These are my rankings going into the 2013 season. I repeat…GOING INTO THE 2013 season. I don’t see the rankings ending this way.
Won’t last long -- In fact, why are you here?
32. Blaine Gabbert – The mark of the Jaguar franchise being in the abyss is exemplified by Gabbert being their starter for an inexplicable third consecutive season.
31. Mark Sanchez – Sanchez remained with the Jets solely because of monetary and contractual reasons, but Geno looms and takes over soon – if not already.
30. Matt Flynn – Flynn epitmomizes what it is to be a stopgap quarterback. He’s simply a placeholder for his successor(s) who will be the one to reap all the benefits of Flynn’s bumps and bruises on what is a very bad Raiders team.
29. E.J. Manuel – A rookie who looked good in preseason. If his proficient play carries over into the regular season, then his 29 ranking won’t be for long. We should temper expectations for now.
28. Jake Locker – Great athlete. Good football player. So-so quarterback. Locker has the tools, but not the craftsmanship. He’ll be relegated to perpetual #2 duties unless his 2013 is a miraculous one. However, that’s fighting against the grain of his history of losing (or inability to win if you want to be more polite).
27. Ryan Tannehill – A few steps behind his draft class cohorts, but showed flashes last year. He progressed steadily over the season and with the addition of speedster Wallace, should see continued growth and maturity. Eventually, Tannehill only go as far as the continuity of the Dolphins allows him to.
26. Christian Ponder – A good stretch to start the year and a phenomenal week 17 is outweighed by a horrendous 4-game stretch in the middle. No more excuses for Ponder as it’s his third season in the starting role. He doesn’t need to be flashy, but needs to consistently move the ball and ultimately, win. If not then the Vikings won’t waste another year of AP’s prime and will find another Q.
25. Carson Palmer – Palmer led the league in empty stats last year on a bad Raiders team (simple description of empty stats is huge numbers on a team that doesn’t win). He should produce again this year with Fitzgerald as his main target, but he’s never been a guy to push through lulls and win in the clutch. This year is no different over the long haul, but Arizona should be surprisingly competitive.
24. Alex Smith – Nothing glamorous about how Smith goes about his business. And that’s exactly how he conducts himself – as a workmanlike professional. While he never materialized into a #1 overall type quarterback, he has settled on being very efficient. Really, he’s a coach’s dream. Andy Reid just wants the chance to win while the Chiefs hash out their long-term roster. Smith is a high-end stop gap, if you will, that should allow KC to be in a lot of games.
2013 breakout QB's
23. Brandon Weeden – Weeden’s 2012 trial-by-fire will net him positive results in his second year in the NFL. He got a lot of his learning curve out of the way in adjusting to the speed of the NFL and his progress puts him right in a spot to become a very good NFL quarterback this year. Weeden is my main dark horse to leap the QB ranks after this season is completed.
22. Sam Bradford – Injury concern is one of the main descriptions that is used to define Bradford. However, he is strong and sturdy in the pocket and can hang in there and deliver with accuracy under pressure. His accuracy without pressure is very good. If you have accuracy with good arm strength and poise, which Bradford does, then you will succeed in the NFL. 2013 is primed to be Bradford’s breakout season.
Lost cause or lost their way?
21. Josh Freeman – One of the most inconsistent quarterbacks in the NFL. It’s magnified because of the extremes these inconsistences provide. One week he is a top 5 quarterback and the next he’s bottom 5. He’d be higher based on potential if we hadn’t already seen this for four seasons. He needs to iron out the mistakes once and for all or the Bucs probably move on.
20. Matthew Stafford – Let’s just get right after it here. Stafford is having problems. He looks permanently lazy with his reads, always settling on force-feeding Calvin (hard to blame him, I suppose), but what’s even more troubling is his lack of correction in his mechanics. He’s a gunslinger by nature, but now he’s haphazardly sailing throws on a regular basis. Talent is undoubtedly there, but the work ethic is in serious question right now.
19. Jay Cutler – Trestman looks like he’ll finally utilize Cutler the way I’ve been screaming for him to be used since he left Denver. Rollouts and bootlegs is where Cutler excels. He’s the best QB in the game at doing these things and he becomes very dangerous as a result. Unfortunately, when he’s forced to stay in the pocket, he eventually becomes susceptible to turnovers. He will improve upon his last few years and has a good season. He’s just not going to win you a Super Bowl unless he cuts out the inefficiencies. We’ll save his lack of leadership qualities for another day.
