Top 30 NFL Quarterbacks Heading into 2013 Season

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Ranking the Top 30 NFL Quarterbacks

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The 2012 NFL campaign has officially come to a close. The Baltimore Ravens are the Super Bowl Champions. Ray Lewis is headed for retirement with another title under his belt. Adrian Peterson is the league’s MVP after a miraculous season. Titus Young is a free agent and likely won’t be claimed. Everything is right in the world.

With that in mind, now is the time to start looking towards the 2013 NFL season.

The 2013 NFL Draft is on the horizon as some of college football’s brightest prospects prepare to impress coaches and scouts at the NFL Combine. Meanwhile, free agency is just over a month away as veterans and hopefuls alike look to find their next payday no matter the source. The NFL is an ever-changing tapestry, but we must not forget the past as we look towards the future.

This past season, the NFL continued its evolution towards a league dominated by pass-heavy offenses and stat-hoarding quarterbacks. While several teams suffered from lackluster passing, other teams prevailed because of their franchise-caliber gunslingers. That’s what this list is all about.

These rankings will put the Top 30 quarterbacks of the 2012 season in order based off of their individual performances and the impact (or lack thereof) they made for their respective teams. Let me make this clear: these rankings are not based off of pure talent or potential, but rather how they performed in 2012 and where they stand heading into 2013.

Feel free to comment below if you agree or disagree. Enjoy.

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30. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns

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It was a rough year for the Browns’ 2012 first-round pick, as Weeden had to endure a patchwork offensive line and a lack of consistent playmaking from his receiving options. With a new regime now in town, he might not even be the starter next year. It could be one and done for the 29-year-old.

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29. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles

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The dynamic Vick that we once knew has become an aged, sporadic quarterback who is still grasping frantically to be the dual threat that he used to be. Even after he came back from injury, he failed to win back his starting spot and could be headed elsewhere this offseason as the Eagles move into a new era.

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28. Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals

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While the rest of the Cardinals’ quarterbacks played like the third-stringer on your high school’s football team, Kolb managed to make a significant impact when he wasn’t sidelined by injury. He didn’t play as scared as he has in the past and showed the confidence that is needed from a starter. There’s still hope for this one…

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27. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

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Much like Weeden, Tannehill had a rough rookie season as he tried to adjust to the speed of the NFL. Although he showed some promise, he had few weapons to work with in the passing game and was under heavy pressure to carry the offense. It’ll be up to the Dolphins in 2013 to give him a bigger arsenal to work with if they want him to reach his full potential.

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26. Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings

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Everything looked great at the start of the 2012 campaign for Ponder, who the Vikings are hoping can develop into a franchise-caliber quarterback in the near future. Unfortunately, Ponder stumbled down the stretch and made people wonder if he was worth the No. 12 overall pick in 2012. The jury is still out, but the Vikings can only show so much more patience.

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25. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills

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Even though Fitzpatrick managed to cut down on turnovers in 2012, he’s still not playing at the level that the Bills need from their starting quarterback. General Manager Buddy Nix has already made it clear the Buffalo will be looking for a new starter this offseason, which means that Fitzpatrick has run out of changes.

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24. Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders

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The tread is starting to wear thin on Palmer’s tires as the veteran tries to stay at the top of the Raiders quarterback depth chart. Health concerns, caused by poor pass protection, have Palmer visiting the injured list all too often. If Terrelle Pryor is really in competition for the 2013 starting spot, Palmer should just call it a career.

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23. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins

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It’s becoming clearer why the Redskins decided to draft another quarterback after taking RG3 at No. 2 overall. Cousins stepped in for Griffin splendidly when called upon, amassing a 101.6 quarterback rating and helping Washington stay afloat in the playoff hunt. If it wasn't for him, the Redskins might not have made to the postseason.

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22. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

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Unfortunately for the Panthers, Newton could not avoid the sophomore slump as the immature quarterback struggled to shoulder the mental burden of media scrutiny. Every lackluster outing meant another Newton that was noticeably flustered during the postgame press conference. The Panthers better hope their prized possession bounces back in 2013.

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21. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams

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If it wasn’t for the health issues brought about by poor pass blocking, Bradford could be a Top 10 talent. Instead, the Rams have watched their former No. 1 overall pick fall to the David Carr syndrome – the inability to properly quarterback due to fear of getting decleated on a play-to-play basis. Only a major upgrade to the front five can save him now.

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20. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

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The downhill tumble continues for Rivers, who still appears out of sorts as the Chargers continue to shrug their shoulders whenever problems arise. With Norv Turner out and Mike McCoy in as the head coach, Rivers will likely have one more year to prove he still has the “it” factor in him.

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19. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

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Dalton spent all of 2012 helping the Bengals make an unexpected push for a postseason berth, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement in 2013. He’s been depending heavily on elite receiver A.J. Green to pull him out of tight situations, and needs to start showing that he’s not a product of Green’s talent. Next season could be a make-or-break year for Dalton.

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18. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears

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I still haven’t quite figured out Cutler, who can be dynamic one game and a dope the next. Injuries have played a big part in his struggles since arriving in Chicago, and the Bears are clearly better when he’s under center. If the Bears can provide him with some capable pass blocking, there’s no reason he can’t be higher on this list in 2013.

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17. Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers

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If it wasn’t for the fact that Kaepernick stole the spotlight from him, Smith might be even higher on this list. The former No.1 overall pick had finally found his rhythm as an NFL quarterback, and had the 49ers on their way to another playoff berth. Still, his injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season and will be his ticket out of town during the 2013 offseason.

