2009 Quarterback Draft Class in Review

Sean O'BrienCorrespondent IJuly 15, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - JANUARY 24:  Quarterback Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets reacts in the third quarter against the Indianapolis Colts during the AFC Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 24, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Tale of the Tape

Matthew Stafford

First overall pick by the Detroit Lions, 6'2", 230 pounds, 10 games started, 13 touchdowns, 20 interceptions with a 53.3 completion percentage

Mark Sanchez

Fifth overall pick by the New York Jets, 6'2", 225 pounds, 15 games started, 12 touchdowns, 20 interceptions with a 53.8 completion percentage

Josh Freeman

Seventh overall pick by the Tampa Bay Bucs, 6'6", 240 pounds, nine games started, 10 touchdowns, 18 interceptions with a 54.5 completion percentage

The 2009 quarterback draft class wasn't thought to be a deep one.  However, it did produced three first round starters so I'd say it had a profound effect on the landscape of the NFL.

Some would argue that without Matt Stafford and Josh Freeman, the Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Bucs could have easily gone winless.  A valid argument, considering neither team won a game when their rookie quarterback was on the sideline.

The expectations on Sanchez were much higher. 

He was named the day one starter and certainly had the best supporting cast around him.

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Sanchez was the only quarterback to reach the playoffs, where he went 2-1 and threw four touchdowns and two picks.

The goal of this article is to compare the quarterbacks in many different statistical ways, as well as some conventional ones.

Fourth Quarter Play

Perhaps the most telling sign of a rookie quarterback is how he plays in the fourth quarter when the game is on the line.

Matt Stafford certainly had the most memorable fourth quarter of all three quarterbacks when he played against the Cleveland Browns. 

Stafford's game-winning, fourth quarter comeback was his only of the season, but it stood out.  He showed heart, toughness, and leadership in that game.

Looking at Stafford in the clutch, we see a mediocre stat line. 

In the fourth quarter, when his team was within seven points, Stafford completed 18 of 40 passes with one touchdown and three picks.

Mark Sanchez had only one game-winning drive in his rookie season, but it was perhaps the most important of all three. 

Sanchez helped his team overcome a fourth quarter deficit to beat the San Diego Chargers in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Sanchez was similar to Stafford in the clutch.  In the fourth quarter within seven points, Sanchez completed 29 of 52 passes with one touchdown and three interceptions.

Unless you're a Buccaneers fan, you probably didn't pay a whole lot of attention to Josh Freeman's performance last year.  Freeman led his team back from two fourth quarter deficits in wins over Green Bay and New Orleans.

Not only did he have the most game-winning drives and fourth quarter comebacks, he also performed the best in the clutch. 

In the fourth quarter within seven points, Freeman completed 21 of 38 passes with two touchdowns and three interceptions.

Edge: Josh Freeman

Against the 3-4 defense

You'd be surprised to find out that the quarterback class of 2009 performed the best against the vaunted 3-4 defense. 

Together they threw 15 touchdowns and 15 interceptions against teams that ran the 3-4 as their base defense.  They played nine total games against it.

My presumption is that the rookies performed so "well" against the 3-4 because the perfect counter to it is the spread offense which gives them more time in the pocket to analyze what's going on down the field.

Matt Stafford was .500 against the 3-4, with one win and one loss.  He threw six touchdowns and six interceptions in those games.  Stafford fumbled the ball only once in those games, but his team maintained possession.

-0 turnover differential

Mark Sanchez went 1-3 against teams that ran the 3-4 as their base defense, throwing five touchdowns and four picks.  Sanchez fumbled the ball three times in those games, turning it over once.

-0 turnover differential

Josh Freeman went 1-2 against the 3-4, throwing four touchdowns and five interceptions.  Freeman fumbled the ball six times in those games, but lost only one.

-2 turnover differential

Edge : Tie between Stafford and Sanchez

Against the 4-3 defense

The rookie quarterbacks played the most games against teams that ran the 4-3 as their base defense.  The results were shockingly bad.

Matthew Stafford went 1-6 against the 4-3 defense, throwing six touchdowns and 13 interceptions in those games.  He also fumbled the ball twice, but neither turned into a turnover.

