Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 7/12/13
As I awoke one morning this week, I turned on ESPN and saw that Ron Jaworski was ranking the league's starting quarterbacks from 1-32.  At that point, I decided to give it a try myself because, really, who doesn't love a good quarterback debate?  But, how does one go about comprising a list such as this?  Do you go by statistics?  Wins?  Surprisingly, I found that choosing the #1 quarterback was pretty easy.  Not surprisingly, I found the rest to be extremely difficult to put into order.  Anyway, here is the list that I came up with.  Enjoy and let the debating begin!#32 Blaine Gabbert/Chad Henne: When I decided to undertake this task, my #1 and #32 selections were the easiest choices for me to make.  I’m not sure who will be the starter in Jacksonville this year but does it really matter?   #31 Brandon Weeden: Brandon Weeden has the unfortunate situation of being in the same draft class as Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill.  Fairly or unfairly, he will always be compared to those QB’s and if he wants to be considered in the same “league” as them, he will need to play more consistently in 2013.  The good news for Weeden is that Trent Richardson looks like he will be an absolute beast at running back which is a quarterback’s best friend.#30 Jake Locker: Once upon a time, Jake Locker was going to be the #1 overall pick when he entered the NFL draft.  He was still picked in the first round in 2011 by Tennessee and to be fair, he has had injuries and an ineffective Chris Johnson.  Based on those factors, it is just very hard to judge Locker’s potential so he is in the same camp as Christian Ponder-year 3 will tell us a lot.#29 Christian Ponder: I know the Vikings made the playoffs last year, but I just don’t see how Minnesota can ever win with Christian Ponder, especially when he is in the same division as Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford.  Year 3 will tell us a lot about what kind of player he can become.#28 Kevin Kolb: I penciled in Kevin Kolb as the starter for Buffalo this year, but first round pick EJ Manuel could possibly be the starter for the Bills come September.  Kolb played well for Arizona last year before getting hurt but it seems that the best he can hope for moving forward in his career is the situation he faces in Buffalo, namely, filling in for a year until someone younger on the roster is ready to go.#27 Ryan Tannehill: Many thought that the Dolphins drafting of Ryan Tannehill with the #8 pick in the 2012 draft was a mistake but Tannehill showed some promise for this "up and coming" team.  With Joe Philbin as the head coach, and the state of the AFC right now, the Dolphins have a chance to be a sleeper playoff team this year. #26 Matt Flynn: Of all of the staring QB’s in 2013, Matt Flynn is the hardest to evaluate because he has essentially only played in 2 games in his NFL career.  He has teased us with great play though when he was given the opportunity but will he be Brett Favre or Scott Mitchell?  There’s just no way to tell.#25 Mark Sanchez: Besides Tony Romo and Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez might be the biggest source of controversy for any one player in the NFL.  He is #25 on this list, and I know some will think even that is too high.  If you take a step back though, he did quarterback the Jets to the AFC Championship game in each of his first two seasons and he played very well in both post-seasons.  Yes, last year was a disaster but to be fair, he has a head coach who basically hates offense and, more importantly, who does he really have around him offensively?  No, I do not think he belongs in the top 20 right now, but I also don’t think he is the worst QB to ever play which is what many would have you believe.#24 Josh Freeman: Outside of Cam Newton, I feel that Josh Freeman has the most potential to crack the top 10.  He’s big, has a good arm, is mobile and had a great year in 2010 so he’s proven that he can do it.  But he is entering year 5 now and if he doesn’t make significant progress in 2013, he will not be playing in Tampa Bay in 2014. #23 Carson Palmer: I don’t know what to say about Carson Palmer.  He still has a good arm and can make plays but he still makes "rookie" mistakes which is why the Raiders traded him to Arizona.  He will have Larry Fitzgerald which is always a plus, but with the state of the offensive line of the Cardinals, and the fact that they have to face the 49ers, Seahawks and Rams defenses twice each, I don’t feel very hopeful in 2013.#22 Michael Vick: This is a “make it or break it” year for Michael Vick.  Much has been said and written about Vick being able to thrive in Chip Kelley’s new offense.  If he does thrive, he may hang around Philadelphia for a little longer.  If not, he may not be in the NFL in 2013.#21 Sam Bradford: If I had to give Sam Bradford a grade, it would be an incomplete.  He has had injuries and also has not had much around him except for Steven Jackson.  