5 Young NFL QBs Who Could Be the Next Tom Brady
The 12-year veteran quarterback led the New England Patriots to three championships before turning 28. He has 25 fourth-quarter comebacks and 35 game-winning drives to his name. He has the best playoff winning percentage (.727) of any quarterback in NFL history. He holds a career 63.8 percent completion percentage, has thrown exactly 300 touchdowns and had a record-setting season (in 2007) that showed what he could be, when at his best.
If I haven’t ranted enough—Brady’s finest hour may have come as recently as two years ago, when the University of Michigan graduate threw 37 touchdowns and a ridiculously-low nine interceptions total. It seems like you could point to any year in his career—possibly minus 2008 when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs—and say that there’s no glaring decline in statistics, effectiveness and above all, success, as Brady continues to be the most consistent quarterbacks into this mid-to-late 30s.
Will there be another quarterback to walk the same line that Brady has in quite the same fashion? Probably not. However, a plethora of young QBs have come into the NFL in recent years, all looking to make their mark in a similar way that Brady has for over a decade.
From Matt Stafford, to Cam Newton, to Andy Dalton and more—there is a slew of young talent that has the chance to turn the league upside-down for the next generation of fans that will surely enjoy watching it all unfold.
Who are the next “Bradys” of the world? They’re probably few and far between, considering the parody of pro football in today's culture and climate. However, let’s try to break down five guys who could be household names and end up cementing a legacy for generations of NFL fans everywhere.
1. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
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Most fans would have failed at that answering that one, and not because they fail to pay attention. Before 2011, only two QBs in history have thrown for 5,000-plus yards, Dan Marino in 1984 and Drew Brees in 2008. In 2011, Brady set the record with 5,235 (not including playoffs) and this past year, Brady, Bress and Stafford all tossed for 5,000. With a heavy amount of offensive production taking precedent in today's NFL game, some - with so many good QBs across the league - get lost in the shuffle. Stafford may be one of those guys, but that hasn't stopped him from achieving what many thought he could when he came out three years ago.
After battling significant injuries that sidelined him for much of his first two seasons after going No. 1 overall in 2009, Stafford validated the Lions’ pick by blowing up the NFL scene with his cannon-like arm. Stafford threw 41 touchdowns-a franchise record-and only 16 interceptions, setting other Lions' records for passing yards (5,038), single-season attempts (663) and completion percentage (63.5).
Despite losing in the first round of the NFL playoffs last year to the New Orleans Saints, Stafford grew and matured arguably more than any other quarterback did last season, given his expectations and the stakes involved. With star receiver Calvin Johnson locked up for a long time, Stafford has the opportunity to put up some really silly offensive numbers over the next few seasons.
The key for Stafford is if he can stay healthy. Last season, it seemed like he turned the corner as he stayed on the field and started to put everything together. However, the Lions will only go as far as Stafford can take them, and if something happens to him, things may take a serious turn for the worst.
Stafford has a chance to win playoff games as Detroit continues to add depth through the draft and via free agency. Tune in this upcoming season to see if Stafford can take his game to an even higher level.
2. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
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If there was any doubt to whether or not Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton could effectively translate his college game to the NFL level...there's not much to argue about, so far.
Newton burst onto the pro scene last season after putting up an explosive rookie stat line. Newton tossed a rookie-record 4,051 passing yards in 2011, threw 21 touchdowns and ran for 14 more to compliment his 706 rushing yards. Newton’s dynamic talent makes him a sure-fire bet to be one of the few rookies not to regress during his second season.
The regression typically takes place for a second-year quarterback because defenses around the NFL adjust and figure stuff out. However, Newton’s throwing ability and elusiveness while running the ball gives him a whole new wrinkle to work with. Defenses can’t simply just rush him or drop back in coverage, knowing that he can take off at any time—or throw the ball a mile at any moment.
However, the Panthers are still in rebuilding mode. They need time to put people around Newton. If he can stick it out, continue to improve and help Carolina win a few games and develop even more, things may be looking up for the franchise.
Tune in this season to see if Newton has what it takes to be a difference maker in 2012.
3. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
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After starting four years at TCU, Cincinnati Bengals’ Andy Dalton may be the steal of the 2011 draft.
His size and frame had scouts talking about his durability at the pro level. Also, the system he came out of was a spread offense, another question scouts raised as the draft came and went.
Still, Dalton managed to land with the Bengals, had an opportunity to start out of the gate and thrived. Dalton started all 16 games last season, tossed 3,398 passing yards, scored 21 total touchdowns and helped Cincinnati revive the franchise as they went back to the playoffs.
After landing stud rookie A.J. Green to complement the offense with an injection of youth, Dalton will have a chance to really put up some impressive numbers going forward. The question for him, like most NFL players in general, will be his health and his ability to be effective on the field.
There doesn’t seem to be that problem as of yet, and with a healthy Green to throw to, look out football fans: Andy Dalton may be the next great thing in the NFL.
4. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
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I attempted not to bring newly-drafted quarterbacks into the discussion of young quarterbacks who could be the next “Tom Bradys” of the world, but there’s just something about the Colts’ Andrew Luck that makes me think he will be great.
Coming out of a pro system, combined with height and durability at the college level, Luck has the chance to make some real noise right out the gate. His No.1 selection in April will more than likely be validated when he hits the field and claims the No. 1 job under center by Week 1.
Luck doesn’t have much in the way of offense to protect him and for him to throw the ball to. Pierre Garcon left for greener pastures after signing a deal this offseason with the Washington Redskins. Jeff Saturday, a long-time pro with the Colts and someone who blocked for Payton Manning for years and years, left for the Green Bay Packers.
The hope for Luck, in regards to weapons to throw to, lies with veteran Reggie Wayne, who re-signed with Indianapolis earlier this spring. Wayne may be able to help Luck right out of the chute, but it will take time for the Colts to put more offensive playmakers around him.
The timing of Luck’s arrival was no coincidence, after Manning left for the Denver Broncos when Indianapolis decided to make him a free agent. It’s the start of a new era for the Colts, and with Luck, things could be looking up very, very soon.
5. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
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As a Patriots’ fan, I grovel at the notion of complimenting a New York Jets’ player.
Sadly, I have to give it up for quarterback Mark Sanchez, who has just done nothing but win during his first three seasons in the NFL.
Since entering the league in 2009 after being selected fifth overall by the Jets, Sanchez helped in a big way to put the franchise back on the map. Despite tossing more interceptions than touchdowns for his first two seasons (29-to-33), Sanchez led the Jets to two AFC Championship games during his first two years in the league. He has shown ability to lead in the fourth quarter when the game is on the line and even made improvement to his game last season after he tossed 26 touchdowns.
The trick about Sanchez, despite all the success and scrutinizing: he’s only 26. He has room to grow and develop even more. He’s a proven winner who will have to fight off Tim Tebow, whom the Jets acquired over the offseason in a trade with the Broncos.
Sanchez will have to fight now, more than ever, to keep his starting position. It may be the fire to light Sanchez up and force him to take his game to another level. Look for Sanchez to prove the doubters wrong and for him to take his game up a level.