Originally written on Down and Distance  |  Last updated 11/20/14

The NFL is a quarterback driven league.  A team’s success or failure is judged on their quarterback position.  If you draft a guy and he turns out to be a bust, it could set the franchise back years.  Teams like the Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Raiders, and Jacksonville Jaguars have all learned this the hard way in recent years. You might be wondering why I decided to write an article on the top quarterbacks under 30 when it will mean leaving out the likes of Drew Brees and Peyton Manning.  The reason is simple.  We are in a new decade.  Manning and Brees are great quarterbacks but their time in the league is short.  When they eventually retire, a lot of the names on this list will be hitting their primes. Here is my list of who the best quarter backs under 30 years old are: 1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (29 years old) Photo: Patrick Semansky / AP Images Many see Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers as the best quarterback in the league right now.  He’s been able to get it done despite not having a great offensive line, no running game (although that could change soon if rookie running backs, Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin break out), and a wide receiver corps which misses more games with injuries than they play.  Rodgers can laser it to anyone on the field running deep  or short routes and he can make plays with his feet. What’s different about Rodgers and other franchise quarterbacks is that he was drafted in 2005 when the Packers still had a certain Brett Favre as a starting quarterback.  Rodgers didn’t get his shot until 2008.  This means that Rodgers could easily be playing into his forties. 2. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (28 years old) Photo: AP Images Because Matt Ryan took four attempts to win his first playoff game, people like to use this against him as being a top quarterback.  What some seem to forget is that Peyton Manning also took four attempts to win his first as well.  Peyton didn’t win his first playoff game until 2003, by which time he’d been in the league for five years exactly the same time frame and age as Ryan was. Ryan is one of the few pure pocket passers in this list, he doesn’t have the ability of Rodgers to make plays with his feet if protection breaks down.  He has some great receiving weapons in Atlanta in Julio Jones and the Tony Gonzalez.  The question is, can he win the biggest game of all? 3. Andre w Luck, Indianapolis Colts (24 years old) Photo: A.J. Mast / AP Images The Indianapolis Colts selected Andrew Luck wit the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.  Exactly fourteen years previously they had selected another quarterback, a certain Peyton Manning also with the first overall pick.  Manning defined the Colts for over a decade.  Now it’s Luck’s chance. Luck is already a more complete quarterback than Manning ever was.  Manning is not mobile and cannot operate under pressure, two attributes that Luck has.  He was the most hit and sacked quarterback during the 2012 season yet still managed to lead the Colts to an impressive 11-5 record.  That record also included seven fourth quarter comebacks.  Luck did this with no running game, no offensive line, and not much in the way of receiving weapons 4. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (24 years old) Photo: AP Images “Russell Wilson is too small to play quarterback in the NFL.  He’ll never succeed!” was one of the most common reasons against Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson before, during, and after the 2012 NFL draft.  Even now, after a stellar rookie season and a solid start to his sophomore campaign, there are people who still use his size against him. Wilson has shown he can win the big games against the tough NFC West and the other good teams in the NFC.  Like Rodgers, he doesn’t have a great batch of receivers to rely upon.  They are solid but none of them are really elite top ten receivers.  He does have a great running game and a great defense though which helps him. 5. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (28 years old) Photo: AP Images Joe Flacco is the reigning Super Bowl champion and Super Bowl MVP.  He’s also the only quarterback reach the win a game in the post-season in his first five seasons in the league.  He also did not throw a single interception during the play-off and Super Bowl run, a feat that hasn’t been done before.  He threw eleven touchdowns. Flacco has received a lot of hate from fans and analysts aout how he only got to the playoffs because of his defense and running game.  That seems to have been put to rest in the 2013 season.  The Ravens’ defense has not been spectacular and as for the running game…it’s been non-existent – Ray Rice has 3.0 yards per carry and 89 yards through three games. 6. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins (23 years old) Photo: Nick Wass / AP Images Robert Griffin III is one of the quarterbacks of the now famous 2012 Draft class, the third quarterback from that class to make this list.  As a rookie, Griffin helped the Washington Redskins win the NFC East for the first time since 1999.  He was inured in the wildcard playoff game against Russell Wilson’s Seattle Seahawks. If Griffin can stay healthy, something he’s not quite managed to do in the NFL so far, he has the potential to be a great quarterback.  To do this he needs to control when he runs as at the moment, he’s taking too many risks.  Too many risks increase the risk of serious injury. 7. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers (25 years old) Photo: Kelley L. Cox / US Presswire Colin Kaepernick came out of nowhere in 2012.  Replacing the injured Alex Smith mid-way through the season he lead the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl.  Kaepernick helped popularize the read-option offense which helped propel the 49ers to the Super Bowl. NFL analyst Ron “Jaws” Jaworski said that Kaepernick could be one of the greatest quarterbacks ever.  That’s high praise indeed but a little premature, it’s only his third season in the league and only his second season of starting for the 49ers.  He has a long way to go before he’s talked about in the same sentences as Dan Martino, Brett Favre, and Joe Montana. 8. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (25 years old) Photo: Rick Osentoski / AP Images Matthew Stafford’s first two seasons in the NFL were hampered by injuries.  Since then however, he’s established himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the league.  He holds several passing records including having the most passing yards after 50 games played (14,069).  He’s also the youngest quarterback to pass for 10,000 yards. If there is one downside to Stafford, it’s his ability to force the ball to star wide receiver Calvin Johnson instead of looking for the open receiver.  Despite this, he still puts up huge numbers and can only improve as he gets older. 9. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (age 24) Photo: AP Images With every quarterback draft class, there’s always a player who gets branded a bust before he’s even done anything.  In 2011, that was Cam Newton.  While Newton has not exactly lit it up, he’s not put up JaMarcus Russel numbers either. Newton has had to deal with limited offensive weapons in Carolina; an ineffective running back tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, and an aging Steve Smith out wide.  He’s also prone to lapses of concentration which lead to him making silly mistakes.  But he is young not to mention an athletic freak, with the right coaching he could easily be one of the top quarterbacks in a few years. 10. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (25 years old) Photo: Wilfredo Lee / AP Images Ryan Tannehill is the forgotten man of the 2012 draft class.  While everyone is raving about Wilson, Luck, Griffin and for some reason – Brandon Weeden of the Browns 0 Tannehill has been relatively quiet despite putting up some solid numbers and performances (something Weeden has not done). Tannehill was also the 2012 Draft’s “Bust Quarterback Pick” that seems to have backfired, just as Newton’s has.  Nobody thought the former wide receiver from  Texas would amount to m much in the NFL.  So far in 2013 however, he’s lead the Dolphins to a 3-1 start.   The Dolphins may just have found their first franchise quarterback since Dan Marino   Do you agree with this list?  Is there someone too high or too low, or even someone not on the list?  Start the debate! Twitter: @DownAndDistance Facebook: NFL Talk The post Top 10: Quarterbacks under 30 appeared first on DOWN & DISTANCE - Presented by Sports-Kings.

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