LOS ANGELES — For some, a pro day workout is one of the last chances to put potential NFL talent on display. For others, especially the more established prospects, it’s more about the experience.
Count USC quarterback Mark Sanchez in that second group.
The consensus at USC on Wednesday was that Sanchez had an excellent performance in front of a full house that included NFL scouts and coaches, family and friends, and even a few fans in the stands. He showed balance, solid footwork and most importantly, accuracy on all of his throws. He estimated that he threw about 80 passes — a strong number for a pro day workout.
There were even whispers that Sanchez’s pro day was better than that of Georgia’s Matt Stafford. Again, whispers. But Sanchez was confident and effortless, and did nothing but help himself.
“I think he showed better arm strength than people generally give him,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “He’s not Stafford, he’s not [Kansas State's Josh] Freeman; but his arm is every bit as good as Matt Ryan‘s. And as Matt Ryan showed this year, when you’re accurate and you show good anticipation, a good arm is good enough. That’s what Matt is, and that’s what Mark Sanchez is. What he showed is consistency.”
If his draft stock is indeed rising, as it appears to be, Sanchez says it’s due to his competitiveness.
“I think a lot of it has just been my competitive nature, that’s really come to the forefront,” Sanchez said. “I think my willingness to work out for everyone, to make every throw. We had a set script coming into this, and a couple teams wanted to tweak it a little bit and add some throws here and there. I said, ‘No problem, let’s do it.’ And I nailed it. I think that attitude is really showing.”
Sanchez did add to his throwing script, and the Lions were one of the teams that requested some extra looks. Sanchez will have a private visit with the Lions in about two weeks.
A college quarterback with only 16 starts might raise red flags, but part of the draw on Sanchez is his ability to learn quickly, and his willingness to do everything teams ask of him. He went through a full workout at the combine — doing every drill — and showed that competitive nature again today.
“I’ll tell you right now, that means something to these NFL guys,” Mayock said. “He’s not hiding anything, he’s not guarding anything. I really think he stepped up today and showed that he has confidence in his ability and he executed on it. I think he had a great day.”
The caveat, of course, is that quarterbacks better look good at their pro day.
“I’ve never seen a guy not complete 99.9 percent of his passes against air,” one general manager commented.
Sanchez effectively sidestepped a question about where he’ll be picked in the first round, but used the word “honor” about being the No. 1 pick. He’s more concerned about being in the right system and being with the right team than draft number. Yes, he’s saying all the right things. Yet the indications are from those in the know that Sanchez could be picked anywhere among the top 20 picks — and it wouldn’t be a shock.
It’s beginning to look as we get closer to draft day that Sanchez could prove to be an early wild card of the draft.