Stock Up, Stock Down for Future of Every NFL Quarterback
I want to take a minute to reflect on just how good the quarterback position was to the NFL this past season. We are currently in the midst of the golden age of quarterbacking, which was represented by the performances we saw from young players and elder statesmen alike.
Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Colin Kaepernick absolutely dominated on the largest stage that football has to offer. All four made trips to the postseason after just a couple handfuls of starts.
This doesn't even take into account the historically good performance of Joe Flacco, who led the Baltimore Ravens to their second Super Bowl championship in franchise history.
Today's article will focus on the 2013 version of B/R 1000. The rankings in this slideshow reflect the ordering of the top 65 quarterbacks in Matt Miller's B/R 1000 list. I will analyze where each quarterback is on the 2013 rankings compared to last season's and give you a rundown on where they stand moving forward. Remember, these are not my rankings.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article featured several slides out of order. The slideshow has been updated to correctly reflect Matt Miller's 2013 quarterback rankings.
65. Ryan Lindley, Arizona Cardinals
2012 Ranking: N/A
Prior to the 2012 NFL draft, I cracked that Lindley couldn't hit Jennifer Lopez's broadside if it were presented right in front of his face. This is only magnified when Lindley fails to actually step into his passes, which speaks volumes about his mechanics.
The former sixth-round pick from San Diego State was absolutely atrocious as a rookie in 2012. He failed to throw a single touchdown in four starts (171 attempts) and was picked off seven times. It goes without saying that his 46.7 quarterback rating was the worst of any quarterback with a minimum of four starts this past season.
That being said, there is some upside here. Lindley possesses a strong arm and has prototypical size. It's all about honing that technique, improving his progressions and understanding the nuances of the NFL.
64. John Skelton, Arizona Cardinals
2012 Ranking: 37
Think about this for a second: Outside of the eight touchdowns Kevin Kolb threw in five starts, the Cardinals quarterbacks tallied three touchdown passes in 11 starts, two of them coming from Skelton.
It appears that this marginal quarterback was the best option after Kolb's injury in one of the worst quarterback situations in the modern history of the NFL. All said, Skelton tallied a 55.4 rating with nine interceptions and just those two touchdowns. Arizona averaged 12.2 points per game in his six starts.
63. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
2012 Ranking: 29
Yes, Mark Sanchez is ranked below some backup quarterbacks. He is even ranked behind a couple that have started just a handful of games. There is a simple reason for this: Sanchez just isn't a good starting quarterback in the NFL.
He failed to throw a touchdown in five games and tallied a quarterback rating under 60 seven different times. In four NFL seasons, Sanchez has thrown one more interceptions than touchdowns.
The New York Jets haven't ranked better than 13th in scoring and 21st in passing offense in any of his four seasons as their starting quarterback.
Needless to say, Sanchez is the problem, not the solution.
62. Tim Tebow, New York Jets
2012 Ranking: 44
Anyone who had Tebow pegged as a starting quarterback in the NFL received a mighty loud wake-up call this past season. Even with Mark Sanchez struggling more than any other signal-caller in the NFL, Tebow still didn't get a shot with the Jets. Debate among yourselves whether that makes sense, but it does tell us a story that isn't too kind about his future.
Miller had this former first-round pick higher than Colin Kaepernick last season. With that said, don't expect the type of meteoric rise we saw from San Francisco's budding star here.
Tebow has the worst mechanics I have seen from a top pick in recent history and struggles a great deal on intermediate routes. These are two aspects that define a successful quarterback in the NFL. At this point, Tebow is nothing more than a gimmick No. 2 guy at this level.
61. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars
2012 Ranking: 48
I wonder if Gabbert has flinched since Miller's article went live. In all honesty, I would put the over/under on that at about 20 times. The Missouri product is just dazed and confused in the pocket against pro-level defenses. He struggles looking down the field due to a constant fear of being hit.
Needless to say, this causes timing and accuracy issues for the former first-round pick.
While Gabbert did throw just six interceptions in 278 passes this past season, he failed miserably pushing the ball down field and wasn't asked to do too much in Jacksonville's one- or two-read system.
In total, Gabbert has failed to reach the 150-yard plateau in half of his NFL starts. That's not going to get it done.
60. Tyler Thigpen, Buffalo Bills
2012 Ranking: N/A
There was never a time in his first six NFL seasons that I looked at Thigpen and came away even remotely impressed. He did start 11 games for the Kansas City Chiefs back in 2008, throwing 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. While those stats seem decent on the exterior, it's important to note that Kansas City won a total of one time in those 11 starts.