18. Michael Vick – Electrifying athleticism, yet injury prone and his Achilles heel is turnovers. Chip Kelly’s offense is a wild card for Vick and his season can go either way. With ball security, Vick will have a resurgent 2013. This is his last chance though, because Foles and Barkley are waiting in the wings if Vick gets hurt or struggles. However, if he plays well, the Eagles will be in the race for the playoffs.
17. Cam Newton – In case you forgot, Cam Newton is still chalk full of potential and on the fringe of forever shedding Clark Kent in favor of Superman. An uptick in completion percentage and a downtick in turnovers and suddenly Cam is knocking on the door of the top 10. His supporting cast still worries me, but he’s talented enough to pull off an amazing year.
Winning by mediocrity club
16. Matt Schaub – Almost too blasé for my liking, but his style of play generally keeps the gray hairs off a coach’s head. The talent surrounding Schaub makes his role more of the facilitating variety. His stats don’t jump off the page, but they don’t have to for him to be successful. Limit mistakes, which he does a decent job of, and the wins will come.
15. Andy Dalton – Cincinnati has put together some fine packages on offense for Dalton to unwrap every Sunday. Whether he hands off and watches or lets the ball fly and watches, he will like what he sees from his playmakers. Dalton doesn’t have massive turnover issues, so with the talent level rising in Cincy, so too should Dalton’s production. A big year for the Bengals is on the horizon and Dalton’s command of the offense is a big reason why.
14. Philip Rivers – Once considered to be elite, Rivers has seemed to settle in the middle of the pack. Injuries to his receivers and Antonio Gates haven’t helped his cause over the past few years. He still puts up pretty good numbers despite, and seeing him this low is a testament to today’s pass-happy NFL. He’ll be solid again in 2013, but nothing that screams upper-tier.
13. Joe Flacco – He got his Super Bowl ring. He got his mega-million contract. Now he’s going to come back down to earth. Flacco is a solid quarterback and rides the coattails of his teammates well. He surprised me with how he was able to come through in the clutch, but it doesn’t mean he’s an elite quarterback. I’d say top 15 is right where he should be after such a high in last February’s super Bowl victory and the low that will come in 2013 to even it all out.
12. Eli Manning – Speaking of riding coattails well – the two-time Super Bowl MVP, Eli Manning, is without a doubt, the toughest quarterback I’ve ever tried to evaluate. Statistically, he’s never really done anything too outstanding on a consistent basis. However, his knack for coming through in the clutch leaves me dumbfounded at times. If I doubt him again, he’ll win another Super Bowl. If I proclaim him to be elite, he’ll go on a season long slump. So, in the top 15, but just outside the top 10 is where he resides. The only question for 2013 is whether or not he gets hot down the stretch again.
The future is now
11. Colin Kaepernick – Astronomical potential. This isn’t necessarily the year to expect him to rise to that ceiling though. He still has to add more polish to his game. I don’t care so much that he was so gung-ho about getting into the weight room so soon after the Super Bowl defeat. His main focus should be the mental side of the game, most notably, by perfecting his progression to the 3rd and 4th reads. His mobility allowed him the luxury to throw to his 3rd and 4th receivers, but not particularly out of how the play was devised, rather with how great Kaepernick is with his feet. With Crabtree going down, his 3rd and 4th receivers are big time question marks. The cohesion needs to be there for Kaepernick to work on those later reads and it’s how he will improve on his outstanding 2012 season. I do think it’s a step back this season for Colin, but that’s natural.
10. Robert Griffin III – Similar to Kaepernick, I predict a small step back for RGIII, but for different reasons. Fresh from tearing his knee, Griffin should see the field come week 1, but I question the unity between RGIII and his coaching staff. Will he run a lot or be discouraged from doing so? Will we see turmoil start to surface on differences of opinion, similar to what was seen in preseason? The writing is all over the wall for a sophomore slump. Defenses will be divulging schemes to keep RGIII under wraps early on, but he’ll find his groove later in the season. Redskins will have a down year, but RGIII and co. will get hot late, prime to make another big splash 2014.
