San Francisco 49ers: Power Ranking Every Quarterback on the 2012 Schedule

Brandon Burnett@B_Burnett49Contributor IIIAugust 8, 2012

San Francisco 49ers: Power Ranking Every Quarterback on the 2012 Schedule

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    As you probably know by now, the dominant 49ers defense will have their mettle put to the test in 2012 when they square off against some of the NFL's most prolific passers, including all three of the quarterbacks who threw for over 5,000 yards in 2011 and the guy who set the NFL record for QB rating (Aaron Rodgers, 122.5).

    But which one of these elite signal-callers will serve as the toughest assignment on the schedule? And how do the rest stack up against the vaunted 49ers D?

    While defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is busy preparing the troops for their Week 1 battle against Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, I've prepared a power-ranking system that will order every QB the 49ers face in 2012 from least to most threatening. 

    Why? Because everybody loves power rankings—especially us football fans.


    *Quick Notes:

    • This list is comprised of the projected starters that the 49ers will face in the upcoming season, but I've additionally listed any QB playing for a future opponent that is currently battling for the starting spot. For example, Matt Flynn, Russell Wilson and Tarvaris Jackson are all included in the rankings because the Seahawks have a three-way position battle underway in camp.
    • These rankings do not compare QBs by what they've accomplished throughout their careers, but assess how much of a potential threat they are to the 49ers success, given their individual abilities and the weapons they have at their disposal. In other words, if Tom Brady were to be listed as No. 1 (potential spoiler?), he would be there because he's currently the most dangerous signal-caller SF faces this year—not because he's won the most Super Bowls.


    Let the rankings begin!

19. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

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    When They Meet: Week 14

    Sunday, Dec. 9 at Candlestick Park


    Previous Meeting: 2008

    14-9 Dolphins (Tannehill not on roster)


    Projected Stats: (if Tannehill starts)

    14/27, 173 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT


    The Scoop

    Will Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins' eighth overall pick of the 2012 NFL draft, be a starting QB by the time his squad travels to San Francisco in December?

    I'll be anxious to see how the rather untested signal-caller reacts to facing this 49ers D, if he is.

    As you may already know, the former Texas A&M Aggie joins the Dolphins after a failed courtship of just about every free-agent NFL quarterback, including Alex Smith. I'm not implying that they were chasing every free-agent QB available, but they probably should have been.

    That leaves the big-bodied (6'4", 221 pounds) and surprisingly mobile (4.62 40-yard dash at his pro day) gunslinger locked in a three-way training camp battle with David Garrard and Matt Moore. 

    Being a rookie, and an extremely untested one at that, Tannehill's odds of directing Miami's lackluster offense to any type of success in Candlestick Park are about as good as the Dolphins making the playoffs in 2012.

    Slim to none.

18. Tim Tebow, New York Jets

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    When They Meet: Week 4

    Sunday, Sept. 30 at MetLife Stadium


    Previous Meeting: 2008

    24-14 49ers (Tebow not on roster)


    Projected Stats: (if Tebow starts)

    11/24, 135 Yards, 0 TD, 1 INT


    The Scoop

    Aware that Mark Sanchez is the Jets' incumbent starter, I just couldn't leave Tim Tebow off the list. Besides, even if he hasn't supplanted "The Sanchize" before the Niners come to town, Jim Harbaugh and Rex Ryan are likely to turn this game into a chess match, and you can bet Ryan will make Tebow one of his pawns. 

    If that's the case, I feel confident giving the advantage to Harbaugh and the 49ers defense.

    Tebow-time may have gotten the best of the Steelers while he was in Denver, but he's yet to face Patrick Willis and the men in Red and Gold.

    The 49ers defense is littered with athletic, hard-hitting players who would likely salivate at the chance to lay the lumber on "Tebow-Mania."

    Good luck scrambling out of OLB Aldon Smith's range, Timmy.

17. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

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    When They Meet: Week 7 and Week 16

    Thursday, Oct. 18 at Candlestick Park

    Sunday, Dec. 23 at CenturyLink Field


    Previous Meeting: 2011

    19-17 49ers (Wilson not on roster)

    Projected Stats: (if Wilson starts)

    Week 7: 14/26, 197 Yards, 1 TD, 2 INT

    Week 16: 17/29, 220 Yards, 1 TD, 0 INT


    The Scoop

    Another rookie QB, Wilson was taken by the Seahawks in the third round (75th overall) and is fighting with the newly signed Flynn and incumbent starter Jackson for the No. 1 spot.