Thigpen has started one NFL game since. He is nowhere near a starting quarterback in the NFL and is probably a good No. 3 for teams with decent options.
59. Joe Webb, Minnesota Vikings
2012 Ranking: N/A
We can laugh at Webb's performance against the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs last month all we want, but he really wasn't put into a fair situation. How many backup quarterbacks could go into Lambeau Field in the postseason and beat Aaron Rodgers?
I didn't think so.
It's the game film that worries me the most. Webb is nothing more than a one-read quarterback that lacks accuracy and field vision. He throws the ball into tight windows that may have worked at Alabama-Birmingham, but will not cut in in the NFL.
In addition, Webb seems to be more of an athlete than a quarterback. Again, that will work in college football.
Webb proved that he cannot be counted on to be a solid backup in the NFL.
58. Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs
2012 Ranking: 30
"Horrible" would be the best word to describe his performance this past season. Cassel was just beyond bad when it came to decision-making and mistakes.
In reality, consistent success in the NFL is nearly impossible with how many mistakes Cassel made in 2012. As pointed out since the end of the season, some of this might have had to do with his inability to understand a new scheme that was put into place.
I wouldn't put it all on that.
Cassel has thrown 16 touchdowns compared to 21 interceptions since the start of 2011 and seems to be regressing a great deal at this point. I am not sold on him as anything more than a serviceable backup in the NFL.
Although, it is important to note that some quarterback-needy teams may give him a chance to win the starting job in 2013. It just won't be with the Chiefs.
As shown by Cassel dropping outside of the top 50, I would venture to guess that Matt Miller agrees.
57. Tyrod Taylor, Baltimore Ravens
2012 Ranking: N/A
Let me preface this by saying that I was not a fan of Taylor coming out of Virginia Tech. He never seemed to jump out on tape as anything more than a decent college quarterback who wouldn't be able to make the transition to the NFL.
His athleticism is key here. As someone who can get outside the pocket and make plays with his feet, Taylor is a prime example of a read-option quarterback without a whole heck of a lot going for him. This makes him a decent backup for a team that actually runs that type of scheme.
With Joe Flacco being a stationary target in Baltimore's pass offense, it would be well-served to get a more qualified backup in case the Super Bowl MVP were to go down with injury.
I doubt that John Harbaugh and company would have much confidence in Taylor coming in and being a serviceable spot starter.
56. David Carr, New York Giants
2012 Ranking: N/A
Carr is the epitome of a career backup. He can come in and be serviceable within the matter of a specific game, but cannot be relied on to shoulder the load for more than one or two weeks. He is, in fact, a perfect fit behind Eli Manning with the Giants.
While this isn't how the former No. 1 overall pick expected his career to turn out, it has enabled him to stay in the league for over a decade. With that in mind, don't expect to be hearing "we want Carr" chants anytime soon.
55. Brady Quinn, Kansas City Chiefs
2012 Rankings: N/A
Quinn just isn't a good quarterback. That may seem a little simple, but it couldn't be more true.
The former first-round pick from Notre Dame doesn't see the entire field and struggles finding the open receiver.He gets happy feet in the pocket and lacks the accuracy to be an effective passer on intermediate routes.
Quinn will never be anything more than a decent No. 2 in the NFL.
54. Brian Hoyer, Arizona Cardinals
2012 Ranking: 33
There was some talk following the 2011 season that the New England Patriots could make a move to trade Hoyer to a team in need of a starting quarterback (via ESPN). This never materialized, and the Michigan State product ended up being released prior to the start of this past season.
He didn't catch on with Arizona until much later in the year, making just one start. Hoyer was pretty impressive against San Francisco in that game. He threw for 225 yards and a score, leading the Cardinals to three scoring drives.
Still, Hoyer doesn't have the arm strength and mobility to be a solid starter in the NFL. He really lacks the necessary skills to be anything more than a backup. That much is indicated by Matt Miller dropping him down 21 slots in his rankings.
53. Thaddeus Lewis, Cleveland Browns
2012 Ranking: N/A
If you had not heard of Lewis prior to Week 17 of this past season, I am pretty sure you are not alone. The former Duke quarterback attempted his first passes in the NFL in a start against Pittsburgh that week. In total, Lewis played pretty well. He completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for over 200 yards and a score.
It goes without saying that Lewis didn't find himself on the rankings last season, but he has a reasonable amount of upside as a backup quarterback option. He has the athleticism and arm strength to be a decent stand-in when the starter goes down.
Let's see if Lewis gets that shot.
