2012 NFL Preview: Power Ranking the 10 Best Quarterbacks in the NFL

Baily DeeterSenior Writer IIIJune 17, 2012

2012 NFL Preview: Power Ranking the 10 Best Quarterbacks in the NFL

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    The NFL has quickly turned into a passing league, and quarterbacks are responsible for that.

    Some of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game currently reside in a city that hosts a great NFL team. Today, I'm here to acknowledge those quarterbacks and rank them.

    The past nine champions have had an elite quarterback, and even though great teams like the 49ers and Ravens are built around defense, championship teams now need great quarterbacks.

    Here are the 10 best quarterbacks in the NFL.

Honorable Mentions

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    13. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

    Ryan would be ranked higher, but his team has never won a playoff game. He's struggled in the playoffs and failed to come through in clutch situations, even though the Falcons are a great team.

    He throws a good amount of touchdowns and interceptions, and he topped 4,000 yards in 2011, but he is inconsistent. You never know if Ryan will play like an MVP or a third-string quarterback.

    Overall, Ryan is a good quarterback. However, in a passing league, I don't think he deserves to make the top 10.


    12. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears

    Cutler is a good quarterback who can win games for his team, but he only has one playoff appearance. In Denver, he couldn't come through in the clutch.

    In Chicago, he has gotten better at that. He can throw a good deep ball, but he can also lead short drives. The only reason that he isn't higher on this list is that he throws a lot of interceptions.

    Cutler is a good quarterback, and he is very close to making the making the top 10. However, I think the quarterbacks ahead of him are a little bit better.


    11. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

    Overall, Romo is a good quarterback. However, just like Ryan, he isn't great in clutch situations, and he has constantly frustrated the Cowboy faithful.

    Romo is a good quarterback who throws for a good amount of yards, touchdowns and interceptions. He can be inaccurate at times, but he has a 66.3 percent completion percentage. If Romo could come through in the clutch, he would be higher on my list.

10. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

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    As a Broncos fan, this kills me.

    Philip Rivers has done a great job in San Diego. He was originally drafted by the Giants, who have had a little more success. However, Rivers has led the Chargers to the playoffs numerous times, and they came just shy of the Super Bowl in the 2007-08 season.

    In 2011, Rivers threw 27 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. Rivers had a 62.9 completion percentage, which is good, but he also threw a lot of bad passes.

    Rivers has the potential to make great throws, but sometimes he misses his spots. He can be lights-out, but sometimes he misses his target and a defender catches the ball. Rivers was tied for throwing the third-most interceptions in the NFL this year.

    The reason Rivers checks in at No. 10 is that he has played well under pressure, he can lead his team on game-winning drives, and he can rally his team from double-digit deficits.

    With Rivers at quarterback, San Diego has won three playoff games and made four playoff appearances. In the last two years, the Chargers didn't make the playoffs, although they narrowly missed both times.

    If Rivers could cut down on the interceptions, he'd be higher on this list. But for now, he checks in at No. 10.

9. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans

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    The picture above shows a sight no Houston Texan fan wants to see.

    Matt Schaub injured himself during Houston's 37-9 win over Tampa Bay in 2011. When he had the reins, the Texans were playing great football, and they showed that they could win a championship.

    Schaub played in 10 games in 2011, and he accumulated a 96.8 passer rating (sixth in the NFL). He threw 15 touchdowns and six interceptions, and he had a 61 percent completion percentage.

    Oh, and his team isn't too bad either.

    Houston made the second round of the playoffs in 2011, and that was with T.J. Yates at quarterback. The Texans finished second in total defense, and Schaub has Arian Foster and Andre Johnson on offense with him.

    The Texans should be a Super Bowl contender, and with Johnson anchoring a receiving corps full of young talent, Schaub should have plenty of options. He is a good all-around quarterback, and even though he hasn't gotten many reps, he should improve rapidly in 2012.

    And he will skyrocket on the list of top quarterbacks in the NFL.

8. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

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    As time has gone on, Matthew Stafford has improved. As Stafford improved, so did his Detroit Lions.

