Mark Sanchez knows a thing or two about first-round quarterbacks. Eleven years ago, the former USC star went fifth overall in the 2009 NFL Draft, kicking off a 10-year career that included two AFC Championship Game appearances, five seasons as the face of the New York Jets and five more as a No. 2 with historic franchises like the Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.
Now, "The Sanchize" is spinning his own experience as a top draft prospect and NFL QB to assess and coach up the next generation of signal-callers. As part of a new three-part YouTube series from Showtime Sports and Sanchez's "4th and Forever" podcast, the retired QB is sitting down with three of the top passers in the 2020 draft -- Oregon's Justin Herbert, Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Utah State's Jordan Love, all of whom could find NFL homes on Thursday night.
In celebration of the show, "The Intangibles with Mark Sanchez," and the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft, Sanchez spoke with CBS Sports about everything from this year's QB class to his predictions for the coming NFL season.
CBS Sports: What's the biggest thing that stood out from sitting down with these three QBs?
Mark Sanchez: Well, one, they're all pretty humble guys. They all understand that everything they're doing serves as a next step for their life -- and the magnitude and domino effect of all of their decisions from this point forward. When we met, you could tell they chose their words pretty carefully. You've got to break the ice with them, and that's not always easy. You know, some of them are still doing school, they've got people tugging at 'em and pulling at 'em.
For me, I was upfront with them, reminding them, 'I can be your bud; we can talk.' It was a very similar role to the way I was with Dak Prescott and Mitch Trubisky. I explained to them, 'Hey, I'm all about having a good time, but I also want to help you. If I watch you and what I see sucks, then I tell you. And if at any point you don't want that, just tell me to shut up; it won't hurt my feelings.' You can tell when a kid wants to be better, when they're hungry to learn and develop, and that's how they were. It makes it fun.
CBS: Do you think things have changed since you came into the league as far as these guys coming in prepared, at least from a public relations standpoint, and presenting themselves as ready to lead a team?
Sanchez: Well, social media, I think, has helped and hurt these players. In some ways people better understand these are kids, seeing what they post. But they've still got to remember you're a 21- or 22-year-old kid and people expect you to make executive decisions like you're a 65-year-old Supreme Court judge. And from the team perspective, that's not realistic every time. They're going to go out with friends, they're going to go out to a bar, they're going to meet a girl. They're kids! They're like everyone else their age, except with the weight of the world on them. They have to understand that, too. Like, if you're going to take the free meal at the restaurant, well, people might want to take a picture and get an autograph, too. So if you're going to complain about pictures and autographs, don't always take the free meal.
CBS: In terms of Herbert, Tagovailoa and Love, specifically, how do you evaluate them as QB prospects?
Sanchez: What I try to do is a one-up and a one-forward -- a one-up is something they do well, a one-forward is something they need to improve upon.
Love, he's got freaky arm talent. He can throw off his base. Great instincts. His one-forward would be decision-making, especially as the play develops -- getting smarter and smarter as the play goes on. I reminded him, and these were coaching points I heard growing up, when you hold that football, you hold the weight of the hopes and dreams of that entire franchise. Every single play. Sixty-plus times a game. What are you going to do with it? He threw a bunch of interceptions in college, but you've got to understand he lost nine starters around him, had a new offensive coordinator. Patrick Mahomes threw a bunch of interceptions in college, too, and then he got with the right coordinator, got to see somebody like Alex Smith, and it changed him a little bit.
With Herbert, he's big, fast, strong. The ball comes out of his hands like a JUGS machine. It's incredible. It's a tight spiral, and this thing can go 10 miles. There's no physical issues. And you just realize, when you sit down with him, he's so selfless. He's a soft-spoken guy, more of a stoic lead-by-example guy. And the players love him. He's more of a Joe Flacco, Carson Palmer kind of guy. And people kind of knocked him for that, but you should get him on the board. This dude speaks the language fast, man. He speaks it fast and he speaks it clear. It's articulated well. He's a very, very bright kid. You've just got to get him in the right situation. It wouldn't hurt him to go through a full season watching someone like Aaron Rodgers.
Tua, his only issue is being healthy. The one-up for him, oh my gosh. He has such a high football IQ. He does well pre-snap, but he really is a post-snap, instinctive player. Sometimes it's hard for people to understand how he did what he did, and it's harder for him to even explain it, because his instincts are so uncanny. His arm and his processing skills are twitchy. It's so special.
