NFL Quarterback Power Rankings
Top 40 NFL Quarterbacks
The NFL has shifted over recent years to being a predominantly passing league. This is in spite of the fact that Adrian Peterson won NFL MVP last season, which many argued should have been Peyton Manning’s award.
However, with the shift to a passing league, the NFL is spoiled with great quarterback play. Guys who put up decent numbers in today’s league are considered among the worst starters, and QBs whose statistics would be considered a Pro Bowler in 2002 or 2003 would now only be considered for it after five players declined.
For example, in 2012, the league average for team passing yards for the season was 3,700.6, and the passing touchdown average was 23.7 (per pro-football-reference.com). In 2005, Matt Hasselbeck was the NFC Pro Bowl Starter with 3,459 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, and was considered among the best in the league; a player who does that now is slightly “below” average.
There are many things that go into determining the pecking order of quarterbacks in the league today. Winning plays a huge factor, but one must be able to put up okay numbers for a team to stick with them. And sometimes, that might not even be enough, as we saw last season with the 49ers’ Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick debacle. They chose potential over stability after Smith missed a week with a concussion.
Some of these rankings will surprise you, and you may have even forgotten about some names in the middle and bottom of this list. These are the current 40 best quarterbacks in the NFL today, per resume and potential.
T-40. Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
This entire New York Jets quarterback situation needs to be talked about in this slide. Mark Sanchez was so incredibly bad last year it was laughable. He managed to make people forget about his awesome opening weekend game against the Buffalo Bills, in which he had three touchdowns passes, by playing horrible football as soon as the next week.
Geno Smith was deemed the best quarterback available in the draft despite being taken after Bills' first rounder EJ Manuel. Smith lit up the college football world last season in the early part of the year, putting up video game type numbers, but fell off when the competition started getting tough. Smith has a lot to prove, but he is in one of the few situations where he would even have a chance to see the field in his rookie year. It will be very interesting and possibly humorous to watch this situation develop through training camp and the regular season. Stay Tuned.
39. Shaun Hill, Detroit Lions
Shaun Hill has come in numerous times since becoming Matt Stafford's backup for the Detroit Lions and kept the offense moving pretty well. Sadly, it hasn't led to many victories. But Hill is more than capable of stepping into any team's starting lineup and keeping the offensive rhythm going. Any team would be lucky to have a guy like him as the backup for their starter. Hill knows that backup will almost always be his position in the NFL after the last couple of seasons, but he can step in whenever needed.
38. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
Another example of a player with a small sample size to evaluate, Kirk Cousins looked the part of a very capable backup last season when he won a game for the Redskins with Robert Griffin III hurt for a week with an injury. Albeit, it was against the Cleveland Browns, you can't fault him for playing the team on the schedule. Many criticized the Washington Redskins for taking a second quarterback in the draft and thought they should have signed a veteran to be Griffin's backup. Cousins did end up making plays though, and he could potentially draw teams wanting his services as a starter in the future. But for now he is one of the better backups in the NFL.
37. Matt Cassel, Minnesota Vikings
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The man was once Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart's backup at USC. Then he miraculously became the New England Patriots' starter when Tom Brady went down with a season ending injury in the first game of the 2008 season. Matt Cassel would then go 10-5 as a starter and become the hottest target that offseason before being traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. He then played okay in 2009, but with Charlie Weis as his offensive coordinator in 2010, he was able to throw 27 touchdowns to just seven interceptions and garner Pro Bowl honors.
But once Weis left for Florida, Cassel started falling off the wagon. And after Todd Haley was fired as head coach following the 2011 season, Cassel plummeted and was a part of the worst quarterbacking situation in the NFL last season (Yes, even worse than the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets and the Arizona Cardinals). He was so bad that fans were actually cheering when he went down with an injury. Not saying he or anybody deserves that, but yes, that is how bad he was. Now he is the backup for the Minnesota Vikings, which is actually a pretty good situation for him. He comes in as a veteran backup to the much younger player, Christian Ponder. He is a game manager who can come in and effectively hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson behind that big offensive line and limit his mistakes.
