Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 12/18/11
Note: these rankings are intended to gauge the overall effectiveness of NFL quarterbacks as players and have no relation to fantasy football.

The Best To Ever Play The Game

1. Aaron Rodgers
With a 123.3 passer rating through thirteen weeks, Rodgers is on pace to break Peyton Manning’s record of 121.1 for a season. Rodgers is also the league’s career leader in rating at 103.7. Just about every statistical metric available regards Rodgers as the best quarterback to ever play the game – and many of them don’t even factor in his considerable rushing abilities.
2. Tom Brady
The question isn’t where to rate Brady compared to his modern peers (unless it’s Peyton Manning), it’s where to rate him amongst the all-time greats. All metrics point Brady to the top of the list. When they finally call it a day, Brady and Manning should go down as the two greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game – at least until Aaron Rodgers hangs it up.
3. Drew Brees  
The only thing missing for Brees is an NFL MVP award – not an easy thing to come by in the heyday of Brady, Manning, and Rodgers.

Borderline Hall of Famers
4. Ben Roethlisberger
Big Ben has always been one of the trickiest evaluations in the league. His stats have always been good, but not comparable to those residing in the top echelon. He’s always played behind crappy offensive lines. He takes a ton of sacks, but only because he never gives up on a play. He gets to play with a sterling defense, which rarely asks him to win the game single handedly. But unlike the game managers, Roethlisberger can win games when the Steelers need him to – which is why he’s won two Super Bowls and projects to win a couple more before people have to decide if he belongs in Canton.
5. Tony Romo
A few stats for you haters: Romo is third all-time in quarterback rating, fourth in yards per attempt, and first in fourth quarter rating. Romo possesses a nearly-unmatched combination of accuracy, decisionmaking, and playmaking ability. It's his panache that truly sets him apart - though it's the same quality that has backfired in some critical spots throughout his career, which is why most pundits refuse to rank Romo where he belongs.   
6. Eli Manning
Little Manning is trucking through a career year, on pace to set personal bests in passing yards, yards per attempt and quarterback rating.

7. Philip Rivers
Rivers is the hardest evaluation on the list, having posted three consecutive 100+ rating seasons before inexplicably falling off a cliff this season. Rivers was a clear top-five QB before this disastrous season; only time (and perhaps a new coach and offense) will tell if 2011 was an aberration or the start of a downward trend.

Frustrating Franchise Quarterbacks
8. Jay Cutler
Cutler was playing the best football of his career this season before he was sidelined with a fractured thumb. Cutler will always walk the line between gallantry and temerity; this season, he had the tightrope mastered. Outside of Peyton Manning’s, no injury has done more damage to the quality of his team this season.
9. Michael Vick
Evaluating Vick raises a problematic quandary – do you judge a player based on how well he plays when healthy, or is his ability to stay healthy part of the equation? During this Golden Age of his career, Vick is one of the most potent players in the league when he’s on the field – but his greatest challenge has become staying healthy.
10. Matt Ryan
Matty Ice is the easiest QB evaluation in the league. He’s been good from day one. He’ll just never crack the top tier.

The Veteran Pros

11. Matt Hasselbeck
The pro’s pro was on pace for a statistically terrific season before the Titans lost Kenny Britt to an ACL. Now Hasselbeck soldiers on in his familiar role, shepherding a low-talent offense towards the playoffs while keeping the seat warm for the next “franchise quarterback.”
12. Matt Schaub
The relative success of rookie T.J. Yates has given more ammunition to Schaub's detractors, who dismiss his gaudy numbers as symptoms of playing for Gary Kubiak. Schaub will need to lead his team to a high-profile win or two before his respect level matches his numbers.
13. Ryan Fitzpatrick
Forget the Harvard education and the new $62 million contract. Fitzpatrick is an old-school gunslinger, a scrambling, gambling pigskin slinger who belongs in an obscure corner of the NFL universe heaving it forty times a game for a crappy team until the next reclamation project arrives.