    The only candidate with zero NFL game experience, Wilson likely won't win the job out of camp; but he's an intriguing prospect, and I wouldn't be shocked to see him earn playing time if Flynn or Jackson falter. 

    Wilson stands at just 5'11", 204 pounds, but is extremely athletic and proved to be a very intelligent decision-maker at the collegiate ranks. He's a tough-minded leader who could actually cause problems for the Niners D with his mobility, but probably not in his first year in the league. 

16. Matt Moore, Miami Dolphins

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    When They Meet: Week 14

    Sunday, Dec. 9 at Candlestick Park


    Previous Meeting: 2008

    14-9 Dolphins (Moore not on roster)


    Projected Stats: (if Moore starts)

    18/31, 205 Yards, 1 TD, 1 INT


    The Scoop

    I was impressed with the sixth-year signal-caller's overall play in 13 games during the 2011 season.

    Despite throwing for 2,479 yards, 16 TDs, just 9 INTs and recording an 87.1 QB rating in all, he's currently heading into preseason action as the Dolphins' No. 2 option on the depth chart and is rightfully frustrated about the decision (per David Michael Smith of Pro Football Talk).

    I'm not saying Moore is a QB you'd want to build your franchise around, but he's a gamer who's proven himself against some tough NFL opponents.

    It will be interesting to see how well he handles San Fran's D if he regains his grip on the starting spot; a tall order for even the most prolific of passers.

15. David Garrard, Miami Dolphins

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    When They Meet: Week 14

    Sunday, Dec. 9 at Candlestick Park


    Previous Meeting: 2008

    14-9 Dolphins (Garrard not on roster)


    Projected Stats:

    20/36, 234 Yards, 1 TD, 2 INT


    The Scoop

    Another QB I thought was underrated throughout his career, the 34-year-old Garrard is the man currently slated as the Dolphins' No. 1 option.

    The nine-year veteran missed all of the 2011 season, however, and will arguably have less offensive firepower at hand than he did in Jacksonville

    Truth is, no matter the quarterback, the Niners D is going to have a field day when the Dolphins come to the Golden City. 

14. Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals

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    When They Meet: Week 8 and Week 17

    Monday, Oct 29 at University of Phoenix Stadium

    Sunday, Dec 30 at Candlestick Park


    Previous Meeting: 2011

    21-19 Cardinals (Kolb 1/1, 2 Yards, 0 TD, 0 INT)


    Projected Stats:

    Week 8: 19/34, 231 Yards, 2 TD, 2 INT

    Week 17: 17/36, 215 Yards, 1 TD, 3 INT


    The Scoop

    Kolb only threw one pass against the 49ers in 2011, his first season with the Cardinals. The one attempt he threw in Week 14 would wind up being his final of the season after he suffered a concussion on an inadvertent blow to the head. 

    Finally healthy, can he become what the Cards hoped for when they traded for the former Eagles backup a year ago? 

    The addition of WR Michael Floyd via the draft (first round, 15th overall) to a WR corps that already features All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald, will offer a daunting task for the 49ers secondary two weeks out of the season, but I'm not sure Kolb is the right man to lead Arizona's offense.

    Perhaps after seeing him lead the Cards to victory over the 49ers in that Week 14 matchup, backup QB John Skelton is the more dangerous threat. 

13. Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings

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    When They Meet: Week 3

    Sunday, Sept. 23 at Mall of America Field


    Previous Meeting: 2009

    27-24 Vikings (Ponder not on roster)


    Projected Stats:

    16/31, 202 Yards, 1 TD, 2 INT


    The Scoop

    The 49ers could've started the 2009 season 4-0 if not for a Brett Favre Hail Mary at the very end of a Week 3 (coincidentally) matchup at Minnesota. Favre hit WR Greg Lewis in the back of the end zone with just two seconds on the clock, crushing the 49ers' hopes and completely ruining my afternoon.

    Unfortunately for him, second-year QB Christian Ponder will have to suffer for the now-retired Favre's actions.

    Ponder is still in the early development stages of becoming a reliable starting QB, but he saw a substantial amount of valuable playing time in 2011 and will benefit from the presence of All-Pro RB Adrian Peterson and explosive WR Percy Harvin, both of whom can cause serious problems for opposing defenses. 

    Still, the former Florida St. Seminole does not currently pose as much of a threat, and the 49ers should roll in this game, exposing Ponder's youth in the process.

