NFL Power Rankings: Who Are the Top QBs Heading into 2012?
All 32 starting quarterbacks for the 2012 season have a huge task ahead of them:
They have to try to surpass what they did last season.
With that being said, QBs 1-29 are ranked based on how well they did last year and how much they need to improve moving into next season.
The three rookie QBs, Weeden, Griffin, and Luck make up the 30-32 positions. They are judged differently than the 29 starters who are returning from last year.
They have to be judged differently.
How well can we say RG3 will do for example, when he has no NFL experience? Instead they are ranked by how likely they are to succeed in the NFL.
And lastly, after taking the time to read this list, please comment and share who are top 10 QBs are for next season. Your list will undoubtedly be different from mine, so share your thoughts and ideas!
32. Brandon Weeden
Jason Miller/Getty Images
Brandon Weeden starting this list doesn't mean he is the worst quarterback. It does mean that he has a lot to prove. Being 28 years old and going into his rookie year, Weeden is older than the other two starting rookie QBs.
Besides that, Weeden is going into a team that is struggling. We don't know how well Weeden will do, and if the Browns want him to succeed, they will need to successfully build up the offense around him. Weeden is also in a division with two elite QBs, and one rookie QB who had a great first year.
How successful Weeden is in the NFL will be determined by what the Browns choose to do. Like the other two rookies who are going from college straight to NFL starters, we will have to wait for the season to start to properly judge just how good they really are.
31. Robert Griffin III
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Robert Griffin III is going to need help from the Redskins if they plan on having him succeed. Griffin is entering a division full of impressive defensive ends. He is going to need to be aware of the constant pressure that is going to be thrown at him throughout the season.
And while Griffin does seem like an extremely hard worker, is he being overly hyped?
Will the Redskins be able to work with Griffin, or will Donovan McNabb end up being right in the end when he said that RG3 wouldn't be a good fit in Washington?
We will have to wait until the 2012 season to find out.
30. Andrew Luck
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
As with the previous two starting rookies, it is hard to judge how well they will do next year. Putting college aside, Andrew Luck has one advantage over the other two starting rookies going into the new season:
Luck will have to deal with one elite QB in his division in Schaubb, while both Weeden and Griffin will have to face off against two.
Luck also has arguably the most pressure put on him. He was, after all, the QB selected to replace Peyton Manning, a task that some would consider impossible.
Will Luck have success? Only time will really tell. But all eyes will be on Luck as well as the other two starting rookies.
29. Blaine Gabbert
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Simply put, Blaine Gabbert had a bad starting year. With a QB rating of 65.4 and a completion percent of 50.8, Gabbert was one rookie who was clearly effected by the shortened off-season last year.
Gabbert is still young, and has plenty of time for improvement, but will he succeed? Can Gabbert move forward in a franchise that is declining?
Next season could be rough for Gabbert, but regardless of the outcome, he needs to try to improve and move forward.
If he can't make it in Jacksonville, where else will he go?
28. Christian Ponder
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
After the McNabb experiment failed in Minnesota, Christian Ponder was thrown in as the starting QB to try and salvage whatever remained of the rest of the season.
Ponder would have to face the hardships of a shortened off-season because of the lockout, and would not be able to save the Vikings from going 3-13.
Ponder is clearly no Andrew Dalton or Cam Newton, and if the Vikings are serious about keeping Ponder as a starting QB, they need to build an offense around him.
One benefit that Ponder has is that he is still young, and now that he is being given a second chance to start next season, he needs to try and make the most of it.
27. Kevin Kolb
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
What can we really say about Kevin Kolb? 2011 was his year to show that he was ready to make the transition from backup to starter.
He failed miserably.
Playing in only nine games and scoring a measly nine touchdowns, Kolb came across as overrated and overpaid.
The Cardinals must have also felt that way, throwing their hat into the Peyton Manning mix and trying to scoop up Manning to replace the overrated Kolb.
