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The Rise and Fall of Mark Sanchez

Yes, I know. I used the words Mark Sanchez and fantasy relevance in the same sentence. I very much doubt anyone is looking at Sanchez for his or her fantasy team this year. Not even as a bye week replacement. It would be absurd to even suggest such a thing. However, just one short year ago he was coming off a top-10 finish as a fantasy quarterback. Believe it or not, that is a factual statement. Sanchez has gone from fantasy hopeful, to fantasy relevant, to fantasy irrelevant in just four short years. Let’s journey through his first four years in the NFL and examine the rise and fall of Sanchez.

Season 1
Fantasy Hopeful – In 2009, coach Rex Ryan used his first ever draft pick as head coach of the New York Jets to select quarterback Mark Sanchez out of USC. With that pick he envisioned he and Sanchez building a yearly contender around his defensive prowess and the young quarterback.

In that first year, Sanchez was successful despite his paltry statistical numbers. In fact, against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, the Jets had an 11-point lead with less than two minutes remaining in the first half of the 2010 AFC championship game. However, the Jets never scored another point in that game and lost by the score of 30-17. That concluded Sanchez’s rookie campaign. Sanchez threw for 2,444 yards, 12 touchdowns, 20 interceptions that year and was sacked 26 times. Hardly a great year statistically speaking. Actually a subpar year if graded on statistics alone.

The Jets defense was the talk of the town and finished No. 1 overall for 2009. Sanchez’s biggest role that rookie season mostly required him to stay out of trouble and keep mistakes to a minimum, allowing the defense to win games. Despite his 20 interceptions, of which five came in one game, that’s exactly what he did. But in the end the lack of experience was just too much to cross that final hurdle in the playoffs. It’s debatable as to whether he was worthy of a bye week replacement even in a 12-team fantasy league. His 2009 fantasy finish, according to scoring methods, was 22nd overall for quarterbacks.

Season 2
Fantasy Potential – Sanchez and company led the Jets to an 11-5 record and a second consecutive AFC championship game. After trailing by as many as 21 points, a Sanchez-orchestrated comeback fell just short in the final minutes as they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers by five, 24-19. This is the year Sanchez became known to the New York media as “The Sanchize.”

Again, the Jets rode the back of a strong defense, third in the NFL, as well as an improved Sanchez. Sanchez bolstered his numbers that year to a respectable 3,291 yards, 17 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and 27 sacks. A significant increase in stats from his rookie season. He led the Jets to six game-winning drives, which is something you expect from a seasoned veteran. The future was looking very bright for Sanchez as he fell one drive short of leading his team to the Super Bowl. Sanchez earns his keep as a viable bye week replacement in all formats. His 2010 fantasy finish, according to scoring methods, was 18th overall for quarterbacks.

Season 3
Fantasy Relevant – Sanchez accomplished his best statistical year to-date. He threw for 3,474 yards, 26 touchdowns, 18 interceptions and was sacked 39 times, which was good for fifth-most in the NFL. He again leads his team on four more game-winning drives. That’s 10 game-winning drives in those last two years. The Jets defense takes a step back as Ryan hands over playcalling duties to defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. The Jets defense falls to 20th in the NFL in points allowed per game.

Despite Sanchez’s stats, things start to unravel within the Jets organization. Internal strife strikes the locker room. Santonio Holmes and other teammates openly criticize offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s system. Holmes even eventually gets benched after arguing with teammates in the huddle of a late-season game. Sanchez’s work ethic also comes into question by an anonymous teammate. Several of his offensive linemen promptly come to his side to discredit such accusations. Tempers flair as Ryan’s preseason Super Bowl guarantee is nothing more than a distant memory as the Jets finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs for the first time in three years.

Little does anyone know that as bad as things seem internally they are about to go off the chart via the New York media in just a few short months. Sanchez elevates his play to a starting quarterback role in many fantasy leagues as he jumps into the fantasy top-10. His fantasy finish, according to scoring methods, is 10th overall for quarterbacks in 2011.

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