NFL Quarterback Power Rankings 2013
NFL Quarterback Power Rankings
With the NFL season set to kick off in exactly one month, it is time to rank the starting quarterbacks on all 32 teams. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league as the team that hoists the Lombardi Trophy almost always has an elite quarterback.
Joe Flacco proved he is an elite quarterback after leading the Baltimore Ravens to victory in Super Bowl XLVI. But how does he compare to the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning? Manning and Brady are 37 and 36 years old respectively, but these quarterbacks appear immortal as they both continue to play at a dominant level despite their old age.
Speaking of upper-echelon quarterbacks, does Matt Ryan belong in the conversation after earning his elusive first playoff win? What about Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, both of whom fall under the radar despite leading their respective teams to two Super Bowl titles in the past decade?
Last season was the year of the rookie sensations. Where do the young stars like Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson stack up in the rankings?
Don’t forget about second-year pro Colin Kaepernick, who led his team all the way to the Super Bowl after snatching the starting quarterback job away from Alex Smith in the middle of last season. Speaking of Alex Smith, where does he fall in the power rankings after being traded to the Kansas City Chiefs?
And last and maybe least, where does Mr. “Butt Fumble”, Mark Sanchez land on the power rankings list? Is Sanchez the worst starting quarterback in the league, or are other signal-callers on other struggling teams ranked behind him?
In order to find out the answer to these quarterback-related questions, read this article to see my power rankings for all 32 starting quarterbacks and see what selections you agree or disagree with.
32. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars
Gabbert, the 10th overall pick in the 2011 Draft, has been the most disappointing player of his draft class. He is timid in the pocket when rushers penetrate. Furthermore, Gabbert appears afraid to make mistakes as his conservative style of play is exemplified by his league-worst 5.98 yards per pass attempt. Gabbert may not have the best talent around him, but he needs to prove something to the franchise in his third year in the league, or else he will be replaced by capable backup Chad Henne.
31. Matt Flynn, Oakland Raiders
The “One-Game Wonder” has yet to prove himself in the league despite his hefty contract. Flynn has only started three games in his career (most notably in 2010 at New England where he dominated), so there isn’t much to gauge his talent on. He is known for being an accurate passer, but his arm strength is a major question mark.
30. Kevin Kolb, Buffalo Bills
Kolb’s only chance to succeed in the short term with the Bills hinges on the offensive’s line ability to protect him. Kolb simply can’t function in a crowded pocket and appears scared when pass rushers come near him. Kolb is merely a stopgap until rookie QB E.J. Manuel is ready to suit up under center.
29. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
Locker failed in his first year as a starting quarterback last season. The third-year QB has a strong arm and can make plays as a runner. Yet, he is horrific at throwing on the run as his sporadic passes often led to trouble (11 interceptions last season). Locker started in 11 games last season and was unable to prove he has what it takes to be a reliable starting quarterback in the NFL.
28. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
Sanchez led the Jets to the AFC Championship in each of his first two seasons (2009-2010) in the NFL, but Sanchez has regressed mightily the past two years. Because of his inaccuracies, he can only be a system quarterback at best. However, his dreadful decision-making eliminates any chance of him being a mid-level starting quarterback. Sanchez was a turnover machine last year (18 interceptions, two fumbles lost) and there is no reason to believe he will turn his career around.
27. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
Palmer had a surprisingly efficient season last year with the woeful Oakland Raiders, tossing 22 touchdown passes with just 14 interceptions. Alas, Palmer has been an interception waiting to happen for most of his career. He struggled in his first year with the Bengals (18 interceptions, albeit a rookie) and Raiders (16 interceptions in 10 games played), so expect Palmer to post less-than-impressive numbers in his inaugural season in Arizona.
26. Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
Ponder was an intriguing quarterback last year. When he was good, he was really effective; when he was bad, he was really awful. In Weeks 1-4, Ponder ranked 10th in the league with a 68.8 QBR. He posted a mere 27.1 QBR from Weeks 5-13, the worst mark in the NFL. In the final four weeks of the season, Ponder posted an impressive 86.8 QBR, the second-best mark in the league. Alas, the jury is still out on if Ponder can be a consistent quarterback that the Vikings can build around, given his inability to throw the deep ball. Last season, he had only 28 completions of 20 yards or more, the fewest of any QB to start all 16 games. With the best running back in the league in Adrian Peterson, a formidable offensive line and a new, dangerous target in Greg Jennings, Ponder must play well this season to retain his job moving forward.
25. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
Weeden played well last season, especially for a rookie, as he tossed 3,385 yards in a west coast offense that clearly did not play to his strengths. The new offense, run by new offensive coordinator Norv Turner, will feature play-action and down-field throws, which both play to the fortes of Weeden. He proved he had a strong arm last season, but his decision-making wasn’t the greatest and he posted a horrific 26.6 QBR. Weeden will be 30 by the second of month of the season, putting the onus on him to succeed this year if he wants to continue being the man under center in Cleveland, especially since the old regime drafted him, not the current management.
24. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
Vick will presumably win the starting quarterback job over Nick Foles and Matt Barkley, but this could be his last chance as a starter if he does not cut down his turnovers. In 10 games last season, Vick threw 10 interceptions and lost five fumbles. Maybe Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense will benefit Vick, who recorded an exceptional 98 QBR in the two-minute offense. If Vick wants to be the man under center for Kelly’s shotgun spread attack beyond 2013, he will need to take care of the football much better.
23. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Tannehill was overshadowed by all the rookie sensations a year ago, but he actually played decently in his first season under center in the NFL. He did struggle mightily on third down last season, registering the worst rating of all starting quarterbacks. Tannehill threw seven of his 13 interceptions on third down. He needs to do better than his 12 touchdowns (27th in NFL) and 58.3 completion rate (23rd in NFL), especially with a new bevy of targets in Brandon Gibson, Dustin Keller and most notably, Mike Wallace. It may be unfair to put excessive pressure on such a young quarterback with potentially great upside, but if Tannehill doesn’t show signs of progression in 2013, it may be time for the Dolphins to look elsewhere for their franchise quarterback.
22. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Dalton has proven to be a phenomenal game manager in his first two seasons with the Bengals. Of course, it is tough to win Super Bowls with game-managing QB’. It’s difficult to criticize a guy who has thrown for 47 touchdowns with just 29 interceptions in his career. Then again, Dalton's complacency as a quarterback is widely documented and his tentativeness has proven to be costly against elite defenses. An interesting stat in regards to Dalton: He is 19-13 as a starter (not including the playoffs), but has won just two games against opponents with a winning record. This proves that Dalton does take care of business against the teams the Bengals should beat, but also that he struggles to defeat the upper echelon teams in the NFL. This is a critical year for Dalton, who seeks his third playoff appearance in as many seasons as he looks to put behind his postseason woes from the past two years (0-2 record, zero touchdowns with four interceptions).
21. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Freeman is arguably the most extreme example of a “hot/cold quarterback” (even more so than QB Christian Ponder). Freeman had an amazing six-game stretch of 16 touchdown passes with just six interceptions last season, propelling the Bucs to five wins in that span. He also had a horrid six-game stretch (the Bucs lost five of six in this span) where he threw 10 interceptions with just six TD passes. A major issue for Freeman has been handling the blitz. He posted the second-worst QBR versus the blitz in 2012. The Bucs defense improved significantly in the offseason so the club’s playoff chances could rest on the shoulders of Freeman, who is playing for his job.
20. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
By selecting West Virginia University wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey in the draft and adding coveted tight end Jared Cook via free agency, Bradford finally has some weapons to work with on offense. Bradford plays best out of the shotgun, but has proven to be dependable in the play-action and bootleg. Bradford's red zone efficiency is not up to par though. He is too conservative at times and often will not end the drive in a touchdown for fear of turning the ball over. With an enhanced supporting cast, Bradford needs to finish off drives and stop leaving potential points on the board.
19. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
Unrealistic expectations for the Chiefs have burdened immense pressure on Smith to perform at a top level in his first year in Kansas City. Smith needs to prove that he is not just a system quarterback and display that his 2011 success was not just completely because of new head coach Jim Harbaugh (Smith was horrific for the first five years of his career before Harbaugh was hired). Although Smith was supplanted by Colin Kaepernick in the middle of the season last year, he was very effective in the 10 games he appeared in. Last year, Smith led the NFL in first-down passing with a quarterback rating of 119. His rating ascended to 132 in play-action, which is encouraging with the presence of Jamaal Charles in the backfield for the Chiefs. Smith is signed with the Chiefs through 2014, but he could be ran out of town after one year if he does not play at a high level this season.
18. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
After a record-breaking rookie season, Newton entered his second year in the NFL with a cocky and self-assured attitude that drew the ire not only of analysts, but also of his fellow Panther teammates. Newton was able to mature, last season when the losses started to pile up, though. He finished the season in grand fashion, throwing nine touchdowns with just two interceptions in his final five games, leading the Panthers to four late-season wins. Newton's upside is undeniable as he is one of the most dynamic QBs in the league with his capacity to beat a defense via the rushing attack and through the air.
17. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Cutler had a down season in 2012, but the hope is that the offensive-minded new head coach, Marc Trestman, will hone the precision of Cutler’s erratic passes. Cutler is one of the strongest slingers in the game, but he often tries to fit the ball in situations which are too tight. There is upside with Cutler, who brought the Bears to the NFC Championship in 2010. However, the clock is ticking on the former first-round pick to take his talents to the next level, particularly with how much this franchise has invested in him financially.
16. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
With Stafford entering his fifth season in the league, it is way too early to write him off as the signal-caller of the future for the Lions franchise, especially given his proven incredulous arm strength. Stafford is one of the league’s best quarterbacks at throwing the deep ball (yes, WR Calvin Johnson drastically helps Stafford’s cause), but struggles when he is not lined up out of the shotgun. Stafford mechanics must be refined and he must cut down on his off-balanced throws. The Lions would be wise to trim down Stafford's pass attempts as he has tossed the most passes in the league the past two years by far. If the Lions can establish a running game, Stafford could be poised for success — if he sharpens his footwork and the accuracy in his throws.
15. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
The amount of criticism towards Rivers’ play last season baffles me. First off, Rivers tossed 26 touchdowns on 15 interceptions and registered the 11th-best passer rating with a mark of 88.6. (better than Joe Flacco, Eli Manning and Cam Newton, to name a few). Rivers was able to achieve these feats with the 27th-ranked rushing attack, an abysmal offensive line, a banged-up Antonio Gates and with the top receiver on the team being Malcom Floyd. The Chargers' woes as a team last season were not indicative of the quarterback play of Rivers. Life will be easier on Rivers with the selections of tackle D.J. Fluker and wide receiver Keenan Allen from this past year’s draft. In order for Rivers to return to his once-dominant form, he must become a better decision maker, be a tad more patient in the pocket and hope that the front office reloads the offense with new targets for him to throw to.
14. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
Schaub is about to enter the most important season of his career. Anything short of reaching the AFC Championship Game would be deemed a failure for the Texans, after losing in the AFC Divisional round in each of the past two seasons. Schaub is a perfect fit in Houston's offensive scheme because of his ability to succeed in the play-action (110 QBR in these types of plays last year). Schaub’s success rate in the play-action is crucial for an offense that centers on running back Arian Foster. The Texans are a Super Bowl contender, but the million dollar question is can Schaub lead his club to the promise land?
13. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
Romo’s failures in the fourth quarter have been widely documented, but what goes under the radar has been the constant letdowns of the Cowboys defense. Season after season, the Cowboys defense is comprised of star talent, yet is unable to stop opposing offenses from marching down the field with ease. Romo’s late-game turnovers are unacceptable, but to blame him for the Cowboys' mediocrity in recent years is just not fair. Romo threw for a career-best 4,903 yards (third-most in NFL) last season, and posted an incredible TD-INT rate with 31 touchdowns on just 10 interceptions the year before. Alas, Romo needs to do better in clutch situations in order to be considered of the league’s best QBs.
12. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
RG3 was as good as advertised in his rookie season, leading all quarterbacks with 815 rushing yards out of the read-option. RG3 delivers passes with immense accuracy, recording the fourth-best completion percentage in the league (65.6 percent) last season. He also takes care of the football at an otherworldly rate, firing a league-low five interceptions. The league-wide question is how will RG3 recover from his ACL tear? Will he still be the same forceful quarterback that can run over a defense? RG3 knows he needs to protect his body more after suffering the gruesome injury in last year’s playoffs. He is the face of the Redskins franchise and cannot afford to be shelved on the injured list. RG3 relies on his legs to dominate the game, so he will have to reprove his mobility to opposing defenses. If RG3 plays at the same level as he did last year, we can expect him to be one of the league’s most talented quarterback for years to come.
11.Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
Kaepernick has only 10 NFL starts under his belt (seven regular season, three playoff contests), yet he clearly possesses a special talent. Kaepernick is a nightmare to cover for defenses because of his blazing speed and his bullet passes to his receivers. His playoff performance in the NFC Divisional Round last playoffs was otherworldly as he threw for 263 yards and rushed for 181 yards, putting the Green Bay Packers defense to shame. Kaepernick has already appeared in one Super Bowl and given his talent as a physical quarterback, we can expect to see him chasing Lomardi Trophies throughout his career.
10. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Wilson proved every analyst wrong with his improbable rookie season, leading the Seahawks to the NFC Divisional Round. Wilson threw 26 touchdown passes, tying the rookie record of future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning. Wilson accomplished this feat despite throwing a league-low 393 passes. Wilson’s deep pass is a huge weapon and his threat to run poses problems for opposing defenses. Barring any setbacks, Wilson should be a top-10 quarterback for a long time.
9. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Luck lived up to the hype with the Colts, who reached the playoffs behind their rookie quarterback a season after finishing with the worst record in the league. Luck is a sensational down-field passer and moves well in the pocket. He can break off tackles and maintain his composure in the pocket when defenders are rushing in. Even when the defense blitzes, Luck can break off tackles and then find open receivers (similar to Big Ben) in a broken play. Luck threw too many interceptions (18) in his rookie season, but his turnovers will likely decrease with more experience in the league. He has been compared to the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, the ultimate praise for an NFL quarterback.
8. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers had a disappointing season, but Big Ben was still able to hold in own as the man under center. He tossed 26 touchdowns with just eight interceptions, finishing with the seventh-best passing rate in the league with a mark of 97.0. Big Ben is renowned for his ability to shed off tackles and blitzes from the defenses and then connect with a receiver for a big play in situations where the offense appeared doomed. The Steelers appear headed for the decline, but Big Ben can still boast about his two Super Bowl rings.
7. Eli Manning, New York Giants
Eli is the most dependable quarterback when it comes to making a critical throw in crunch time. Eli is great at manipulating one-on-coverage and then passing the ball in a place that only his receiver can catch. Eli is a composed quarterback that is unfazed and ready for any challenge. He has won two Super Bowls and owns an astonishing 5-1 record on the road in the playoffs.
6. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Ryan has earned the label of “Matty Ice”, leading 23 game-winning drives and 16 fourth quarter comebacks in his five years in the NFL. He is undoubtedly an elite quarterback, silencing his critics with a playoff win over the Seattle Seahawks that saw him lead the Falcons on a game-winning drive against one of the league’s best defenses with less than a minute to go. With Ryan attaining his elusive first playoff win, he now belongs in the conversation of the upper echelon quarterbacks in the league.
5. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
Flacco moved his quarterback status into the upper echelon with his remarkable playoff run, ending in his first Super Bowl victory. Flacco throws the best deep-ball pass in the league as he is terrific at leading his receivers with passes downfield. Flacco is a consistent winner. Since entering the league in 2008, he has led the Ravens to at least one road playoff win in each postseason. Flacco has won six road playoff games, the most in the Super Bowl era.
4. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Brees is an excellent downfield passer that has underrated mobility in the pocket. The 2009 Super Bowl MVP closes drives with great success, made evident by his NFL-record 54 straight games with a TD pass (streak ended last year versus Atlanta Falcons). Over the past five seasons, Brees has amassed the post touchdown passes in the red zone. Last season, Brees tossed 31 touchdowns without an interception from inside the 20-yard line. He also led the league with 43 touchdowns passes.
3. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Manning is the best QB when it comes to making adjustments at the line of scrimmage. He is always in sync with his receivers because he anticipates where they will be before throwing the ball. Being on a new team last year did not faze Manning because he was so in tune with his wideouts. In his first year in Denver, he tossed 37 touchdowns, leading the Broncos to the best record in the AFC. If Manning can lead the Broncos to a title this year, he would become the first quarterback in league history to win a Super Bowl with two different teams.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Rodgers is the best all-around quarterback in the league. Not only does he have a rocket arm with pinpoint accuracy, he also shines in evading the pass rush. No QB can compare in his ability to escape blitzing defenders and then fire the ball away with precision and incredible velocity. Rodgers had a plus-31 last season in terms of touchdowns per interceptions (39 TD, eight INT), the best mark in the NFL. Rodgers puts the Packers in a great position to win the Super Bowl as he looks to win his second ring in four years.
1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Brady’s résumé (five Super Bowl Appearances, 3 Rings) speaks for itself as the future Hall-of-Famer is the best decision-maker in the NFL. In the past three seasons, he has tossed a whopping 109 touchdowns with just 24 interceptions. Not only does he take care of the ball at an extraordinary rate, he also is also virtually unstoppable when executing the QB sneak. Brady excels at recognizing the blitz and exploiting mismatches in the defense. His league-best third-down rate is another reason why he is the top signal-caller in the league. Brady has won 17 playoff games, the most in NFL history, furthering his case as the top quarterback in the league.