Sanchez flashed quickly, starting right away and taking the Jets to the AFC Championship Game, but a quarter of the way into his third season, one thing has become very clear.
“Sanchez is a distant third to those other two guys," said Tony Softli, who worked in the personnel departments of the Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams.
The Jets are off to a 2-2 start and Sanchez has put up anemic numbers (six touchdowns, five interceptions and 1,005 passing yards).
“He's holding that team back now," said Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson, who previously worked in Cleveland's front office. “People say I'm a Sanchez hater now. But the funny thing is, I liked him the best of the three before that draft because I thought he had 'it.' When he went to the Jets, I stopped liking him so much because I don't think he has the physical ability to play in the kind of weather you get in New York."
But Sanchez had to be doing something right to get to those two AFC Championship Games, didn't he?
“Sanchez fell into a situation where he came to a team that had a good running game and good receivers," Softli said. “He just had to manage a game, and now things seem to have changed. I don't think he's a guy that can win on his own and win big. Can he develop into that? Probably yes. But he's not there yet."
Funny, but Stafford and Freeman, who started much more slowly, have soared right past Sanchez. Freeman, who showed lots of promise in a 2010 season that was his first as the full-time starter, has the Bucs sitting at 3-1 and tied with the New Orleans Saints for first place in the NFC South. Stafford, who dealt with injuries in his first two seasons, is healthy and that's a major reason the Lions are 4-0 for the first time since 1980.
So who's the best quarterback from the Class of 2009?
“You're splitting hairs on that one because they're both the kind of guys you want to build a franchise around," Williamson said. “There are probably six elite quarterbacks in the league right now and Stafford and Freeman can get there. I'd take them over guys like Michael Vick, Tony Romo and Eli Manning. I love them both, but I'd say Stafford right now. Stafford might throw the ball better than anyone in the league other than Aaron Rodgers. He's got velocity, he's on target and he can do it with people all over him. I take him because he's a little more pin-point than Freeman."
Softli's high on Stafford as well, but said he thinks Freeman is the best of the Class of 2009.
“Josh has freakish size and athletic ability," Softli said. “But, in the 15 years, I said in interviews and meetings with quarterback prospects, Sam Bradford was the smartest guy I ever saw and Josh was a very close second. I mean, Matt Ryan, Tim Tebow and Joe Flacco are in my top five in that department, but Josh and Sam were clearly above them. So much of playing quarterback is about intelligence. That's why I'm going with Freeman. He's got more fourth-quarter comebacks. He's also a runner, a great leader and he's remained healthy throughout. His will to win is absolutely exceptional."
Sounds like we might have to bend that rule of thumb a bit and give Stafford and Freeman a little more time to sort things out before claiming a winner from the Class of 2009.
Quarterback | San Francisco 49ers ... Next Game: 10/9 vs. TB
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft never turned into the franchise quarterback many expected. He's been yanked in and out of the starting lineup by a series of different coaches. He's back starting these days with Jim Harbaugh as the coach. The 49ers quietly are off to a 3-1 start. Smith's not doing anything outrageous, but he's playing smart and not turning the ball over. That's good enough to keep Smith in the starting lineup. And if he continues playing like he has, the 49ers could win the NFC West.
Quarterback | New York Giants ... Next Game: 10/9 vs. SEA
This guy is never going to get the adoration his brother Peyton has. But too many people sell him short. Manning threw two touchdown passes in a 58-second span to get a win against Arizona on Sunday. He's thrown for six touchdowns and no interceptions in his past two games. A lot of people were writing the Giants off when they were piling up all those injuries in the preseason. But they're 3-1 and that's largely due to Manning.
Quarterback | Minnesota Vikings... Next Game: 10/9 vs. ARI
Andy Reid and Mike Shanahan are pretty smart football coaches and they both wrote McNabb off. That didn't stop the Vikings from signing him and handing him the starting job. Maybe Leslie Frazier should have taken hints from the veteran coaches who let McNabb go. This guy was a great quarterback once upon a time. But those days are long gone. McNabb can't win games anymore. Look around the league. Rookies Cam Newton and Andy Dalton are doing well. The Vikings aren't going anywhere this year. It's time to get rookie Christian Ponder on the field.
Quarterback | Denver Broncos ... Next Game: 10/9 vs. SD
Yeah, Denver fans are chanting his name. But the Broncos still have Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn ahead of Tebow on the depth chart. Those fans are wasting their time. I covered John Fox throughout his time in Carolina and he might be the most stubborn coach ever. He's not sure Tebow even should be an NFL quarterback, so there's no way he's going to suddenly hand him the ball. Remember, Fox is a guy who stuck with Jake Delhomme for two years after it became obvious that act had run its course. He's going to stick with Orton and, if he eventually does something, it will be giving Quinn a try. Fox once coaxed Vinny Testaverde out of retirement because he feels safer with a veteran. Tebow's never going to be the starting quarterback in Denver while Fox is there.