NEW YORK - Matthew Stafford’s mission is daunting: Lead the Detroit Lions back from the only 0-16 season in NFL history. Mark Sanchez has nearly as big a challenge: He’ll compete to replace Brett Favre.
The Lions found the centerpiece for one of the biggest rebuilding jobs in league history, taking Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford with the overall No. 1 pick in the draft Saturday. Detroit already had signed the 21-year-old Stafford to a six-year deal with $41.7 million in guarantees and a maximum value of $78 million.
Stafford, who left school a year early, is not expected to start immediately.
“I’m a competitive guy,” Stafford said. “I’m going to try to get ready as quick as I can.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself to be great anyway.”
Then the New York Jets rocked Radio City Music Hall by trading with Cleveland — and of all people, Eric Mangini, whom they fired as coach in January — for the fifth overall spot.
The Jets took the other premier quarterback in the draft, Sanchez of Southern California.
“I learned how to compete and deal with pressure at ’SC and in a large media market in Los Angeles,” Sanchez said of stepping in for the retired Favre, “and things are only going to bigger and better. It’s a very exciting time, a special time in my life, so I’m excited to get things going.”
Oddly, both drew plenty of boos and chants of “OVERRATED” to go with the many cheers.
The Lions, whose poor draft history this decade under Matt Millen eventually led to the winless season, have veteran Daunte Culpepper as the projected starter this year under new coach Jim Schwartz. That should give the 21-year-old Stafford a chance to watch and learn.
“Now, it’s up to us to develop him and get good players around him,” Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew said.
The Lions drafted tight end Brandon Pettigrew of Oklahoma State with the 20th pick overall, which they acquired from Dallas in the trade that sent wide receiver Roy Williams to the Cowboys.
Nine of the last 12 top overall picks have been quarterbacks. They have included the likes of Peyton and Eli Manning. And Tim Couch, David Carr and Alex Smith.
The massive trade saw Cleveland send its pick to New York, prompting wild cheering in the arena.
When the Jets chose Sanchez, the fans had equally vociferous positive and negative reactions.
Sanchez started for just one season at USC, leading the Trojans to a 12-1 record and a Rose Bowl victory. He had six career starts in college, and will now compete for the job of replacing Favre as the Jets’ quarterback.
“With Mark, I think he’s a special guy,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said.
New York sent the No. 17 and No. 52 overall choices, plus defensive end Kenyon Coleman, safety Abram Elam and quarterback Brett Ratliff, to Cleveland.
The Browns pulled off two more trades to keep moving down in the opening round and adding later-round picks. At No. 21, the Browns finally stopped dealing and took center Alex Mack of California.