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16. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

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There’s no denying that Griffin was a dynamic playmaker in his first year as an NFL quarterback. The Redskins put their chips on RG3, gave it a spin, and came out richer than they were before. Still, the young gunslinger has a lot of learning to do before he can take that next step in his maturation. Griffin is going to have to learn how to avoid injury before he’s forced into earlier retirement.

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15. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

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Despite the impressive passing yardage total (4,967), Stafford had a down year in 2012 as his Lions failed to make any sort of impact on the NFC North race. He only threw 20 touchdowns despite 727 attempts as he failed to let his passing skills impact the scoreboard. Stafford is better than No. 14, but his 2012 performance didn’t show it.

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14. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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At this point in his NFL career, I assumed Freeman would be further along than he actually is. Don’t get me wrong; I think he’s a great quarterback who definitely makes a difference for the Buccaneers. The problem, however, is that he hasn’t flipped the switch and become that upper-echelon passer that people were expecting. I’m starting to think he may never become more than an above-average NFL quarterback.

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13. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

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It doesn’t matter how good Romo is capable of being; the fact remains that he’s so sporadic, he’ll never crack the list of Top 10 NFL quarterbacks. The Cowboys have had a number of talented teams over the years, but Romo still struggles to get them over the hump with his untimely mistakes and random horrendous performances. Age is also becoming a factor for the quarterback that America loves to hate.

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12. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers

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Talk about bursting onto the scene in the biggest of ways. Kaepernick took over for Smith and never looked back, leading the 49ers all the way to the Super Bowl before falling just short in the biggest game of the year. There’s still plenty for Kaepernick to learn, but no one can deny that he’s a dynamic playmaker who can hurt defenses in more ways than one. The ceiling is very high with this one.

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11. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

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When Wilson beat out Matt Flynn for the starting job during the preseason, there was a sense that the rookie would do something special in 2012. Well he didn’t disappoint, leading his Seahawks to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth. There’s still some growing to do for the young gunslinger, but he’s already one of the best game managers in the NFL and has a bright future ahead of him in Seattle.

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10. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans

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Although Schaub has helped carry his team to the postseason the last two years, he has yet to elevate his play to the next level. Time and time again, he struggles to make the big throws on third downs and hasn’t proven himself capable of delivering the dagger in the clutch. Especially with Andre Johnson slowing down, Schaub is going to have to show that he can make his receivers better rather than the other way around.

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9. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

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If it wasn’t for the untimely injuries, Roethlisberger would be even higher. Big Ben is still the top-shelf passer that the Steelers drafted so many years ago, and showed signs of brilliance all season long. His numbers were outstanding as usual, but the health issues put Pittsburgh in a bad situation. For the Steelers’ sake, Roethlisberger needs to get healthy and stay there in 2013.

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8. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

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Turning a 2-14 team into an 11-5 team despite subpar pass blocking and an extremely young receiving corps has earned Luck the right to be a Top 10 quarterback after only one NFL season. The rookie proved that he was well worth the hype coming out of college and should only get better as the experience racks up. The Colts have a bright future with Luck at the helm.

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7. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

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It took an unlikely playoff run and Super Bowl MVP performance to finally do it, but Flacco has quieted the critics for now and slipped his name into the elite quarterback conversation. It’s going to be awhile before he gets to that level, but consistent improvement could build on the reputation boost he received this past postseason.

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6. Eli Manning, New York Giants

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Even with two Super Bowl victories under his belt, it’s hard to put Manning among the Top Five quarterbacks in the NFL simply due to his inconsistency. The Giants choked away their grip on the NFC East this past season, and his inability to show up game in and game out was a big factor. There’s no denying that Manning is a terrific quarterback, but his consistency needs improvement in 2013.

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5. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

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Despite the gaudy stats, Brees didn’t provide enough firepower to get the Saints to the playoffs in 2012. New Orleans failed to bounce back from the devastating bounty repercussions, starting the season off horridly before making a feeble comeback attempt. With Sean Payton back in the driver’s seat, though, expect Brees and the Saints to get back on track next year.

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4. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

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It took a few years, but Ryan has finally broken that barrier and gotten his first career playoff win. Matty Ice continues to shine as one of the top young passers in the league and has made the Falcons a yearly contender. If Atlanta can provide him with a more prominent running game in 2013, expect Ryan to put the Falcons in the same position they were this past season.

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3. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

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You really can’t expect much else from Brady, who has proven himself to be one of the most successful quarterbacks in NFL history. He didn’t waver from the norm in 2012, putting up big numbers and getting his team to within one game of the Super Bowl. The grains of sand are slowly slipping away, though.

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2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

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Rodgers was the same old Rodgers in 2012, picking apart opposing defenses and single-handedly lifting the Packers to yet another playoff appearance. He makes his tremendous receiving corps look even better and makes up for the fact that the Green Bay running game is abysmal at best. Just imagine if the Packers actually provided him with a capable ground attack in 2013...

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1. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

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Who knew that Manning could go from a career-threatening injury to an MVP candidacy in one year? The Broncos did, and it paid off as the future Hall of Famer helped Denver finish off the regular season on an 11-game winning streak. It looks like one of the game’s greatest of all-time still has some gas left in the tank.

Gil Alcaraz IV is a Network Manager/NFL featured columnist for Follow him on Twitter @GilAlcarazIV, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.