Combine height: 6-2 1/8
Combine weight: 227 pounds
Combine 40 time: 4.88 seconds
Sanchez threw for 3,207 yards and 34 touchdowns against 10 interceptions as a junior, capped by a record-setting 413-yard, four-TD effort in the Rose Bowl. For his career (16 starts), Sanchez threw for 3,965 yards and 41 touchdowns against 16 interceptions, completing 64.3 percent of his passes and posting a quarterback rating of 153.9. Sanchez also rushed for 188 yards and four touchdowns.
With Matt Stafford choosing to sit this one out, Sanchez capitalized on his opportunity at the Combine. Scouts raved about the way the ball came out of his hand, and while his arm isn’t quite in Stafford’s class there is little question he can make all the necessary throws at the NFL level. But it’s not just Sanchez’s arm that has scouts buzzing—nor is it the accuracy that allowed him to complete almost two-thirds of his pass attempts last year. What sets Sanchez apart is his anticipation and ability to read defenses and recognize blitzes. Sanchez rarely throws into coverage and scouts marvel at how he delivers a catchable ball, often releasing it before the receiver makes his move.
Of course, hitting the bigger targets USC offered against Pac-10 competition is one thing; completing those same passes in the much smaller windows the NFL will offer may be another thing altogether. Critics return to Sanchez’s lack of experience and there’s no question he’s still a work in progress. But his intangibles, work ethic, and physical tools certainly suggest he has all the prerequisites to make it in the NFL.
Menu and meal timing—Matt Stafford had a steak dinner with the Lions, Sanchez had a sandwich lunch with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan—suggest that Sanchez still trails Stafford on the one draft board that matters. The Matt Cassel trade suggests the Chiefs won’t be bidding for his services, but that doesn’t mean a team with a quarterback need—the Broncos if Jay Cutler is dealt?—won’t deal up to that spot with their eye on Sanchez. The Jaguars at eight and the 49ers at 10 would also seem like logical potential destinations, and if it’s Sanchez spending his Saturday in the green room there are teams in the middle of the draft—the Jets (17), Bears (18), and Bucs (19)—willing to usher him to the main stage.
Not to beat a dead horse, but Sanchez—like Stafford—seems ill-equipped to replicate the immediate success Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco had last season. That said, because Stafford is more likely to be the earlier draft pick it’s possible that Sanchez will go to a team with a better supporting cast—which, in turn, would put him in a better position to succeed. Of course, “success” for a rookie quarterback is a relative term; even if Sanchez matches the productivity of Ryan, last season’s Rookie of the Year, he’s still a borderline fantasy starter at best.
Keeper and dynasty leaguers don’t necessarily need the instant impact, and there is plenty of upside to Sanchez’s game. He started just 16 games at USC, but that’s 16 more than Cassel and he’s translated time in the Trojan offense into success at the NFL level. Being an underclassman might mean his learning curve is a little longer than fifth-year seniors like Ryan and Flacco, but the potential is unquestionably there.