The Youth

14. Cam Newton
Superman’s touchdown/interception ratio leaves something to be desired, unless you include his thirteen rushing touchdowns which converts it to 28/16. Newton is the most exciting quarterback to enter the league since Michael Vick. Newton was clearly a man amongst boys in college; the surprising aspect of his rookie season has been how mature he now appears alongside men.
15. Andy Dalton
Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger will go to the Pro Bowl for the AFC. That leaves one spot between Dalton, Matt Hasselbeck, Tim Tebow, and the fading Ryan Fitzpatrick. Dalton, who has resurrected the dilapidated Bengals along with A.J. Green and a talented defense, deserves serious consideration. The rookie second-rounder has played quality NFL football from day one. Dalton is not overwhelmingly anything, but he does everything proficiently. Dalton may soon have to face the questions Matt Ryan faces about his ability to win a Super Bowl in the Rodgers/Brady/Manning/Brees era. For now, Cincinnati fans should try to enjoy what they have – one of the best rookie quarterbacks in NFL history.
16. Joe Flacco
More often than not, Flacco is poised and accurate. He throws the prettiest deep ball in the league and isn’t afraid to make it. He really should be higher on this list. But sometimes Flacco just stinks. There are portions of games, sometimes full games, where Flacco’s skills desert him and he looks like a wide-eyed fan brought in to play quarterback. With a little more consistency, Flacco would be a perennial Pro-Bowler.

17. Jason Campbell
The most conspicuous trait of Campbell’s rocky, unsettled NFL career has actually been definitely average play throughout his career. Though he has played a million different offenses for a million different coaches, Campbell’s stats have always placed him right down the middle of the league. 
18. Matt Stafford
Injuries his first two seasons masked the Stafford we thought he was from the start: a strong-armed chucker who battles accuracy, decision making, and reading problems.
19. Tim Tebow
He’ll probably be five spots lower or higher by this time next week.

The Fringe Starters

20. Matt Cassel
He sure is a lot better than Tyler Palko! And a lot worse than Tom Brady. Cassel's okay.

21. Alex Smith
Still undefined after seven years, Smith's reputation will be staked on how he plays in his first playoff game(s) next month.

22. Kevin Kolb
Kolb has been too injury prone to fully assess the last two seasons; when he has played, he's been inconsistent and has struggled with decision making and footwork. Arizona brass has to be extremely nervous about their long-term commitment to Kolb.

23. Josh Freeman
After his 25 touchdown, 6 interception 2010 season, many posited Freeman as a quarterback who didn’t turn the ball over. Watching him play last season it was obvious those numbers represented a hot streak more than an innate ability to take care of the ball. This season Freeman has thrown 12 touchdowns alongside 18 interceptions, numbers more befitting his erratic, unfinished dossier. Freeman still has a chance to be a true franchise quarterback, but 2011 has shown he’s got a ways to go.

24. Mark Sanchez
The Sanchise would already be out the door in New York but for two things: he seems to play his best ball in the clutch (would could just be variance), and defenders have always dropped a lot of his potential interceptions (which is variance).
25. Carson Palmer
It’s been a long, strange career for the Californian ginger. From Heisman Trophy winner to #1 overall pick to moribund franchise savior to injury casualty to maligned villain and now back to franchise savior, amazingly, Palmer’s career has still not been defined. His play for the Raiders this season and in the future will determine his legacy. Palmer is only 31 years old, so this dog-eared book still has several unwritten chapters.
26. Sam Bradford
Bradford set a rookie record for completions and joined Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan as the only rookies to start all sixteen games and pass for over 3,000 yards. But keener eyes weren’t altogether convinced, as he threw for just 6.0 yards per attempt and finished the season with a mediocre 76.5 rating. Bradford hasn’t been any better this season for the 2-11 Rams. The jury is still out.
27. Matt Moore
Moore plays quarterback like a reformed bad boy rock star. He used to compensate for his pedestrian physical abilities by throwing caution to the wind, forcing balls into tight spots and generally gambling as much as possible. Now he’s older, wiser, and less exciting to watch. He’s a passable NFL quarterback, a low-end #1 or high-end backup. Difficult decisions await the Dolphins in the offseason.
28. Chad Henne
In the preseason, there was talk of how Henne’s career arc most closely resembled that of Drew Brees. Now Henne’s career arc is in danger of resembling that of Trent Edwards.
29. Vince Young
It will be interesting to see which team takes a chance on the mercurial Young this offseason – and if that chance includes starting games. Young was actually playing the best football of his life (98.6 rating) last season with the Titans before his feud with Jeff Fisher derailed both their careers. In five years with Tennessee, Young was 30-17 as the starting quarterback. The Titans went 15-18 in the games Young didn’t start.
30. Kyle Orton
Orton’s numbers will always better his actual value. His disturbing lack of mobility spoils plays most quarterbacks would keep afloat. Orton turns running plays into throwaways, hurries into sacks, completed passes into incompletions, reasonable plays into broken ones. He’s a smart, professional player who brings nothing to the table athletically.

31. Tarvaris Jackson
Jackson is in purgatory, never convincing enough to lock down a starting job but always showing enough to keep his name in the discussion. Jackson possesses alluring talents, but has had a hard time putting it all together with any consistency.

