's 2009 NFL Season Review: Rookie Quarterbacks

Bryan FontaineFeatured ColumnistJanuary 15, 2010

TORONTO - DECEMBER 3: Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets looks to pass against the Buffalo Bills at Rogers Centre on December 3, 2009 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

The first round of the 2009 NFL Draft featured three young quarterbacks who have a bright future in the league.  We will review the rookie performances of Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, and Josh Freeman.  

In any assessment, it is always best to evaluate your first impressions and thoughts.  In early July, we profiled each player with our analysis, projected stats, and player comparisons.

Quarterbacks – 2009 Season Preview – July 10, 2009

Each rookie quarterback threw for a higher number of interceptions than we expected, but even Peyton Manning threw a league high 28 interceptions in his 1998 rookie season.  Read on for our take on each quarterback.

Matthew Stafford – Lions
2009 Projected Stats
2209 yards passing, 12 TD, 15 INT, 97 yards rushing, 1 TD
2009 Actual Stats – 2267 yards passing, 13 TD, 20 INT, 108 yards rushing, 2 TD

The Detroit Lions made Matthew Stafford their Week 1 starter at quarterback, and allowed him to take his lumps right out of the gate.  Stafford flashed enough potential to confirm the Lions made the right choice by taking him with the first overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft.  Stafford led the Lions to an early season win over Washington that helped erase the memory of the winless 2008 team.  The Lions endured another tough season, but there is reason for hope in Detroit.

Stafford’s rookie season was cut short by injury, and he was not given much help from his teammates.  His 20 interceptions are not alarming; Manning threw for 28 in his rookie season.  Stafford won over his teammates and the city of Detroit with his stirring last-second comeback win versus Cleveland in Week 11.  Stafford threw the game-winning touchdown with a dislocated shoulder he suffered on the second-to- last play of the game.  Once the Browns called a time out to align their goal line defense, Stafford dodged the trainers and coaching staff to take the final snap and throw for the game-winning touchdown.

Stafford represents a high-upside fantasy option as your backup quarterback in 2010.  Head Coach Jim Schwartz will continue to rebuild the Lions franchise from the ground up and Stafford should have an improved supporting cast to continue his development.

Mark Sanchez – Jets
2009 Projected Stats
- 2408 yards passing, 11 TD, 12 INT, 67 yards rushing, 0 TD
2009 Actual Stats – 2444 yards passing, 12 TD, 20 INT, 106 yards rushing, 3 TD

Mark Sanchez was named the Jets starter over veteran Kellen Clemens during the preseason by head coach Rex Ryan.  It proved to be a sound decision as the Jets were able to able to make the playoffs with their top overall defense and their strong running game led by Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene.

In the preseason, we wrote that Sanchez’s rookie season would be similar to that of Joe Flacco’s rookie season in 2008.  Like Flacco, Sanchez managed the game for a playoff contender and converted the 3rd and long situations for the Jets offense.  Sanchez had an up-and-down season and his rhythm seemed to be thrown off when wide receiver Braylon Edwards was acquired from the Cleveland Browns midseason.  Sanchez was routinely let down by the untimely drops of Edwards after counting on Jerricho Cotchery and Dustin Keller early in the season. Ryan never lost confidence in his hand-picked quarterback, and the future looks bright in New York for Sanchez.

Mark Sanchez displayed all the necessary traits of a young franchise quarterback and his charisma and enthusiasm are a perfect fit to handle the fickle fans and media of New York.  Sanchez will eventually develop into a low-end fantasy starting quarterback, but he will have to contend with the swirling winds of the Meadowlands each winter.  The Jets will also remain a run-first offense under Rex Ryan, which could limit the value of Sanchez.  Sanchez will forever be linked to Matthew Stafford in his career and after one season, the early edge has to go to Sanchez.

Josh Freeman – Buccaneers
2009 Projected Stats
- 962 yards passing, 6 TD, 6 INT, 90 yards rushing, 0 TD
2008 Actual Stats – 1857 yards passing, 10 TD, 18 INT, 162 yards rushing, 0 TD

Josh Freeman was handed the starting quarterback job by head coach Raheem Morris at midseason after the Buccaneers returned home from London, England.  Freeman received more playing time than we originally expected in the preseason, but the Buccaneers needed a spark after starting the season 0-7.  Freeman showed flashes of potential as he tried to live up to his first round selection and led the team to wins over the Packers, Seahawks, and Saints.

We were critical of the Buccaneers’ decision to reach for Freeman in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft.  The Redskins also reached for their current quarterback, Jason Campbell in 2005, whose skill set and situation is almost identical to Freeman’s.  Both players share impressive physical tools, but would have been better suited in their development to sit and learn the NFL game first.

Freeman was not a starting fantasy option at quarterback in 2009 and the Buccaneers need to surround him with more offensive weapons to be an option in the future.  Freeman should develop into a capable starting NFL quarterback, but he will never develop into a top-tier franchise player.

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