36. Matt Flynn, Oakland Raiders
Matt Flynn is this low on the list because the sample size on him is so small. The only thing we know about Flynn is that he had a great game for the Green Bay Packers against a Detroit Lions team that everyone could throw on. He lost the starting job for the Seattle Seahawks to Russell Wilson when Flynn was supposed to be the starter heading into camp. Now Seattle may have made the right choice, as evidenced from his play last year, so it's hard to knock Flynn too much. Still, he couldn't show Seattle enough to make them believe they should go with him because he has the bigger frame. We also know that the Seahawks thought he was expendable enough to send him to the Oakland Raiders after one season. Flynn may very well be a competent quarterback and move up everybody's quarterback list after this season, but with not very many weapons to throw to on the Raiders, he will have to be really good to prove he belongs.
35. Chad Henne, Jacksonville Jaguars
It's unfortunate that Chad Henne is the best quarterback on his team, yet he may not even be the starter this season. Blaine Gabbert has shown nearly zero confidence as a quarterback in the NFL but may be the starter because the Jacksonville Jaguars organization might still want to prove their pick was a success. Regardless, Henne has proven to be a pretty competent NFL quarterback, but he doesn't make plays the way a starting quarterback should. This is why he found himself out of Miami once they drafted Ryan Tannehill. He couldn't have fallen into a better situation, though, with Jacksonville as Gabbert has shown nothing to make anyone believe he is getting better. Henne can have a nice career as a backup in the NFL. He can come into the right situation and manage a game if the starter goes down to help a team keep getting victories, but he is never going to be a play-maker who is the reason his team wins games.
34. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tennessee Titans
Long live the Ryan Fitzpatrick days in early 2011 when the Buffalo Bills were 5-2. He had led them to that crazy comeback win over the New England Patriots in Week 3, and things were looking like they were finally picking up for the Bills. However, Fitzpatrick could not stop turning the ball over and now he is the backup for the Tennessee Titans. Fitzpatrick is a smart guy, seeing as how he went to Harvard. But he has shown to be a bit of a gunslinger, and he doesn't always know when to hold off pulling the trigger. This is probably the reason he got the Bills off to such a hot start in 2011 only to have teams figure him out and put a stop to his fun. That being said, at number 34 on this list, he is one of the best backups in the league. He can undoubtedly come in during the season and keep the ball moving if he has to for the Titans.
33. Tim Tebow, New England Patriots
No one has to believe that Tim Tebow is going to be a successful NFL quarterback, but one can't argue against the fact that he was treated terribly during his time with the New York Jets. Despite poor quarterback play from Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan and company refused to let Tebow get any real playing time at quarterback. It's just a shame—despite never looking pretty until the fourth quarter of games, Tebow led the Denver Broncos in 2011 to a 7-4 record and a playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jets slapped him in the face continually last season, first by making him a punt protector, and then by starting Greg McElroy over him Week 16 despite Tebow not having an injury. Tebow never looks pretty passing the football, but he has shown he can get the job done. Someone should have taken a flyer on him to see if he could be a long term starter, but until then he should be praised, not doubted. With the New England Patriots, he will likely be the third stringer and used in some other situations to see the field, because denying such a fierce competitor would be wrong, especially to a guy like Bill Belichick.
32. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
Brandon Weeden was arguably the worst of all the major rookie quarterbacks last season. Already at 29 years old, he is also the oldest. He has made a great transition from baseball to football, though, and a good transition from the college game to the NFL. Some fear he can't get much better, but you can't believe that to be true. Rich Gannon didn't hit his stride in his career until he was over 30. While the critics may be against you, an athlete can always get better, especially one as bright as Weeden. He helped the Cleveland Browns compete in a lot of games last season in which without his help they would have just gotten blown out in. If he can continue to get better and develop more chemistry with his receivers, and if running back Trent Richardson continues to play well, the Browns can become a respectable football team.
31. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
Jake Locker is a scout's dream and totally fits the part of NFL quarterback, but he struggled through his first season as a starter last season, going just 4-7. But this has a lot to do with how poor the Tennessee Titans' running game was early, and because of the defense struggling. Locker has the arm to make all of the throws and great legs to be able to create opportunities with his feet when he needs to. Locker has a "Tim Tebow with an arm" feel to him. He's a young quarterback who at this point in his career isn't making all the plays with his arm. However, he does not turn the ball over, so you know he has a pretty good feel for the game. If his young receivers Kendall Wright and Kenny Britt can continue to develop alongside him, this team can become lethal offensively in just a few seasons.
