If it seems as though Mark Sanchez is handling the constant comparisons to fellow top QB prospect Matthew Stafford in stride, that’s because the former USC signal-caller knows a thing or two about competition.
After all, he starred for a school that in the last 6 years has produced four NFL quarterbacks – Carson Palmer (’03), Matt Cassel (’05), Matt Leinart (’06) and John David Booty (’08). Now, Sanchez stands poised to become the fifth.
Competition was so stiff at quarterback for USC that Sanchez didn’t even become a full-time starter until this past season. But he made the most of it, shredding defenses to the tune of 3,207 yards and 34 touchdowns while leading Southern Cal to a 12-1 record. He capped off his season by leading the Trojans to a 38-24 Rose Bowl victory over Penn State in which he completed 80 percent of his passes for 413 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, while also rushing for a score.
Despite his stellar season and even better bowl game performance, some question Sanchez’s NFL value because of his relatively limited time under center in college.
Count USC Head Coach Pete Carroll among his doubters. During a press conference in which Sanchez announced his intention to declare for the NFL Draft, Carroll said he disagreed with his quarterback’s choice, citing numerous cases and statistical data that suggest quarterbacks who leave school early struggle in the NFL.
His coach’s lack of confidence aside, Sanchez certainly has the physical tools of an NFL quarterback. The 6’3″, 225-pound signal caller possesses a quick release, displays solid arm strength, above average athleticism and great field vision. He’s also known to be something of a gym rat – a quality that will certainly come in handy as he tries to break the mold of quarterbacks that entered the NFL draft early. It’s also important to note that Sanchez is a fourth-year junior, and will walk away from USC this year with his degree.
As for those comparisons to Stafford, it appears that the University of Georgia product is winning the battle in the minds of pro scouts and draft pundits. Scouts love Stafford’s arm strength and claim he can make all the throws necessary for a quarterback to succeed in the NFL. Sanchez certainly is not backing down, choosing to perform every drill at the combine, both physical and throwing drills, while Stafford opted to sit out. Sanchez can also claim a slight advantage in on-field performance, as he threw for nine more TDs than Stafford did, while the Georgia QB engineered the Bulldogs to two more losses than Sanchez’s Trojans.
No matter what team he ends up with, or how many quarterbacks are taken before him, it’s safe to say Sanchez will welcome the head-on competition. After all, he hasn’t backed down from a single battle yet.
The latest on Sanchez
Widely regarded by draft scouts as the second-best quarterback available in the draft behind Matthew Stafford, Sanchez should still go in the first round, possibly in the first 15 picks.
Sanchez on the Web
Career and year-by-year statistics
Stats and personal information
Loads of information and links on Sanchez
Billy Witz writes of the emphasis Mark’s dad Nick put on education
Jose Arangure, Jr. writes about Sanchez’s upbringing, and his Mexican-American heritage
Jim Corbett describes Sanchez’s drive to prove himself worthy of the top pick in the draft
Bio, news and videos
ESPN’s draft guru points out Sanchez’s strengths and weaknesses
They’ve got a pet snake named Katrina
Shield your eyes, Penn State fans
On interviewing with so many NFL teams at the combine in a short time span:
“It’s like speed dating.”
On whether or not he should be the no. 1 pick instead of Matthew Stafford:
“Absolutely. I’d better think that. I think he should think that too.”
On USC Coach Pete Carroll saying Sanchez would have been better off returning to school:
“If you know coach, you know how competitive he is. I took that as a sign of respect. A very good football coach wanted me back on that team.”