Kolb will get another chance next season, but if he can’t deliver, don't expect him to start for much longer.
26. Matt Flynn
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Matt Flynn showed flashes of greatness last season. He seemed to fit perfectly into the Green Bay offense and put up fantastic numbers for a back up QB.
You may be wondering why Flynn is so low in the rankings.
It's tough to judge if Flynn will have the same success in Seattle that he had in the few games he played last season in Green Bay. He could easily end up being like Kevin Kolb and missing his first opportunity to move from backup to starter.
It's also important to not hold Flynn to a higher standard because of how well he played in Green Bay. The Seahawks are a much different team, and Flynn could either be successful or struggling in his first year as a starting QB.
2012 will be a starting for Matt Flynn, one that he needs to take full advantage of.
25. Matt Hasselbeck
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Matt Hasselbeck might be the starting QB in Tennessee, but will the 13 year vet lose time next year to rookie Jake Locker?
Don’t be surprised to see that happen.
Hasselbeck is an average QB. He put up decent numbers last year and even played a role in taking the Titans from a 6-10 record in 2010 to a 9-7 record in 2011.
He is, however, getting older. He isn't the long-term solution in Tennessee, but at the same time, Locker may not be completely ready yet for the starting QB position.
Matt Hasselbeck will be the starting QB for the Titans, but for how long is unknown.
24. Carson Palmer
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Carson Palmer is going to be starting the 2012 season as the main QB of the Oakland Raiders.
He played 10 games with the Raiders last season and threw more interceptions than touchdowns. Palmer was the 1st draft pick back in 2003 but never quite lived up to the hype.
Is Palmer the QB the Raiders are looking for?
I doubt it, but, at the moment, they really have no other option.
Palmer needs to take this off-season to become familiar with the Raiders, something he missed out on last year.
For the Raiders, Palmer looks to be their best bet going into next season.
How well he will actually do is still up in the air, but don't be surprised if it’s nothing special.
23. Matt Cassel
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Matt Cassel had a pretty good season back in 2010. With 27 touchdowns and only seven interceptions, Cassel was able to send the Chiefs into the playoffs.
Then 2011 happened. The Chiefs would be hit with injuries, and Matt Cassel himself would suffer a significant hand injury. He would play in only nine games, only throw for 10 touchdowns and increased his interceptions from seven to nine.
With head coach Todd Haley fired before the season was even up and the Chiefs going after Peyton Manning during the off-season, you have to wonder how safe Cassel will feel going into 2012.
With the Chiefs getting back the injured players they lost in 2011, and new offensive additions such as Peyton Hillis and Kevin Boss, this upcoming season will be the time for Cassel to show that he has what it takes to start in the NFL.
If, however, Cassel continues to decline, he will more than likely be replaced in the seasons to come.
22. Matt Moore
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
I don't know too many people who expected Matt Moore to do as well as he did. To be honest, I don't know many Dolphins fans. The one I do know thought the season was over when Henne went out on injury.
Matt Moore took over for the injured Henne and would try to salvage the Dolphins' season, eventually getting them to a 6-10 record.
With the Dolphins drafting Ryan Tannehill in the first round of this year’s draft, Moore's starting status was questionable. In the end, Moore will keep his starting job until the Dolphins feel that Tannehill is ready.
Moore ended the 2011 season with a QB rating of 87.1 and will hopefully be able to maintain a decent record as the Dolphins prepare Tannehill for the starting job.
2012 could be the last time we see Moore start as a Dolphin. Or he could outplay Tannehill and keep the starting position for the most of 2012 and maybe even a couple seasons after.
In the end, however, I don't think Moore is the QB answer Miami is looking for.
21. Sam Bradford
Jay Drowns/Getty Images
Sam Bradford still has a lot to improve on. Getting injured in his second year and missing six games did not help Bradford at all.
He only threw six touchdowns paired with six interceptions.
The good news for Bradford is that the Rams are hopefully making improvements with new coaching going into the 2012 season.
