Top 30 NFL Quarterbacks Heading Into 2014 Season
Ranking the Top 30 QBs Heading into 2014
In the NFL, success for any particular team typically hinges on the play of their quarterback. Having a top-tier quarterback can be the difference between being an annual contender and having a Top 10 pick each April (or May).
We’ve seen from players such as Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers that having an elite quarterback can basically book you a trip to the playoffs every year. Or that a young, exciting passer like Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III can turn a terrible team into a contender. The NFL has become a passing league, and the value of a quality quarterback is higher than ever before.
On the flip side, the presence of a subpar quarterback can doom a team. The selection of players like Blaine Gabbert or Jamarcus Russell can have devastating effects on a franchise, often crippling a roster for years after the decision was made. Even an average quarterback like Andy Dalton can forever limit a team’s ability to win when it matters most.
Either way, the quarterback position is more important now than it ever was. Making the right choice on draft day or during free agency can be the difference between years of success and people losing their jobs in a big hurry. That, however, is life in the NFL, and it’s part of what makes the game so worth watching.
With that in mind, here’s my list of the top 30 quarterbacks headed into the 2014 campaign, based largely on natural talent and how they played last season.
30. Geno Smith, New York Jets
It’s still early, but the Jets have a lot to be worried about with their “franchise” quarterback. Smith threw almost double the amount of interceptions as touchdowns in his rookie season, and hasn’t come on as quick as the Jets were hoping. We’ll see if it was rookie jitters or a sign of things to come.
29. Michael Vick, Free Agent
Vick might still have something left in the tank, but he’s clearly a shell of his former self. Turnovers and injuries doomed his 2013 season, and it’s hard to expect anything much better from him this coming campaign. A change of scenery could certainly help, but Vick is on his last limb.
28. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tennessee Titans
Despite his history of struggles, Fitzpatrick proved in 2013 that he’s still capable of stepping in and holding down a starting job. Depending on what direction the Titans decide to go at the quarterback spot, Fitzpatrick could be in for another surprise season in 2014.
27. E.J. Manuel, Buffalo Bills
It wasn’t an easy year for the 2013 first-rounder, who battled injuries and growing pains. Still, Manuel showed some promises throughout the year and wasn’t as mistake-prone as Smith was. The Bills’ top priority this offseason should be surrounding Manuel with weapons.
26. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
Don’t stamp “bust” across his forehead just yet. Locker was showing some signs of realizing his potential last year before he suffered a season-ending injury. With Ken Whisenhunt now at the helm, something could finally click for the young quarterback – if he can stay healthy.
25. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
After a sensational rookie season, Griffin saw a significant decline in 2013 when he was rushed back into the starting lineup. He appeared uncomfortable in the pocket and his mechanics went out the window when he felt contact coming. This could be a bounce-back year, but last season was discouraging.
24. Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
While it certainly wasn’t a pretty debut, Glennon doesn’t get enough credit for his rookie season. He stepped in to a volatile situation and held his own, leading an offense with a stable of unknown running backs and a beat up offensive line. The future looks bright for Glennon, but the Buccaneers must give him help.
23. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals continue to add weapons around him, but Dalton just can’t seem to make things happen when it matters most. Another playoff letdown has fans demanding his benching, but the Bengals don’t appear ready to give up on one of the NFL’s most inconsistent quarterbacks.
22. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
So much for that huge contract… One year after leading the Ravens to a Super Bowl win, Flacco couldn’t even get them to the playoffs. Largely due to poor decision making and a lack of consistent playmakers, Flacco has fallen heading into 2014. He now has one year to prove 2013 was a fluke.
21. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
Who knew he had it in him? After landing with the Cardinals, Palmer was rejuvenated, leading Arizona to a 10-6 season and narrowly missing the playoffs. The veteran showed poise and excellent arm strength, and should continue to thrive under Bruce Arians as long as his pass blocking improves.
20. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
If it wasn’t for a midseason ACL tear, Bradford might be much higher on this list. After three average years in St. Louis, the former first overall pick looked like he was finally becoming the franchise quarterback the Rams were hoping for. Can he pick up where he left off in 2014?
19. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
Smith proved in 2013 that he’s more than just a game manager, but he’s still far from a franchise quarterback. His limited arm talent will keep him from ever being a game-changer, but he has the smarts to win consistently if the Chiefs can keep his arsenal of weapons well stocked.
18. Josh McCown, Free Agent
No one was quite sure what the Bears would get from McCown when he stepped into the starting role, but Chicago couldn’t have asked for more. The veteran showed great instincts and understanding of the offense, nearly leading the Bears to the playoffs before heading back to the bench. He’ll cash in this offseason during free agency.
