Is Mark Sanchez-Josh Freeman the Second Coming of Matt Ryan-Joe Flacco?

Colin MeansCorrespondent IJune 25, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 03:  Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons hikes the ball in the NFC Wild Card Game against the Arizona Cardinals on January 3, 2009 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Falcons 30-24.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

This past season, NFL fans were pleasantly surprised by the performance of rookie quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. Drafted No. 3 and No. 18, respectively, both players led their teams to the playoffs. 

Ryan led his team to an 11-5 regular season record and a first-round exit from the playoffs, while Flacco, aided by one of the NFL's strongest defenses, also led the Ravens to an 11-5 regular season record but won his first two playoff games to reach the AFC Championship game, where they fell to the eventual champs, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In this year's draft, three quarterbacks were selected in the first round; Matthew Stafford No. 1 to the Lions, Mark Sanchez No. 5 to the Jets, and Josh Freeman No. 19 to the Buccaneers.

With the Lions coming off the worst season in NFL history, even if Stafford has an amazing rookie season, the Lions' chances of making the playoffs next season are quite slim at best.

The Jets traded up to draft Sanchez, who they have made clear is their quarterback of the future. Although the Jets play in arguably the toughest division in the NFL, they will still have a good shot, under new head coach Rex Ryan, of making the playoffs next season.

The Buccaneers also traded up to draft Freeman, but the offseason signing of Byron Leftwich makes Freeman's shot at winning the starting job more difficult.

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Either way, the Jets and Buccaneers will be playoff-contending teams, and both could end up with a rookie behind center. After this past season, where Ryan and Flacco proved they could get the job done, that may not be such a bad thing.

Sanchez does not have the stud running back Matt Ryan had, and Josh Freeman does not have the Joe Flacco's dominant defense. It is unlikely Sanchez or Freeman will lead their teams to the level of success accomplished by Ryan and Flacco, but that does not mean they will not lead their teams to successful seasons.

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