12. Tarvaris Jackson, Seattle Seahawks

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    When They Meet: Week 7 and Week 16

    Thursday, Oct. 18 at Candlestick Park

    Sunday, Dec. 23 at CenturyLink Field


    Previous Meeting: 2011

    19-17 49ers (Jackson: 15/28, 163 Yards, 1 TD, 0 INT)


    Projected Stats: (if Jackson starts)

    Week 7: 13/28, 172 Yards, 1 TD, 2 INT

    Week 16: 18/30, 210 Yards, 1 TD, 1 INT


    The Scoop

    Jackson put up respectable numbers in the Seahawks' two contests against the 49ers last season, going 21-of-37 for 197 yards, two touchdowns and a pick in the season opener, in addition to the Week 16 performance listed above.

    That said, he's a less than desirable option as a starting QB, and the Seahawks proved they felt that way by signing Aaron Rodgers' backup (Matt Flynn) and taking Wilson in the draft.

    I expect Flynn to earn the nod, but the 49ers don't play Seattle the first time around until Week 7, leaving plenty of time for a potential quarterback controversy to form.

    If Jackson is behind center, he doesn't pose as a legitimate threat to the Niners D, with or without newly signed (per the team's official website) 38-year-old Terrell Owens on board.

11. John Skelton, Arizona Cardinals

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    When They Meet: Week 8 and Week 17

    Monday, Oct. 29 at University of Phoenix Stadium

    Sunday, Dec. 30 at Candlestick Park


    Previous Meeting: 2011

    21-19 Cardinals (Skelton: 19/28, 282 Yards, 3 TD, 2 INT)


    Projected Stats: (if Skelton starts)

    Week 8: 22/37, 251 Yards, 2 TD, 2 INT

    Week 17: 20/34, 268 Yards, 1 TD, 4 INT


    The Scoop

    Skelton redeemed himself in the rematch between the 49ers and Cardinals late last season, responding from a horrid performance earlier in the year (6/19, 99 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT), pulling out the upset at University of Phoenix Stadium in front of the home crowd.

    At 6'6", 244 pounds, Skelton is a towering QB with the arm to make all the necessary NFL throws. If he finds himself at the helm of the Cardinals offense with Fitzgerald and Floyd creating space down the field, some damage could be done. 

    It should be noted that the 49ers D was without their leader in Willis for the matchup in which Skelton got the better of San Fran, a void that undoubtedly aided the Arizona offense, despite the solid play of backup ILB Larry Grant.

10. Matt Flynn, Seattle Seahawks

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    When They Meet: Week 7 and Week 16

    Thursday, Oct. 18 at Candlestick Park

    Sunday, Dec 23 at CenturyLink Field


    Previous Meeting: 2011

    19-17 Seahawks (Flynn not on roster)


    Projected Stats:

    Week 7: 21/38, 221 Yards, 1 TD, 2 INT

    Week 16: 20/35, 245 Yards, 2 TD, 1 INT


    The Scoop

    Don't expect any 480-yard, six-touchdown performances (2011 Week 17 numbers vs. Lions in place of Rodgers) from Flynn in 2012, but there are few things to like about this potential one-game wonder.

    At age 27, Flynn is more experienced than Wilson and possesses a more powerful and accurate arm than Jackson. Does that mean he'll start? No, but they didn't pay the man $19.5 million over three years if they didn't think he could play. 

    Then again, it is Pete Carroll we're talking about. 

    Flynn has a lot to prove if he plans to make a mark in the NFL, and this ranking may even be a bit generous—but, at this point, he appears to be the biggest threat the Seahawks have at QB.

9. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets

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    When They Meet: Week 4

    Sunday, Sept. 30 at MetLife Stadium


    Previous Meeting: 2008

    24-14 49ers (Sanchez not on roster)


    Projected Stats:

    19/33, 235 Yards, 1 TD, 1 INT


    The Scoop

    Sanchez generally disappointed yet again in 2011, but he played surprisingly well on the Jets' home field. Then again, he faced some relatively weak defenses in eight home games last season—certainly not one of this caliber.

    The former USC Trojan (product of Pete Carroll during his time as coach) probably isn't one of Harbaugh's favorite non-49ers players. The Sanchez-led Trojans defeated Harbaugh's Stanford Cardinal in a 45-23 victory in 2008 (the only time Sanchez played against the Cardinal), and I wouldn't be surprised if a small part of Harbaugh is out for revenge. 