9. Ben Roethlisberger – Big Ben is entering his 10th year as the Pittsburgh starter this year. Ask me to define a seasoned veteran and I’ll point to Roethlisberger. He knows how to win. He can help his team win in many ways. If that means be the proverbial game-manager, he’ll do it and do it well. If Tomlin asks him to throw for 300 yards, he can do that too. If it’s the last play of the game and Ben needs to prolong the play just long enough for his receiver to get open, well then there’s no one better. I don’t think losing Wallace hurts a ton, but its level of severity depends on the emergence of Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders as go-to-guys. Explosive rookie Markus Wheaton may be a surprising treat for Ben this year.
8. Andrew Luck – Although he’s on a much different talent level than Weeden, their rookie season had a similar approach with getting the lumps out of the way early. Last year, I mentioned that Luck was getting through that learning curve more quickly than others because he is pocket passer first and foremost. His challenge as a rookie was much more of the mental variety because he did not so readily escape situations with his legs, even though that’s an option for Luck. He upped his game with reading defenses through an entire offensive progression, got his feet wet with check-with-me’s (calling plays at the line), and audibles, depending on defensive alignment and scheme. The mental acuity is what separates the top 15 from the elite, which is a path that Luck is heading towards. Spotlight is shining bright here and 2013 is the last year where Luck isn’t elite.
7. Tony Romo – He got paid for a reason. Slam Jerry Jones all you want. Degrade Tony Romo for big game blunders (and rightfully so), but most teams would better their chances of winning games if Romo was behind center for their squad. It’s been a rough few years for Romo, but to be fair and not to provide excuses, his team did him no favors. In 2012, however, Dez and Romo seemed to develop that chemistry that had been lacking since Bryant’s arrival. Their running game will be above average with Murray (needs to stay healthy) and Dunbar. His numbers are always around the top and his knowledge of the game is upper-tier. Romo’s leadership is even a step further than that. It is why he’s my #7 quarterback. Dallas wins the division this year because Romo puts the team on his back.
6. Russell Wilson – I gushed on draft day about Wilson. I gushed before last season got underway about Wilson’s potential. I gushed and gushed and gushed and guess what? Russell definitely turned some heads last year. The only knock anyone could ever find on this guy was his height. For a third time I will explain that this is offset because of the further depth he gets on dropbacks, the rollouts designed to move the pocket and in turn, give Wilson a better vantage point of the field, his completely overhand deliver, and his monstrous grip that allows him to whip the ball. When it comes to the film room, he’s on the level of Peyton Manning. His leadership is second-to-none. Russell Wilson will be top 5 in the NFL in the next few years and he’ll stay there.
5. Matt Ryan – Matt did everything he could in my eyes to deserve a top 5 ranking. His season was magnificent. In the NFC Divisional playoff game – he was clutch. He has done nothing but improve since his rookie season and should be supplanted in the top 10 for the duration of his career.
4. Drew Brees – The loss of Sean Payton last year definitely hurt the Saints. I don’t think Payton being an extension of Brees off the field should hinder Drew so much. After all, this HC/QB chemistry they have going on is something special that is hardly ever seen in the NFL. They both speak the same football language so they naturally click when together. However, Brees would put up numbers no matter where he went. He’s top 7 without Sean Payton and top 5 with him. The benefit is marginal on a list, but exponential on the field. Saints will compete with Atlanta for the division crown and Brees will have another monster year.
3. Peyton Manning – The zip is back in his throws and he’s had a full season, offseason and preseason with his receivers to prepare. I would leave it at, but I feel compelled to say that I’m pulling for the Broncos in the AFC this year because I want Manning to stick it to those who think he’s less of a quarterback because of this inability to win in the playoffs nonsense. Yes, I’m mad!
2. Tom Brady – Another elite who also is an all-time great. Injuries, criminals and an offseason departure has Brady’s targets looking drastically different than it was one year ago today. It will have an impact on the Patriots offense and Tom and Bill will have headaches with new receivers and a few rookies in the mix, but they’re two of the best at what they do. In a weak AFC East, they should again see the playoffs, which will only make them stronger for the 2014 season.
1. Aaron Rodgers
*Subjective opinion from an honest effort to provide objective analysis. Discussion is welcomed.
Edited by 651akathePaul - 8/25/13 at 12:31pm
VIKINGS | TIMBERWOLVES | TWINS | MARINERS | HUSKIES | SHARKS
VIKINGS | TIMBERWOLVES | TWINS | MARINERS | HUSKIES | SHARKS