NFL Power Rankings: The Top 5 Quarterbacks Heading into the 2012 Season

Soven Bery@@realsovenberySenior Analyst IFebruary 23, 2012

NFL Power Rankings: The Top 5 Quarterbacks Heading into the 2012 Season

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    The quarterback position might be the hardest in the world. Quarterbacks are the central cog in a team of gears. If they play well, they get ultimate recognition—if not, well, just ask JaMarcus Russell. There are very few people in the world who can play this position and play it well. 

    The prospects in the 2012 NFL Draft will be aiming to follow in the footsteps of these five living legends. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and others will try to emulate the success these guys have had. 

    With the 2011 season in the rearview mirror and the draft being the next stop on our GPS, my NFL car has decided to take time out to rank the five best quarterbacks heading into the new season.

    Here are the top five quarterbacks in the NFL. 

5. Matthew Stafford

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    Believe it or not, but the leader of the Lions had a great season in 2011 and is primed to only get better next year. Megatron will be back, and having a target like that is a great boon for any thrower. Johnson is a skyscraper in the middle of a rural village. 

    In the year of the quarterback, Stafford was elite. His 5,038 passing yards was third to only Tom Brady and Drew Brees. He added 41 touchdowns (third in the NFL) and 421 competitions (second in the league) to an already impressive stat-line. 

    But, most important of all, Stafford was able to get the Lions into the playoffs. That achievement alone should be enough to prove this kid's potential. 

    If he can stay healthy, expect Stafford to come up big once again in 2012. 

4. Eli Manning

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    Yes, the younger Manning is elite. The world will just have to deal with that fact. His stats were impressive this year, but they weren't, "OH.MY.GOSH.HE.IS.GREAT" numbers. 

    No—the thing that separates Eli from the rest of the pack is one paper.

    He has a ticket to Disney World.

    No other quarterback can say that.

    The newly crowned world champion gets on this list because he was able to lead the rag-tag Giants team to another Super Bowl victory. 

    Déjà vu, anyone? 

    Manning had 4,933 yards with 29 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. The scary part is he still has room to improve. 

3. Drew Brees

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    Brees was nothing short of excellent this year. I have always had extreme respect for this man, and he only gained more respect by breaking Dan Marino's single-season passing record. 

    That being said, Brees fell short this year. He was unable make the NFC Championship Game, let alone the Super Bowl. Then, more dismay followed as he watched Aaron Rodgers take home an MVP trophy that he had an argument for winning. 

    Brees and company will come back in full force next year, but topping this season will be very hard. His 5,476 passing yards, 46 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and a 71.2 completion rate led the league. 

    If the Saints can contend and bring home another title to New Orleans, then Brees will be much higher on this list. 

2. Tom Brady

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    The sting of another Super Bowl loss won't derail Brady and the Patriots in 2012. With an improving defense and a hopeful addition of a wide receiver, New England will have a deadly arsenal next season. 

    At the helm of that army is the former MVP, Tom Brady. He had a phenomenal season this year, leading a defunct Patriots team to the cusp of a championship. It will take more then an angry Gisele, a dancing Gronkowski and a drop by Welker to slow down Tom Terrific. 

    Age is creeping up on him like a Giants defensive end, but we have not seen the last of Brady. His 5,235 passing yards, 39 touchdowns and 12 interceptions will only improve next season. 

    And yes, he is still Boston's Boy

1. Aaron Rodgers

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    The NFL MVP was unable to get it done in 2011. I had an urge to drop him a couple slots, but then I would be blind to a great season by Rodgers. Sure, the Pack lost to the eventual Super Bowl champions in an embarrassing fashion—but Rodgers was awesome this year.

    Rodgers was Brett Favre minus the interceptions. Green Bay will be good next year, and losing in the playoffs after having an outstanding season hurts. 

    But his 45 touchdowns compared to only six picks speak for themselves. To state the obvious, this guy is a star, and he has a bright future in the league. Luck and Griffin should emulate themselves on this quarterback. 

    Rodgers' 122.5 quarterback rating led the league, and the only trait better than his game is the way he carries himself. Rodgers is down to earth and humble. 

    If it is up to him, the world will see a lot more Discount Double Check next year.