    Nonetheless, Sanchez is at least a serviceable starting QB in the NFL, if only because he's actually performed rather well in some meaningful playoff games. 

    Because of that—and his recent track record at home—Sanchez comes in at No. 9 on the list.

8. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills

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    When They Meet: Week 5

    Sunday, Oct. 7 at Candlestick Park


    Previous Meeting: 2008

    10-3 49ers (Fitzpatrick not on roster)


    Projected Stats:

    25/41, 283 Yards, 2 TD, 3 INT


    The Scoop

    In 2011, Fitzpatrick had thrown 14 touchdowns after the first seven games and the Bills were shocking the AFC with a 5-2 record. Then the injury bug made its way to Buffalo, and the wheels fell off the once-promising season.

    Will a healthy Bills squad now featuring star defensive end/outside linebacker Mario Williams come into The Stick and send the 49er faithful home disappointed?

    The front office invested a large amount of money into the Fitzpatrick-to-Steve Johnson QB-WR tandem this offseason, and there's reason to believe the two could give the Niners D fits.

    The eight-year veteran QB passed for 3,832 yards last season and will rack up 40-plus pass attempts from time to time. Don't be surprised to see Buffalo airing it out if they trail early or have little luck in the run game. In addition to 24 touchdowns in 2011, Fitzpatrick also tossed 23 interceptions, so the secondary will certainly have their chances to capitalize on turnovers. 

    I don't expect Buffalo to leave town with a W, but don't mistake this game as a break in a tough schedule. The Bills are not a team you want to sleep on.

7. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams

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    When They Meet: Week 10 and Week 13

    Sunday, Nov. 11 at Candlestick Park

    Sunday, Dec. 2 at Edward Jones Dome


    Previous Meeting: 2011

    34-27 49ers (Bradford out with injury)


    Projected Stats:

    Week 10: 22/37, 251 Yards, 1 TD, 2 INT

    Week 13: 25/38, 237 Yards, 2 TD, 0 INT


    The Scoop

    After missing both contests against the 49ers in 2011, Bradford is completely healthy for the upcoming season.

    He's got some new toys, too. 

    The Rams went out and used their second-round pick on WR Brian Quick in the NFL draft, and Danny Amendola is back from injury as well. 

    Bradford showed some serious promise in 2010, but last season was a complete disaster for the young QB and his teammates. 

    There's a lot of young talent on board and RB Stephen Jackson remains a force, so the third-year signal-caller slides in just ahead of Fitzpatrick for the No. 7 spot.

6. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears

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    When They Meet: Week 11

    Monday, Nov. 19 at Candlestick Park


    Previous Meeting: 2009

    10-6 49ers (Cutler: 29/52, 307 Yards, 0 TD, 5 INT)


    Projected Stats:

    27/46, 296 Yards, 2 TD, 4 INT


    The Scoop

    Cutler experienced an absolutely atrocious afternoon at The Stick in 2009, tossing five interceptions in one of his career's more forgettable performances.

    Fortunately for Cutler, the Bears have since added Pro Bowl WR Brandon Marshall—among others—to the mix. 

    What he won't be happy about, though, is that he'll be facing a defensive unit with an explosive pass-rusher in OLB Aldon Smith, among other players who are in or entering the primes of their careers. 

    You can expect an admirable fight from this Chicago squad, but this much-improved 49ers D has a ball-hawking mentality and is fully prepared to bring back those haunting memories of Cutler's five-interception performance in 2008.

5. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

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    When They Meet: Week 2

    Sunday, Sept. 16 at Candlestick Park


    Previous Meeting: 2011

    25-19 49ers (Stafford: 28/50, 293 Yards, 2 TD, 0 INT)


    Projected Stats:

    26/46, 273 Yards, 3 TD, 2 INT


    The Scoop

    Given the whole handshake debacle of 2011, this game is going to receive tons of media hype—for all the wrong reasons. 

    Being a Michigan resident, I've had an up-close view of how a once-pathetic football franchise has evolved into a legitimate playoff contender.

    Finally healthy for an entire season, Stafford crossed the 5,000-yard mark in 2011 and connected with Megatron for 17 of his 41 touchdown passes. This is a young and confident team that can dominate when playing smart, disciplined football.

    As we saw quite often last season, that doesn't happen enough for the Lions to win meaningful ball games on a consistent basis. They also suffered from an injury-plagued backfield that forced head coach Jim Schwartz to become predictable with the passing game; a situation that doesn't look any more promising this year, either. 