32. Josh Johnson
Johnson's physical tools are borderline-freakish; his accuracy leaves a lot to be desired.

The Desperation Options

33. Christian Ponder
The Florida State rookie has shown some flair since taking over for Donovan McNabb as Minnesota’s starter. He’s also shown his limitations – most notably, ordinary arm strength and little knowledge of how to compensate for it just yet.
34. Jake Locker
The Hurt Locker is going to drive his fans and coaches crazy for years. His explosive athleticism belies his shaky accuracy and decision making. He’ll make a spectacular throw down the field, then fire three straight drive-killing incompletions. He’ll run for twenty yards, then take a silly sack. Locker’s bravado is too compelling to ignore, but he’s more likely to entice than ever seal the deal.

35. Joe Webb
Even faster and more elusive than Michael Vick or Tim Tebow, Webb is a defensive coordinator’s nightmare. He cannot be contained. However, Webb has no accuracy. The defense just has to hope that he misses his throws, knowing he will more often than not.

36. A.J. Feeley
The 34 year-old Feeley is an above-average backup capable of stepping in on a dime and providing unspectacular but proficient play.
37. Colt McCoy
It’s a simple, terminal diagnosis: McCoy simply isn’t big or strong enough to effectively play quarterback at the NFL level. He’ll certainly be a quality backup for many years though.
38. Rex Grossman
The book on Grossman is pretty straightforward: he plays well most of the time, but screws up too frequently to consistently win games in the NFL. Good Rex will sucker you in for a game or two, but Bad Rex always comes back at some point.

Emergency Starters Only
39. Donovan McNabb
McNabb simply fell off a cliff the last two seasons, losing all of his accuracy and most of his mobility. There’s a reason nobody, even several truly desperate teams, claimed him off waivers. It appears McNabb’s productive, successful, but ultimately frustrating career is over.

40. T.J. Yates
Yates has two things going for him: he plays for Gary Kubiak and the Texans, and he isn’t afraid to throw the ball downfield.
41. Charlie Whitehurst
When he finally got to play, the Clipboard Jesus showed us he’s best off holding that clipboard as a long-term backup. Whitehurst has shown flashes, but not enough to beat out an injured Tarvaris Jackson for the Seattle starting job.

42. Dan Orlovsky
Though there are many inferior quarterbacks (see below), Orlovsky is just three games away from becoming the common link between the only two 0-16 teams in NFL history. It warrants mentioning that neither of those teams would have gone winless if they had started Orlovsky from the beginning. He makes a ton of mistakes, but knows how to move the ball down the field.

43. Kerry Collins
Old Man Collins will likely never see the field again. The most surprising and impressive stat of a long and laborious career – Collins passed for over 40,000 yards, 11th most all-time.

44. John Skelton
John “Helter” Skelton plays a little like his nickname, a little like a chicken with its head cut off. He’s not afraid to fire the ball downfield no matter the coverage. At 23, Skelton is a young quarterback with some potential – especially as a backup.
45. Curtis Painter
Painter is a skilled, difficult to defend rope-thrower with all the tools on his better days and a mistake-prone mess on his worst. He’s shown enough this season to garner long-term bench seating in the NFL.
Barely Clinging to a Job
46. Caleb Hanie
Hanie’s skill set most closely resembles the QB he backs up, Chicago’s Jay Cutler. Hanie possesses a rocket arm and prime mobility, but he struggles with everything else. Like Cutler, Hanie believes in his physical attributes too much. He has trouble reading defenses, doesn’t give up on plays, forces impossible throws, and takes backbreaking sacks. Hanie’s chances of playing NFL football in the future have taken a huge hit the last few weeks, right along with Chicago’s playoff aspirations.
47. Blaine Gabbert
Gabbert has trouble throwing the ball accurately (a 50.6% completion rate, second-worst to Tim Tebow), and it’s not like he’s chucking the ball downfield every throw. His 5.47 ypa also resides at the bottom of the charts.
48. John Beck
Becktown’s endless checkdowns recall the late Trent Edwards, who seemed to think it was illegal to throw the ball more than ten yards. There are good quarterbacks (Brady and Brees come to mind) who do a lot of dink and dunk, but they temper it with the occasional strike down the field to soften the defense. More importantly, their short passes generally arrive with great accuracy and punctuality.
49. Tyler Palko
The hideously inaccurate lefty is like some abominable cross between Tim Tebow and Seneca Wallace, uneasy in the pocket or on the run, wildly spraying knuckleballs all over the place. He’s overmatched every time he steps on the field.
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