    Stafford guided the Lions to the playoffs for the first time since 1999, and he did so by throwing for 41 touchdowns and 5,038 passing yards. Stafford threw a touchdown in every game, and he completed 63.5 percent of his passes.

    While the Lions have arguably the NFL's best receiver in Calvin Johnson, Stafford has been great, too. He can throw an accurate deep ball, or at least a ball that can be easily caught by Johnson.

    Stafford and Johnson have great chemistry, and Stafford always knows where Johnson will be so he can throw him a good ball. Stafford knows where his other receivers will be, too; only 16 of his 41 touchdowns went to Johnson.

    The Georgia product is still improving, and as he enters his fourth NFL season, he's ready to guide the Lions to even more success. Stafford has proved that he can get his team to the playoffs, rack up passing yards and pile on points.

    Right now, Stafford checks in at No. 8. However, he may climb on this list if he keeps up what he's been doing.

7. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Ben Roethlisberger's team hasn't come across much success recently, but you can definitely say Roethlisberger is a clutch quarterback.

    No quarterback on the list so far has won more than three playoff games, and Big Ben has won 10. No quarterback listed before him on the list has won or even been to a Super Bowl. Big Ben's been to three and won two.

    Oh, and he guided his team on one game-winning Super Bowl drive. 

    Roethlisberger frustrates opponents by scrambling and avoiding sacks and delivering an accurate throw or just running with the ball for significant yardage. Roethlisberger is a great third-down quarterback, and he always seems to convert on opportunities when his team needs him to.

    Big Ben had 21 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions in 2011, giving him a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 3:2. That might not be great, and the same goes with his 4,077 passing yards and 63.2 completion percentage.

    The reason Roethlisberger checks in at No. 7 is that he is a clutch quarterback who makes the plays necessary to win big games. No stage scares him, as he has shown with his playoff performance.

    However, there is one quarterback who hasn't made the playoffs that checks in ahead of Big Ben...

6. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

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    Cam Newton has played one year in the NFL, and he may not have had the best stats. However, he showed that he has the potential to dominate.

    Newton made too many rookie mistakes, and he wasn't able to win close games early in the season. However, he showed a lot of improvement towards the end of the season, and Carolina's offense torched opponents.

    Newton threw 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, but he also ran for 706 yards and 14 touchdowns. He threw just one interception in Carolina's last three games and just three in the Panthers' last six games.

    With a year of experience under his belt, expect Newton to come in and dominate in 2012. Those rookie mistakes should be eliminated, and once Newton learns how to construct game-winning drives and lead the Panthers to close wins, they should be ready to go.

    Carolina's defense is improving, so the Panthers will be a good all-around team. Newton is a quarterback who can run for huge gains and break tackles or throw a great pass, and he will come across a lot of NFL success.

    That's why Newton checks in at No. 6 even after just one year in the NFL.

5. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

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    Here's where the controversy heats up.

    There should be no question that Manning lands in the top five of NFL quarterback rankings. However, almost everyone will put him fifth or fourth in a list like this, and I have him fifth.

    Manning is past his prime. I think he can still be the quarterback who stands his ground in the pocket and makes an accurate throw right before he gets tackled, and he can still be the guy who picks defenses apart with long drives full of short passes.

    And I think the Broncos can definitely make the Super Bowl.

    However, Manning isn't as good as he once was. He is throwing more interceptions, and with a young receiving corps that drops passes, he may have a tough time adjusting to playing in the NFL for the first time in more than a year and a half.

    Manning has always been a great quarterback, and I think he will cut down on his interceptions (he threw 17 in 2010) and throw a lot of touchdowns. Overall, I expect Manning to be the quarterback he was in Indianapolis, and I expect him to continue to dominate.

    However, there are still four quarterbacks better than him in the NFL. One of them is in his own family...

4. Eli Manning, New York Giants

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    Eli Manning would've never been in this discussion before the 2011 season. However, he thought he was.

    Manning thought that he was in the "elite class" of quarterbacks before the 2011 season. A lot of people disagreed, even though Manning had one Super Bowl ring and was ready to grab another one.

    Then, Manning made them agree.

    Manning played very well during the 2012 playoffs, throwing nine touchdowns and just one interception. Manning made a lot of great throws, and his deep ball was very accurate. 