The Rams have done a good job of getting some weapons around him for this upcoming season so I am curious to see what transpires.  Can the Rams get past the 49ers or the Seahawks?  That’s a tough proposition.#20 Andy Dalton- When I watch Andy Dalton, there just seems to be something missing and I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that is missing.  In his first two years, the Bengals have made the playoffs each year which is no small feat but I feel like they are destined to continue to lose in the first round unless Dalton picks it up.  And I feel that unlike Cam Newton where the sky is the limit, with Andy Dalton what you’ve seen is what you’re going to get.#19 Cam Newton: Of all the players on the bottom half of this list, Cam Newton has the most potential to jump into the top 10.  The biggest question for Cam is his maturity level.  Not that I put too much stock into this, but some of his press conferences have been just plain bizarre and I wonder what his teammates see from him day in and day out.  That being said, there is no denying his talent.#18 Philip Rivers: Had I made this list three years ago, Rivers might have been in the top 5.  But Rivers has really regressed to say the least and is now clearly behind Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning in the class of 2004.  I’m not sure what happened but maybe a new head coach will energize him.  It pains me to put him this low but he just hasn’t been cutting it the last few seasons.#17 Alex Smith: I must admit, when Jim Harbaugh benched Alex Smith in favor of Colin Kaepernick, I thought it was a bad decision.  Alex had been playing at a high level and had helped to guide the 49ers to the NFC Championship game in 2011.  I think that he will flourish in Kansas City with Andy Reid coaching him and Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles around him.  He does wear the title of “game manager” but if he protects the ball as well as he did in San Francisco, the Chiefs could be a surprise playoff team in 2013.#16 Andrew Luck: I debated putting Andrew Luck higher on this list.  The Colts were 2-14 in 2011 and 11-5 in Luck’s rookie campaign so just making the playoffs was a huge accomplishment.  Now that there are expectations for the Colts, I am curious to see how Luck handles things this upcoming year.  I have no doubt he will do well, but I kept him behind Romo, Schaub, Cutler and Stafford for the time being based on the mere fact that he has only played 1 season.  If things go according to plan though, he will jump those players in the pecking order next year.#15 Matthew Stafford: The first thing I think of when I think of Matthew Stafford is that arm.  He took a step back last season, but without a running game and a defense that could not stop anybody, it is hard to blame Stafford for the Lions’ disappointing 2012.  He does need to cut down on the turnovers.#14 Jay Cutler: There is no question that Jay Cutler has tremendous talent and he had a big year statistically last season when he was reunited with Brandon Marshall.   But you can’t help but feel that, like Andy Dalton at #20, there is just something missing when you watch him play and it’s hard to put a finger on it.  The Bears did get to the NFC Championship game in 2010, were on their way to the playoffs in 2011 until he suffered an injury and won 10 games last year so it’s not like he hasn’t had success.  But, again, there’s just something missing here and maybe having an offensive minded head coach in 2013 will help Cutler get over that hump.#13 Tony Romo: Not including Tim Tebow, is there a bigger lightning rod in all of football than Tony Romo?  Depending on who you listen to, he is either one of the best quarterback’s in the league or is a total bum.  Statistically, he is one of the best performers of all time as he currently has the 5th highest quarterback rating ever.  Yes, you read that right-EVER!  But, his errors seem to always be ill-timed and, much like Matt Schaub, he will not crack the top 10 until the Cowboys get deep into the playoffs.  I will say this: if he was cut today, half of the teams in the league would be calling his agent within an hour.#12 Matt Schaub: In my opinion, Matt Schaub is the most underrated QB in the NFL.  He has put up 4,000 passing yards in 3 of the past 4 seasons (in 2010 he missed 6 games due to injury) and has led the Texans to two consecutive division titles but until he gets the Texans deep into the playoffs, he will remain outside of the top 10.#11 Russell Wilson: Selected in the third round, Russell Wilson was the surprise story of the NFL in 2012.  He has tremendous poise for a young quarterback with a great touch on his deep ball.  The Seahawks defense is getting better and better under coach Pete Carroll, but the reason why they are the trendy pick to win Super Bowl XLVIII is because of their quarterback. #10 Robert Griffin, III- Before 2012, the Washington Redskins last made the playoffs in 2005.  Their last division title was in 1999.  In 2012, the Redskins drafted RG III number 2 overall and unexpectedly won the division.  