USC Trojan junior quarterback Mark Sanchez has abruptly ended his career in So-Cal, and has opted to enter this April’s NFL draft. The decision appropriately shocked those in football circles, but as a matter of simple arithmetic, it all added up for Sanchez:
1. An impressive junior campaign, where Sanchez and the Trojans lost only one game. Bearing in mind that USC plays in the cake-walk PAC-10, the Trojans silenced their critics with the highly publicized decimation of the Ohio State Buckeyes in front of a nationally televised audience. Furthermore, Sanchez’s personal stats included 34 passing touchdowns, versus only 10 interceptions over the entire season.
2. A stellar bowl performance in the 2009 Rose Bowl, which saw Sanchez throw for 4 touchdowns and add one on the ground as the Trojans trounced the then No. 6 Penn State Nittany Lions. Sanchez looked flawless, throwing for a career-high 413 yards, evading pressure, showcasing his arm strength, and emulating the composure of a great leader.
3. The decisions of both Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford to return to both Florida and Oklahoma, respectively. Both would have been near, if not at the top, of most scout’s quarterback rankings, and their abrupt omission from draft boards seemingly opened the door for Sanchez. He now only faces competition from Georgia’s gun-slinger Matthew Stafford for the title of number-one rated quarterback.
So what does this equate to?
Sanchez, all-of-a-sudden, becomes a realistic option for the Detroit Lions with the number one overall pick in the 2009 Draft. With their franchise amidst one of the biggest identity crises in sports history, the Lions may look to duplicate the success of the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens, in drafting a first-round “franchise” quarterback.
It must be said that both Matt Ryan (Atlanta) and Joe Flacco (Baltimore) are anomalies. Rookie quarterbacks are supposed to be lack-lustre and it would be unfair to hold Sanchez to this expectation. Given the publicized failure of recent underclassmen quarterbacks declaring for the draft, in addition to Sanchez’s blatant lack of starting experience, he undoubtedly has a lot of proving to do, before and after draft day.