One 49er Fan's Case For Mark Sanchez

D MillerCorrespondent IApril 23, 2009

PASADENA, CA - DECEMBER 06:  Quarterback Mark Sanchez #6 of the USC Trojans throws a touchdown pass at the beginning of the third quarter against the UCLA Bruins on December 6, 2008 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

A few weeks back, I got my Mel Kiper on and tried my best to analyze this weekend's NFL draft from a San Francisco 49ers viewpoint.

Actually, since my surname is neither York, McCloughan, Singletary or any other associated with the Niners, it was really just one fan's opinion mashed up with optimistic speculation.

It wasn't exactly front-page material, but of the comments it received, the potential draftee whose name stirred up the most intrigue was Mark Sanchez. One way or the other, it’s clear 49ers fans have strong feelings about drafting him.

Or, more accurately, drafting ANY quarterback at number 10.

The case against the 49ers drafting the Rose Bowl record-setter is more than valid. The main concern being in my 28 years of life (and therefore, years of 49er fanhood) they haven't drafted a single QB that has become a franchise superstar.

Far be it from me to complain about the 49ers recent quarterback woes, considering they had arguably the greatest signal-caller ever (Joe Montana) followed by the man with perhaps the biggest stones in NFL history, Hall of Famer Steve Young.

Even Young's successor, Jeff Garcia, logged in three Pro Bowl seasons during his time there.

But when it comes to pulling the trigger with a first round pick on a QB (or any early round pick for that matter), memories of players like Jim Druckenmiller, Gio Carmazzi, and of course, Alex Smith hit the Niner faithful like a blindside to the gut.

We're spoiled out in 49er-land; in the first 20 years of my life they only missed the playoffs once. The Gold Rush was always at the top of its division, and our QBs were always at the top of their class.

But to me, that's all the MORE reason to take a shot with Sanchez.

I do understand the risk involved with locking up many more millions in another QB, and what that means if he doesn't pan out, but could I blame the 49ers for passing on a potential franchise QB while they are still recovering from the sting of Alex Smith's missed expectations?

Not at all.

But at the same time, the common theme of the 49ers when they dominated the NFL was the guy under center. Montana and Young were both the class of the position in their primes, and even when they went down their backups tended to pick up their slack and lead the team to victory.

Ever since Garcia was run out of town, the QB carousel in San Francisco has sent the 49ers in a free-fall from their place amongst the NFL elite.

However, more often than not over the last ten years, first round QBs have found themselves on notorious "bust" lists rather than living up to their potential. This fact alone feeds the anti-QB sentiment among the many Niners faithful. But from where I sit, Sanchez makes a great case for being that 10th overall pick for the 49ers.

Just park yourself in front of the TV any Saturday afternoon, and you'll wind up overindulging in the most lifted system in football since the wishbone: The Spread Offense.

The spread is why QBs and receivers are coming out of college with video game-esque stats and not able to post half that production in the pros. It's the reason receivers tend to run sloppy routes, and why quarterbacks these days can't seem to adjust to taking a snap under center. It's the reason Vince Young hasn't panned out, and why Tim Tebow is a long shot to take snaps at the next level.

While pro teams are starting to mix a little spread into their playbooks, it'll never be the main system in the NFL because:

A) the defenses are too fast for such a gimmicked scheme 

and

B) the QBs would get killed.

Before we would have NFL teams (such as the 49ers) trying to fit a square into a round hole by molding spread QBs (Smith) into traditional drop-back pocket passers.

So where in the copycat world of college football is an NFL team going to find a guy with experience in a pro-style system?

Well, how about USC?

Under Pete Carroll, the Trojans haven't had to resort to following the trend of the hour by ripping off other successful programs. Carroll's QBs line up under center, use traditional play-fakes, and pass from the pocket or on a roll out.

So in other words, while he is far from a lock, Sanchez isn't as likely to have to fix what's broken at the next level before he can even start adapting to the NFL game.

The physical gifts he brings to the position are well documented, but more importantly he, like the Trojan passers before him, is a flat out winner.

However, I do whole-heartedly agree with those who claim the safest rout is to fill needs at pass-rusher or offensive tackle. If somehow a stud like DT BJ Raji, LB Aaron Curry or (pipedream here) WR Michael Crabtree falls to the tenth pick, San Francisco NEEDS to grab him.

Or if one of the four highly touted tackles is staring at the Niners when they are on the board, they might have to jump on him.

But from where I'm sitting, I don't see a lot of quality QB depth coming out of the college ranks these days. Back in the 80s it seemed the majority of the league had a quality guy under center; now, there's maybe five legitimate All-Pros and a handful of "serviceable" guys.

With the talent pool shrinking, a chance to snag your next franchise player while keeping him from the rest of the league may be another risk worth taking.