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by: AnthonyP On  Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mark SanchezTotal Pro Sports – The University of Southern California, once known as “Tailback U”, has now become the premiere quarterback trade school in the world as former Trojans, and current NFL signal callers, Carson Palmer, Matt Lienart, Matt Cassell, and John David Booty once learned their crafts on the fields of sunny Troy. Thursday, USC junior Mark Sanchez was added to that list as he declared his intention to enter the NFL draft.

Undoubtedly, this decision was aided by the announcement made yesterday by Oklahoma standout Sam Bradford to remain is school for another year. Bradford’s absence in the draft left a huge hole at the top end of round one, and created an opportunity which Sanchez was not able to pass up. Going against the advice of USC Head Coach, Pete Carroll, and other NFL advisors to remain in school for his senior season, Sanchez remains excited about facing the challenges that he will experience at the next level.

“I’ve dreamed about being in the NFL since I was a kid, and I have an opportunity to realize that dream now”, Sanchez said during his press conference.

Carroll contends that it is a risk for Sanchez to leave early, citing the limited game film available for talent scouts to evaluate. With just sixteen games under his belt, Sanchez will have to rely on his physical talent, football acumen, and recent impressive showings, such as the stellar performance he posted against Penn State in Pasadena, to convince scouts that he has yet to reach his full potential and should warrant top ten draft consideration.

Had Sanchez returned for another year, I’m convinced that he would have gone no lower than number three overall in the 2010 draft, battling Bradford for the number one overall spot. As it stands now, I see Sanchez’s value starting at number ten overall, and will not slide past Chicago at number eighteen. That being said, this is an intriguing problem for several teams in the top ten.

It is clear that Sanchez has franchise quarterback ability, and would have gone much earlier if he’d spent another year fine-tuning his skills at the college level. So, what do you do if you’re St. Louis at number two, or Seattle at number four? These are teams that both have decent quarterbacks, and do have other needs, but will need to address the quarterback position within the next two to three seasons. The people running those organizations will be forced to look at each other in the eyes, amidst the mayhem within their respective draft “war rooms”, and answer this question: “If this conversation were happening in April of 2010, what would we do then?” Will they draft for the future, and allow Sanchez some time to learn from the sidelines from the likes of Mark Bulger or Matt Hasselbeck? The 49ers at number ten will definitely have a tough decision to make if he falls to them, but how willing are they to take another shot at a top ten quarterback, considering how Alex Smith has panned out? All are questions that will become clearer, as we approach April 25th.

Sanchez has a brighter future in the NFL than his Georgia counterpart, Matthew Stafford, in my estimation, though Stafford is probably more ready to play now. As a passer, Sanchez’s skills rival those of Sam Bradford, but Bradford is a bit more polished, and is more comfortable reading defenses. While Sanchez did improve dramatically since the start of the 2008 season in that department, it might have taken another year of consistent play to convince some scouts that those improvements were permanent. The game film indicates a more confident, more decisive passer later in the season than in his earlier games. It shows a kid that has supreme control of his eyes, and is able to manipulate defenses well. It shows definitively, a poised, precise passer, with a big league arm. The earlier film shows a confused quarterback, uncomfortable with pressure, making poor decisions, and forcing too many throws into coverage. I believe that he will be drafted in the top ten, based on his huge “up-side”, and someone will likely be happy to pay him while he learns and matures.

The jury is out on whether or not he will lose money in this decision, and time will tell if he follows the path of Bengals’ star Carson Palmer or of former USC first round bust, Todd Marinovich. One thing is for sure, USC will not miss a beat without Sanchez. As always, it will simply be “next man up”, in the ranks of the Trojan army.




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