Power Ranking the Arm Strength of All 32 NFL Starting QBs
Many claim that arm strength is an overrated aspect of quarterbacking and in comparison to some of the other characteristics, such as pocket presence and accuracy, that is true. However, it's still vital to have a strong arm because it has an impact on the design of the offense.
If a quarterback has a weak arm, the offensive coordinator has to eliminate some of the passing concepts, consequently limiting the offense. When concepts are thrown out and the passing offense is more based off of horizontal routes, it can be an issue moving the ball against defenses that like to sit and jump routes.
In contrast, a strong-armed passer is able to keep defensive backs on their heels by pressuring them vertically with the deep ball. The receiver who once was simply running vertical routes to clear out space for underneath receivers becomes a threat down the field and the defense is stretched horizontally and vertically.
In some cases, arm strength is the difference between winning and losing.
32. Matt Cassel
This will surely catch some flack from Chiefs fans, but Cassel has never had a strong arm. Going back to his success in New England, he's had trouble throwing the deep ball. His lack of arm strength has hampered the Chiefs offense.
31. Ryan Fitzpatrick
Ryan Fitzpatrick is not much better than Matt Cassel when it comes to arm strength, as he has an average arm and consequently has not had success throwing down the field.
Fitzpatrick's lack of arm strength has been exposed, most notably last season when attempting to work the deep middle of the field as the Bills often looked to do.
30. Mark Sanchez
Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets has caught a significant amount of flack about his passing skills since coming into the league as a relatively raw passer.
His arm strength is not the worst in the league, and he has some ability to throw the ball deep, but at times, it's simply not enough.
29. Andy Dalton
Andy Dalton had a quality first season and impressed many with his poise in the pocket. His arm strength was also surprisingly stronger than what it appeared to be at TCU.
However, it still is not overwhelmingly strong, which is why he's near the bottom of the list. Dalton has to improve his footwork to get the most out of his arm strength because it is a weakness in his game.
28. Matt Flynn
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Flynn came to the right team to become a starting quarterback because the Seahawks scheme fits Flynn well.
The scheme features many principles of the West Coast Offense, which is, more often than not, throwing horizontally based pass patterns. Flynn's arm strength is not "weak" per se, but it is not strong.
In the games I've watched of his, dating back to his LSU days, his ability to work the deep middle by throwing the ball on a rope is in question.
27. Christian Ponder
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder is in the same boat as Andy Dalton when it comes to his arm strength.
Both received criticism for their lack of arm strength prior to the draft, both surprised people with it this season and both can improve their strength with more work in the weight room and on their footwork.
26. Alex Smith
San Francisco 49ers signal caller Alex Smith is an interesting case.
He was one of the better deep passers early into last season, but his arm strength has always been a question for me. Head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman did a good job of scheming to play to the strength of Smith last season, which helped revive his career and ultimately get him a new contract.
25. Blaine Gabbert
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert has been the most scrutinized quarterback because of the struggles he went through in his debut season. I'm not here to criticize him as much because I think he'll improve, but his arm strength is a question mark.
At Missouri, he had issues throwing the ball into tight windows with velocity, and on deep passes the ball sometimes fluttered. This will likely improve but the question is how much?
24. Kevin Kolb
I wanted to place Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb higher on this list, but couldn't based off of his the throws that I've seen dating back to his days as the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback.
Kolb has made some quality throws, such as deep comebacks and outs, but has not converted the deep ball with great arm strength.
23. Andrew Luck
Former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck was hailed as the next Peyton Manning and John Elway for good reason: he's got a lot of talent.
However, if there's one weakness that people can single out and criticize, it's his arm strength. He doesn't have a weak arm nor does he have a howitzer attached to his shoulder, but the ball still gets to his intended target with good enough velocity.
22. Matt Moore
Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore had some success last season when he replaced Chad Henne as the starting quarterback. He threw the ball well on short, intermediate and deep levels of the field.
His arm strength is not a weakness nor is it below average, but he comes in ranked at No. 22 on this list because the passers ahead of him have stronger arms.
21. Carson Palmer
Prior to being acquired by the Oakland Raiders, questions surrounded the arm strength of Carson Palmer, but it was said to be revitalized during his sabbatical from the Cincinnati Bengals.
Last season, arm strength was not much of a concern as Palmer threw the ball deep left and right consistently, and quieted the critics in the process.
20. Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons is one of the better quarterbacks in the league, yet he checks in at No. 20 on the arm strength power rankings.
By no means does Ryan have a weak arm, as he possesses good velocity and a good enough arm, but it is not one of the strongest. He's struggled throwing the deep ball the last few seasons and this is one of the reasons why.
19. Matt Schaub
Coming in at No. 19, Houston's Matt Schaub has a good arm that enables him to throw with velocity in all areas of the field.
He doesn't have overly impressive arm strength, but it is quality and has allowed him to throw down the field well in terms of passing yards and touchdowns.
18. Tom Brady
Tom Brady's arm isn't weak, but it isn't overpowering either.
Much like other quarterbacks, Brady's arm strength is generated from the lower body where he has very good footwork and hip rotation. It is very important for him to be consistent in his mechanics in order to generate the velocity because of his arm strength.