Bradford still has a lot to prove and a lot to work on, but he is still young, and the Rams still believe Sam Bradford is there QB.
Hopefully Bradford can learn during the off-season and take positive steps forward for both himself and the Rams.
20. Josh Freeman
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Josh Freeman had a great year in 2010. He threw for 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions.
He took a big step backward in 2011. With only 16 touchdowns compared to 25, and 22 interceptions compared to six, Freeman's problem is clearly having way too many INTs.
His turnovers affected his QB rating and dropped him from 95.9 to 74.6.
Freeman also had a lot of interceptions in his first year (18), and it seems as though whatever progress he made with preventing interceptions, he lost in the 2011 season.
Freeman needs to go back to whatever fundamentals he was using in 2010 and show the NFL why he should be a starting QB. The Buccaneers seem to believe in Freeman, but how much longer will that last if he continues to throw 20 or more interceptions?
19. Ryan Fitzpatrick
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
The Buffalo Bills started out the 2011 season doing extremely well. Ryan Fitzpatrick was playing well, and it looked like the Bills could possibly make a playoff run. They went into week nine with an 8-2 record. They lost seven straight games from week nine until week 16.
Was Fitzpatrick to blame for the downfall of the Bills? Somewhat. While Fitzpatrick ended the season throwing 24 touchdowns, he also threw 23 interceptions.
He had a 62.0% completion rating, but with so many INTs, it counter acted the touchdowns that he threw.
If the Bills want Fitzpatrick to be their permanent starter, he has to majorly tone down his interceptions.
2012 could go either way for Fitzpatrick. It could be a decent year if he avoids so many INTs, or it could end badly with Fitzpatrick being the one to blame.
18. Mark Sanchez
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Mark Sanchez needs to improve. We all know this.
The question is whether or not he can improve.
It may seem as though Sanchez has gotten worse since his 2009 starting season, but in actuality, he has improved in almost all aspects. He had his highest completion rating, threw for the highest TDs and yards and also had the highest QB rating of his career so far.
He also threw 18 INTs, the highest of his career, which clearly impacted the Jets negatively.
Sanchez still has a lot of improving to do, but the Jets need to figure out how to do it. Getting a new offensive coordinator might help, and getting Santonio Holmes under control would also help Sanchez improve.
Even Tebow now being a Jet may make Sanchez finally start to develop in the way the Jets are looking for.
2012 will be a make or break year for Mark Sanchez. Is he really a capable starting QB? Or will he mess up and allow Tebow the opportunity to take the starting job?
17. Jay Cutler
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The Chicago Bears were off to a great start during the 2011 season. Jay Cutler was having another solid year, and they had only lost three games.
Then Cutler broke his thumb, and the Bears went on a five game losing streak that knocked them out of the playoffs.
Let’s also not forget that Cutler was injured in the 2010 NFC championship game against Green Bay Packers, a game that the Bears could have won if Cutler was able to finish.
Besides injuries, Cutler is a pretty good QB if he can keep interceptions down. In 2010 for example, he threw 23 touchdowns but also had 16 interceptions.
Cutler could easily move up on the list of QBs, but his last two injuries took him out at such key times for the Bears that it’s hard to not consider him injury prone.
Will Cutler be able to go the whole 2012 season without getting injured? Or will Chicago have to rely heavily on back-up quarterbacks again?
16. Michael Vick
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
One of Michael Vick's biggest problems last year was turnovers.
In 2010, Vick had six interceptions and six fumbles while passing the ball. In 2011 he cut down his fumbles from six to three but more than doubled his interceptions, going from six to 14.
Rushing the football was another problem for Vick.
In 2010, Vick had nine rushing touchdowns and four fumbles. One year later, Vick had only one rushing TD and seven fumbles.
If Michael Vick had held onto the ball more, he would have had a much better year.
