brock Osweiler is with the success rate of quarterbacks taken in the NFL Draft's middle rounds in recent years, but one thing is very certain.

The odds are heavily stacked against him.

Osweiler announced Friday he would bypass his senior season at Arizona State to enter the 2012 Draft, where he's projected by an assortment of analysis and three professional scouts ASUDevils.com spoke with to be selected somewhere between the third and fifth rounds.

Out of 23 quarterbacks taken in that range of the draft over a five year period between 2005 and 2009, only one, Kyle Orton, has become a multi-year mainstay starter at quarterback.

Twelve others, including former ASU quarterback and 2005 third round selection Andrew Walter, are already out of the league.

An additional four out of the 23 were practice squad players only in 2011, meaning 16 of the 23 draft picks selected were not on active rosters during the most recently completed regular season.

Of the seven who were on active rosters, only Orton was a regular starter. Charlie Frye, Dan Orlovsky, Charlie Whitehurst, Dennis Dixon and Josh Johnson have primarily been career backups floating between the second and third strings on their respective teams. A few have received a very limited number of starts.

Among the 16 not in the NFL currently, only one other than Orton, Trent Edwards, was a regular starter at any point. After three years as the primary starter with Buffalo, Edwards spent the 2011 season as a practice squad player with Oakland.

Late-round or undafted free agent success stories frequently get a lot of play in media. You often hear about Tom Brady being picked in the sixth round or Matt Cassell selected in the seventh. But for every guy like that, there are 15-20 you've probably never heard of or only vaguely remember unless you're a absolute football wonk.

Names like David Greene, Stefan LeFors, Adrian McPherson, Ingle Martin, Omar Jacobs, Troy Smith, Jeff Rowe, Kevin O'Connell, Trae Williams, Nate Davis, Andrew Woodson, Jordan Palmer, Tom Brandstater, Mike Neel aren't widely known at this point. All were picked between rounds three and six in the five year period between 2005 and 2009 and are now out of the NFL.

Osweiler has some things NFL scouts like. He's big but not plodding for a pocket passer; a reasonably decent athlete even. His arm strength is at least average among NFL quarterbacks, perhaps better than average. He's well spoken, a good worker and emotionally invested. He'll say and do the right things and has the capability of emerging into a leader at the pro level.

But there are also drawbacks. He's started just 15 college games, which isn't enough time given his skill level and success rate, to clearly demonstrate he's ready to leave early and be selected in the first couple rounds of an NFL Draft. He has some mechanical issues that aren't ideal with his delivery and footwork and that, coupled with his length, will likely keep him from being selected by teams that run the West Coast offense because of his inability to get the ball as quickly to receivers on quick outs. That happens to be 12-13 teams.

Also an issue: Osweiler has never taken the ball from under center despite being what most would consider ideally suited to be a drop back pocket passer.

These are the types of things that will keep teams from taking him in the first couple of rounds, where teams have more of a long-term investment in their draft picks, both financially and with those staffers responsible for the picks wanting to be demonstrated to be right about their choices.

Osweiler clearly didn't want to start anew at the college level with a change at head coach and offensive coordinator with Dennis Erickson and Noel Mazzone giving way to Todd Graham, even with the team's new offense being somewhat similar, but it's tough to characterize it as a wise move given the odds of the decision working out long term.

Players rarely say they wish they wouldn't have returned for a senior season save for those who were perhaps injured in that final season. A much higher percentage undoubtedly realize years down the road that staying in school may have been a better option if only because it erases the "What if" guessing game that can prove haunting for a lifetime.

The scouts we spoke with said Osweiler likely would have improved his stock by one or two rounds with a good senior season. When it comes to NFL job security, that means a lot. Financially, it does as well. Would he have hurt his stock and dropped from being a middle round consideration? It seems very unlikely.

What will happen with Osweiler? Only time well tell. He could buck the odds and stick in the NFL for longer than the 3.5 year average among all players drafted. Maybe he'll even become one of the very few middle or late round picks to attain stardom.

Maybe. But history will tell you it's very unlikely.

In the statement announcing his decision Friday, Osweiler wrote, "I have a pitchfork tattoo on my ribs to symbolize the BEST three years of my life."

Hard then, to imagine another another year at the same school being anything less than extremely tolerable.



 

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