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Spotlight: Mark Sanchez

posted by Mike Brown on Aug 6th


Mike Brown's thoughts

There might have been no louder debate in the 2011 season than the one surrounding Tim Tebow. The second year former college star had an incredible number of both staunchly supportive fans and bitter detractors on both sides of the aisle last year, helping to create a phenomenon known as "Tebowmania".

On the field, Tebow's statistics and performance were analyzed to death. Supporters called him "a winner" and touted his ability to make things happen in big moments. Detractors said his style would never work in the NFL and that the wins were a fluke and a product of a good defense. Most professional analysts broke his game apart by referencing his poor accuracy, awkward delivery, and inability to play the quarterback position in the traditional sense of the word. But in nearly every game he played, by the time the clock read 00:00, the Broncos were winners. He then led the team to an overtime playoff victory against the heavily-favored Steelers with a pinpoint-perfect touchdown bomb on the first OT play from scrimmage. The debate surrounding Tebow as the long-term answer in Denver appeared destined to last into training camp.

Meanwhile in New York, Mark Sanchez was coming off a disappointing campaign. While his statistics made him a starting-caliber fantasy quarterback for the first time, his real life decision-making and propensity to turn the ball over led to a seemingly tenuous grip on his starting spot heading into the offseason. In a curious move, however, the Jets rewarded Sanchez with a contract extension worth nearly $60 million over five years. The move was seemingly made to give Sanchez some peace of mind regarding his status with the team, and to end any speculation about whether the Jets were going to make a run at the coveted free agent Peyton Manning. That peace of mind would be short-lived.

The Denver Broncos won the bidding war to sign Manning. Tebow suddenly became expendable in Denver, and soon after Manning joined the team, Tebow was shockingly dealt to the New York Jets. The media had a field day with the move, with the most polarizing player in the league now joining a team with one of the most boisterous head coaches in the league and in a major media market.

Entering training camp, all parties involved were doing and saying all the right things. Tebow was happy to be with a team that wants him, and while he wants to start he still supports Sanchez 100%. Sanchez isn't worried about his job status and feels he is the starter, but welcomes Tebow since he'll help the team. And the coaching staff is backing Sanchez publicly - at least for now. How much of this is real, and how much is conjecture? What do we really know about this situation? And more importantly, what do they even know?

Positives

  • Sanchez was given a rather large, though some might say undeserved, contract extension at the conclusion of the 2011 season. Teams don't typically like to pay players and then put them on the bench for extended periods of time.
  • WR Plaxico Burress said Sanchez was hiding a shoulder injury for most of last season. If this is the case, then a reasonable rebound can be expected both in terms of arm strength and accuracy.
  • For all of his detractors, Sanchez totaled 32 combined touchdowns a year ago between the air and ground. Not many third year quarterbacks can say they've got a 32-touchdown campaign and two AFC Championship Game appearances under their belts.

Negatives

  • Much of Sanchez's fantasy value and subsequent high ranking last year was tied into his six rushing touchdowns. With Tebow on-board and expected to be on the field for many goal line packages, Sanchez likely won't come near that total again.
  • The yards per attempt dropped again for Sanchez, and has dropped each year since his rookie campaign. He has been given some decent weapons to work with, but he just hasn't made any significant strides in his career yet (and has actually regressed in many areas). He threw a whopping 18 interceptions, including an unsightly seven over the season's final three must-win games.
  • The Jets obviously felt they needed to address the quarterback position in some way. Granted, Tebow is being brought in to be the backup - but teams don't seek out a guy who was JUST involved in one of the loudest quarterback controversies in recent memory if they are truly comfortable with their incumbent starter.

Final thoughts

Most observers seem to feel that it's only a matter of time before Tebow takes over the starting gig from Sanchez. The theory is that the Jets wouldn't have gone out of their way to add such a significant name if they weren't also planning on giving him a shot under center. What's being lost is the fact that Sanchez has seemingly shown significant improvement this offseason and could very well carry that into the regular season, and that Tebow himself didn't exactly assert himself terribly well as a passer last season even if he does wrestle the starting gig away from the incumbent.