Vick finished the 2011 season with a QB rating of 84.9. If he can avoid injuries, and if the Eagles can find a way to balance out the double threat that Vick brings with his passing and rushing game, 2012 could be a much better year for Vick,
If Vick struggles though in 2012, you have to start wondering when the Eagles will look to replace the 10 year veteran.
15. Philip Rivers
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Philip Rivers is an excellent QB. With a career QB rating of 95.5 and ranking 6th last season in yards (4,624), it’s hard to find a place to put Rivers when discussing the top starting QBs.
Even with River's impressive stats, the Chargers were not as good as they had the potential to be last year. Part of this is due to Rivers himself. Throwing 20 interceptions last year clearly hurt Rivers and the San Diego Chargers.
As an eighth year veteran, it is time for Rivers to step up like he did a couple years back, helping the Chargers achieve a 13-3 record. The Chargers broke even this year with an 8-8 record, but with Peyton now in Denver, and the potential for him to be at 100%, it could get a lot harder for the Chargers.
Rivers needs to tone down the INTs and play at the high level that we know he can.
14. Andy Dalton
Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images
Andy Dalton was able to make it to the playoffs in his first year as a starter. He threw for over 3,300 yards and had a QB rating of 80.4. He had a solid first year and was able to keep his INTs relatively low for a rookie, throwing only 13.
Even though they lost in the first round of the playoffs, Dalton has a lot of potential to improve and be the permanent starter in Cincinnati for years to come.
2012 will be a year in which Dalton has the opportunity to show that he can play QB in the NFL.
Will he be the QB the Bengals are hoping for? Or will he be a bust?
We will have to wait until the season is underway to find out.
13. Cam Newton
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Cam Newton had a great year for a rookie. He threw for over 4,051 yards with 21 touchdowns. He breathed new life into a fading Panthers franchise. He was entertaining to watch and proved those wrong who doubted him.
Newton also broke Peyton Manning's rookie passing record as well as the record for most rushing touchdowns in a season by a QB. Clearly, Newton has gone above and beyond expectations.
Newton does need to worry about a couple of things moving into the 2012 season. Keeping his interceptions low and being able to avoid injury when running the ball will play a role in his success next season.
If Newton can keep up his superman performance, he will climb the ranks of NFL starting QBs.
12. Peyton Manning
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
It's hard to find a spot for Peyton when ranking the starting QBs going into next season.
Sure, you could take Peyton's stats since before he sat out all of last year and try to find a spot based on that.
He would more than likely end up in the top five or top 10 QBs going into 2012. The problem, however, is Manning's injury.
It would take Manning a whole season to recover from his injury. The Colts, who owe Manning a huge amount of credit for their success, chose to let Manning go instead of taking a risk on the injured QB.
No one knows for sure the extent of Manning's injury and just how much it will really affect him. Will he be able to take a hit without getting re-injured? What about several?
Peyton could also come back fully healed and ready to reclaim his dominate QB role. He could come back at 70-80% and still play at a higher level than some other starting QBs.
2012 will be a proving ground for Manning. He will either prove that his injury is just too much or that he hasn't lost a step at all.
11. Matt Ryan
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Matt Ryan is a great quarterback during the regular season.
It's the playoffs where he seems to struggle.
Last year, Ryan threw for over 4,100 yards and ended up with a QB rating of 92.2.
Yet with as good as Ryan is, the Falcons have lost their opening playoff games since Ryan has been their QB.
Is Ryan to blame for the losses? Not necessarily, but if Matty ice wants to show that he can be a dominate QB, he needs to start proving it in the playoffs.
I can't see the Falcons switching out Matt Ryan for another starter, but Ryan needs to find a way to overcome his playoff slump and potentially turn into a top QB.
10. Alex Smith
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
It's kind of tricky to place Alex Smith. Let’s face it, besides the 2011 season, Smith has had some pretty bad seasons as a starter.
His extreme improvement, however, warrants him a spot at number 10.
Whether you believe Alex Smith has become a solid quarterback or he’s just a game manager, Smith played a big part in getting the 49ers to the playoffs and also getting them a victory over the Saints in the second round.
