Can Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford Play Right Now?

John LorgeSenior Writer IApril 6, 2009

Are Mark Sanchez and Matthew ready to be starters coming out of the 2009 NFL Draft?  Yes and no.

Almost all rookie quarterbacks would benefit from sitting out their first season to learn the ropes of the NFL. On the field, the window of opportunity passing the football is much smaller than it was in the college game.

Quarterbacks are expected to put in more time than any other player preparing for a game—it can be difficult for a rookie QB to grasp all of the mental aspects of the game.

Although they've decided to forgo their senior seasons, Stafford and Sanchez still have a lot to offer teams right now. They have the talent to win games but with Stafford being unpolished and Sanchez lacking experience it is putting doubt in the mind of some teams and scouts.

The biggest variable that will be involved in determining these players' immediate success is which teams draft them.

In 2004, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Ben Roethlisberger with the 11th overall pick.  If Roethlisberger was selected one pick earlier he would have been a Houston Texan. 

What type of success would Roethlisberger of had with the Texans? There would be a lot of yards and touchdowns between Big Ben and Andre Johnson but the team would have been lucky to have made the playoffs by now.

Roethlisberger was a senior coming into the NFL but he didn't face the competition that Sanchez and Stafford have. He did have the size, arm strength, and leadership qualities that scouts have been seeing in 2009's quarterbacks, however. 

Much like this years top prospects he was not expected to start as a rookie, then, due to a Tommy Maddox injury, he got the chance. The Steelers took it easy on Roethlisberger by cutting most of his reads down to half of the field and focusing on the running game. This is the proper way to integrate a rookie quarterback.

Even if this year’s top prospects aren’t expected to start does that mean they aren’t ready to. Let’s take a look at the potential scenarios for Stafford and Sanchez.

Detroit Lions

There is a good chance the Lions are taking Matthew Stafford with the first pick of the draft. With Daunte Culpepper in Motown, there is no need for the Lions to start a rookie at quarterback. Culpepper is experienced and he has the arm to reach Calvin Johnson downfield.

If something were to happen to Culpepper, Stafford is a serviceable replacement.  It would also be a good idea to let him play a series or two in games that are out of reach, even if Culpepper’s health maintains.

As a replacement, I wouldn't expect Stafford to win many games but that is because I don't think the rest of the Lions will be competitive enough as a team.

Lions fans are tired of rebuilding but they need to trust in the new regime. Stafford has a great arm and he is used to playing in a pro style offense. That means he can get the ball to Johnson anywhere on the field and he knows how to dump the ball off to running backs.

You draft Stafford today because you need a quarterback who will be entering his prime around the same time Johnson is. The quicker the two can start developing an on-field relationship, the better off the franchise will be.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks have Matt Hasselbeck in place and he will be the team's starter as long as his health holds up. If for some reason the Lions don't take Stafford, the Seahawks would have to take a hard look. The team should also be looking at Sanchez, who has been flying up the draft board due to his hard work and impressive pro day.

Seattle may not have a shot at a quarterback of this caliber in the draft for another decade and an Aaron Rodgers situation would be ideal for the team because one day Hasselbeck will be gone. 

If Hasselbeck were to go down with an injury the Hawks would be better off with one of these rookies than the below-average Seneca Wallace. Both rookies can put the ball anywhere on the field and with Jim Mora as the head coach the team should be more focused on running and ball control.

Either quarterback could come into Seattle as a rookie and have the team fighting for a spot in the playoffs.

Jacksonville Jaguars

In 2007, the Jags were an 11-5 playoff team, last year they were a lackluster 5-11.  The change was due to injuries and a lack of defensive presence. This offseason the team split ways with Fred Taylor, Khalif Barnes, Reggie Williams, and Matt Jones on offense.

They were able to replace Barnes with the veteran Tra Thomas but they still took a major hit to their skill positions. 

This situation in JAX is not great for David Garrard let alone a rookie QB. The only positive for the team's offensive prospectus is that Maurice Jones-Drew is entering his contract year and he wants to get paid.

The versatile Jones-Drew can lighten the load for a quarterback but the team's passing game will struggle.

There is not enough offensive talent on the Jags for Stafford or Sanchez to succeed as rookies. The team is not defensively dominant enough to get into a low-scoring battle and Garrard was sacked 42 times last year, third worst in the league.

San Francisco 49ers

Many suspect Mark Sanchez will be joining the 49ers next season, this pick makes sense for the future and it could work in the now, too.

The Niners just signed Marvel Smith, reducing their need for offensive line help. Shaun Hill is good enough to beat out Sanchez for the job right now but if he doesn't produce in the first half of the year don't be surprised to see Sanchez warming up. 

Sanchez will be comfortable in the Bay Area, the fans will support him, and although he will be under pressure, he will welcome it with open arms. Sanchez has the tools to keep the Niners competitive in games. Their defense is active, their running game can bleed clock, and they have some experienced receivers who can help Sanchez learn the ropes.

If Sanchez were the quarterback from day one he could have SF flirting with .500 by the season’s end.

Denver Broncos

Now that Jay Cutler is gone the Broncos are the newest candidates to draft a quarterback in the first round. If they decide to draft a QB he could be named the starter this season over Kyle Orton, even coming out of training camp.

The Broncos have made some serious moves to revive their running game and if they draft Mark Sanchez this will be a huge help to his progression as a rookie QB. A strong running game will allow him to utilize the play action pass, something he did very well at USC.

With Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal, Sanchez would have two premium targets that have the ability to stretch the field. Depending on how the Broncos new defense comes together, they could be in a lot of games giving Sanchez a chance to display his will to win.

The 12th pick would be considered a drop for Sanchez but he could have Denver battling for the AFC West crown with San Diego as a rookie.

Other Teams

The Tampa Bay Bucs and Houston Texans are just two of the other teams who may be interested in trading up to draft one of the elite rookie quarterbacks. Any team will have to pay a hefty price to get Stafford or Sanchez but it’s a pick that will pay dividends in the future.

It would be rare that one of these teams would draft Sanchez or Stafford with the intentions of starting them in the first game but it doesn't mean that they couldn't. The better the team, the better the opportunity they will have for a successful rookie season.


Just because this years top quarterbacks would be better off learning for a year, it doesn't mean they aren't ready to play right now. 

Stafford has all of the tools you look for in a franchise quarterback and Sanchez already carries himself like a veteran.

If either of these players is called upon to start don't be surprised if they are successful and even in the playoffs as long as it’s on a team with a strong running game and a competitive defense.


    Julio Jones Isn't Drinking the TO Kool-Aid

    NFL logo

    Julio Jones Isn't Drinking the TO Kool-Aid

    Mike Freeman
    via Bleacher Report

    Brady Hints at Retiring at 45 with IG Comment

    NFL logo

    Brady Hints at Retiring at 45 with IG Comment

    Joseph Zucker
    via Bleacher Report

    Report: Jameis Braces for Suspension

    NFL logo

    Report: Jameis Braces for Suspension

    Kyle Newport
    via Bleacher Report

    Rivers' Offseason Job? Playcaller for Son's Football Team

    NFL logo

    Rivers' Offseason Job? Playcaller for Son's Football Team

    Eric D. Williams