52. Dan Orlovsky, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2012 Ranking: N/A
In case you didn't notice, Orlovsky isn't anything to write home about. Beyond the fact that he has lost 10 of his 12 career starts, the former fifth-round pick of the Detroit Lions doesn't do any one thing above average. He has a decent arm, can make plays down the field and possesses solid field vision.
Teams look for standout performances on tape when evaluating potential starting quarterbacks. Orlovsky just doesn't have the skill set to be counted on as a weekly starter in the NFL.
51. Matt Leinart, Oakland Raiders
2012 Ranking: 41
"Mr. Checkdown," as I call him, Leinart has never materialized into a solid player in the NFL. He is too afraid to make mistakes down the field, which means offenses he runs have a conservative-style approach.
Equally as important, the USC alum cannot read defenses or progress to his secondary reads. This was all too evident for Oakland in 2012.
At this point, he will not be a starting quarterback in the NFL until he starts to play with more reckless abandon. Time is running out for Leinart to turn his career around.
50. Graham Harrell, Green Bay Packers
2012 Ranking: N/A
Honestly, I am a fan of Harrell. While most Texas Tech quarterbacks don't get a second look in the NFL because of their offensive scheme, he seems to have the skills to be an above-average quarterback in the NFL. While he will not kill you with his arm, he can thread the needle on the intermediate routes and is about as smart as they come on the football field.
I guess a good comparison to Harrell would be a Drew Brees-lite.
I fully expect him to get a shot to earn a starting quarterback job with a team outside of Green Bay in the relatively near future. With the lackluster play we have seen from some of the quarterbacks listed below Harrell, why not?
49. Bruce Gradkowski, Cincinnati Bengals
2012 Ranking: N/A
It's interesting to note that some within the Oakland Raiders organization a few years back actually believed Gradkowski would be a solid starting quarterback in the NFL. It could be stated that this is one of the secondary reasons Oakland abandoned ship on the front office once Al Davis passed away.
Gradkowski is nothing more than a serviceable No. 2 quarterback on a good team. He can come in and win games in a pinch, but when defenses have a week to prepare for his marginal skill set, he will struggle making plays. Again, Gradkowski finds himself in the top 50 because of the lack of other viable options here.
48. Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
2012 Ranking: 25
I understand that some of you may not agree with this ranking. After all, Ponder did "lead" the Vikings to the playoffs this past season.
The former first-round pick was asked to do less than any other starting quarterback in the NFL in 2012 and still struggled with game management, decision-making and mistakes. He averaged just 6.1 yards per pass and less than 184 yards per game in 16 starts. I just didn't see a rapid improvement that most people expected coming off a decent rookie campaign in 2011.
It is, however, important to note that Minnesota ran its offense through Adrian Peterson and didn't really focus on the downfield passing game. It also lacked the necessary weapons to be successful through the air.
If put in the right situation, Ponder could be an adequate starter in the NFL. It is now up to the Vikings to put the talent in place around him in the passing game.
47. Terrelle Pryor, Oakland Raiders
2012 Ranking: N/A
In terms of fundamentals, Pryor still has a lot to learn. He struggles with mechanics and footwork on the move, consistently throwing flat-footed, which causes some accuracy issues.
It is still hard to deny the raw talent that Pryor possesses. He has a strong arm, clean touch on his passes and is very athletic.
Like most quarterbacks, it is all about being able to understand defensive schemes at this level and progress through reads. Once that happens, Pryor could actually be a solid starting quarterback in the NFL. This offseason will be key to his development.
46. Byron Leftwich, Pittsburgh Steelers
2012 Ranking: N/A
This veteran was nowhere to be found on the rankings last February. He had started a total of five games dating back to 2007, throwing seven interceptions compared to five touchdowns.
Leftwich was pressed into starting duty against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 11 this past season, but really didn't get the job done. Pittsburgh was defeated 13-10 in a costly loss within the division.
Overall, Leftwich is nothing more than a capable backup quarterback. His throwing motion is cause for alarm when it comes to actually being able to hit receivers on the outside on timing routes.
Accordingly, the former first-round pick never developed the mechanics that would have made him in to a starting-caliber player in the NFL. His No. 46 ranking is a prime example of this.
45. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
2012 Ranking: N/A
According to the Associated Press (via Sports Illustrated), the new regime in Cleveland is not completely sold on Weeden as the quarterback of the future. If all things were equal, the 2012 first-round pick had a decent rookie season. He didn't make a whole lot of mistakes and seemed to improve his decision-making as the season went on.
All things are not equal.
