8.24.2012

John Clayton's QB Rankings Going Into the 2012-13 Season

I think John was pretty on point with his analysis and ranking of this years QBs.  As the year goes on we know this will change, some more than others.  I look at this like a power ranking.  We know who has proven themselves, we know who had a good year last year and who shows potential.  There's always surprises.  In the past year two of the teams the I follow have started near the bottom of the power rankings and ended their season in the top 4 (The 49ers and The Nationals).  So if your QB is low on this list don't take it to heart, how was his season in the NFL last year?  If he's a rookie or had low numbers last year then that's probably why he's lower on the list.  If you know he has potential to climb then don't worry about it.  I feel like Cam could have been ranked higher, and like Flacco was a bit high and probably shouldn't be in the "Elite" group.  However I do believe that Alex Smith is right where he belongs, he probably would have been like 5 slots lower last year so its good to see him FINALLY making improvements.  I think he could have been one spot higher over top of Freeman due to Freeman's year last year, but I also think Freeman has a lot of upside to him and should bounce back tremendously.  It was a shocker to see Eli over Peyton, but it makes sense.  I think Brady will have a crazy year this year, probably slightly better than Rodgers.  I also think another QB will emerge with a Stafford-like year this year. 

You can do your own ranking and see how it compares to the rest of the sports nation and the ESPN Staff by going to this link: Rank 'Em QB

Here's John's list and comments.

More on this article can be found in the ESPN NFL Section.


1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Analysis: After paying respect to Tom Brady and his three Super Bowl rings with the top spot last year, it's time to give Rodgers his due. He has a great arm and a great mind. He breezed through last season with 15 regular-season wins and leads a team that I believe will reach three Super Bowls over a six-year period. Two years ago was the first. An easy schedule helps him and the Packers this year.

2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Analysis: With the addition of Brandon Lloyd as an outside threat and the easiest schedule in the AFC, Brady could break the single-season yardage record of 5,476 set last year by Drew Brees. He should easily throw for more than 40 touchdowns. Defenses are trying to find ways to stop his two-tight-end sets, which is why the Pats sought an upgrade at wide receiver.

3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Analysis: Brees will be under pressure to live up to his new $100 million contract -- a challenge he's willing to accept. He will miss Sean Payton's play calling, and a tough schedule and tougher offseason might make it difficult to win more than 10 games. But Brees will be dangerous if he makes the playoffs.

4. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

Analysis: Roethlisberger earns the edge over Eli Manning based on his extra trip to the Super Bowl. Like Rodgers, Roethlisberger is surrounded by talent in three-receiver sets. He might battle new offensive coordinator Todd Haley over some play calling, but Haley is smart enough to know that Roethlisberger wins when he escapes the pocket and throws downfield.

5. Eli Manning, New York Giants

Analysis: There is no better example of an elite quarterback getting hot at the right time and winning Super Bowls than Manning, who won each of his two championships from the wild-card spot. Last year, he cut down on interceptions and threw for 4,933 yards.

6. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

Analysis: Coming off four neck operations, Manning might be at 85 percent -- but 85 percent of Peyton Manning is still an elite quarterback. His arm strength isn't what it once was, but in 2010, he still won 10 games for the Colts and made the playoffs even though his downfield throwing ability was in decline.

7. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Analysis: Even though he will miss the tall target of Vincent Jackson, Rivers should have a big year. Antonio Gates is healthy and could have a 100-catch season if he remains healthy. With the additions of Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal, Rivers will cut down on interceptions and throw for more touchdowns.

8. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

Analysis: When will people get off his back? When healthy, Romo has thrown for more than 4,000 yards and between 26 and 36 touchdowns per season. The concern, however, is that some of the talent around him is getting older and more brittle.

9. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles

Analysis: Vick had his best offseason of preparation, watching hours and hours of game film. He's on a mission to get the Eagles back to the playoffs. Sure, he might not be healthy enough to start more than 13 games, but he's money when he's on the field.

10. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Analysis: The Falcons are switching to a three-receiver offense that will feature more no-huddle, the kind of offense that fits Ryan's style. He has taken plenty of heat for losing three playoff games, but this should be the season he makes the playoffs and wins a game.

11. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans

Analysis: Thanks to Schaub's accuracy and ability to work a rollout passing offense, the Texans made their first trip to the playoffs and are the favorites to repeat as champs of the AFC South. With Peyton Manning gone, Schaub has a window to rule the division until the Colts rebuild their roster around Andrew Luck.

12. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

Analysis: Welcome to the world of the elite, Matthew. After two injury-plagued seasons, Stafford stayed healthy last year and threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns. If that's not elite, I don't know what is.

13. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

Analysis: I almost was ready to give Flacco a one-year vacation from the elite category, but a visit to Baltimore's training camp persuaded me to keep him in the group -- even though I dropped him down a couple of spots. He is taking more ownership of the offense and plans to be more aggressive through the air.

14. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears

Analysis: Watching Cutler work with Brandon Marshall, Earl Bennett and a raw talent such as Alshon Jeffery, I see him throwing for 4,000 yards this season. He had an elite season in his final year in Denver. Then the Josh McDaniels tornado swept through, forcing him to the Bears. Cutler should return to elite after this season.

15. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Analysis: Newton is knocking on the door of the elite after an incredible rookie season in which he threw for 4,051 yards and hit more big plays than any other rookie in recent memory. He has worked on his short and intermediate throws to make sure he doesn't have a sophomore slump.

16. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Analysis: I probably rushed Freeman onto last year's elite list, so I dropped him back a couple of spots and out of that category this year. An easy schedule in 2010 brought inflated views of the Bucs' roster for 2011. If Freeman does have an elite season, there could be nine elite quarterbacks in the NFC next season.
17. Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers

Analysis: Smith had the greatest rise of any quarterback in football last year. I ranked him 28th going into last season, and his résumé made him more a miss than a hit. Thanks to Jim Harbaugh's scheme and hard work by Smith, he has become a playoff-caliber Pennington.

18. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams

Analysis: Getting rid of the Josh McDaniels offense should add a touchdown per game to the 12.1 points the Rams averaged last season. Bradford will work shorter, smarter passes, which will illustrate his potentially elite skills.

19. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

Analysis: Bengals fans blasted me last year for putting Dalton at the bottom of my ratings. Well, if the entire first round of teams pass on you, it's difficult to give a top grade. Dalton played like a Pro Bowler last year and jumped up 14 spots.

20. Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs

Analysis: Dwayne Bowe's holdout is over, and the Chiefs' offense appears to be loaded. They are deep at wide receiver and running back, and they need to be healthy at tight end. Cassel and the Chiefs are thinking playoffs.

21. Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders

Analysis: Palmer got so sick of the Bengals that he left football for part of last season. The trade to the Raiders gives him a chance to show whether he still has his elite skills, but he has to cut down on interceptions. Give Palmer man coverage, and he'll gamble deep.

22. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills

Analysis: Chan Gailey's spread offense is perfect for Fitzpatrick. He's good at making quick decisions. He's accurate throwing short. The Bills are thinking playoffs as long as Fitzpatrick cuts down on interceptions.

23. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets

Analysis: If Tim Tebow takes red zone plays away from Sanchez, he'll have more interceptions than touchdown passes. Plus, the Jets don't have a lot of weapons on offense.

24. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Analysis: Seeing Luck work in Bruce Arians' offense, I think Luck can throw for between 3,500 and 4,000 yards as long as he stays healthy. The Colts have enough offensive talent to sustain those numbers.

25. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

Analysis: RGIII may not post the stats of Luck, but he might get more victories. He's exciting when he gets out of the pocket, and he loves to throw deep.

26. Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings

Analysis: Ponder is caught in a tough spot. The Vikings are rebuilding their roster and might not win many games this year. If they finish with a high pick in the 2013 draft, they may be pushed into taking one of the top quarterbacks if Ponder doesn't put up good numbers.

27. Matt Flynn or Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Analysis: With only two career starts, it's difficult to give a full report on Flynn. Odds favor him being a hit. He's accurate and makes good passing decisions. He just hopes he had enough time with the first-team offense to be successful as a starter. If Wilson is named starter, he would rank below No. 27.
28. Kevin Kolb or John Skelton, Arizona Cardinals

Analysis: Neither quarterback has done much to win the starting job. That's not an insult to Skelton, who is considered a developmental quarterback. It is an insult to Kolb, who is paid more than $10 million a year.
29. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans

Analysis: The Titans face a tough opening schedule that features four 2011 playoff teams in the first six games. The Titans may be rushing it by promoting him over Matt Hasselbeck now, but if he gets through at 3-3, the plan might work out.

30. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

Analysis: The problem is not starting Tannehill as a rookie. The problem is the surrounding cast. Miami doesn't have enough good receivers to give him a chance to be successful.
31. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns

Analysis: Weeden has a good arm and decent grasp of Pat Shurmur's offense. It helps him that Shurmur did a good job two years ago in St. Louis with Sam Bradford. But it's going to be a tough year for the Browns and Weeden because the receiving corps is so young.
32. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars

Analysis: His rookie season was a disaster. Mike Mularkey has one season to make it right for Gabbert, or the Jaguars may be in the market for a new quarterback next year.