2012 NFL Draft: 5 Potential Replacements for the New York Jets' Mark Sanchez
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In the wake of last night's loss to Denver, the same question has plagued the minds of media members and Jets fans alike: Will Rex Ryan move forward with Mark Sanchez as the team's starting quarterback?
There was so much promise for the Southern California product. In each of his first two NFL seasons, Sanchez and the Jets made it to the AFC Championship Game. He may not have "wowed" anyone with his play in the regular season, but it appeared as if he got the job done and had the moxie to become a winner in the league.
When New York was able to go out and acquire Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason for the 2011 season, many figured Sanchez now had the weapons offensively to put the Jets in the Super Bowl hunt once again. Not many expected the team to be sitting at 5-5 at this point with only the 22nd-ranked offense (total yards) in the league.
It is worth noting that in three of those five losses, Sanchez threw a pick-six. Not only is he not winning games, but he is also turning over the ball in key situations.
Turn on the tape of last night's game against Denver and you will see Mark Sanchez at his worst. The Jets offense struggled to move on the Broncos defense all night, seemingly handcuffed by conservative play-calling or check-downs by Sanchez. The quarterback looked shaky throughout the game and did not display any of the competitiveness or moxie we thought he may have possessed.
So will Rex Ryan pull the plug on the former top five pick after the season? That is yet to be determined. The following slideshow explores some options for the New York Jets if they decide to go a different route in 2012.
Robert Griffin: Baylor
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First and foremost, Baylor's Robert Griffin III is a remarkable athlete for the position. Throughout his collegiate career he has proven capable of improvising and really hurting defenses with his running ability.
While he was once known almost exclusively for his rare athleticism, he has shown this season that he is a natural pocket passer with a good feel for the position.
One significant change from past years, Griffin has developed into an elite deep-ball thrower. We have always known he has a very strong arm, throwing with tremendous velocity and rpm's; this year, he has shown improvement in terms of short to intermediate accuracy and ball placement.
Even on the move, rolling to the right, he displays the ability to throw accurately down the field. His unique blend of speed and ability to throw the deep ball allows the Baylor offense to really stretch defenses.
In addition to physical ability, Robert Griffin is impressive in other aspects. He is a natural leader, very smart with strong intangibles. His footwork has improved greatly in the pocket, but he will need to adjust to playing under center in the NFL. Fearless under pressure, Griffin must learn to protect his body better.
At just 6'2" and 220 pounds, height may be an issue for some and durability will be the major question down the road.
Where he fits with the New York Jets: To secure Robert Griffin in the 2012 draft, the Jets would more than likely need to use their first round pick. It is doubtful, however, he could come into the league and lead New York back to the playoffs immediately.
Due to the developmental factor and high cost, Griffin is unlikely to be at the top on the Jets' wish-list. That said, his athleticism and ability to throw down-field will be tempting for an offense that has been devoid of big plays.
Landry Jones: Oklahoma
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There has been some debate over whether Oklahoma's Landry Jones is a top NFL prospect or not. While he has his flaws, he displays excellent command of an up-tempo Sooners offense.
His extraordinary production is worth noting, as his success as a game manager. On paper, he has he intangibles, size (6'4", 220 lbs) and arm talent to project as a future starter at the next level.
Jones is essentially a rhythm passer that is scary when at his best. His game is characterized by a pre-snap reads, efficient footwork in the pocket, and a quick release. Playing in that system, his accuracy and ball placement are generally very good. Occasionally a spread offense can mask a weaker arm. That's not the case here, as Jones has a strong arm and flashes the ability to make any throw.
While Landry Jones certainly has a strong sense of timing and anticipation, he is not particularly effective when he must improvise. With just adequate athleticism and a strong proclivity for the pocket, he lacks the ability to extend plays. His pocket presence is good, but he makes hasty decisions under duress. Because he typically makes up his mind where the ball will go pre-snap, decision-making will be a question for scouts.
Where he fits with the New York Jets: It will be interesting to track the draft stock of Landry Jones if he declares for April's NFL Draft. To many, he is a slam-dunk top 15 pick. To me, he could fall anywhere from the late first to the early third round. So if Jones falls to the Jets in the second round, what do you do?
He certainly appears to fit the offensive scheme and displays the ability to drive the ball downfield with accuracy. This is a good fit for New York as Landry appears capable of starting early at the next level. With that considered, I do not think the Jets use their first-round pick on him.
