June 19, 2009

When wavy-haired Mark Sanchez took the Jets' call on NFL Draft weekend, fantasy owners began to speculate as to what the former USC superstar might be worth this upcoming season. After all, the Jets do have a solid backfield to keep defenses honest, a proven front line to protect him, and a receiving corps that returns a pair of promising young playmakers -- Jerricho Cotchery and tight end Dustin Keller. Sanchez has little experience under his belt, having started just one full season for the Trojans, but that argument carries little weight as 2008 fantasy star Matt Cassel didn't get to play at all during his time at USC.

Dissecting the depth chart: The Jets have a lot of "name" quarterbacks on the depth chart but this is really to be considered a two-horse race. Last year Kellen Clemens was passed over for Brett Favre, and now must prove the team is better off with him in the lineup instead of Sanchez. It will be a hard sell. For one, Clemens has thrown five touchdowns as compared to 11 interceptions in his 14 appearances over the past three seasons. And the sizable investment the Jets made in Sanchez ($28 million guaranteed) will make it difficult for them to leave him to waste on the bench. If it's close in camp, the edge will go to Sanchez.

Just the stats: Sanchez had just one season in the sun, having to wait his turn behind John David Booty. In 2008, Sanchez completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 3,207 yards and 34 touchdowns. By comparison, Booty never reached the 30-touchdown mark, and neither he nor Matt Leinart ever held that high of a completion percentage at USC. Sanchez posted multiple touchdowns in 11 of 13 games last fall, and surpassed the 250-yard mark in six contests. His best game, however, was his last -- a 413-yard, four-touchdown effort in the Trojans' Rose Bowl win over Penn State. That game helped Sanchez make up his mind about leaving Southern Cal early (the first USC quarterback to do so since Todd Marinovich).

2008 rookie comparison:Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

For those of you hoping to see Matt Ryan's name, sorry. Sanchez has too many things working against him to make a large splash in his first season (new coaching staff in New York, some new faces on offense, etc). Even so, fantasy owners should be pleased if Sanchez measures up to Flacco, who passed for 2,971 yards and 14 touchdowns (ranking 20th in both categories).

Interesting fact that won't help you: Sanchez was the ballboy for Santa Margarita High School, where he got to hang around future quarterback stars Carson Palmer and Chris Rix (Florida State).

What he's worth: Sanchez will not be a statistical stud in his first season, but he could very well become a legitimate No. 2 fantasy quarterback. Fantasy owners should pay close attention to Jets camp this summer -- not only to find out if he wins the job, but to see how well he holds up throughout..

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