    Just like all great quarterbacks, Manning led a Super Bowl-winning touchdown drive. He made a perfect throw to Mario Manningham, then he made some other great throws to set the Giants up for the game-winning touchdown.

    And it wasn't the first time Manning did that.

    Eli Manning has shown that he is a very clutch quarterback who knows how to win big games and never seems to lose them. He can make great throws, and he knows how to make a big throw when his team needs him to make one. He even has one more Super Bowl ring than his brother!

    And that's why only three quarterbacks in the NFL are better than him.

3. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

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    You really can't go wrong when ranking the top three quarterbacks in the NFL.

    Brady is a great quarterback who knows how to win big games. He can lead his team on a long touchdown drive, or he can just throw a deep ball to a receiver for a quick touchdown.

    Brady has more Super Bowl wins than any other quarterback on this list with three. He led his team on two game-winning Super Bowl drives, but he failed to lead his team on two game-winning drives in Super Bowls 42 and 46.

    Both of those were lost to the New York Giants and Eli Manning.

    Even though Manning has beaten Brady twice in the Super Bowl, Brady has shown that he is a better quarterback. He can avoid pressure and deliver a great pass no matter how much pressure is on him.

    Brady is an accurate quarterback, and just about every pass he throws is accurate. He is a smart quarterback, and he always knows where his receivers will be. However, Brady hasn't won a Super Bowl in his past seven years.

    And that's why he doesn't check in higher than No. 3.

2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

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    As I watched Drew Brees pick apart San Francisco's defense during the playoffs, I knew he will have a place in the Hall of Fame.

    Brees dominated San Francisco's amazing defense, throwing for 462 yards and four touchdowns. Brees kept leading the Saints on big drives, even though the Saints ended up losing the game.

    Brees is a clutch quarterback who has won a Super Bowl and knows how to win one. He played very well in the Super Bowl, and he also played very well in 2011, setting the record for passing yards in a season with 5,476.

    Oh, and Brees completed 71.2 percent of his passes and threw 46 touchdowns. Not bad, Drew.

    While the Saints lost in the second round and are currently in the midst of the bounty scandal, Brees has continued to play well. He can throw on the run and in the pocket, and he showed that he can pick apart elite defenses, like the 49ers defense.

    New Orleans hasn't signed its star quarterback yet, and if it doesn't, it is sure to go downhill. Members of the defense will be out for certain amounts of time, and without their accurate, confident quarterback, the Saints will struggle mightily in 2012.

    Overall, Brees is a great QB. He picks apart defenses and converts on third downs, constantly frustrating opposing defenses. He doesn't change his approach to any game, and he isn't fazed by any stage.

    Maybe that's why the Saints have five playoff wins and a Super Bowl title with Brees as their quarterback.

    And that's why only one NFL quarterback is better than Brees.

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

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    Who else did you expect me to put here?

    Rodgers is a Super Bowl champion and MVP, a regular-season MVP and a football star. He threw an astounding 45 touchdowns and six interceptions, giving him a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 15:2.

    In case you didn't know, that's pretty good.

    The Packers led the league in drops in 2011, but Rodgers still completed 68.3 percent of his passes. Rodgers continued to make throws on the money, and he rarely ever missed an open receiver.

    That's why the Packers went 15-1 during the regular season and continued their 19-game winning streak, which dated back to the 2011 regular season.

    Rodgers didn't have a great supporting cast, but he continued to make accurate throws. I was lucky enough to watch him in person, and he became the first person to throw for 400 yards and four touchdowns and run for two touchdowns. He did throw an interception, but it was because of a drop.

    Almost all of Rodgers' interceptions are because of drops. His receivers have dropped some touchdowns, and they have also dropped wide open passes. However, Rodgers continues to trust his teammates by throwing the ball where the receiver will be.

    In the game I saw, his receivers caught the passes. Rodgers threw a couple perfect deep balls, and he also threw some great short passes. The Packers ended up beating the Broncos 49-23. 

    For any of you who have seen Rodgers in person, you should know that he is elite. If you've seen him in the past few years, you should know that he is the smartest, the most accurate and the best quarterback in the NFL.