-7 turnover differential

Mark Sanchez went 5-3 against teams that ran a base 4-3, throwing six touchdowns and 11 interceptions in those games.  He fumbled the ball four times, two of which turned the ball over to the opposing team.

-7 turnover differential

Josh Freeman went 2-4 against the 4-3 defense, throwing six touchdowns and 13 interceptions.  He fumbled the ball three times, leading to one turnover.

-7 turnover differential

Edge : Clearly the winner here was whatever 4-3 defense was playing against Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, or Josh Freeman.

Against the Tampa-2 Defense

Freeman never played against a team that ran a base Tampa-2 defense so he isn't included in this category.

Stafford lost his only game against the Tampa-2 defense, throwing one touchdown and one pick.  He also fumbled the football once and lost it.

-1 turnover differential

Mark Sanchez went 2-1 against the Tampa-2 defense, throwing one touchdown and five interceptions.  He fumbled the ball twice in those games, but his team recovered both of them.

-4 turnover differential

Edge: Sanchez's five interception game against Buffalo really killed his chances at winning this one.  Stafford wins.

Surrounding Talent

A lot of what has to do with a rookie quarterback's success is what kind of talent he is surrounded by. 

I'm going to break down each quarterback's surrounding talent by four categories: offensive line, run game, receiving options, defense.  Let's take a look.

Offensive Line

Matt Stafford was sacked 24 times in 10 games and his offensive line is generally regarded as one of the worst in the league.

Sanchez was sacked 26 times in the 15 games he started and his offensive line is considered one of the best in the league.

Josh Freeman was sacked 18 times in the nine games he started and his offensive line is regarded as middle of the road in talent.

Edge : Sanchez

Running Game

The Detroit Lions had the 24th best rushing attack in the league, averaging 101.0 yards per game on the ground.  Their leading rusher was Kevin Smith, who had 747 yards on the ground.

The New York Jets had the best running game in the league last year, averaging 172.2 yards per game.  Thomas Jones led the way with 1402 yards on the ground.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the 23rd best run game in the league, averaging 101.7 yards per game on the ground.  Cadillac Williams mustered up 823 yards on 211 carries.

Edge : Sanchez

Receiving Options

Matthew Stafford had wide receiver Calvin Johnson to throw to when he needed a big play and, while he was healthy, tight end Brandon Pettigrew.  Megatron led the team with 947 receiving yards.

Mark Sanchez had wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery and tight end Dustin Keller throughout the season to throw to and Braylon Edwards got hot near the end of the season as well.  Cotchery led the team with 821 yards, while Dustin Keller and Braylon Edwards gathered up 522 and 541 yards respectively.

Josh Freeman favored throwing to tight end Kellen Winslow and wide receiver Antonio Bryant.  Winslow led the team with 884 receiving yards.  Bryant mustered up 600 yards.

Edge : Sanchez


Do I really need to lay it out for you?  I'll give you a hint - the Jets had the best defense.

Obvious Edge - Sanchez

And the winner of the surrounding talent contest is:...Mark Sanchez!  Let me guess, the suspense was killing you.

Now let's take a look at some of the more conventional qualities we look for in quarterbacks:

Arm Strength

Stafford had the strongest arm, followed closely by Freeman, with Sanchez picking up the rear.

Edge : Stafford


As pointed out in the tale of the tape, the big guy wins the award best completion percentage.

Edge : Freeman


Sanchez started all but one game all season, Stafford got injured, Freeman never went down with an injury, but played in the fewest games.

Slight Edge : Sanchez proved it over the longest period of time


Stafford manned up and threw a last second touchdown pass after being used as a doormat by a defender.

Edge : Stafford


The little things matter.  How well you protect the football, what your footwork is like, overall toughness, and your ability to make a play when the team is really counting on you.

Edge: Ultimately it came down to the fact that Stafford had the fewest fumbles and Freeman had the most fourth quarter comebacks. 

Mechanically though, Stafford is the superior quarterback.

I have set the stats out in front of you.  What are your thoughts?  Who is the best quarterback of the 2009 draft so far?