Brandon Weeden: Oklahoma State
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As much as you could say Stanford is a national championship contender due to the play of Andrew Luck, you could equally argue Oklahoma State would be out of the picture were it not for Brandon Weeden.
In terms of value to his team, few players make the difference the 28 year-old has for the Cowboys.
In projecting him to the NFL, it is not hard to realize Weeden possesses the arm strength to make any throw. He may be this class' premier "arm talent." Over the past two seasons, he has shown very impressive accuracy down field and tremendous command over his offense.
His throwing mechanics are good and he has a very quick release. The ball really jumps out of his hand and he has specialized firing the ball to the far hash with excellent velocity.
Unlike many spread quarterbacks, he reads defenses well, sees the field, and makes every throw in the book. Weeden shows a strong understanding of anticipation and timing in the passing game. Though he is not especially fleet of foot, he displays good pocket presence, efficient footwork in the pocket, and can throw a bit on the move.
Physically, he has good size at 6'4", 220, but is not overly mobile (as I alluded to) and not particularly adept when he needs to improvise and use his feet. His age will definitely play a big part in where he is drafted, but he has the tools to be a starter in the NFL for a good stretch.
Where he fits with the New York Jets: Now we are beginning to pick through the bargain bin. Who would want a 28-year-old rookie starting quarterback? Well, quite frankly, a team that is ready to win right away.
Brandon Weeden is one of the few college signal-callers with the potential to start from day one in the NFL. He has all the tools, both mentally and physically, to step right in and play.
His arm strength and proclivity for pushing the ball downfield could be a sight for sore eyes in New York. What is best about Weeden: it will not take a top pick to bring him into the fold. Rather, he will more likely come off the board between the second or third round.
In terms of fit, this may be as good as it gets for the Jets.
Ryan Tannehill: Texas A&M
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Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill is a particularly intriguing combination of size (6’4", 225 lbs.) and athletic ability. The former top receiver for the Aggies has settled in at quarterback and has showcased a skill-set that will have some NFL scouts drooling.
Tannehill is a strong-armed passer with the ability to drive the ball outside the hash with velocity. Additionally, he has excellent mobility and can hurt defenses with his running ability. He has shown the ability to throw accurately on the move.
While he understands and utilizes timing in the passing game, Tannehill tends to lock onto his primary receiver. That said, he has shown flashes of effectively going through his progressions. Though he appears to possess impressive intangibles and leadership qualities, he is part of an A&M team that has given up second-half leads continuously in 2011.
Experience is bound to be a concern for some teams looking for an immediate starter. As I noted before, Tannehill played exclusively WR for over two years. He is still a project, he will need time, and establishing consistency will be the biggest thing.
Where he fits with the New York Jets: If Brandon Weeden was the best fit in New York, Tannehill may be the worst. Top-notch physical ability and upside will more than likely make the Aggie a coveted prospect on draft weekend.
Though he does not project as a first-year starter, he will command a first or second-round pick in April. While New York could take him and sit him down for a year, I believe that is a luxury Rex Ryan cannot afford.
Nick Foles: Arizona
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The first thing you will notice when taking a look at Arizona's Nick Foles is his prototypical size at 6’5" and 240 pounds. He has very good arm strength, showing the ability to drive the ball to the far hash and fit the ball into tight windows downfield.
Though he is not particularly consistent, he flashes a very nice deep ball. In addition, his ball placement and accuracy on short to intermediate throws is generally good.
Unfortunately for Foles, there are a number of issues holding him back from being a top prospect in this or any quarterback class. He is not an exceptional athlete by any means; he shows limited escapability and a tendency to become flustered by pressure. Mechanically, he must improve consistency.
Playing in a gimmicky, pass-happy spread offense, Foles does not always see the whole field, often locking on to this primary target. Though he has three solid years of experience, is worth noting that he has lost thirteen of his last fifteen starts.
Where he fits for the New York Jets: Now we are really going deep. Foles is a far-fetched option for the Jets, a likely third- or fourth round-pick. He does have ability, however, and the skill-set New York is sorely lacking. Not only is the Arizona product a bargain in the middle rounds, but he is also a good fit with team's current personnel.
He specializes in pushing the ball downfield and has an arm comparable to the Ravens' Joe Flacco. It is doubtful that NFL teams will consider Foles to be a first year starter and some may not think he will ever start in the league; but Rex Ryan and the Jets may be willing to roll the dice if he falls into their laps.