Smith's success doesn't come from the amount of touchdowns or yards that he threw for. His real success came from the lack of mistakes he made.
With only five interceptions and five fumbles in the 2011 season, Smith was able to prevent turnovers while still throwing for over 3,100 yards.
Smith improved his QB rating from 82.1 in 2010 to 90.7 in 2011.
With such a drastic improvement as a QB, what will Smith be like in 2012? Has the 49ers showing interest in Manning when he was a free agent affected Smith at all?
Or is Alex Smith finally turning out to be the QB 49ers fans have been waiting for?
2012 could be the year Smith shows us that he is here to stay or if he was just a one hit wonder.
9. Mathew Stafford
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The last time the Detroit Lions had been to the playoffs since last year was in 1999.
Mathew Stafford played a huge role in breaking that streak.
With an impressive 97.2 QB rating, and throwing for over 5,000 yards during the 2011 regular season, Stafford is the QB that the Detroit Lions have been waiting for.
Stafford is still a young QB and has proven that he can perform at a high level. He has played a huge role in reviving the Lions' franchise and has made them serious playoff contenders.
After such a successful 2011 season, look for Stafford to go into the 2012 season ready to try and send the Lions back to the playoffs for the second year in a row.
8. Tony Romo
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
Tony Romo ended the 2011 season with an impressive QB rating of 102.5. The Cowboys, however, have still not been to the playoffs since 2009.
For the 2011 season, the Cowboys missing the playoffs was not Romo's fault. Without Romo playing at such a high level, the Cowboys may have had a much worse season.
Romo has nine years experience but still no Super Bowl wins. He has a QB rating that rivals those in the top 10 and even the top five.
So what will the 2012 season look like for Romo?
It is hard to tell, but if Tony Romo continues to play at the level he finished the 2011 season at, look for him to remain clearly in the top 10 list of QBs.
Did I mention he played and beat the 49ers with a cracked rib and punctured lung?
Romo proved why he deserves to be a top 10 QB last season; let’s just see if he can keep the trend going into the 2012 season.
7. Matt Schaub
J. Meric/Getty Images
Before Matt Schaub got injured during the 2011 season, he was having a fantastic year.
Schaub was injured before the Texans made it into the playoffs, but he had performed so well prior to his injury that the Texans had pretty much wrapped up their division. His stats alone reflect how good of a QB he is.
Schaub is an eight year veteran QB with an average rating of 92.2 and a completion percentage of 64.3.
Last season alone he threw for 2,279 yards and was sixth in QB rating.
Schaub is a dominate QB and has turned the Texans into a serious playoff team.
Will Schaub's injury from the 2011 season play any role into how well he is able to preform in 2012? Will he have the same mobility he had before he was injured?
If Schaub makes a full recovery, expect him to be a dominate force in the 2012 season.
6. Joe Flacco
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Joe Flacco had a great 2011 season. Beating the Steelers twice during the regular season and going head to head throughout the AFC Championship game against the Patriots are two accomplishments that should not be taken lightly.
Flacco was able to stay calm under all the criticism surrounding him and the Ravens' offense and was able to bring the Ravens to the playoffs yet again.
He has shown consistency, averaging a QB rating of 86.0 and a completion percentage of 60.8.
Does Joe Flacco need improvement? Yes, all QBs could improve on certain things.
Flacco considers himself "the best" quarterback in the league—any QB should—but Flacco needs to start backing up his words with Super Bowl visits.
Flacco is a great QB and is definitely one to watch going into the 2012 season. If Flacco hopes to make it into top five QB status though, he needs to do what a lot of us are waiting for:
Bring the Ravens to the Superbowl.
5. Ben Roethlisberger
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
There's a reason why Roethlisberger is a two-time Super Bowl champion. Just last year alone, Big Ben threw for over 4,000 yards.
And that was during a season where Roethlisberger played through injuries.
