Ranking NFL Quarterbacks
The other day, a group of us were carpooling back to Manhattan following The MMQB's annual retreat. We got to debating Colin Kaepernick and where he ranks in the NFL quarterback hierarchy. That led to conversation about every starting quarterback's spot on the list. Such palaver tends to happen when NFL geeks are enclosed in a confined space for several hours.
Instead of sharing everyone’s thoughtful points and counterpoints from that drive, I’ve taken the petty liberty of divulging only my opinions in the below rankings. If Peter King, Robert Klemko, Emily Kaplan or executive editor (and official MMQB retreat driver) Mark Mravic want to share their opinions and rankings, they can make their own lists and pass it off as a column. It’s early-July NFL analysis at its finest. Here we go.
(The list is based off projected starting quarterbacks for 2015.)
32. Matt Cassel, Bills
Put EJ Manuel or Tyrod Taylor here if you want. Whatever—you get the idea.
31. Robert Griffin III, Washington
His mobility is not what it once was. That’s an issue, as he has mountains to climb to improve his mechanics and field-reading.
30. Marcus Mariota, Titans
Has there ever been so much mystery around a quarterback drafted in the top five? Nobody knows whether his style will flourish or flounder at the pro level.
29. Josh McCown, Browns
Better athlete than appears and he has the ability to play big in the pocket. Problem is, he’s only shown it as a backup fill-in, not a starter leading the offense.
28. Brian Hoyer, Texans
Plays well on the move. But appears to be one of those guys defenses figure out the more they see of him on tape.
27. Geno Smith, Jets
Bad decision-making has been his undoing. That can be corrected. And if it is, he has the pocket toughness to be a top-16 starting quarterback.
26. Jameis Winston, Buccaneers
He’s TBD, of course. But the necessary skills appear to be there.
25. Blake Bortles, Jaguars
Much better athlete than we realize. Very possible he jumps 10 or more spots on this list in 2016.
24. Nick Foles, Rams
Has no special traits and can be too methodical at times. But that doesn’t mean he can’t oversee a ball control offense like St. Louis.
23. Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings
Was tightly managed last season before showing extremely encouraging signs down the stretch. The Vikings think they have their guy. Loosen the leash and let’s find out.
22. Sam Bradford, Eagles
He’s almost impossible to critique given his injury woes. But if healthy (huge if) he’s a snappy, accurate passer fit for a spread scheme.
21. Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
Raw tools are startling, but so are a lot of his decisions. There are also mechanical flaws.
20. Andy Dalton, Bengals
Outstanding before the snap but can be a total crapshoot after it.
19. Derek Carr, Raiders
Have to see how he does with the training wheels off, but skill-wise, it appears the Raiders have finally (finally!) found their franchise QB.
18. Alex Smith, Chiefs
Underrated mobility adds a dimension to a QB who operates under defined reads and who attempts safe throws almost exclusively.
17. Jay Cutler, Bears
Mistakes and leadership are problems, but there’s nothing a coach can’t ask him to do on the field.
16. Cam Newton, Panthers
A rare physical specimen who can make the “Wow!” throw. Unfortunately, it’s not always a good “Wow!”
15. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
An underappreciated athlete and good pure passer who has progressed every year in his career.
14. Carson Palmer, Cardinals
Could be lethal in Year 3 under Bruce Arians, especially given the personnel improvements around him.
13. Matthew Stafford, Lions
Owner of the best raw arm in the game, and he became more disciplined last season.
12. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Possesses unique skills that defensive coordinators hate to scheme against. But also has limitations that an offensive coordinator has to scheme around. Having Marshawn Lynch and a legendary defense makes that easier.
11. Eli Manning, Giants
Certified field general with the willingness and ability to spot tight windows and thread the ball through.
10. Tony Romo, Cowboys
Playing behind the league’s best O-line has allowed him to polish many areas of his once inconsistent game.
9. Matt Ryan, Falcons
Newfound ability to play on the move could catapult him higher on this list, especially in Kyle Shanahan’s system.
8. Joe Flacco, Ravens
Maybe the strongest arm in the NFL (yes, arm strength matters), and he’s used it aptly in multiple schemes in recent years. It’s still incredible how little talk there is about his 2012 playoff run, which is probably the best ever.
7. Drew Brees, Saints
Physical skills are starting to wane, but being arguably the top pure progression passer in the league can obscure that.
6. Philip Rivers, Chargers
Outstanding on three-step, five-step and seven-step dropbacks. There’s little more a coach could ask for.
5. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
Has evolved from a randomized, talent-based quarterback to a fully cerebral field general. And the talent’s still there.
4. Peyton Manning, Broncos
Don’t let back-to-back ugly postseason losses (Colts last year, Seahawks the year before) overshadow back-to-back seasons of daunting statistics. Arm strength has never been his game; field command, fundamentals and IQ have. Those are all still fully intact.
3. Andrew Luck, Colts
Has a chance to one day reach the All-Time Mt. Rushmore, right up there with Brady, Montana and whoever else you have. Right now, he’s already the best play-extending pocket passer in the game, by far.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
The most physically gifted passer in the league can also beat you with his brain.
1. Tom Brady, Patriots
No player of this era has done more with less. Talk to coaches around the league and they’ll tell you that however much command you think Brady has over that offense, triple it, and that’s about the actual amount.
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