Around the AFC East, Week 1: New York Jets

Each Friday during the off-season, Buffalo Rumblings dedicates our front-page space to learning a bit more about the inner workings of the Buffalo Bills' three biggest rivals - our AFC East counterparts.  We start our festivities this morning with a discussion on Jets rookiei QB Mark Sanchez with John B of Gang Green Nation.

Though they emerged from the 2009 NFL Draft with just three drafted rookies in tow, the New York Jets made one of the biggest splashes on draft weekend by trading up to No. 5 overall to select USC QB Mark Sanchez.  The move immediately gave the Jets a legitimate starting quarterback - and even though growing pains are expected, the move was a smart one for the formerly quarterback-starved Jets.

Over at SB Nation's Jets blog, however, the pre-draft notion of trading multiple picks and players for a pick high enough to select a QB was met coolly by some bloggers; once the deed was done, John B's initial reaction was "not thrilled".  Naturally, I had to ask John about said reaction right out of the gate in our first 2009 installment of 'Around the AFC East'.

John, you were pretty vocal pre-draft about your opinion that the Jets should NOT trade up for a quarterback this year.  Has your viewpoint changed any in the post-draft mania surrounding Mark Sanchez?  Would you have done anything differently on draft day?

John B: I did not hate the move, but I definitely have reservations. Jets fans tend to be pretty impatient. In this decade alone, the fan base has anointed Chad Pennington, Eric Mangini, Kellen Clemens, and Brett Favre as saviors and turned quickly on them when they failed to deliver the team to the promised land. This rookie quarterback is going to have the same expectations. A lot of fans are going to expect him to produce right away. Given the track record of junior quarterbacks lacking game experience in the Draft, this could be a bit much to ask. I worry they could turn on Sanchez before he really has a chance. He will require time and patience.

The other thing that bugged me was the Kellen Clemens factor. The Jets loved this guy three years ago when he was coming out of Oregon and are now giving up on him without ever seeing whether he could play. He made eight starts with no running game behind a patchwork offensive line in 2007. Even as he struggled, he was disproportionally good in clutch situations. I would have rather given him a year to make sure he was not the answer before rolling the dice on a first round quarterback. At worst, the Jets could have looked at 2010's deep Draft class at the position.

The move I probably would have made would be to take Michael Crabtree after trading up with Cleveland. There are players who profile similarly to Sanchez every year. Prospects like Crabtree do not come around as often. He would have provided a major boost to a position lacking depth and given Clemens an extra tool to succeed.

I must admit this opinion puts me in the minority among Jets fans. There is a lot to like about Sanchez. He seems to have a good head on his shoulders and has already left teammates impressed with his work ethic. I am happy the team moved up to grab him instead of a complete project like Josh Freeman, and considering the circumstances, the compensation to Cleveland was not too costly. I understand why the Jets made the decision, and I think there is a decent chance it pays dividends. If your question is whether I would have made the same move, however, the answer is probably not.

***

There's very little in the world of football that leaves me more satisfied than a fan of a hated rival that shows a little caution in his or her optimism.  Props to John for keeping it real on Sanchez - the post-draft buzz surrounding his selection was a little ludicrous, in my opinion, and Steve Young labeling Sanchez 'Presidential' was laughable.  I'll say it now - I think, and I thought throughout the entire pre-draft process, that Sanchez was the best quarterback in the draft class.  But this kid won't have rookie year success like Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco did.

I hate to admit it, but as strange and unprecedented as the trade itself was (the Jets gave up Nos. 17 and 52 this year, plus three players - DE Kenyon Coleman, QB Brett Ratliff and S Abram Elam), I thought the Jets absolutely fleeced the Browns on the deal.  I'd have traded three marginal pros and two semi-valuable draft picks for a shot at answering my most important roster question with a highly promising rookie and laughed at the imbecile who allowed me to do it once the deal was done.  Still... this is a gamble that the Jets are taking, and it's not likely to pay off for at least a year.

What say you, Bills fans, about Sanchez and his rookie season prospects?  Can he keep the Jets competitive in an improving division?

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