With an average completion percentage of 63.1 and having thrown for over 26,000 yards in his career, it is hard to imagine Ben Roethlisberger not being listed as a top five QB.
At the same time, however, Roethlisberger and the Steelers got knocked out of the 2011 playoffs by the Denver Broncos, a game that most people were betting on the Steelers to win.
Injury could also play a potential role in disrupting Big Ben's 2012 season. Roethlisberger is a hard target to take down, but it seems like as he has gotten older, his risk of injury has increased.
Big Ben still has a solid few years in the tank before he gets knocked out of the top five QBs in the league. With that being said, injuries could still end up impacting his 2012 season like they did in 2011 if he isn't careful, but even an injured Roethlisberger is better than most QBs.
4. Tom Brady
Rob Carr/Getty Images
By now it shouldn't come as a surprise to see Tom Brady in the top five QBs going into the 2012 season.
Brady had yet another fantastic season in 2011 with a QB rating of 105.6 and throwing for 5,235 yards during the regular season.
Brady could have easily been number one on this list, but regardless of numbers, Brady wasn't able to pull off the win at Super Bowl 46.
Still, even without winning the big dance, Brady is one of the top QBs in the league and is easily a future hall-of-famer.
Brady will undoubtedly continue his domination as a QB well into the 2012 season.
3. Aaron Rodgers
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Rodgers had the highest QB rating in the NFL during the 2011 season and for good reason. He led the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl victory in 2010 and then led Green Bay on a string of victories, winning the first 14 games of the 2011 season.
Green Bay suffered only two losses, the second of which knocked them out of the playoffs.
Rodgers had a fantastic 2011 season. He was second in touchdowns, one behind Drew Brees, and also second in completion percentage.
He could be a Fantasy team’s saving grace, or if you happened to be up against someone who started Rodgers, he could be your worst nightmare.
He only threw six interceptions during the regular season and had only four fumbles.
Rodgers makes being a QB look easy and is without a doubt a top QB going into the 2012 season.
2. Drew Brees
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
1st in NFL touch downs - 46.
1st in NFL in completion percentage - 71.2%.
1st in NFL in yards - 5,476.
2nd in NFL in rating -110.6
When it comes to quarterbacks, Drew Brees is an animal. Statistically, he is a machine. He dominated the 2011 NFL season, leading in several different stats and breaking records.
While Brees clearly has dominating numbers, he hasn't been as lucky in the playoffs for the past two seasons. Losing in round one to the Seahawks in 2010 and then losing to the 49ers in 2011, it's hard to imagine that with his numbers Drew Brees hasn't made it back to the Super Bowl in three years.
With all that is going on with the Bounty scandal on the Saints and the contract negotiations between Brees and the Saints seemingly going nowhere, it’s hard to predict what type of season Brees will have in 2012.
Drew Brees was a quarterback monster in 2011 and deserves to be in the top five of anyone's quarterback list, even with all that’s going on with the Saints.
1. Eli Manning
Rob Carr/Getty Images
It's hard to be a Giants fan and put Eli Manning at the top of this list without seeming biased.
Eli, however, clearly deserves to be number one going into the 2012 season.
Two years ago, with all the interceptions Eli had thrown, regardless of if they were his fault or not, it was hard to place Manning in the top 10.
His improvement from 2010 to 2011 was outstanding. Eli went from a QB high 25 interceptions in 2010 to leading the Giants to another Super Bowl win in 2011.
Eli also faced criticism at the start of the 2011 season for saying that he considered himself on the same level as Tom Brady.
Manning then went on to beat Brady once in the 2011 season and again in the Super Bowl.
Does Eli have the same rating as some of the previous top quarterbacks mentioned before him? No, he doesn't. But at the end of the season, what does rating really mean? Isn't the grand prize winning the Super Bowl and being named MVP? Eli was able to accomplish what 31 other QBs could not.
A Giants team that was riddled with injuries needed someone to step up. Eli Manning answered that call and proved to everyone that he is, in fact, an elite quarterback.