17. Philip Rivers
San Diego's Philip Rivers is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and a big reason why is his arm strength.
Although he has a quirky throwing motion, he is able to generate very good velocity and is exceptional at throwing down the field. He is able to make all the throws, whether they are deep in-between the hashes or outside the numbers.
16. Tony Romo
15. Eli Manning
Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning has finally become elite and his arm strength has improved each year since he's been in the league.
He makes a lot of difficult throws and is one of the better deep throwers in the NFL. Much like his rival Tony Romo, Manning is able to make several types of throws from various platforms.
14. Peyton Manning
Admittedly, placing Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning at 14 is risky because his arm strength is unknown at the moment.
This ranking is largely based off of his 2010 form and recent reports of his arm strength improving. It will take time for Manning's arm strength to come back to some form of what he had in 2010, which was still impressive at his age because of his ability to convert difficult throws.
13. Jake Locker
Tennessee Titans young signal caller Jake Locker didn't get to play a whole lot last season, and he's currently fighting for the starting job with veteran Matt Hasselbeck. This ranking is based off of the assumption that he starts at some point this season and that when he does, he'll be able to put his arm on display.
From a pure arm strength standpoint, Locker possesses a very strong arm that enables him to throw the ball on a rope through difficult weather conditions. He displayed this many times when he was at the University of Washington, and I don't expect it to change in the NFL.
12. Sam Bradford
It hasn't been easy for Sam Bradford in St. Louis.
Some have labeled him a bust, while others are wondering if he's scrambled eggs because of the beating he's taken behind a poor offensive line. However, last season he displayed a very strong arm and made some eye-opening throws. He showed the ability to make throws into all areas of the field and from various launching points.
11. Brandon Weeden
Going back to Brandon Weeden's college days at Oklahoma State, he made an abundance of deep throws that "wowed" viewers.
He is a natural thrower of the ball and a former baseball pitcher. He's got very good velocity and can throw the ball down the field with ease. This was confirmed earlier this offseason when he was making throws with his "great arm," as shared by my colleague Sigmund Bloom.
Weeden will be able to do what former starter Colt McCoy was not able to: stretch the field vertically and make throws outside the numbers with consistency.
10. Robert Griffin III
The second overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III checks in at No. 10 with impressive arm strength.
He made several otherworldly throws during his Heisman winning 2011 collegiate season and none were more impressive than the game-winning touchdown against Oklahoma.
After avoiding pressure, Griffin III went to the left hash and unleashed a pass with ease that went to the opposite side of the field; where it landed in the hands of his receiver in the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown.
9. Josh Freeman
Tampa's Josh Freeman is another quarterback with a very strong arm that allows him to make throws from all platforms.
His throwing ability down the field has come in question recently because he has not been very successful completing passes, but this stems from forcing passes and poor footwork. He needs to improve in both areas to improve his downfield passing, because it's surely not his arm.
8. Cam Newton
Carolina's Cam Newton impressed most people with his astounding rookie season. Despite being very raw, which was obvious in his footwork, he had no issues getting the ball out of his hands and down the field to his teammates.
He showed the ability to make throws in tight windows and deep down the field despite the aforementioned issues with his footwork, which sometimes left him to rely on only his arm.
7. Matthew Stafford
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford makes it look easy.
He can throw the ball regardless of the platform and mechanics. Whether he's falling away or throwing it on the run, he can heave the ball down the field for Calvin Johnson to jump up and snatch it.
It's not always pretty, but Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can throw the ball at long distances without any problems.
He's got exceptional arm strength, even though it doesn't always appear to be based off sheer strength. He's able to make throws without resetting his feet and while unbalanced, as Greg Cosell of NFL Films once explained.
5. Joe Flacco
ESPN quarterback guru Ron Jaworski ranked Joe Flacco's arm strength as the best in the league, but he comes in at No. 5 on my power rankings.
This is not to say Jaworski is entirely wrong because Flacco does have one of the strongest arms in the league, but he falls behind a few others. Flacco can throw the ball at long distances down the field and has no issues throwing outside the numbers.
4. Drew Brees
The New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees comes in at No. 4 in the power rankings with a very strong arm that sometimes looks bionic because of how many times a game he rips it at great distances.
Brees' career was once in question as his arm was hanging from his shoulder, which also makes his arm strength impressive.
3. Michael Vick
Philadelphia's Michael Vick is often remembered for his comments and negative actions. But when it comes to his performance on the field, he has shown flashes of brilliance and a big reason why is his arm strength.
Vick's arm strength is sometimes forgotten, but he can throw the ball with great velocity and to any area on the field. His 88 yard touchdown to DeSean Jackson against the Washingotn Redskins in 2010 is one of the most impressive throws he's made in his career.
2. Jay Cutler
When it comes to Jay Cutler, proper footwork and mechanics can be thrown out the window because it doesn't always matter.
Cutler throws the ball from various platforms and off his back foot more often than he should, but it hasn't stopped him from making some mind-bending throws that illustrate exceptional velocity.
1. Aaron Rodgers
Like Jay Cutler, proper footwork is not always a concern of Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers quarterback had some detractors when he was coming out of California in 2005 because of his arm strength, but today few question it. Rodgers is able to throw the ball unbalanced and without his feet set at significant distances with great velocity.
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