Ahead of the 2015 season, SI.com is ranking the top 10 starters at every position group. First up: quarterbacks, based on who would you want for the upcoming season, with the cast around him taken into account.
July 29, 2015
1 of 10Al Tielemans for Sports Illustrated
1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
At 31, Rodgers is the best thrower in the NFL on the move, among the best when throwing the deep ball and just about the best under pressure. There isn't a thing you're required to do as a quarterback that he hasn't mastered to a chilling, almost robotic, degree.
2 of 10Simon Bruty for Sports Illustrated
2. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
In 2014, in his 14th NFL season, Roethlisberger posted his highest career passing yardage total (4,952), tied his best single-season TD total (32) and put up his second-lowest interception percentage (1.5) despite a career high in attempts (608). It's unusual for a guy who's been in the league for more than a decade to have his best season to date so late in his career, but that's exactly what Roethlisberger did and why he’s regarded so highly.
3 of 10Winslow Townson for Sports Illustrated
3. Tom Brady, Patriots
Brady has dropped to third on this list for one simple reason: a deficiency with the deep ball that's made itself evident over the last few seasons. His numbers on passes 20 yards or more in the air have been nearly cut in half since his historic 2007 season, when he completed 32 such passes in 84 attempts for 1,245 yards, 11 touchdowns and eight picks. In 2014, he completed 21 such passes on 69 attempts for 649 yards, six touchdowns and three picks.
4 of 10Bill Frakes for Sports Illustrated
4. Andrew Luck, Colts
Yes, he still throws too many interceptions—his 16 in 2014 pushed his three-season total to 43. But this is a guy who turned around a 2–14 team in his rookie season as completely as any rookie quarterback can. As a thrower on the run, only Aaron Rodgers is better on a consistent basis.
5 of 10Al Tielemans for Sports Illustrated
5. Tony Romo, Cowboys
Romo has reduced the tendencies that once made him a boom-or-bust player. He's improved his interception rates over the last few seasons without losing his knack for the big play, which is how he led the NFL in 2014 in completion percentage (69.9%), touchdown percentage (7.8%), yards per attempt (8.5) and passer rating (113.2).
6 of 10Simon Bruty for Sports Illustrated
6. Joe Flacco, Ravens
Lost in all the silly surface talk about whether Flacco is elite or not (an argument that should have been put to bed after Super Bowl XLVII) is the fact that two years after the Ravens won it all on the back of his 11–0 touchdown-to-interception differential in the playoffs, Flacco had his best overall season in 2014 following a disappointing 2013 season.
7 of 10John W. McDonough for Sports Illustrated
7. Philip Rivers, Chargers
Rivers did a lot with very little in the run game to help him in 2014. Undrafted rookie Branden Oliver led the team with just 582 rushing yards, but Rivers still put up quality stats. The one metric that should be cause for concern, though, is his league-leading 18 interceptions. Rivers should have a better support system in 2015 with upgrades along the offensive line and the addition of first-round running back Melvin Gordon.
8 of 10Carlos M. Saavedra for Sports Illustrated
8. Peyton Manning, Broncos
Did Manning's late-season regression in 2014 have more to do with his quadriceps injuries or the inevitable passing of time? If the 39-year-old quarterback makes a full recovery from his injuries and is able to plant and throw as he did in previous years, Denver might be able to get another great season out of him, albeit with fewer attempts and different concepts. But there is concern about Manning's future, and there should be.
9 of 10John W. McDonough for Sports Illustrated
9. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
During last season’s playoffs, Wilson did a lot to prove that he can stand in the pocket and fire the ball downfield with the best of them. He led all quarterbacks with 12 completions on 19 deep attempts, for 422 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. If he can build on that with new targets Jimmy Graham and Tyler Lockett and maintain his threat as a read-option runner, Wilson may indeed prove to be worth the huge contract he wants. This is the year he has to prove it.
10 of 10Simon Bruty for Sports Illustrated
10. Matt Ryan, Falcons
Ryan's name has gotten lost in the shuffle of late when the subject of great quarterbacks has come up. That has more to do with Atlanta's regression as a team than anything Ryan's doing wrong. In 2014, with a Swiss cheese offensive line, Ryan threw for nearly 4,700 yards, 28 touchdowns and 14 picks.
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