New Orleans Saints

Ranking the NFC South QBs: Pre-NFL Draft Edition

Drew Brees might not be happy that he doesn't have a long-term contract, but should smile that he's the top QB in division.
Drew Brees might not be happy that he doesn't have a long-term contract, but should smile that he's the top QB in division.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Knox BardeenNFC South Lead WriterApril 9, 2012

There are still 18 days until the NFL Draft, free agency is slowing to a trickle, and while I could happily talk mock drafts all day (seriously, I could), it’s time to broaden my horizons.

Let’s rank about the current quarterback situations in the NFC South:

1. New Orleans Saints

Starter: Drew Brees (468-for-657, 46 TD’s, 14 INT’s, 5,476 yards passing)
Backup: Chase Daniel (4-for-5, 0 TD’s, 0 INT’s, 29 yards passing)

Drew Brees is among the top three quarterbacks in the NFL, and arguments could be made for him topping the list. Since arriving in New Orleans six years ago, Brees has thrown for 28,394 yards (4,732 per season, on average), connected on 201 touchdown passes (33.5 per season , on average) and led the Saints to 62 wins.

But his statistics don’t share the complete story. Brees is as good in the locker room as he is on the field, quite possibly better. And the Saints are able to run an intricate offensive scheme and game plan because Brees is as intelligent as they come.

Chase Daniel has thrown for 45 yards in two seasons with the Saints on just eight attempts. He’s untested in the NFL, but had a solid college career at Missouri. The best thing for New Orleans, however, is for Brees to stay on the field and Daniel to learn on the sidelines.


2. Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan is quickly becoming one of the  best in the business at making calls at the line of scrimmage.
Matt Ryan is quickly becoming one of the best in the business at making calls at the line of scrimmage.Al Bello/Getty Images

Starter:  Matt Ryan (347-for-566, 29 TD's, 12 INT's, 4,177 yards passing)
Backup:  Chris Redman (18-for-28, 0 TD's, 1 INT, 188 yards passing)

Matt Ryan is coming off a career year. He set career bests in passing yards (4,177), touchdowns (29) and quarterback rating (92.2), and his 4,177 passing yards set a new franchise record. Ryan has gotten better in each of his four NFL seasons and it's easy to speculate that he's not done growing as a passer.

As the playbook expands for Ryan and his mastery of the no-huddle offense increases, his numbers could shoot higher. Adding a new offensive coordinator in Dirk Koetter, who likes to go vertical more than his predecessor, should help Ryan advance even quicker.

Chris Redman hasn't been called on to do much since 2009 (Ryan missed two games due to injury), but he's been in Atlanta even longer than Ryan, and his mastery of the system (although it could change a bit with a new coordinator) is well documented. Redman is the most capable backup in the NFC South.


3. Carolina Panthers

Is Cam Newton a better passer or a running QB?
Is Cam Newton a better passer or a running QB?Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Starter:  Cam Newton (310-for-517, 21 TD's, 17 INT's, 4,051 passing yards, 706 rushing yards, 14 rushing TD's)
Backup:  Derek Anderson (Did not attempt a pass in 2011)

Cam Newton lived up to everything the Carolina Panthers expected and then some in 2011. Newton set an all-time rookie record for passing yards (4,051), set an all-time quarterback record for rushing touchdowns (14), and set an all-time total touchdowns mark for rookies (35).

That's an awful lot of "all-time" records. Newton was well-known for his superb athletic prowess, and most expected him to make things happen for the Panthers with his feet. But there weren't too many who thought Newton was ready to dazzle with his arm at such an early point in his career.

Newton still has things to learn and strides to take as an NFL passer. Can you imagine how good he will be with a few years of experience under his belt?

Derek Anderson didn't throw the ball at all in 2011, and the Panthers are fine with that. Anderson threw 29 touchdown passes in Cleveland in 2007. The fact that Carolina knows he's a capable backup is valuable insurance.


4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Josh Freeman is at the  bottom of this list only because someone had to be.
Josh Freeman is at the bottom of this list only because someone had to be.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Starter: Josh Freeman (346-for-551, 16 TD's, 22 INT's, 3,592 passing yards)
Backup:  Dan Orlovsky (122-for-193, 6 TD's, 4 INT's, 1,201 passing yards)

After Josh Freeman threw 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions in 2010, his first full season as a starter, expectations blasted into the stratosphere for the former first-round pick. But Freeman's 2011 season was a setback season.

Freeman threw 22 interceptions and ran into issues of forcing the ball into places a quarterback should not try to throw. Freeman will never say as much, but he fell victim to trying to do too much with too little around him.

He will get better with experience and make better decisions when put into similar situations, but Freeman will also benefit from Tampa Bay's talent grab.

The Buccaneers are getting better on offense, which should reflect greatly on Freeman. Yes, Freeman is in fourth place on this list, but referring to him as a last-place quarterback is insane. His placement is more a reflection of the talent pool at quarterback in the NFC South than Freeman's rough season last year.

Dan Orlovsky was thrust into starting action in Indianapolis last year when Peyton Manning couldn't play. Orlovsky is a decent backup, but he is a better veteran presence who can be a sounding board for Freeman.

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