Three highly touted quarterbacks headlined the QB class of 2009. Matthew Stafford went first overall to the Detroit Lions, the New York Jets took Mark Sanchez with the fifth pick after trading up and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers used the number 17 pick on Josh Freeman.
I recently had a chance to collaborate with Tampa Bay Bucs blogger Pat Nohe of The Pewter Plank and New York Jets blogger Marc Greenberg of The Jet Press on what we are calling our “quarterback forum” to look back, look ahead and evaluate Stafford, Sanchez and Freeman.
Part one of the QB Forum deals with player evaluations. The first prompt asked each of us to evaluate our own team’s quarterback, then we got a chance to evaluate the other two quarterbacks. Parts two and three will be posted over the next two days.
Evaluate your team’s own QB objectively, what has he done well so far and what is the biggest concern moving forward.
Zac (Lions) – The biggest concern with Matthew Stafford is obviously his health. Above all, a quarterback must be dependable and it is hard to argue a player is dependable when they have a hard time staying on the field. Through his first two years in the league, Stafford has played in just 13 games and has suffered three fairly significant injuries. Doctors and team officials are optimistic that this will not be a lingering problem but a lot of fans are now in “show me” mode. It is amazing that even with all the injuries it is pretty easy to see that Stafford is developing as a quarterback rather than being stunted by the adversity. The Lions won the only game that Stafford played in start to finish and lead the Bears and Jets prior to his departure in the other two games he started. Interceptions were a big problem in year one but he threw just one (compared to six touchdowns) in 2010.
Marc (Jets) – As for Sanchez, his greatest asset is his ability to rise to the occasion (no, I’m not talking about the 17 year old girl). Regardless of his performance during each of his first two seasons, and he has been spotty, the guy has been great in the playoffs.
Pat (Bucs) – Freeman has exceeded all expectations in his second year. Frankly, the bar in Tampa is historically pretty low, but Freeman went from a kid who showed a few flashes but took mostly knocks in his first season, to a legitimate second-tier NFL starter in his second. He tossed 25 touchdowns and just six picks and finished with a higher QB rating than Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan.
He still has a few problems with his release point, the ball doesn’t always come out over the top, a lot of times if he’s rushing he drops down and throws side-armed which he is athletic enough to get away with most of the time, but can also lead to some errant throws. He also can still be confused by some of the more exotic zone-blitzes that experienced D-Coordinators throw at him. Really with Freeman though he just has the “it” factor. He’s already organizing unofficial team activities with the offense, just like last year. He thrives when the game is on the line. A lot of positives.
Evaluate the other two QB’s from the ’09 draft class from your own perspective.
Zac – Count me in the group that hasn’t been won-over by Mark Sanchez. Yes, winning is the ultimate judge of a quarterback but I’m not convinced that he was an integral part of that formula. I give Sanchez credit for not messing things up for a dominant defense and good running game but not much else. He throws a nice deep ball but is too inconsistent for me to label him as one of the primary reasons the Jets have reached consecutive AFC championship games. At the same time, I don’t see any reason that he can’t develop into a very fine NFL quarterback, he just isn’t there yet.
I’m impressed with Josh Freeman because he has done so much with a very young supporting cast. He doesn’t have a LaDainian Tomlinson or a Braylon Edwards or a Santonio Holmes. Freeman has offensive weapons that are just as young as he is but hasn’t let that keep him from showing his talent. Freeman has been the best of the three at protecting the ball which gives him the best chance to be successful every time he steps on the field. He is a great combination of body and brain and will have no problem holding down the QB position in Tampa for the next decade.
Marc – Stafford = Injured.
Freeman, by all accounts, appeared to have a monster season. 26-5 TD-INT ratio? 3500 yards passing? Not bad numbers.
Pat – Matt Stafford has the bigger up-side. He’s a complete player and a prototype NFL QB. He just doesn’t ever seem to be healthy which can derail a player’s career. I really think the Lions are poised to make a leap with a healthy a Stafford, but I’m sure for a number one pick you’d like to feel a little more confident that he’ll be on the field. Still, you watch the ball come out of Stafford’s hand one time and you can’t help but be impressed.
Sanchez goes through stretches where I actually think he holds the Jets back but then he’ll have a big game and you can see why people in New York are so high on him. Like Zac, I don’t put much stock into what he did in the playoffs aside from manage games for a very good team. But when you look at his game against the Patriots in Foxboro this year, you can’t discount the 3 TD passes and more importantly, no picks either. And he does have that experience now too, which can’t be overlooked. Of the three he’s certainly seen the most, but I don’t know his game is the best.