Top 15 NFL Quarterbacks Heading into Week 4

Tyler Piccotti@@SYRTylerPContributor IIISeptember 27, 2012

Top 15 NFL Quarterbacks Heading into Week 4

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    The NFL season is now a little more than three weeks old. During those three weeks, football fans have witnessed an array of surprising victories and questionable calls. In addition, they have seen some of their favorite quarterbacks falter and others flourish.

    Based on the performance of each quarterback thus far, I have compiled a list of the 15 best signal-callers through Week 3.

    How did I do this? I'm glad you asked. I actually created my own formula of sorts. I took the rankings of each quarterback in three statistical categories (passing yards, completion percentage and yards per attempt), added them up and then divided the resulting number by three to get an average efficiency score.

    I did not include touchdowns because I believe this stat can be misleading. A quarterback can, hypothetically, throw three touchdowns in a game, yet only complete 5-of-22 passes. I would consider said quarterback to be downright awful, and I would believe that he lucked into starting drives deep in enemy territory or relied on trick plays to get those touchdowns.

    In addition, quarterbacks who have thrown more interceptions than touchdowns were not considered. After all, you can't be considered one of the best if you continually give the ball to your opponent.

    The results are surprising. Don't take my word for it, however. Here are the top 15 quarterbacks thus far through 2012.

No. 15: Philip Rivers

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    Average Score: 19.67

    After a great start to his 2012 campaign, Philip Rivers hit a metaphorical brick wall against the Falcons. He completed only 55 percent of his passes and posted a dismal 45.2 quarterback rating. Still, he currently ranks ninth in the NFL in completion percentage.

    The reason he is not higher on this list is because most of those passes don't account for huge chunks of yardage. He is only 22nd in the league in passing yards, right in front of Brandon Weeden.

    In terms of a rebound from last season, Rivers has shown signs of improvement. His performance against the Falcons, however, leaves some doubt in my mind. As long as his completion percentage remains high, however, it is very likely that the yards and touchdowns will soon follow.

No. 14: Drew Brees

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    Average Score: 18.67

    You can pin the blame for the Saints' awful start on their interim coach or their porous defense. Based on my formula, however, you cannot blame Drew Brees.

    I will be the first to admit that Brees is having an off year by his standards. Even so, he is tied with Ben Roethlisberger for fourth in the passing yards department. The problem has been his completion percentage, which is currently ranked 26th in the NFL. This means that many of his completions have gone for huge gains.

    Of course, when you have to play catch-up all the time, you are forced to throw the ball downfield more often than you should. This seems to be Brees' problem so far.

    For the Saints to get back into the playoff race, Brees does need to step up his game. If anyone has the track record to show that this could happen, it is No. 9 in New Orleans. Don't overlook him.

No. 13: Aaron Rodgers

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    Average Score: 17.67

    Aaron Rodgers has put up rather mediocre stats thus far. After all, he is thought to be the best quarterback in the NFL and in fantasy football circles. What gives?

    Well, it's hard to put up All-Star caliber numbers when you are sacked eight times in a single half, as was the case against the Seahawks.

    In addition, look at the defenses he has played against so far. The 49ers and Bears are perennial defensive teams, and the Seahawks are hard to beat at home.

    Rodgers should pick things up as the season progresses. He will need to throw the ball further downfield to rise through the ranks in the coming weeks. Of course, he will need better protection from his offensive line as well.

    Rodgers is completing passes, but the Packers are not moving the ball. Whether this is because of opposing defenses or offensive ineptitude remains to be seen.

No. 12: Alex Smith

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    Average Score: 15.67

    Alex Smith is not someone who will put up gaudy passing numbers. He never has been, and he never will be.

    Because of this, it is a bit surprising that he is this high on the list. When you look at his completion percentage, however, you can see why. He has the third-best percentage in the NFL. The 49ers are a ground-and-pound team that wins with defense and a solid backfield. Smith is efficient in doing what he is asked to do, mainly to throw short to intermediate length passes. This is also why his turnover numbers are relatively low.

    He's not going to top any list in terms of fantasy numbers. If you want someone who is efficient with the ball and doesn't make mistakes, however, Smith is your man.

No. 11: Jake Locker

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    Average Score: 13.67

    Jake Locker is essentially still a rookie. While his teammates may have played like rookies for the most part this season, Jake has been pretty competent in the Titans offense.

    Locker benefits greatly from big plays. Against the Lions, he found Jared Cook and Nate Washington for touchdowns of over 60 yards. He has a solid completion percentage and currently ranks about mid-pack in terms of yards. This is especially amazing considering he has to face 3rd-and-long with regularity thanks to Chris Johnson's inability to gain yards.

    It is also important to note that he has done so against one of the toughest schedules in the NFL, one that won't be getting any easier.

    The Titans may not win many games, but Locker is a valuable piece of this team. He is currently proving that he deserved to be selected as a high first-round pick.

No. 10: Matt Schaub

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    Average Score: 11.67

    Even though Arian Foster and Ben Tate are the focal points of the Texans offense, Matt Schaub has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the NFL. He might not accrue a high amount of touchdowns, but he will move the chains when he must.

    It is easy to say that his performance against Denver was his best so far, but it could be argued that his first game was better. He only completed roughly 57 percent of his passes against the Broncos, but he completed two-thirds of his passes against the Dolphins and posted a similar rating even after throwing only one touchdown pass that game. In general, he serves his purpose in the offense and does it well.

    I would love to have Schaub on my team because I know what I'm getting: a quarterback with a solid arm who minimizes mistakes.

No. 9: Christian Ponder

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    Average Score: 11.33

    Christian Ponder is quietly putting together one of the best overall seasons in the NFL.

