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20 QBs Who Will Rule the Future of the NFL

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Top 20 NFL QBs of the Future

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Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE

The NFL is all about the next big thing. Who's going to be the next Peyton Manning or the next Joe Montana? That's the question asked entirely too many times each April when the NFL Draft roles around. To answer that question we actually had one of each in the 2012 NFL Draft, but we don't want to give everything away right off the bat.

Five NFL teams started rookie quarterbacks on opening day in 2012, the most in league history and there are multiple reasons for that: 1) Young quarterbacks are beginning preparation for a possible NFL future at earlier ages than ever before; 2) These young quarterbacks are choosing colleges with NFL-style offenses to expedite that preparation; 3) More and more NFL teams are pursuing instant gratification in the draft each year. The result? Two of the teams in 2012 with rookie quarterbacks are above .500 after 10 games and two more are only one game below that mark. The word "incredible" doesn't even begin to describe the phenomenon that will soon be the norm in the NFL.

So obviously the next question is: Which young quarterbacks will be the next to rule the professional ranks? Some of them have already made their mark in the NFL, but are just getting started while others are biding their time and waiting for their chance to shine as pros. Even more haven't completed college yet and may not for another year. However, the NFL knows they're coming and pro coaches are licking their chops. Want to know the names of these future stars? Let's dive in.

Trivia: Seven of the quarterbacks on this list are Texas natives. Do you know which ones? (Answers on the last page)

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Tyler Bray

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Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE

Tennessee Volunteers junior quarterback Tyler Bray will likely enter the NFL draft at the end of the 2012 season, but that's not guaranteed. However, Bray's future at the next level is a sure thing. He's having undoubtedly his best collegiate season in 2012 and he'll be ready to lead an NFL team by his third season as a pro at the very latest.

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AJ McCarron

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Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

AJ McCarron will be a late first-round pick in either the 2013 or 2014 NFL Draft which means he'll end up on at least a decent team if not a good one. He's going to be a Joe Flacco-type NFL quarterback in that he'll end up on a team that already has a talented roster, which will allow him to progress at his own rate. By his third or fourth season, McCarron will be an efficient, winning pro passer just like he is right now for the Alabama Crimson Tide.

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Nick Foles

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Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

While filling in for the injured Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles' first NFL start didn't go very well. However, it's impossible to overlook his raw talent, which, in time, will blossom into something about which Eagles fans can cheer. Foles just needs time to polish his game, which boasts tons of potential. Give him five years and no one will remember his rookie season.

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Tyler Wilson

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Nelson Chenault-US PRESSWIRE

Arkansas Razorbacks senior signal-caller Tyler Wilson is the textbook definition of a gun-slinger and he'll be a solid fantasy football option as well as a reality football stud for a pass-happy team like the Arizona Cardinals.

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Cam Newton

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Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

The Carolina Panthers' former Heisman Trophy winner and first overall pick turned in the most prolific rookie quarterback season in NFL history in 2011. Cam Newton may not be quite as dynamic in is sophomore season, but he'll be solid in the long run. Carolina may not win a Super Bowl with Newton under center, but they'l contend for a spot in the big game at least a couple of times during his tenure.

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Brock Osweiler

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Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Much like Ryan Mallett, Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Brock Osweiler is in the perfect position to succeed in the NFL. Osweiler is sitting behind arguably the greatest signal-caller of all time in Peyton Manning, who has five years left in an absolute best-case scenario. Whether it's two, five or anywhere in between Osweiler is soaking up knowledge from Manning and will have an excellent team with a lot of young talent to take over once the veteran retires. Even after the Manning era ends in Denver, a new period of success will just be getting started for the Broncos.

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Christian Ponder

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Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE

The few flashes of brilliance in his rookie campaign have already started to blossom in Christian Ponder's sophomore season. With a superstar running back in Adrian Peterson and a reliable receiver in Percy Harvin, the Minnesota Vikings can now build around an offensive core with Ponder at the helm. With a couple of solid drafts by the Vikings, Ponder could be an elite passer in as little as two years.

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Colin Kaepernick

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Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE

San Francisco 49ers second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick's mark on the NFL may have come sooner than expected after his breakout performance against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. Kaepernick posted 243 yards and two touchdowns against arguably the league's top defense. Regardless of the current quarterback controversy in San Francisco, Kaepernick will undoubtedly be the main man for an NFL team soon.

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Aaron Murray

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Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

The best part about Aaron Murray's game is his efficiency. The Georgia Bulldogs' junior quarterback was fantastic from Day 1 and he's steadily improved in each of his collegiate seasons. If he stays for his senior season, Murray will be even more prepared for the next level in Georgia's NFL offense. Whether it's 2013 or 2014, Murray will make noise early and often as a pro.

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Matt Barkley

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Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

His senior season at USC isn't turning out quite as well as expected, but Matt Barkely is still undoubtedly the most NFL-ready quarterback in the college ranks today. He's a surefire first-round pick who will be the face of a pro franchise for at least the next decade.

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Robert Griffin III

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Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

The No. 2 overall pick is setting the woods on fire in his rookie year. Robert Griffin III already become just the third rookie quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 2,000 yards and rush for over 500. As long as he keeps looking to the pass first instead of running and Mike Shanahan doesn't mess things up for him, Griffin could be a star for a long time to come.