Some of the biggest complaints about Sanchez are his lack of consistency, poor decision-making, and the appearance that he may not ever be able to take that next step to become one of the league's efficient passers. The same could have been said years ago about not only Tebow, but also the man Sanchez shares a stadium with, Eli Manning. And while he may never bring the Jets that elusive second Super Bowl, I'm also not ready to bury a guy after three NFL seasons. Especially considering two of those seasons resulted with the Jets one game away from the Super Bowl. Sanchez wasn't simply along for the ride during those playoff runs either. He played at an elite level as the driving force behind the team getting to those games, and certainly wasn't the reason they ended up on the short end either time. He has proven several times that he can play well in a big spot; he simply needs to apply that over the course of a full season.

Entering 2012 he's still got plenty of weapons at his disposal, and this is obviously a significant season for him. It could be make or break time, especially with the large contract he just received that he'll need to live up to. The team showed that they believe in him, and now it's time for him to reward that faith. If Sanchez doesn't get off to a fast start, we could see a repeat of what happened last year in Denver when the fans who were sick of Kyle Orton clamored for Tebow until they finally got their way. The issue for fantasy owners is that Sanchez could very well reward their faith with a solid season, while still taking a huge step back in terms of fantasy production.

We can almost guarantee that the rushing scores are a thing of the past. Six rushing touchdowns from a quarterback already screams fluke. But now that the Jets added one of the better goal line options in recent memory, you can be sure that Tebow is going to be very involved in the goal line packages. Furthermore, Tebow is going to have a regular role in the offense as well. He's too valuable a player to limit him to a handful of goal line plays per game. He's going to play "between the 20s" too. Whether it's on short yardage, specialty packages, or if he'll see entire series at a time, you can be sure that Tebow will be on the field far more than a typical team's backup quarterback. So while Sanchez may show significantly more efficiency for the plays he is directly involved with, his overall compiling stats will likely suffer at the expense of New York's shiny new offensive toy.

The addition of Tebow looks to be a win for New York in terms of on-field production, and it does give them a backup quarterback with solid experience in big spots in the event that Sanchez is injured. However, I don't think he'll fully supplant Sanchez as the regular starter at any point. And if he does, I don't see him improving much upon what is already there. What's more likely in my opinion is that the addition of Tebow does just enough to benefit the Jets in-game, but pretty much crushes the fantasy value of each player on a week-to-week basis. Assuming health for both, Tebow won't play enough to be a solid fantasy option. And there will never be a game that you can pencil in the fact that Sanchez will be on the field for all of the scoring plays. It will be a maddening situation, and despite my optimism over Sanchez making strides this year, I can't recommend a guy who even in a perfect world is going to lose a large percentage of his fantasy scoring opportunities.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

FF Ninja said:

With the Jets giving Sanchez an extension they seem extremely vested in him, but with the trade for Tebow I think we should expect some special packages, especially near the goal line, which would eat into anyone's production, but that is especially the case for Sanchez. Last year he threw for 8 TDs and rushed for 6 more inside the 5 yard line. He was already not a good FF play, but if he loses that production, he'll be totally worthless. The only value here is if Tebow completely takes over, which I really doubt happens. This is a great situation to avoid.

Clifford said:

This is going to be fun.

Mark Sanchez (aka Oscar):
Many have described him as underrated. Maybe he is. In my dynasty league he ranked just below Ryan Fitzpatrick and above Roethlisberger, Freeman, and Vick. However, his game log tells the story of why fantasy players are so down on him. Only 3 games over 300 yards passing, and 8 under 200 yards passing. Roeth by comparison had five games over 300 yards passing, and only two games under 200 yards passing. So why did Sanchez outscore Roeth on the year? 6 rushing TDs to Beef's 0.

So really it's no wonder so many people view Sanchito as a lame duck.


Mark Sanchez projections

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