30. Kevin Kolb, Buffalo Bills
Kevin Kolb is another quarterback who is productive when healthy whether his team is good or not, and he led the Arizona Cardinals to a 4-0 start. He didn't get the start Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks, but he led the fourth quarter comeback for the win. Also, he may have lost the start against the Buffalo Bills in Week 6, but this is probably only because he got hurt and did not finish the game. Kolb gets a lot of criticism, but he's been productive when he plays, especially with Arizona. It would have been a shame that they let him go, but they got Carson Palmer so they upgraded. This may be Kolb's last opportunity to become a perennial starting quarterback in the league, but he may already deserve it.
29. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Everybody questioned whether or not Ryan Tannehill was worth the Miami Dolphins' first round pick in the 2012 draft. He was a wide receiver after losing the starting quarterback competition at Texas A&M his first three seasons until midway through his junior season when Jerrod Johnson went out for the year. He then put up big numbers his senior season but threw a lot of interceptions. Many questioned his decision making, but after struggling early in his rookie year, he started playing much more consistently by December and shows a lot of promise heading into his second season. He has a great arm and the legs to create when he has to. Tannehill will probably be much higher on anybody's quarterback list in a few years.
28. Michael Vick, Phildelphia Eagles
Michael Vick used to be the scariest player to play against in the NFL; planning for the man with the fastest legs in the league and a powerful arm made defensive coordinators lose sleep the entire week leading up to games against him. But over these last two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, it's become increasingly apparent that he is no longer that guy. It was weird to see Vick oblivious to the pass rush most of the time last season which hurt even more because the offensive line played terribly. With new coach Chip Kelly looking to run about the same offense he ran at Oregon, he hopes Vick can fit the profile of all the quarterbacks he had at the college level. That being said, he has the talent and the right coach to put him in the best situation to succeed for years to come.
27. Kyle Orton, Dallas Cowboys
Kyle Orton was the biggest victim of the Tim Tebow craze of 2011. Orton got benched and watched a quarterback who couldn't complete 50% of his passes take the Denver Broncos to the playoffs. The team just quit on Orton by dropping passes and getting no push on the offensive line which led to a poor running game, but Tebow just waltzed in there and everybody started making plays. It's a shame because Orton was a good player until the team gave up oh him and the fans called for Tebow. Orton never looks dominant, but he was 8-7 in 2009 with a terrible defense and was actually even better in 2010 when he threw for 20 TD and only nine picks for a 3-10 Broncos team that again suffered from a poor defense and running game. He's a guy that can make plays, and he doesn't turn the ball over often. He also saw much success with the Chicago Bears with a good defense in his rookie season in 2005, as well as 2008 when he went 9-6 as Chicago's starter. No one is questioning the Broncos now that they have Peyton Manning, but Orton should be a starter somewhere in the league today. It is an even bigger shame that Orton had to sign as a backup for the Dallas Cowboys after being traded to the Kansas City Chiefs and leading them to hand the Green Bay Packers their only loss of the 2011 season.
26. Matt Hasselbeck, Indianapolis Colts
Matt Hasselbeck has long been a consistent player in the league. Even when he's been off, he's never bad. He led the Tennessee Titans to a respectable 9-7 record in 2011, in which they were better than playoff team Denver Broncos, who only made the playoffs due to being a division winner. Tennessee still thought they should go with the future for the 2012 season and start Jake Locker. Hasselbeck saw some playing time following a Jake Locker injury in which he was 2-3 as the starter. While he wasn't bad, it wasn't enough to make the Titans feel like he was the future. Hasselbeck might have benefited from a better defense and a Chris Johnson who didn't always start the year off slow because he was pressing too often for big plays. Matt Hasselbeck has good mechanics and will be a serviceable quarterback until he retires.
25. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
Tony Romo has been stuck with the label as a turnover machine. And while that may be true to some degree, he doesn't turn the ball over on command. He has had his share of bad games, but he is a really tough competitor. Hearing him on the field when sound bites are played on ESPN and NFL Network, he is actually a very knowledgeable quarterback as well as a respected team leader. When you play the Dallas Cowboys, you are playing the Tony Romo led Cowboys. He led five fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives this past season, which is a career high for him, showing he has gotten better with age. Romo has a great ability to create and improvise when the play breaks down. However, this is usually when he turns the ball over, much like what happened this past season against the Chicago Bears. With that being said, Romo gets a bad rap but belongs this low on the list.
24. Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
Christian Ponder has made some huge strides in his NFL career to date. It was said he should not have been taken in the first round, but he seems to fit this Minnesota Vikings team regardless of what anyone says. He is good at throwing out of play-action, which is helpful seeing how the Vikings already have NFL MVP Adrian Peterson on their team. Many have questioned whether or not Ponder is the answer for the Vikings, but after helping this team get to the playoffs last season, he has yet to make people seriously doubt him. Ponder had a lot of things go his way early in the season to keep the Vikings in the playoff picture, and then after surviving a mid-season slump, he got it going the last couple of weeks and was able to help the Vikings win in week 17 over the Green Bay Packers to beat out the Chicago Bears for the last playoff spot. Now only time will be able to tell if Ponder is or isn't the answer.
23. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
Sam Bradford returned to the form he displayed his rookie year following a bad second season in the NFL. His numbers ended up improving in every statistic from his first season except completion percentage, but that only dipped one half of one percent. Not only did he make the St. Louis Rams relevant again, but he also displayed much poise and the ability to be clutch upon leading four fourth-quarter comebacks and three game-winning drives. He led a comeback against the Washington Redskins, a playoff team from last season, as well as two comebacks against the eventual NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers (one of which resulted in the only tie in football last season). Sam Bradford has great awareness and an arm to put the ball right where the receivers need it. He has shown to be a good quarterback when healthy who can generate wins on his own. All he needs is a little help from the defense and for his receivers and running backs to stop dropping passes and fumbling the ball. That being said, he will have a handful again this year with the rest of the division looking to make the playoffs as well.
22. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Philip Rivers used to be widely regarded as the "Best Quarterback To Not Win a Super Bowl Yet." But after he struggled to complete anything downfield last season, his offense stalled out numerous times and it became very obvious he missed wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who jumped ship to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers prior to the 2012 season. It wasn't all his fault, however, as his offensive line didn't protect him and he was sacked 49 times last season, near the top of the NFL. But there was no question that Rivers struggled to get the offense moving last season. Rivers has all of the tools that the other quarterbacks higher than him on this list have, but he needs to turn it around after back-to-back lousy seasons. Rivers is a great quarterback and will probably be higher on this list after next season, but he'll have to show everyone he belongs this year; there's no question about it.
21. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton took the NFL by storm upon being the number one overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He ended up throwing for over 400 yards in each of his first two games, and he also threw for 374 yards in his fourth game. However, he came back down to earth after that early start and ended up with 4,051 yards passing. That's a statistic that seems to say teams figured him out, and Cam was seen as a player that couldn't finish games. He was given numerous chances to lead a game winning drive, and fell short against everyone but the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011 and the lowly Philadelphia Eagles in 2012. Newton possesses great speed and mobility to go along with his arm that can make all the throws, but he seems like he can't handle a little adversity, as shown by his trademark towel over the head (as shown above).
20. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
Carson Palmer probably should have stayed with the Cincinnati Bengals and not refused to play another down for them, because he went into a bad situation with the Oakland Raiders. They had an undisciplined team that hurt themselves too much with no talented receivers to throw to, but he made them actually pretty entertaining to watch. However, Palmer was accused of being the problem by Oakland management, so they traded for Seattle Seahawks' Matt Flynn and shipped Palmer to the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals are a great spot for Palmer with perennial All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald being there and young talented receiver Michael Floyd. The team has a recent history of being pass-happy. Palmer also finally has a good defense to help him out, and this move could pay off big-time for the Cardinals. Palmer has a great pocket presence and good accuracy to throw open wide receivers. He has shown his great abilities in both of his previous stops and may have his best opportunity yet this season.