Coincidence?   In 2013, the Redskins will face the ultimate Catch-22.  Do you continue to utilize Griffin’s world-class speed, thus leaving him vulnerable to injuries?  The Shananhans will need to figure that out, but assuming that he stays healthy, the sky is the limit for RG III.#9 Colin Kaepernick: I must admit that I was very skeptical when Jim Harbaugh decided to go with Kaepernick over Alex Smith last season.  But after watching him play, Kaepernick proved to be the “real deal” in my eyes.  With a strong arm and his pure speed, I believe that Kaepernick will be the best of the new “dual threat” quarterbacks.  He very nearly completed a tremendous comeback in Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens, and all of that with only 10 starts under his belt.#8 Matt Ryan: Matt Ryan really took off in 2012 as the Falcons changed from a running team to a passing team.  Ryan has improved every year and has the potential to be in the top 5 sooner rather than later.  The only thing keeping him from climbing up this list is the post-season success that those above him have experienced.#7 Joe Flacco: Joe Flacco said that he was elite and he went out and proved it in 2012.  If he had better luck, he might have been playing in his second consecutive Super Bowl last season.  Much like Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco gets hurt in the rankings by the fact that he has had a great defense on his side for most of his career, but after last season’s championship when the offense outplayed the defense, Joe has started to get the proper recognition.  Last post-season, Flacco proved that he is a clutch performer and has now rivaled the top QB’s for those you would want with the ball in his hands with the game on the line.#6 Drew Brees: When comparing the top quarterbacks in the league, you have to split hairs a bit in order to pick one over another.  Although there is no denying his impressive statistics and the winning attitude that he has brought to the Saints organization, the fact that his numbers are not as good on the road as they are at home cannot be ignored.   He also throws too many interceptions, but with that being said, where would the Saints be without him?  #5 Ben Roethlisberger:  It’s hard to believe that someone who has been to three Super Bowls, winning two of them, has a rocket for an arm, is built like a lineman yet is elusive, can be so overlooked.  But Big Ben somehow doesn’t seem to get the respect he deserves.  The fact that, unlike the remaining players on the top 5, he has had the benefit of playing on a team with a #1 ranked defense for 3 of the past 5 years probably works against him but it needs to be pointed out that Ben has played his entire careers outdoors which is a reason why his statistics may not be as good as others.  As he enters the second half of his career, I hope Big Ben can avoid the punishment that his body has taken over the years.#4 Eli Manning: Though the Giants did not make the playoffs in 2012, Manning still had good statistics and was burdened with the 31st ranked defense and an injured Hakeem Nicks for most of the season.   Much like the fact that you could debate between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady all day, the same can be said of Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.   But I give the edge to Eli by a razor thin margin as, unlike Big Ben, he has won the MVP of the Super Bowl twice.  Also, Roethlisberger has been aided by having a defense behind him that in the past 5 years has been ranked #1 three times, #2 once and #5 once.  With the game on the line, is there anyone you would rather have than Eli?#3 Tom Brady: You can argue all day long between Brady and Peyton Manning but the soon-to-be 36 year old is still in the top 3 which is pretty good.  Tom gets the Patriots into the playoffs year in and year out despite a lackluster defense, but what keeps him below Manning in my mind is the fact that he has not played up to his own standards in the playoffs the past 4 years.#2 Peyton Manning: Even after missing the entire 2011 season and going to a new team in 2012, Peyton Manning still managed to lead the Broncos to their best record since 2005.  If the Denver defense had not completely choked in the last minute against the Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs, we might be talking about Manning being the best ever.  He’s getting older, but Peyton can still dominate.#1 Aaron Rodgers: If I was starting a team today and could pick any current player to start my team with, I would pick Aaron Rodgers hands down.  He can throw the ball deep, he can throw it short, has a cannon for an arm and is also very mobile.  The last few years, he has had virtually no running game and his defense has been suspect at best, yet he still manages to put up both gaudy numbers and, more importantly, wins.  When I was making this list, I did not hesitate for 1 second with who I felt was the best QB in the game today- it’s #12.
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