The 2012 NFL season will see quite a few teams with new starting quarterbacks. Some of these will be rookies (Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Brandon Weeden), and some will be veterans finally getting a chance.
Luck, Griffin and Weeden have all but won the starting job, but there will also be a few heated camp battles this summer, including fights for starting spots with the Dolphins, Jaguars and Titans, to name a few.
It will be very interesting to see who wins these battles, as well as who keeps their jobs as the season goes on.
To kick off these rankings here are my projected starters for each team...
(Quarterbacks who will lose camp battles in parentheses)
(Rookies in italics and last year's starters in bold)
Arizona Cardinals: Kevin Kolb (John Skelton)
San Francisco 49ers: Alex Smith
Seattle Seahawks: Matt Flynn (Russel Wilson, Travaris Jackson)
St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford
Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco
Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton
Cleveland Browns: Brandon Weeden (Colt McCoy)
Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger
Houston Texans: Matt Schaub
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck
Jacksonville Jaguars: Chad Henneor Blaine Gabbert
Tennessee Titans: Matt Hasselbeck (Jake Locker***)
*Tannehill will start by season's end.
**Just kidding. Tom Brady will obviously start for New England.
***Locker has a shot at winning the job, and will likely have it by season's end.
32) Chad Henne or Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars
As of right now, according to NFL Blogger Ryan Wilson, Gabbert is set to start. In the end there will likely be a battle in camp, which Henne would very likely win. Either way, the Jaguars will have the worst starting quarterback in the NFL come September. Henne has proven nothing when given the chance and Gabbert simply stank as a rookie.
31) Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills
After Fitzpatrick's shocking start to the season last year, he really fell apart. He threw 14 touchdowns to 7 interceptions in the first two months of the season, but managed only 10 touchdowns compared to 16 interceptions down the stretch.
30) Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
Weeden, 28, was drafted in the first round to be the starter. Cleveland's brass has already stated that he is expected to win the job. The low ranking is not so much an indicator of Weeden's ability, but more of the poor ability of Cleveland's receiving core. The Browns' offense will rely on rookie running back Trent Richardson and the passing attack will struggle to get going.
29) Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
Ponder could very well go on to have a good career in Minnesota, but this year won't be a breakout season. Star running back Adrian Peterson may or may not be ready for the start of the season. If he does not come back at 100% the running game will struggle, and therefore defenses will be able to key on Ponder and his core of receivers.
28) Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals
This is the year in which the Cardinals must find out if Kolb is their quarterback of the future. Beyond a couple of solid spot starts with the Eagles, Kolb has not shown the ability needed to be a starter in the NFL. Look for a season-long battle with John Skelton if Kolb struggles at the start of the year. If Kolb finally does break out, he could see his name much higher up the list by season's end.
27) Matt Flynn, Seattle Seahawks
Flynn was signed by the Seahawks to start at quarterback, but there will still be an intriguing battle between him, Tarvaris Jackson and Russell Wilson. Like Kolb, Flynn has only shown promise in spot starts for Green Bay and has not been given a shot to be a full-time starter until now. Unless he comes out hot, look for Wilson to snag a few starts this year as a rookie. By the end of the season, Flynn—like Kolb—could see his name fly up this list.
26) Matt Moore, Miami Dolphins
Matt Moore was very solid last year, but not great. He will simply be a passable game manager until Miami feels that rookie Ryan Tannehill is ready to start.
25) Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
The "Sanchize" has been up and down through his first three NFL seasons and this year could be his toughest test yet. With the natural pressure of playing in New York added to the presence of Tim Tebow, Sanchez will be under more pressure than ever. If he has one bad game, the fan base will be screaming for Tebow and the USC product may not be able to handle the pressure.
24) Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee Titans
According to Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com, the Titans' staff is still quite fond of Hasselbeck. He will have the starting job come the regular season, but if age does finally catch up to the 13-year NFL veteran, second-year man Jake Locker could be handed the keys. Hasselbeck likely won't play badly enough for that to happen right away, but he is not the quarterback he used to be.
23) Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs
After his Pro Bowl season in 2010, Cassel only managed 9 games all last season. Even though he has had a few solid seasons, Cassel is not a quality starting quarterback at this time, not unless you ask him, that is.
22) Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After a breakout performance in 2010 (25 touchdowns to six picks), Freeman really played horribly last year (16 touchdowns to 22 interceptions). He still has a lot of talent, though, and the former first-round pick out of Kansas State should have a solid year, especially with the addition of Vincent Jackson to his receiving core.
21) Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
It is simply painful to put Luck this low on the list, but he has a very weak supporting cast. He should manage a solid season and lead the Colts to a few more wins than last year, but remember that even Peyton Manning threw 28 picks during his rookie year.
20) Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers
Smith had his best season last year, but will still never live up to the hype of being the No.1 pick in the draft. Look for Smith to have a very similar season to last year; he won't regress, but won't improve a whole lot. Any improvements will be partially due to an improved receiving group which now includes Randy Moss and Mario Manningham.
19) Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
19 might seem low for Vick, but considering injury concerns, it's the right spot. Vick will start off the season healthy, but won't start all 16 games. He has yet to play in more than 13 games since returning to the NFL in 2009. If Vick does manage to stay healthy, his name will be much higher up the list at the end of the season.
18) Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Dalton was terrific as a rookie, and there is no sophomore slump in sight. With a target like A.J. Green, it's hard to go wrong. The former TCU quarterback will see his name higher and higher on this list as the seasons pass and he gains more experience.
17) Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders
After a very brief retirement, Palmer was traded to Oakland and put together a so-so season (three more interceptions than touchdowns). Although he should see his numbers improve this season, it is unlikely that Palmer will make it back to elite status anytime soon.
16) Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
Even with Rex Grossman on the roster and the drafting of Kirk Cousins, RGIII will be the starter. Considering his athleticism and passing ability, look for the Heisman Trophy winner to have a Cam Newton-esque rookie season.
15) Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
After being named Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2010, Bradford had a rough second season. This was largely due to injury problems caused by a horrid offensive line. Bradford should be able to bounce back and put up numbers considerably better than either last year or his rookie year.
14) Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
No matter how much Flacco might think he is an elite quarterback, he isn't. Even though he is much more than a game manager at this point, Flacco will need to step up his game in order to crack the top 5, or even top 10, quarterbacks in the league.
13) Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
Schaub is another quarterback who spent some time out of the lineup last year, but he still put up solid numbers. If he can stay healthy look for Schaub to have a season more like 2010, when he had 4,370 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions. If Schaub is for some reason not ready when the regular season rolls around, second-year player T.J. Yates will start after doing a solid job filling in down the stretch and in the postseason last year.
12) Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
As much as Romo might struggle at crunch time, he is a heck of a quarterback. Romo will likely put up similar numbers to last season (31:10 touchdown to interception ratio, 102.5 quarterback rating). If he can figure out how to handle pressure, the Cowboys could be making a run in the playoffs, but that's a big "if."
11) Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
By his lofty standards, Rivers had an off year in 2011, but he still played pretty well (27 touchdowns, 20 interceptions). It is highly unlikely that Rivers will approach that number of picks this year, he had never had more than 15 in a season before. Rivers will have a season more like his 2008-10 self.
And now we get into the top 10...
10) Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Newton had an absolutely amazing rookie season, setting records left and right. He is the real deal. Newton will put up even more astounding numbers this season and could find himself as one of the top five quarterbacks in the league within two to three years.
9) Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan had the best season of his four-year career in 2011, and looks to keep improving. With weapons like Roddy White and Julio Jones at his disposal, there is no reason that Ryan won't be able to build on last year's numbers, which were already very good (29 touchdowns, 12 picks, 92.2 QB rating).
8) Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Look for Cutler and the Bears' offense to go off this season. Not only does Cutler have his former Denver teammate Brandon Marshall back, but Matt Forte will still be in the backfield. Cutler is poised to put up huge numbers this year and could establish himself as an elite quarterback. The Bears have an outside shot at being the highest scoring offense in the NFL this year.
7) Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
In 2011, Stafford became only the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 5,000 yards in a single season. It is unlikely that he will be able to repeat those yardage numbers, but with a beast like Calvin Johnson to throw to, there is no reason that Stafford won't be able to build on the 41 touchdowns that he threw last year. The Lions are another team with a chance to do some really amazing things on offense in 2012.
6) Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Manning will make Broncos fans forget about Tim Tebow in a hurry. Depending on how he does after missing all of last season with a neck injury, Manning could return to his rightful spot in the top three. Even if he does not quite regain his old form, he will still be a top quarterback. Look for Manning to lead the Broncos back to the playoffs this year, and in much more dominating fashion than Tebow managed in 2011.
5) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
It is hard to argue with a two-time Super Bowl champion being in the top five. Roethlisberger won't put up the same numbers as others in the top 10, but he will play tough and do what it takes to win, and his numbers won't exactly be shabby. The Steelers will look to make another playoff run coming out of a tough AFC North.
4) Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Like Stafford, it is not likely that Brady will be able to top 5,000 yards again this season. That said, he is still an elite quarterback, one of the best the game has ever seen. He should throw for around 4,800 yards and at least 30 touchdowns. Those are certainly elite numbers.
3) Eli Manning, New York Giants
If the Patriots had won the 2011 Super Bowl, Manning would be No. 4, with Brady ranked third. Alas, the Patriots did not win. Manning has finally proved that he is, in fact, one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. As strange as it is to have Eli ranked higher than his brother Peyton, it is the only fair way to rank them, considering what happened last season.
2) Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Brees has topped 5,000 yards in consecutive seasons, breaking Dan Marino's single season passing record in the process. It would not be wise to bet against him doing it again. With Brees at the helm, the Saints' offense is simply unstoppable. With a solid run game and a plethora of wide receivers, Brees will again put up astounding numbers.
1) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Rodgers has really come a long way since slipping to 24th overall in the 2005 draft. He is now the best quarterback in the league, and there is no question about it. Last season Rodgers had arguably the best season by any quarterback, ever. He threw for over 4,600 yards and 45 touchdowns compared to a measly six interceptions. Rodgers is good enough to do it again, he might even be able to break his own freshly set quarterback rating record of 122.5.
Look for the Packers to have another great regular season. They could very possibly be Super Bowl Champions again come season's end.
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