Time will prove that USC's Sanchez was top QB of the 2009 draft class
In a wise move, Jets traded up 12 spots to draft USC quarterback Mark Sanchez
Down the road, Sanchez will become what Jay Cutler is to the draft class of 2006
49ers couldn't have done any better in landing Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Musings, observations, and the occasional insight as we drink in the trade-fest known as the first day of the NFL Draft, live from the Lions team complex in suburban Motown....
There are different levels of winners every year in the first round of the NFL Draft, but you can't convince me that anyone hit the grand slam of the day quite like the New York Jets did on Saturday.
The reason is simple: Mark Sanchez. The Jets started the day with disarray at quarterback, and ended it with a bright future at the game's most pivotal position. Sanchez, the Southern Cal star who was the most buzzed-about name in the draft in the past two weeks, is the passer who many personnel evaluators feel will make the best pro of any quarterback in the 2009 draft. And I agree.
Georgia's Matthew Stafford might have gone first overall to Detroit, but Sanchez at No. 5 will be the quarterback who defines this draft class. Like Jay Cutler outshining both Vince Young and Matt Leinart in 2006, Aaron Rodgers being the better call in 2005 compared to Alex Smith, and No. 2 Donovan McNabb out-classing No. 1 Tim Couch in that famous quarterback class of 1999.
Some might say that the Jets gave up a boatload to move up 12 spots and pick Sanchez with the selection that previously belonged to the Cleveland Browns. Three players -- including second-year quarterback Brett Ratliff -- and two draft picks seems like a lot. But in reality, the Jets swapped first-rounders, gave up a second-round pick this year (No. 52 overall), and sent three players to Cleveland who are anything but difference-makers: defensive end Kenyon Coleman, defensive back Abram Elam and Ratliff.
It was probably a very shrewd deal for the Browns, and set them up nicely to trade down twice more in the first round and acquire a bevy of selections. But it was an out-and-out great move for the Jets, because in Sanchez, New York's quarterback problems went a long way toward being solved. Maybe not immediately, because the ex-Trojan is just a junior and could need a redshirt season of sorts as an NFL rookie. But soon, and likely for a long time.
Juxtapose what the Jets did last year at quarterback, giving up what amounted to be a third-round pick to Green Bay for one rollercoaster-like season of Brett Favre under center. I'll take investing in Sanchez's future any day, knowing that this 2009 draft-day trade could continue paying dividends for New York for the next decade.
Sanchez is a winner in all of this too, because if you're going to hit it big as an NFL quarterback, would you and your wallet rather do it in New York or Seattle? True, he would have had more time to develop with the Seahawks, who can ride Matt Hasselbeck's right arm for another couple years, and maybe that would have ended up making all the difference in Sanchez's career.
But who's to say that the Jets can't live with Kellen Clemens as a starting quarterback for a season, buying Sanchez the year he might need to acclimate to life in the NFL? With a stout defense and a running game, New York might not have to sacrifice its 2009 season in order to give Sanchez his best possible chance to succeed in 2010.
Nothing's a given when you're drafting a quarterback in the first round in the NFL. The best-laid plans very often don't work out (see Carr, David). But Sanchez was a gamble worth taking, and New York didn't let the price of doing business keep it from seizing the moment. For a team looking for its next savior at quarterback since the moment Joe Namath left for Los Angeles, Saturday was a very good day.
A quick dose of some other winners (and losers) from this year's draft:
-- Washington quarterback Jason Campbell is a winner, because the Redskins didn't get any trade for Sanchez done, meaning he gets to keep his starting job in D.C.
-- Detroit's Daunte Culpepper is a loser, because now he's just the Lions' bridge to the Stafford era.
-- Green Bay nose tackle Ryan Pickett is a loser, because the Packers took Boston College's B.J. Raji to play that position. Pickett might be asked to shift to end in Green Bay's new 3-4, but he's not going to be their long-term man in the middle any more.
-- Ratliff and Clemens are losers in the short term, because with Sanchez becoming a Jet, their best shot to start somewhere in the NFL this season might have just evaporated.
-- The 49ers were winners, because Michael Crabtree's late-draft season slump of sorts propelled him to No. 10 San Francisco. For a team that needed more firepower in its passing game, the 49ers couldn't have done better.
-- The Vikings were losers, because I think they're going rue the day they selected Florida receiver Percy Harvin, this draft's poster-child for character issues. It's not just the marijuana use in Harvin's background, it's the widespread reports that he's a bit of a punk who believes the world revolves around him.
I'll give him this much: Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli has no aversion to risk, eh? Upon getting his first crack to run his own program in Kansas City, he hired a rookie head coach in Todd Haley, traded for a No. 1 quarterback (Matt Cassel) who has just 15 career starts under his belt, and he just selected LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson No. 3 overall, despite the fact that Jackson wasn't even viewed as a top 20 pick for much of the pre-draft scouting season.
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