At the start of last year, Mark Sanchez made the NFL look like Pop Warner. Taking advantage of teams that game-planned around stopping the run, Sanchez used play action fakes, rollouts, audibles, and his talented right arm to lead the Jets to an undefeated 3-0 start.
Right around the time fantasy football players started to pick him up off the waiver wire, the young rookie signal-caller hit his predictable and understandable midseason skid. This skid included a five interception game at home against the Buffalo Bills.
As Sanchez slumped, so did the Jets as they played mediocre football for the remainder of the regular season. The team found its way into the playoffs largely through its defense and its running game.
The Jets effectively hid their rookie quarterback, even going so far as to institute a "color system" that indicated the amount of risk Sanchez should assume for each play. They took away his ability to audible.
However, when the team found its way into the playoffs, something magical happened with Sanchez: He simply played magnificent football that belied his experience level.
He made plays both short-range and down the field, and looked like the top level quarterback he has the talent to be.
So where does that leave him this season?
The Jets believe Sanchez is ready to step into the NFL's elite. They let perennial rushing leader Thomas Jones walk and brought in some new toys for Sanchez to play with like Santonio Holmes and a pass-catching threat in LaDainian Tomlinson.
On draft day however, I still caution against Mark Sanchez. I believe that the quarterback will play well, and he will utilize his receivers effectively, but I still think that contrary to popular belief, the Jets' identity will still be running the football.
Remember, they are a defense and field-position team first that wants to possess the ball and force opponents into mistakes.
Sanchez will act more like a game-manager making plays, but not nearly enough to warrant high consideration on draft day.
If he slips to you in the later rounds, I would draft him and feel comfortable starting him every week. But I would let another owner make the mistake of overvaluing him on draft day.
Think of the owners that spent an early pick on Matt Ryan and, to a lesser extent, Joe Flacco last year. Both were second year stars projected to break out.
The thing is, fantasy football is about stats, not team's wins and losses. It is about style of play more than anything else.
The Jets will make plays, and Sanchez will put up pretty good numbers, but they are still going to look to run the ball in the redzone. Sanchez will be a better real football player than fantasy player.
It is for that reason I will look to other options on draft day. I would rather have a quarterback on a team that has already established that they will throw it around.
Last year when other owners picked Flacco and Ryan, I went for Matt Schaub because I knew the Texans would throw consistently.
I would not be upset to end up with Sanchez as my starter, but if he were my fantasy quarterback, I'd better have a host of top-flight wide-receivers and running backs.
I would place him in that second tier of fantasy quarterbacks on draft day. This places him behind guys like Cutler, Carson Palmer, or Kevin Kolb as they are on teams that will likely throw it all over the lot.
So let another owner draft Sanchez—he should be out of your top 15 quarterbacks on draft day.