19. Vince Young, Free Agent
Vince Young is a huge victim of having a bad reputation follow him. It is painful to hear all of the negative things said about him in the media. Yes, he may have not been the best with handling his money, but the guy can play football at a great level when given the chance. Former Titans coach Jeff Fisher never wanted this guy on his team but was seen as being reasonable when he decided to start Kerry Collins at the beginning of the 2006 NFL season. He was then pressured to make the the switch to Young. Despite what his numbers said he was a clutch player that led a lot of comeback victories. He was 8-5 as a starter that year and could have made the playoffs had he started from the beginning of the season. He then struggled somewhat in 2007, but the team was 10-6 and lost in the wild card round. Young didn't look pretty, but he didn't turn the ball over much. After getting injured in the opener of the 2008 season against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Fisher again went with Collins and refused to put Young back in. Young would then not see playing time until the team was 0-6 in 2009. He then led them to a 8-2 record as the starter. More of the same happened in 2010 when an apparent spat led Fisher to decide he didn't want to deal with a winner anymore, and he said Young would no longer be with the team. Young is a proven winner who is one of the most clutch quarterbacks the game has to offer, but no one wants him. No one realizes he was 30-17 as a starting QB, which is a 10-6 pace over one season. The guy knows how to win and could turn any of the terrible QB situations in the NFL into a solid one.
18. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Andy Dalton has found a niche in Cincinnati. He has a great weapon at receiver in AJ Green and has a reliable tight end in Jermaine Gresham. He also has an improving running game that will probably get better this season. After the Cincinnati Bengals struggled out the gate to a 3-5 record, he ended up taking them on a 7-1 second half which led to a second straight playoff appearance due to his improved decision making and a stellar defense. Dalton has the look of a glorified game manager but really can make all the throws. He has great pocket presence and will likely benefit from an improved offensive line. The Bengals are a team on the rise, and Dalton is one of the biggest reasons why.
17. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
Alex Smith was playing the best football he had ever played last season before suffering a concussion versus the St. Louis Rams. He never got to return from injury because backup and teammate Colin Kaepernick stole the show with his dual-threat abilities. After watching Kaep take his San Francisco 49ers team to a Super Bowl, he was traded to Kansas City in what may be the ideal situation for Smith to walk into offensively. The Kansas City Chiefs struggled mightily last season to score any touchdowns (just 17 total offensive touchdowns) with poor quarterback play from either Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn. But Smith has a lot of weapons to use now with running back Jamaal Charles, receivers Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery, and tight ends Tony Moeaki and Anthony Fasano. He will have a chance to reignite this team that has largely the same core as the team that won 10 games in 2010 and won the AFC West. However, he will have a lot of pressure on him to prove to everyone that he wasn't only successful due to Jim Harbaugh's coaching.
16. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Matthew Stafford was thought to be the next big quarterback after throwing for over 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2011 along with taking the Detroit Lions to the playoffs for the first time since 1999. He followed that season up with, on paper, what doesn't look like all that much of a drop off. His attempts actually increased from 663 to 727 (which is an NFL record), but he threw for less yards and completed a lower percentage of passes. His touchdown totals actually dropped dramatically from 41 to just 20, and he threw one more interception. His team also only went 4-12 for the season. Stafford is a great passer and has all of the talent in the world. Needless to say, Stafford needs to step up, but he also probably needs some help from the defense and the running game for his team to succeed.
15. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Josh Freeman is one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the NFL. He has the potential to be a regular quarterback in the playoffs, but his team's defense must improve and he must be more consistent. He had very nice numbers in 2010 and last season, but in 2011 he was very off. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were 6-4 last season before dropping five games in a row, ensuring them that their season was over after week 17. Freeman is really only to blame for their 41-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 15 in which he threw four interceptions. Other than that, the defense failed them when it mattered most. Freeman has great pocket presence and stands in there to make a play, but he has a long way to go before he can be called great.
14. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
RGIII was highly touted following his Heisman senior season at Baylor, and he was another rookie QB who lived up to the hype and then some. He was tied for first with the lowest interception rate in the league, at just 1.3%, with the great Tom Brady. Griffin finished the season with 3200 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, and over 800 rushing yards with seven scores on the ground. He was a threat from the get go, beating the New Orleans Saints on kickoff weekend, including a highlight 88-yard passing touchdown, and all of a sudden he was on everyone's radar. That all being said, there are some concerns over his game. He can get stumped if you take away his threat to run. After starting off the Washington Redskins' Wild Card playoff game up 14-0 very quickly, the Seattle Seahawks shut him down, even before getting injured. He is a very good pocket passer but loves to break a big play with his legs as well. RGIII is a great talent, and hopefully Mike Shanahan doesn't burn him out too quickly by overusing him in the run game.
13. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
When Russell Wilson was first drafted, everybody thought that he would make a nice career backup. He was still questioned after he won the starting job after a stellar training camp and preseason. He's really a great example of getting better as you go along, in the first half of the season, he average just 183 yards per game, and 206 yards per game in the second half. He also had 10 passing touchdowns in the first half, and 16 in the second half, proving that he could be more than a game manager. He proved to also be quite clutch, with 5 game winning drives, and 4 fourth quarter comebacks. Those stats should be 6 and 5, respectively as he also lead a comeback against the Atlanta Falcons in the Divisional Playoff round, but with little time left, Matt Ryan and the Falcons stole the game from the Seattle Seahawks. Wilson has great legs and can scramble when he needs to. He has also become a great pocket passer despite being just 5-foot-10. Wilson has that Doug Flutie feel to him and could be successful for years to come.
12. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
Schaub has come a long way in his career, from being Michael Vick's backup in Atlanta, to being a starter who puts up numbers for a losing team, to finally being a playoff quarterback. While his Houston Texans went to the playoff the last two years, he didn't play in his first playoff game until this past season due to a season ending foot injury in 2011. Schaub is a very accurate quarterback, and usually does most of his work in the first half, where his team builds a lead, and then they pound the rock in the second half to close out games. His numbers have fallen since the emergence of Arian Foster in the run game, but he is still one of the more accurate passers in the NFL today. Schaub is good, but his greatest flaw may be that he is not great at creating when the play breaks down. He usually relies on the play action to get a receiver open, and is not always able to throw the ball accurately to the second option on a given play. Schaub is a great quarterback, but a spot around here on the list is likely Schaub's ceiling.
11. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Jay Cutler's three seasons since after 2009 have all been largely the same. He ends up with mediocre numbers due to the fact that his offensive line can't give him any time to throw. He ends up only being able to put a couple drives together, and his numbers have suffered because of it. He was unable to get the team back going after he returned from a concussion last season, and they dropped four of five games to fall to 8-6 before winning their last two to end up 10-6 for the year. They missed the playoff only because they lost the tiebreaker to the Vikings, and because the Vikings beat the Packers the final week of the season. Cutler is very adept at improvising when the play breaks down, which happens a lot. Many analysts have said that Cutler has all the tools, and just needs help up front to keep him upright. If he ever gets the time, he could fly up this list, and anybody's list for that matter.
10. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
Colin Kaepernick, despite the loss in the Super Bowl, ended up being the darling of the season the way Tim Tebow was the season before. He took the league by storm after capitalizing on the opportunity given to him upon a concussion suffered by Alex Smith. He proved to be a lethal threat both on the ground and in the air. After playing pretty well in his 7 starts and in the 49ers tie to the Rams (in which Smith suffered the concussion), he really became a big name after beating the Packers in a Divisional Playoff game. He finished that game with 263 passing yards and 2 touchdowns, and 181 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. He has a great sense of when to scramble and when the throw, and he runs the read option to perfection. He has a great team surrounding him, so the pressure will be on to get back to the Super Bowl, with hopefully, a different result. His 2013 season will go a long way in determining if the read option is the latest offensive "fad" as some critics have said, or if Kaepernick is the real deal.
9. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck more than lived up to the hype in his rookie season, taking the Indianapolis Colts to the playoffs. While Luck is pretty mobile for a pocket passer (he had 255 rushing yards with a 4.1 yards per carry average, with 5 touchdowns), he didn't have the benefit fellow rookies Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson had of being a threat with his legs that they did, which likely affected his completion percentage (54.1%). Another thing that likely affected that statistic is the fact that the Colts didn't have a good run game, Seattle and Washington -- Griffin and Wilson's teams -- were third and first, respectively, in the running game. The Colts were just 22nd. Despite his lack of help, Andrew Luck played spectacular, leading his team to a 11-5 record which included a a tie for the league lead and ridiculous rookie record 7 most game winning drives, which included 4 fourth quarter comebacks. Luck proved last season that he was worth the top pick, and will continue to impress as his career progresses.
8. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan now gains the distinction of "Best Quarterback who hasn't won a Super Bowl" after the season he had in 2012, and following Philip Rivers' fall from grace. Ryan finally shook the criticism and won a playoff game, but was not able to lead the Atlanta Falcons to victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game. Ryan again showed why his nickname is "Matty Ice" after tying for the league lead with 7 game winning drives, 5 of which were fourth quarter comebacks. Ryan was able to do all this with a run game -- which had been the team's backbone for the last couple of years -- that ranked just 29th in the NFL. Matt Ryan has all the tools to continue his success and get his team over the hump. It's just going to take some execution, and a little luck.
7. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
Flacco reaches this high because he has joined the Super Champion QB club. He made the ultimate bet on himself before last season by deciding to play out the season before negotiating a new contract. He ended up winning that bet upon beating the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl. Flacco's greatest trait is his ability to throw the deep ball accurately, so his completion percentage is never going to be top 10. But with Dennis Pitta's emergence as a safety blanket at the tight end position, you can expect that that statistic to improve. Now he is viewed as one of the leagues elite, and will now have a lot of pressure on himself to lead this team without Ray Lewis on the other side of the ball, and Anquan Boldin now on the 49ers.
6. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Big Ben has been through a lot in his career. His crazy undefeated rookie season, the motorcycle accident, and a slew of other problems (some his fault, some not). He has not always put up the sexy numbers of all the guys ahead of him, but he knows how to get the job done, and is a two-time Super Bowl champion. He's known for standing in the pocket to allow his receivers more time to get open, and being able to improvise when it matters most. Roethlisberger can play through a lot of pain, which many see as a cause for concern heading into this next season, but if he can stay healthy, he will still be elite. He has lost a lot of receivers in the last couple off-seasons, and hopefully can find some new guys to throw too.
5. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees has shown to be somewhat of a mad scientist on the field. He knows his strengths and is able to play to them on the field. He loves coming out of the shotgun, and loves slinging it all over the field. His greatest trait is that his favorite receiver is the open one. With that being said, he has his flaws preventing him from being at the top of the list. He has a tendency to be a bit of a gunslinger when his ground game is off, and can throw too many interceptions. The Saints are coming off a strange season in which they didn't have their coach, and the defense and running game let him down. However, he is a record-breaking quarterback (the only one ever to throw for over 5,000 yards passing 3 different times in his career). Brees and the Saints will likely bounce back this season and be a wild card threat at the very least.
4. Eli Manning, New York Giants
They don't often come as even-keeled as two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning. His brother may still be the better brother. But Eli proved to be elite after he showed his first Super Bowl victory was no fluke in 2011 upon defeating the New England Patriots in the big game once again. He is very adept at putting the ball right where he needs to. The one thing he may have is he has the better ability to put the ball right where it needs to be on any given play, whereas brother Peyton Manning is better at knowing what to call to get his receiver open. Despite the extra ring on his finger, he falls behind the guys in front of him because he just hasn't shown the consistency in the Regular Season that the others have shown. But there's no doubt about it, Eli is very much out of his brother's shadow, and could shine brighter with more consistent regular seasons.
3. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
It may be considered a little picky for the reasoning behind this, but Brady lands at number 3 on the list due to his dip in completion percentage (65.6 in 2011 to 63.0 in 2012), and the fact that he finished behind both Manning and Rodgers in that statistic. Regardless of this, Brady still finds himself near the top of the list due to the way he rarely through interceptions. Among all qualifiers, he was tied with Robert Griffin III for the lowest interception rate (1.3%). Brady has been a mainstay at the top of anybody's quarterback ranking list, and figures to remain there until he calls it quits.
2. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning rightfully won Comeback Player of the Year last season. Proving that any concern the Denver Broncos' coaching staff and front office might have had to be for nothing. He finished second in MVP voting behind Adrian Peterson, and many others thought he should have won. In addition to leading the league in completion percentage, he also led the league in ESPN's Total QBR Rating. Despite losing in the Divisional Playoff round to the Baltimore Ravens, Manning showed he has a couple more years before he even will begin to think about calling it quits.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers is currently the toast of the NFL quarterbacking hierarchy. His ability to lead this Green Bay Packer team over the last couple years has been incredible when you consider the fact the he has not had a decent running game to compliment him since 2009. He was able to lead the Pack to a Super Bowl run in 2010 with James Starks as the guy in the backfield, and John Kuhn has lined up by himself pretty often in the backfield since then as well. Rodgers is simply the best quarterback in the NFL, with all due respect to the previous couple guys on this list.