    The fans in the Motor City can rock Ford Field respectably well, but the faithful are going to be every bit as relentless Week 2 at The Stick.

    If Detroit can't keep its composure for 60 minutes, Harbaugh and his mighty men are going to come away victorious once again.

4. Eli Manning, New York Giants

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    When They Meet: Week 6

    Sunday, Oct. 14 at Candlestick Park


    Previous Meeting: We don't need to talk about it.


    Projected Stats:

    24/42, 292 Yards, 2 TD, 2 INT


    The Scoop

    The 49ers will be in the middle of a three-game home stretch, and I doubt Harbaugh will sleep a wink in the days leading up to this brawl. 

    As far as Manning goes, yeah, he's good. He's proven that. I'd say he's a step short of elite, but it can be a costly mistake if you let him find a rhythm. 

    The Giants are probably tired of traveling to San Francisco by now, but this will be a crucial game if they want to come out on top of the always tight NFC East title race.

    Don't think it'll come easy, though. These 49ers have unfinished business to take care of. With a Thursday night home matchup with the Seahawks to follow, a win over the Giants would make the short rest much easier to bear.

3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

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    When They Meet: Week 12

    Sunday, Nov. 25 at Mercedes Benz Superdome


    Previous Meeting: 2012 NFC Divisional Game

    36-32 49ers (Brees: 40/63, 462 Yards, 4 TD, 2 INT)


    Projected Stats:

    35/54, 356 Yards, 3 TD, 1 INT


    The Scoop

    Brees got the mega-deal he deserved, and the Saints will likely be in the playoff hunt at this time—despite the the lingering effects of the Bounty-gate scandal. 

    We must remember that this is still a record-setting offense; one that is only missing a couple parts from a year ago and will be just as hungry for revenge as San Fran will be Week 6 against the Giants.

    Patrick Willis will likely draw the task of limiting TE Jimmy Graham, and RB Darren Sproles will probably be a nightmare to contain once again. 

    Despite the loss of Vilma to suspension, the Saints have improved on defense, and the addition of former Atlanta Falcon ILB Curtis Lofton is going to serve them well. 

    Nonetheless, the 49ers have improved themselves and will by all means be well prepared for this match.

2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

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    When They Meet: Week 15

    Sunday, Dec. 15 at Gillette Stadium


    Previous Meeting: 2008

    30-21 Patriots (Brady was on injured reserve)


    Projected Stats:

    34/46, 343 Yards, 3 TD, 0 INT


    The Scoop

    Brady hasn't faced off against the 49ers since 2004, when the Patriots finished 14-2 and the Niners finished 2-14. But the Niners now possess the talent and coaching required to compete with Bill Belichick's squad, and it's entirely feasible that they emerge victorious.

    Stopping Brady in the winter months at Gillette Stadium, however, is next to impossible. Slowing him? Unlikely as well. In addition to the top tight end duo in the league, there is WR Wes Welker and newly signed Brandon Lloyd to try to keep up with. Pinpoint accuracy is Brady's specialty, so lock-down coverage is a must. 

    But we've seen the Patriots tumble before, and the 49ers possess a potent pass rush capable of knocking Brady off his game enough to squeeze out a road win. 

    Still, it doesn't get much tougher than this. 

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

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    When They Play: Week 1

    Sunday, Sept. 10 at Lambeau Field


    Previous Meeting: 2009

    34-16 Packers (Rodgers: 21/30, 298 Yards, 3 TD, 0 INT)


    Projected Stats:

    33/47, 361 Yards, 4 TD, 1 INT


    The Scoop

    I said it doesn't get much tougher than a wintry trip to Foxborough, but if it does, it's Aaron Rodgers in Lambeau Field. 

    The Packers haven't lost a regular-season home game since Oct. 17, 2010 (that was 14 games ago); a span that included a 34-16 victory over the Niners at Lambeau in Week 13 of that 2010 season.

    Rodgers is basically an unstoppable force these days, just as he was the last time these two met. 

    The 49ers' vaunted D has long been preparing for this battle, though, and have a solid chance of finding the same type of success the Giants did in their NFC divisional win over the Pack. 

    Might as well get the toughest matchup out of the way first, right?


    Enjoy the rankings? Want to see other positions like RB, WR or TE in the near future? 

    Shoot off your opinions in the comments below, or contact Brandon on Twitter.