Jets jump 12 spots to draft Sanchez, expect QB to compete for top job

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets have their franchise quarterback.

The Jets selected USC star Mark Sanchez with the fifth overall pick of the NFL draft Saturday after trading with the Cleveland Browns to leap from the 17th spot.

Bucky Brooks on Sanchez

In an aggressive move,

the Jets pick up their quarterback of the future in Mark Sanchez. Although the former Trojan only recorded 16 starts in college, he is regarded as the quarterback prospect with the biggest upside due to his superior arm strength, accuracy and leadership skills. With extensive experience in the West Coast offense, Sanchez is in line to be the Jets' starting quarterback on opening day.

"When Mark was available at No. 5, we did what was in the best interest of the New York Jets," general manager Mike Tannenbaum said.

Sanchez, with his powerful and accurate arm and excellent field vision, immediately will compete with Kellen Clemens for the starting quarterback job one season after Brett Favre came out of retirement but struggled down the stretch as the Jets went 9-7 and missed the playoffs.

"The only thing I can say to that is I've never grown up dreaming of being a backup," Sanchez said during a conference call. "That's what it's all about, and I'm sure Kellen Clemens feels the same way, and that's what this position is all about is competing for your job, and that's all I know how to do. It'll be a great matchup for us."

The pick was the first for new Jets coach Rex Ryan, who repeatedly declared his confidence in Clemens and Brett Ratliff this offseason but believed Sanchez was too good a talent to pass up. The Jets' fondness for him only grew after seeing him at a private workout at Mission Viejo (Calif.) High School -- Sanchez's alma mater -- in March.

"We saw the great feet, the poise and how confident he was," Ryan said. "Brian (Schottenheimer, the Jets' offensive coordinator) put him through every workout known to man, and he passed every one of them with flying colors. We knew, I think, right then that this was the guy we really wanted."

The Jets acquired the pick from former coach Eric Mangini's new team, the Browns, for their first-round pick (No. 17), their second-round pick (No. 52), Ratliff, defensive end Kenyon Coleman and safety Abram Elam.

Jets owner Woody Johnson announced the news on his Twitter page, saying: "We have selected Mark Sanchez. Go Jets." Meanwhile, most of the Jets fans at the draft site at Radio City Music Hall wildly cheered despite the team giving up what in effect will be five players for one.

"Well, I think if Mr. Tannenbaum and Mr. Johnson think I'm worth it, that's great," Sanchez said. "I'm excited about the faith they have in me. Of course, you need to prove them right, and that comes with being the first guy on the practice field and being the last guy to leave."

Sanchez was considered by some to be an even greater talent than Georgia's Matthew Stafford, who went No. 1 overall to the Detroit Lions, but some teams were wary of his lack of experience. Not the Jets, who saw enough in Sanchez's 16 starts at USC to make them believe he could be the leader of the franchise.

"We wouldn't have traded up for Mark if we didn't think he had the ability to compete for the starting position," Ryan said.

Sanchez also had a message for the critics who believe he can't possibly be ready to be an NFL starter.

"I first bring up Matt Cassel. You know, he didn't even start at all at SC and didn't start since high school, and look what he's doing," Sanchez said of the Kansas City Chiefs' quarterback. "He's doing so well for himself. That would be one thing I'd say. I'd say also that when the Jets handed me their playbook, I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of our own plays in there and very similar concepts and ideas and reads.

"That's important to have that knowledge already and just change around a couple of terms here and there, a little terminology change, and I'll be running the same exact plays."

Sanchez threw for 3,965 yards and 41 touchdowns and excelled in USC's pro style offensive system. The Jets were impressed by Sanchez, who had one year as a starter after sitting at USC behind John David Booty. Sanchez won the job last season and led the Trojans to a victory over Penn State in the Rose Bowl, passing for 413 yards and earning offensive MVP honors.

Sanchez opted to forgo his final year of college eligibility and entered the draft, becoming the first USC quarterback to turn pro before using his eligibility since Todd Marinovich after the 1990 season. Sanchez is the first quarterback the Jets selected in the first round since they took Chad Pennington 18th overall in 2000.

Sanchez also believes he's prepared for the scrutiny of playing in New York and for a franchise that hasn't played in a Super Bowl since Joe Namath led the Jets to the title in 1969.

"The kind of pressure, you expect that," Sanchez said. "As a quarterback, that's what you signed up for. I learned how to compete and deal with pressure at SC and in a large media market in Los Angeles, and things are only going to get bigger and better."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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