    Even though he ranks only 20th in passing yards, he has the second-best completion percentage in the league. He led the Vikings to a victory over both the 49ers and Jaguars, and with a couple breaks, the Colts could have been on that list as well. He is also in the upper tier in terms of yards per attempt. Even though I didn't factor it into my formula, I must note that he has not thrown an interception yet either.

    For someone whose abilities were questioned after a terrible season one year ago, Ponder is currently playing with Pro Bowl-level efficiency. We must wait to see if he can keep it up against his division rivals.

No. 8: Tony Romo

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    Average Score: 10.33

    One of the most criticized quarterbacks in the NFL, Tony Romo is on pace for another solid season.

    He has one of the highest yards per attempt averages in the league, and he sits a respectable 11th in passing yards. He has thrown three interceptions, but I am not penalizing him harshly for those turnovers. His performance on opening night was brilliant, but he fell down a steep incline against the Seahawks.

    Don't be fooled by his quarterback rating from the Buccaneers game either. He put up solid passing numbers. He just didn't account for touchdowns.

    Romo continues to be one of the most underrated quarterbacks in football. Although it may not look like it, he is proving that once again this season.

No. 7: Robert Griffin III

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    Average Score: 10

    Robert Griffin III started his career off with a bang against the Saints in Week 1.

    He was just as impressive in the following weeks. He has the eighth-highest completion percentage as a rookie, and he ranks an astonishing fourth in yards per attempt. Simply put, he gets a great deal of "bang for his buck" in terms of passing average. Adding in his running ability makes Griffin one of the hardest quarterbacks to prepare for as well. He is already turning heads, and his spot in this countdown illustrates that.

    We could very well be seeing the next huge superstar blossoming before our eyes. RG3 will be fun to watch going forward.

No. 6: Matt Ryan

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    Average Score: 9

    Matt Ryan is the best quarterback in the NFL at finding his receivers.

    I'm being serious. He has the best completion percentage in the league. Of course, it helps to have Roddy White and Julio Jones catching passes for you. He is only 15th in terms of passing yards, but because the Falcons have such an opportunistic defense, this number is a bit deceiving.

    If, for some reason, the Falcons begin to let up defensively and Ryan continues to throw the ball with such poise, the yards will come as well.

    Even now, however, he is in the upper-echelon of quarterbacks.

No. 5: Tom Brady

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    Average Score: 8.33

    Normally, it would come as no surprise that Tom Brady is ranked among the top five NFL quarterbacks. This year, however, it may seem surprising to some.

    Have no fear, Patriots fans. Brady is not the problem. The Titans could not stop him in Week 1, and he gave a valiant effort against the stacked Ravens defense on Sunday night. He ranks sixth in passing yards and is tied with Eli Manning for 10th in completion percentage. I admit the Cardinals game was a bit of a speed bump, but this is Tom Brady we're talking about.

    The Patriots have some things to figure out, but the quarterback position is not one of them. Brady will continue to play like the future Hall of Fame legend that he has shown himself to be.

No. 4: Joe Flacco

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    Average Score: 7

    Along with Tony Romo, Joe Flacco is one of the most maligned quarterbacks. It is assumed that when the Ravens lose, it is because of their offense and Flacco's way of leading it. That's nowhere close to true so far this season.

    Flacco ranks in the top five in both passing yards and yards per attempt. There's no denying he was terrible against the Eagles, but in his other two games, he has been a game-changer. Flacco seems to be ascending to the next tier of NFL quarterbacks. Until he wins the big playoff game, however, there will continue to be doubters.

    Flacco is as solid as anyone at his position. He should continue his successes as the season rolls on.

No. 3: Ben Roethlisberger

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    Average Score: 6

    Ben Roethlisberger has continuously proven that he shines on the big stage. He has also remained one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the league for years. This trend is continuing this year.

    Roethlisberger ranks in the top 10 in every statistical category used for this list. He is on pace for nearly 5,000 yards and at least 30 touchdowns. Even though the Steelers find themselves at 1-2, they can take solace in the fact that Roethlisberger is tearing it up.

    Ben is also one of the toughest players in the league. He makes his team better by being on the field.

    The Steelers may have an uphill climb to reach the playoffs, but Roethlisberger gives them an immediate advantage.

No. 2: Andy Dalton

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    Average Score: 5

    It would be very difficult for a sophomore quarterback to repeat the successes that Andy Dalton had as a rookie. Amazingly, Dalton has taken multiple steps forward in his second season.

    He ranks eighth or better in each of the three categories. His Week 1 performance may have been an absolute dud, but he has made up for it since. He completed more than three-fourths of his passes against the Browns and then followed that up with a 328-yard performance in Washington.

    Dalton has already established himself as one of the most reliable quarterbacks in the league. At age 24, the sky is the limit in terms of his upside.

    He is still prone to make the occasional bad throw, but Andy Dalton is becoming a star. He has brought a Bengals team back to national prominence in less than two years and deserves his spot on this list.

No. 1: Eli Manning

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    Average Score: 4.67

    Is it really surprising that Eli Manning is at the top of a list of quarterbacks? Some may say so, but I say otherwise.

    Manning leads in the NFL in passing yards with 1,011 yards. He just embarrassed Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. He threw for over 500 yards against the Buccaneers, even after throwing three picks during the same game.

    Oh yeah, he is also a defending Super Bowl champion. He's got receivers who can go the distance on every play, and he is arguably the most clutch quarterback in the game. He deserves this spot at No. 1.

    He is backing up his performance from last season and remains one of the elite quarterbacks. Simply put, he is the ultimate gamer.