Ranking the NFL's Elite Quarterbacks Entering 2012

Tony Santorsa@@TonySantorsaSenior Writer IIFebruary 14, 2012

Ranking the NFL's Elite Quarterbacks Entering 2012

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    Believe it or not, but Super Bowl XLVI was just a little over a week ago and it already seems like a distant memory while the 2011 NFL regular season seems like ages ago—it's amazing how time flies by. 

    Now as we sit in the midst of NFL draft season, we don't necessarily have to focus all in on the draft; perhaps a little debate entering the 2012 NFL season wouldn't be all that bad.

    In that spirit, let's take a look at the NFL's elite quarterbacks entering 2012. 

4. Drew Brees

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    Drew Brees had a magical season in 2011 as he set the NFL record for most passing yards in a single season with 5,476 yards as he smashed Dan Marino's record of 5,084 yards.

    To go along with his astronomical amount of yards, Brees threw 46 touchdowns while completing an incredible 71.2 percent of his passes—which is now an NFL record.

    Brees led his New Orleans Saints to an impressive 13-3 season but fell just short of the NFC Championship as the San Francisco 49ers forced a pitiful four interceptions out of Brees. 

    Brees obviously did not end the season the way that he hoped, which makes him No. 4 out of the four elite quarterbacks entering 2012.

    Another thing that I might add with Brees is that one of the very few knocks that I have on him is that his weapons are just so good—I think that it's safe to say that New Orleans offense, from its receivers to its offensive line, is one of the best in the NFL. 

3. Tom Brady

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    Tom Brady is like a fine wine; he gets better with age. 

    Brady had yet another spectacular season this past year as he posted a 105.6 quarterback rating while throwing 39 touchdowns and compiling a phenomenal 5,235 passing yards. 

    TB12 continued the development of tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez as the duo emerged as the NFL's most productive tight end pairs. 

    Brady ultimately carried the New England Patriots in 2011 as their defense ranked second worst in the NFL, which certainly put a ton of pressure on Brady to produce—and he did, as New England completed a 13-3 season and won the AFC Championship but fell just short in Super Bowl XLVI. 

    It may be a long offseason for Brady, but hopefully the Patriots can add some more talent on both sides of the ball to set themselves up for make yet another run at a Super Bowl in 2012. 

2. Eli Manning

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    Eli Manning can talk the talk and can definitely walk the walk.

    I think we can all remember Manning's comments entering the 2011, the ones about how he belongs in the elite category of quarterbacks. Well, he proved his point, as he's the second-best quarterback entering 2012. 

    Manning may not have had the greatest statistical season as he finished with a 92.9 quarterback rating while throwing 29 touchdowns compared to 16 interceptions, but he posted those numbers with the NFL's worst rushing attack.

    Does he impress you now? I would hope so. 

    Manning led his New York Giants to a shaky 9-7 record but ultimately made the playoffs as they won the NFC East.

    From that point on, Manning was money.

    Through his four postseason games, Manning threw just one interception to nine touchdowns while posting a 103.3 quarterback rating and completing 106 of his 163 passes.

    When the game is on the line, out of any quarterback in the NFL today, I would want Eli Manning to be in control of the offense. 

1. Aaron Rodgers

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    Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers had one remarkable regular season as they finished 15-1 but struggled in the postseason, losing their first playoff game against the New York Giants.

    Regardless of falling short in the playoffs, Rodgers was named the 2011 NFL MVP as he threw for an incredible 45 touchdowns while being intercepted just six times. He also completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 4,643 yards and posted a 122.5 quarterback rating—and that's playing in one less regular-season game.

    Heading into 2012, there is no one that matches up with Rodgers. He had an unbelievable season in 2011 and will look to improve on that mark this year. 

    Let's put it this way: It's like Rodgers was playing a totally different game than everyone else in 2011.