17. Matt Stafford, Detroit Lions
Every time it seems like Stafford is ready to take that next step towards being elite, he stumbles and the Lions falter. A disappointing 2013 season has him trending downward heading into 2014, but another strong season under a new coach could get Stafford headed back in the right direction.
16. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
American’s favorite quarterback to hate (or irrationally love if you’re a Cowboys fan), Romo makes this list at No. 16. While there’s plenty to like about his abilities as an NFL quarterback, there’s that ever-lingering quality that no one appreciates – he chokes under pressure. Jerry continues to stick with him, though.
15. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
From a purely talent standpoint, Kaepernick is among the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Unfortunately, some mental hang-ups and inconsistency have him sitting at the middle of this list. The natural ability and instincts are there, but he needs to become a better leader who can deliver every single Sunday.
14. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Plain and simple, Tannehill is better than he’s made out to be. If it wasn’t for the putrid pass blocking he got in 2013, the young gunslinger might have been even higher on this list. Give him time to keep growing and developing – he’ll be in the Top 10 sooner rather than later.
13. Eli Manning, New York Giants
He might be coming off a miserable 2013 season, but Manning is still one of the better starting quarterbacks in the league. The Giants need to find a reliable running game and a capable offensive line if he’s going to get back on track in 2014.
12. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
When Cutler is at his best, he’s one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. When he’s not, though, it’s bad. It’s that inconsistency that has him at No. 12 on this list. It’s understandable that the Bears were willing to re-sign him to a big deal, but that’s also why they won’t be winning a Super Bowl any time soon.
11. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
And to think people were concerned about Foles fitting into Chip Kelly’s offense. Foles took over for Vick a few games into the 2013 campaign and never looked back. Now the Eagles have their quarterback of the future figured out, and the outlook is rather bright in Philadelphia.
10. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers have been relatively irrelevant as of late, but that doesn’t mean that Roethlisberger has been a disappointment. Big Ben is making plays like he always has, but the defense was a mess this past year. Assuming Pittsburgh makes some significant upgrades this offseason, expect Roethlisberger to be right back in the spotlight.
9. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
After a down year in 2012, Newton bounced back and helped the Panthers emerge as top contenders. He showed great poise and maturity in his third season, and now heads into 2014 with even more to prove. If last season was any indicator, though, Newton will have no trouble carrying the Carolina offense.
8. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
It was definitely a down year in 2013 for Ryan, who had limited weapons to work with due to injury. Still, he played well and did a good job of shouldering the load despite the Falcons’ 4-12 finish. With his receivers back to full health and an improved offensive line protecting him, 2014 should be a big year for Ryan.
7. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Luck has all of the tools to be the next elite quarterback, but seems to keep tripping up just when he’s about to break the barrier. He throws inconvenient interceptions, but there aren't many you'd rather have the ball in their hands than him. Another year as the Colts’ starter should see him take that step to the next level.
6. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Everyone and their mother was concerned that Wilson couldn’t get the job done on the NFL’s biggest stage. Well he did, and in convincing fashion. Wilson has proved himself to be an exception to the rule that quarterbacks can’t be short, and does it with his amazing understanding of the game and feel for the position.
5. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
It only took a coaching change and a rookie receiver to get Rivers back to his elite self. With Mike McCoy in charge, the Chargers watched their quarterback return to his former glory, carving up secondaries on a weekly basis. Expect more of the same this season from Rivers and the budding Chargers offense.
4. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
This past season wasn’t as nice to Brady as those passed, but that doesn’t ruin his status as an elite quarterback. That’s just what happens when you don’t have a top-notch defense or offensive weapons to help you along the way. It’s starting to look like Brady might never get another ring…
3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
With Sean Payton back at his side, Brees returned to form in 2013. He picked apart opposing defenses and made the same type of plays the Saints have come to expect from their quarterback. As long as Payton and Brees are playing together, there’s nothing for the city of New Orleans to worry about.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Despite spending a significant portion of the 2013 campaign watching from the sideline, Rodgers is still among the most elite quarterbacks in the NFL. With an uncanny understanding of the game, the arm to make all of the throws and some sneaky athleticism, there isn’t much more you could want out of the Packers’ franchise passer.
1. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Manning is no longer a spring chicken and has some health concerns, but 2013 solidified the notion that he is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever live. Assuming he can stay healthy, Manning should be back in 2014 with another record-setting performance and Super Bowl run.