Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by Jeff Dumont. Follow him on Twitter @jeffd119.
Denver began this offseason with the NFL’s most uncertain quarterback situation. … Losing Peyton Manning to retirement was expected but having Brock Osweiler sign with the Texans days later sent John Elway scrambling to find an answer. The very next day, Elway sent a 7th round pick to Philly for Mark Sanchez. A month after that, the Broncos traded their 1st- and 3rd-round picks to move up five slots and take their guy, Paxton Lynch, sniping the Dallas Cowboys in the process. The Broncos are now faced with a QB camp battle that will determine the fate of their season, as well as the fates of those drafting Sanchez and Lynch in 2QB fantasy football formats.
The Case for Denver (and You) to Start Mark Sanchez
While it’s clear Mark Sanchez is the bridge QB that leads to the Paxton Lynch era in Denver, how long is this bridge? In the immortal words of Herm Edwards, “You play to win the game!” It’s no secret the Broncos have one of the best defenses in the NFL, ranking 1st last year and 3rd in 2014 while retaining all their key players for a run this season. Looking back at Mark Sanchez’s first two NFL seasons in ‘09 and ‘10, the Jets defense ranked 1st and 3rd respectively. During that run, Mark Sanchez had a record of 19-12 with two straight trips to the AFC Conference Championship game.
While his career has been a roller coaster since then, Sanchez has rebounded toward respectability these past two seasons, despite a dysfunctional Chip Kelly regime in Philadelphia. In 13 appearances (10 starts), Sanchez managed a completion percentage of 64.3% with a 15:15 TD:INT ratio. While not mind-bending by any measure, this is exactly what a game manager is expected to do in today’s NFL. Looking at what the Broncos had last year in Manning/Osweiler (combined 19:23 TD:INT ratio and completion percentage of 60.7%), it’s not crazy to think Sanchez is actually an upgrade at QB for the Super Bowl champs.
Consider also that Denver has a much better (read: winning) environment than Philadelphia and a better set of offensive weapons. It’s not hard to envision Sanchez really taking off under these circumstances and holding onto the starting gig well into the season, and perhaps, the entire year.
The Case to Draft Paxton Lynch in Your 2QB/Superflex League
Teams do not give up valued commodities like a 3rd-round draft pick just to move up five spots unless they are absolutely sold on the player. General Manager John Elway has proven to be an excellent talent evaluator, especially at the QB position where he apparently emphasizes height more than most general managers (Manning 6’5, Lynch 6’6, Osweiler 6’7). Lynch projects to be a tough, gritty pocket passer with above average athleticism and a strong, accurate arm. It’s easy to draw Lynch comparisons to none other than John Elway, and, in today’s NFL, mobility within the pocket and the ability to scramble for first downs is more important than ever. No wonder Elway drafted the guy, especially considering the immobile statues he had previously in Manning and Osweiler.
Lynch is raw. Inconsistent and streaky in college, he needs time to adjust to an offense where he will be asked to snap the ball from under center the majority of the time. Throwing him into the fire right away would be careless and that’s the reason Mark Sanchez was named the starter. How fast Lynch picks up the offense is up to him and the coaching staff, but in a perfect world, the Broncos would use 2016 as a redshirt season. Of course, this isn’t a perfect world and I would set the odds at 50/50 he makes at least one start this season. It would require a Sanchez faceplant, which is certainly possible considering his track record.
The combination of Manning and Osweiler finished the 2015 season as QB19, sandwiched between Tyrod Taylor and Andy Dalton. That is the absolute floor we’re looking at with a Sanchez/Lynch platoon. With a floor of a solid QB2, these two Broncos signal callers represent great value with current ADPs of QB26 for Sanchez and undrafted for Lynch. For now, the rookie is worth owning because he is essentially free.
QB Camp Battle Verdict
Denver has one of the very few QB situations worthy of a handcuff in 2QB leagues. Drafters could be rewarded for using a roster spot on either or both Broncos quarterbacks while taking a wait-and-see approach. If the Broncos stay over .500 and within a game of 1st place in the division, Sanchez will not lose the job. If it’s clear the Broncos are falling out of the playoff race, the switch to Lynch will be made. With a season win total set at 9 in Vegas and early money on the over, the Sanchize’s leash may be quite a bit longer than people think. As strange as it sounds, 2QBers can draft Mark Sanchez with confidence. For those who are more risk-averse, buy into the insurance plan that is Paxton Lynch (and cut him after the Broncos start 3-1).