CBS: If Tua didn't have the injury concerns, how much do you think that would change his draft stock?
Sanchez: I think it might be a no-brainer, taking him first. They might've beaten LSU, and that changes the whole trajectory.
CBS: Speaking of LSU, Joe Burrow is the consensus No. 1 pick and QB. How close are these other guys to him?
Sanchez: As long as you get one of these guys with a fifth-year option, I think you're OK. Any of them can take off. Like, Love might have the most ground to cover, but if he blows up like Mahomes, then you hope he's not in the Dak Prescott situation where he doesn't have the fifth-year option -- the Cowboys would love to have that right now. Joe Burrow's the same as these guys in that he's got flaws. You know, everything was just so perfect his last year, you wonder: When are you going to have a receiving corps like that again? Alabama sort of tanked at the end of the year, so the SEC was up for grabs. Has he already reached his ceiling? He's not the biggest, not the fastest, doesn't have the best arm. They've all got their flaws.
CBS: How would you compare the 2020 QBs, either individually or as a group, to top QB prospects of the last five years -- from Kyler Murray to Baker Mayfield to Sam Darnold and so forth?
Sanchez: Oh, it's a solid group. Just like every year, this time of year is where you start poking holes, finding chinks in their armor, asking, 'What's wrong with this guy?' People want to see all the bad. Whether it was Darnold, saying there was not enough of a sample size -- it was the same with me coming out of college -- or durability and height issues with Kyler Murray, there's a ton of questions each year. It's just who are you willing to bet on. You pay these quarterbacks less now than you had to before, then build around them. All of these guys this year are worth a swing.
CBS: Who would be some NFL comparisons for these guys?
Sanchez: That's tough, because as soon as you say a name, if you don't like it, then it becomes a negative for the prospect. Just the frame of Herbert, he's so big and ran a sub-4.7, I see Carson Wentz in the frame, but this kid's also faster, he's quicker, played against much better competition, not nearly as injury prone. Tua, he goes through his process more like Drew Brees during the snap, as he goes through progressions.
CBS: Oregon has a pretty, with some major first-round picks that didn't pan out. Is that something to be concerned about regarding Herbert, or is it as simple as he's completely his own player?
Sanchez: I don't think the school has too much to do with it. Obviously, he's got to be in the right situation. But his arm, his skills, his intelligence, man, something good's got to happen. How good, I don't know, but he's got the potential.
CBS: Of all the top QB prospects, who's impacting their team the most in Year One?
Sanchez: In terms of who could use a year to watch and learn, I'd say maybe Burrow the least, Tua the second least, Herbert the third least and Love the fourth least. All of them would benefit from watching somebody go through the motions, from having a solid veteran in front of them. Also, Tua, for sure, I think you should just let him watch this season, because you want him to be 100 percent healthy. You don't want any injuries your rookie year, because that sets you back so much, not only physically but mentally.
CBS: On top of that, how much do you believe the ongoing pandemic will affect their first offseason?
Sanchez: The toughest part is a lot of the ways these guys are learning is this virtual, Zoom stuff, and who knows what they're really retaining? And those interpersonal relationships with the team, you don't get a chance to build that rapport right away. Like rookie camp, you can go, and you get to insert yourself as a leader of that rookie class. Now, you're doing everything on a Zoom call? It's weird. You lose the human-to-human contact. It's got to be tough.
CBS: As we approach the draft, do you buy the rumors that Justin Herbert could be the second QB off the board?
Sanchez: Oh, he's definitely picked up some momentum. And listen, if a team wants to let him sit for a year, I don't think you move up to pick him to make him play right away. If you look at a team like the Raiders, or someone with an established starter -- the Saints, or Green Bay -- that's the best move for someone like him. Let him sit and learn -- like Rodgers with Brett Favre, Mahomes with Alex Smith.
CBS: As a whole, when evaluating these QBs or just recounting lessons you learned in your career, what's the No. 1 trait a QB can have entering the NFL?
Sanchez: It's between the ears, because at this point they have the prerequisites physically, right? You've got to be able to move, throw -- now, there's always going to be a little bit of give and take there; some guys are going to throw it harder and farther. But you've got to be tough, and it's mentally tough more than anything. I hear guys when they're talking about adversity say, 'Oh, I went through this one time in college.' I'm like, 'One time?' Man, get ready for every time.