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Sam Bradford

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Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

The start to Sam Bradford's NFL career hasn't been quite as smooth as expected, but he's slowly coming into form. The St. Louis Rams did the best thing possible for Bradford by hiring head coach Jeff Fisher, who already has this team playing worlds better than it has in the last eight years. With another off-season or two in which to build chemistry, Fisher and Bradford will be one of the next big coach-quarterback duos in the league.

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Josh Freeman

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Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE

Josh Freeman is still finding his way in his fourth NFL season. His third year was quite a step back from his second, but Freeman is starting to find some constancy in his game in 2012, especially over the last six weeks. With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers steadily adding talent to their roster and head coach Greg Schiano bringing a winning philosophy to the team, it's only a matter of time before Freeman becomes an elite NFL passer.

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Ryan Mallett

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Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

The New England Patriots got an absolute steal in Ryan Mallett during the 2011 NFL Draft. The former Arkansas Razorbacks gunslinger is patiently waiting until it's his time to take over the reins from Tom Brady. He may have to wait awhile, but sitting behind a player like Brady will be worth it for Mallett.

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Jake Locker

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Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

His first season as the Tennessee Titans' full-time starting quarterback has been dampened by injuries, but in the time he's been healthy, Jake Locker has shown he's ready to take the NFL by storm. In the time he's been on the field in 2012, Locker has completed 60 percent of his passes while throwing six touchdowns and just two interceptions. When he and all of his weapons are healthy in 2013, it will be the dawn of a new era in Tennessee.

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Andy Dalton

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Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

His sophomore campaign didn't start quite the way Andy Dalton wanted it to following his Pro Bowl rookie campaign, but he and his Cincinnati Bengals are turning things around heading into the second half of the season. After 11 weeks of play, Dalton is 11th in passing yards with 2,559, 12th in completion percentage at 64.2, tied for sixth in touchdowns in 20 and his quarterback rating of 92.7 ranks 11th. In a decade, all of those numbers will be among the top three passers in the league.

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Kirk Cousins

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Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE

He may be behind Robert Griffin III right now, but he won't be for long. Kirk Cousins should have been a first-round draft pick in 2012 and whichever team lands him via a trade or free agency in the next three years will reap the benefits. Cousins a natural-born leader and his presence on the field is unrivaled. That's not to knock his arm; he doesn't have the most accurate or strongest arm, but he's solid across the board and he'll make one heck of a franchise quarterback for the smart team who pursues him.

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Matthew Stafford

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Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

In 2011, Matthew Stafford became just the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards in a season. The scariest part is he accomplished that in just his third season and his first full year as a pro. Stafford's Detroit Lions aren't quite as dynamic as they were a year ago and he doesn't have as many touchdown passes, but you better believe there will be multiple arguments about him being the best in league over the next 10-15 years.

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Russell Wilson

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Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

No one really gave Russell Wilson a chance coming out of Wisconsin by way of North Carolina State. However, the Drew Brees-like rookie knows how to succeed despite his height and he'll make Pete Carroll the Seattle Seahawks look like geniuses before it's all said and done. You can bet that hefty contract Matt Flynn received this off-season will be unloaded before the 2013 campaign begins.

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Andrew Luck

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Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE

The top pick in the 2012 NFL Draft is already showing he was well worth that top spot for the Indianapolis Colts. The experts called Andrew Luck the "surest thing since Peyton Manning" and he's fit the bill thus far. However, he's not nearly done yet. Luck will finish his career as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, meaning he'll join Manning and Johnny Unitas as the Colts among that elite group.

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Future Busts

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Rob Christy-US PRESSWIRE

If you're wondering where guys like Geno Smith, Landry Jones and Ryan Tannehill are on this list, you won't find them. Smith is the most overrated quarterback to enter the NFL since JaMarcus Russell and he'll bust like a piñata for the team dumb enough to take him with a top 10 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Sure, he has a relatively accurate, strong arm for a college passer, but Smith doesn't progress through his reads at all and he tucks the ball if he feels the slightest bit of pressure in the pocket. Don't believe the hype about this forgotten Heisman candidate.

Jones isn't awful, but he'll be an average backup in the pros at best. He's not terrible at any specific part of the game, but he's not good in any of those areas, either. Some team will take him in the middle rounds and he'll be lucky to throw 100 passes in regular season NFL action.

Tannehill is one of those guys who will have one awesome game every year and then everything else will be average at best. He still needs a lot of work with his mechanics and ability to read coverages before and after the snap. The Miami Dolphins took Tannehill as a first-day starter, but he's a project passer and those guys don't do well when thrown to the wolves on Day 1. He'll be a journeyman backup by his fourth season.

Cleveland Browns rookie Brandon Weeden would be on the list of future stars, but he's already 29 years old, so he doesn't qualify. At the era in which the rest of the young guns will be ruling the NFL, Weeden will be 40 years old and likely retired.

Here's the answers to the trivia question:

Mallett, Griffin, Luck, Stafford, Foles, Ponder and Dalton

Check out this 2013 NFL Mock Draft.

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