The League

Rob Rang
Draft Guru

Rob Rang

Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com

Sanchez First

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With very few exceptions, rookie quarterbacks are ill-prepared to start in the NFL. Some will point to the success of Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco last year as evidence that rookies somehow are more prepared now than in the past. With all due respect to Ryan and Flacco, however, their entry into the starting lineup was greatly enhanced by strong running games and solid defenses. The coaching staffs for the Falcons and the Ravens did a fabulous job of protecting their young passers and minimizing expectations. The Ravens, of course, have enjoyed a terrific defense for years and haven't asked their starting quarterback to do much but not lose the game since the Trent Dilfer era. Not surprisingly, the Ravens relied on a ball-control offense (they led the NFL in rushing attempts) and Flacco enjoyed success. Similarly, the Falcons were fortunate to have enjoyed one of the greatest first year free agent additions of all time with the 1,699 rushing yards from Michael Turner.

Unfortunately for the three first round rookie quarterbacks this year, they won't be entering similar situations. Matthew Stafford, he of the cannon arm and three years starting experience in the ultra-athletic SEC, would appear to be the most ready for the NFL. He also boasts one of the great young receivers in the game in Calvin Johnson, a decent backfield in Kevin Smith and Maurice Morris and a better offensive line than many suggest. What he doesn't have is a reliable defense behind him (Detroit finished dead last in total defense in 2008) or a coach likely to turn over his new team to a rookie. Jim Schwartz's defensive background suggests that he'll try to win via ball-control and may need time to warm to the idea of playing with a cocky gun-slinger like Stafford. The #1 overall pick is likely to earn playing time as a rookie, but he'll struggle and the Lions aren't so foolish as to ruin him with a disastrous first season.

Ironically enough, Mark Sanchez may be in the best position to start immediately. Like Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, Sanchez will be going to a club with a strong running game and a talented defense. Head coach Rex Ryan has the confidence (or is it arrogance?) to attempt to duplicate the success he saw from rookie Flacco last season as Baltimore's defensive coordinator. With only one season as a starter at USC, Sanchez isn't ready to start in the NFL, but the biggest reason why he flew up the board in the weeks before the draft was the realization teams had of Sanchez's high football IQ and remarkable ability to rarely make the same mistake twice. Some scouts I trust characterized him as "a natural" and the most ready of this year's QBs to make an impact.

In terms of physical ability, Josh Freeman is as ready for the NFL as Stafford or Sanchez. However, the single greatest concern I had regarding Freeman, when scouting him pre-draft, was his tendency to lock onto receivers and not throw until he saw they were open. Unless he suddenly progresses from this state with only one training camp under his belt, I expect he'll do the same in the NFL -- and struggle terribly in doing so. Without a dominant running game or defense, I see Freeman being far and away the least ready of the three first round QBs to start.

By Rob Rang  |  July 1, 2009; 3:21 PM ET  | Category:  Draft , New York Jets Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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