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Jets' Sanchez merits a look in later rounds

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Posted July 17, 2012 @ 3:02 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Drafting Jets QB Mark Sanchez does not figure a priority for many fantasy owners, if it is even given any thought whatsoever. In smaller leagues, owners may simply steer clear of Sanchez.

In leagues of 12 teams or more, however, Sanchez becomes a viable backup option — and one who could prove a pleasant surprise.

Let’s start with the knocks on Sanchez. For starters, there’s a chance he could lose his starting job to Tim Tebow. That’s a material issue to ponder. So, too, is the possibility of Tebow getting enough snaps per game to decrease Sanchez’s fantasy value.

There’s more. Sanchez is not a precise passer; his 56.7 percent completion rate a season ago was a career-high but a little more than three points lower than the league average (60.1). Also, Sanchez will be adjusting to a new scheme this season, and he does not have an especially talent-laden supporting cast.

But Sanchez has his merits. He set career-highs in passing yards (3,474) and TD passes (26) in 2011, and he finished 10th in total fantasy points (240.10) and 12th in fantasy points per game (15.01) among quarterbacks, per PFW’s scoring system.

One reason why Sanchez ranked fairly well in the points-scored categories in 2011: he had a half-dozen rushing touchdowns — the same total as one Tim Tebow. Tebow, of course, had a huge rushing-yards edge (660-103) on Sanchez, and it’s reasonable to believe that some of the short-yardage opportunities that Sanchez got a season ago, when all six of his TDs were scored from five yards and in, will now go to his new backup.

However, new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano would be wise to keep in a designed rush or two in the playbook for Sanchez. Half of Sanchez's 2011 rushing TDs came on a draw out of the shotgun formation, with another pair coming on play-action bootlegs to the right. The other score was a play-action bootleg to the left against Kansas City that resulted in his easiest touchdown of the season.

Sanchez isn’t particularly quick, and he doesn’t have Tebow’s power and strength, but he’s athletic enough to get a few yards if the defense doesn’t expect him to run — and who’s going to expect that this season?

In 89 mock drafts tracked by in the last two weeks, Sanchez’s average draft position has been 187.56, placing him 21st among quarterbacks. Taken that low, he could provide a nice return on investment. He has missed just one game in three seasons, and five of the Jets' first eight games of 2012 are against clubs that finished in the bottom half of the NFL in yards per pass play allowed last season.

I could also see a case for Tebow being selected in fantasy drafts. Here are five scenarios in which he could have particular appeal:

• You’re in a league where owners start a pair quarterbacks.

• You’re in a very big league — and Sanchez is your starter.

• You’re wiling to gamble a roster spot on him eventually winning the job. Tebow averaged slightly more fantasy points than Sanchez did in 2011 (15.36), placing 11th among quarterbacks.

• You’re convinced Tebow could become an every-game scoring threat even as a backup.

• You’re in a league where at least one other owner is a huge Tebow fan, thus allowing you to perhaps strike a favorable deal.

I have no qualms with someone taking Tebow in the closing-time stages of a draft.

The same goes for a flier on the Jets' starter, too.

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