...and why you should, too.
Before I get going on this post, I should reveal two biases. I am of the opinion that Mike Mayock of the NFL Network is in the same class as Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com when it comes to draft analysis, and most everyone else is riding in the back seat. I like these guys the most because they don't just watch tape -- they also talk like they watch tape. There is an easy familiarity with advanced concepts and individual attributes that comes from digging deep on the research end. Still, they both manage to escape the buzzwords and make it interesting, which is valuable when you're discussing the difference between the 11th and 12th-best nose tackles in a draft class. So, I'm a huge Mayock fan.
In addition, I think that Mark Sanchez will be the best NFL quarterback in this draft class when all is said and done, because of two hesitations teams may have about him. First, that he's only had 16 starts, which could scare off a number of the teams who need a quarterback RIGHT FREAKIN' NOW!!! Second, the thought that because of his non-howitzer arm, he's a system quarterback. This may scare off many teams who want a quarterback that is more "moldable", with a more raw and less intangible skill set, than someone like Matt Stafford. The odds favor Sanchez going to a team that a.) Won't start him right away, barring an act of God; and b.) Will have or develop an offensive system that meets his needs and abilities. The road is littered with quarterback prospects who came to the NFL, only to find that they had the "right key, baby, but the wrong keyhole." (Thank you, Steven Tyler).
Now ... With those two caveats out of the way, I wanted to share a few quotes from Mayock's conference call with the media on April 15. He was asked specifically about Sanchez several times, and here are the highlights:
If they (the Broncos) don't try to get Mark Sanchez I think they're crazy.
Bottom line to me is that if their head coach goes 4-12 with Kyle Orton he probably gets fired this year. If he goes 4-12 with Mark Sanchez he's rebuilding. Okay so the way I look at this is you gave away, there's only six or seven franchise quarterbacks in this league.
Getting rid of one of them, I just don't understand the whole, I don't get the whole thing. But now what do you do, I think you got to go get another one.
And the guy that fits them the best is Sanchez ... an intelligent kid that knows where and when to throw the football. Can pick up the offense quickly and get rid of the football, get it out of his hands. You got an offense that's already set to go as long as Brandon Marshall is back and healthy. And if you can plug in a Sanchez and two years from now he's ready to go. I think you got a chance, so that's a long way of saying that they got to package whatever they have to do in my opinion and go replace Jay Cutler.
I think there are three first round quarterbacks in this draft. I think (Matt) Stafford and Josh Freeman have huge arms, they're both more athletic than people think for their size. And I think they've got tremendous upside.
I think the safest pick is Sanchez. Sanchez has a very good arm that I would compare his arm to Matt Ryan. And he's got the best accuracy and footwork amongst the three.
I've been very positive on all three of them and I like all three of them. But I wouldn't bang the table for any of them like I did for Matt Ryan last year. Matt Ryan was my number one guy on the board all year long.
But amongst those three Freeman reminds me of Joe Flacco both on and off the field. And I think if I had to pull the trigger in the top 10 pick with a quarterback I would take Sanchez because I would feel like his floor is higher than the other guys.
The concept of the high floor may be more important in this draft than any other. With a CBA clusterfrank hanging over the heads of every owner, and the NFLPA seemingly continents away from any sort of rookie cap, the risk/reward aspect is kind of chilling. Teams in the top five may be marooned there because of those costs, and safety becomes a primary requirement. You're less concerned with "upside" than you are specific attributes that transfer to the NFL. At the quarterback position, if you're worried at all about accuracy, or the ability to grasp a pro playbook, or work ethic, or leadership ability, you start to balk.
There are very few questions about any of these things with Sanchez. The character stuff may or may not be a "wed hewwing" (Thank you, Madeline Kahn), but Tim Ruskell said flat-out in his Friday press conference that it wasn't a concern. And if people are already starting to slot Sanchez in with Matt Ryan (in retrospect, perhaps the most franchise-altering first-year quarterback in NFL history), that's pretty huge. People aren't talking about his arm, or his 40 time, or his completion percentage. They're talking about his ability to lead a team when he gets the hang of the playbook.
I have never seen a divide in opinion over a draft prospect that I have over Sanchez. I did an interview a while back with ex-Rams safety Corey Chavous, a noted draft expert who told me that Sanchez is the best quarterback in this draft. He's not the only one. On the other hand, Greg Cosell of NFL Films, who I would put on the Rang/Mayock level of quality when it comes to player eval, thinks that Sanchez is a third-round talent. These are two guys whose opinions I respect, and they're three rounds apart on one player.
Has the divide between tangible and intangible ever been so great?