The Oklahoma State product is older than Alex Smith, who has eight years of NFL experience under his belt. Cleveland just cannot afford to be patient with Weeden, because by the time he does develop, it will have to find another quarterback of the future.
On that note, ESPN's John Clayton linked Smith to the Browns (via ArizonaSports.com) and his former offensive coordinator, Norv Turner. This would leave Weeden as nothing more than a backup quarterback in his late 20s, just one year removed from being considered a franchise guy by Cleveland's old regime.
44. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
2012 Ranking: N/A
Let me put this to rest right now: Foles should be the Eagles' starting quarterback when September rolls around. He was much better than I thought he would be as a rookie in 2012. Despite issues with decision-making and ball placement, Philadelphia's offense just seemed to run much better with him in the game than Michael Vick.
As with every young quarterback, there will be some growing pains here. However, Foles seems to possess the skill set to be an above-average starter in the NFL.
43. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills
2012 Ranking: 22
Prior to his contract extension in late October of 2011, Ryan Fitzpatrick was having himself a season for the Buffalo Bills. He threw 12 touchdowns compared to six interceptions and had Buffalo at 4-2.
Since signing that six-year, $59 million contract, the veteran quarterback hasn't been nearly the same. Buffalo lost eight of its last 10 games in 2011 and finished with just six victories this past season. For his part, Fitzpatrick has tallied 33 interceptions compared to just 36 touchdowns during that span.
It goes without saying that he is nothing more than a marginal starting quarterback at this point in his career.
42. Brock Osweiler, Denver Broncos
2012 Ranking: N/A
This 2012 second-round pick is in a perfect situation with Denver. He is tasked with backing up one of the best quarterbacks, Peyton Manning, to ever play the game. In essence, Osweiler's job is to act like a sponge, picking up every possible tip the future Hall of Fame quarterback wants to give him. He also has the ability to sit for a couple years to hone his mechanics.
Prior to the draft last April, many concluded that Osweiler made the wrong decision to declare. While I agreed with that stance at that time, he is learning much more behind Manning than he ever could have learned with Arizona State.
Osweiler has an extremely strong arm, can make every throw on the football field and possesses prototypical NFL size. He is Denver's quarterback of the future.
41. T.J. Yates, Houston Texans
2012 Ranking: N/A
Yates can be a solid starter in the NFL. He has the right combination of intelligence and skill to surprise a great deal of people moving forward. While his arm won't scare the collective jockstraps off of defenses, he does have a nice touch on the deep pass and can fool defensive backs. His two primary strengths at this point are accuracy and mechanics.
He doesn't possess a plus skill in any one aspect of the game, but is solid nonetheless.
It will be interesting to see how Matt Schaub performs in 2013. If he is unable to lead Houston past the divisional round of the playoffs, the team may look to go in another direction. In fact, that wouldn't surprise me a great deal considering its salary-cap situation and the fact that Yates comes a lot cheaper.
40. Drew Stanton, Indianapolis Colts
2012 Ranking: N/A
Stanton really hasn't been given much of an opportunity to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. While he did start a couple games for the injured Matthew Stafford back in 2010, the Michigan State product hasn't gotten a fair shake.
He exhibited solid accuracy in both college and the NFL. His arm strength, though not great, is serviceable for this level as well.
For Stanton, it is all about being given a chance to compete in training camp. That didn't happen last offseason when the New York Jets traded for Tim Tebow shortly after they signed Stanton.
The simple fact that he his ranked above both Tebow and Mark Sanchez should tell us all we need to know about New York's quarterback situation. As it is, Indianapolis will not be the place where Stanton gets his chance to shine.
39. Chase Daniel
2012 Ranking: N/A
Sign me up; I am officially on the Chase Daniel bandwagon. He doesn't have the arm strength to push the ball down field, but can be a damn good quarterback in the right situation.
He has a solid combination of accuracy and athleticism to make it work as a starter in the NFL. In addition, he has learned from one of the best in the league, Drew Brees, over the last three seasons.
Look for him to get some play as a free agent this offseason. There are not a ton of options on the open market, and Daniel will be seen as an immediate upgrade for a handful of teams around the league.
Based on his current ranking, Daniel is "better" than seven quarterbacks who opened 2012 as starters.
38. Jason Campbell, Chicago Bears
Could Jason Campbell actually be a viable starting quarterback in the NFL again? He showed flashes of both the good and the bad with the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders in a little over four seasons as a near full-time starter.
Campbell even had the Raiders at 4-2 to start the 2011 season before suffering a collarbone injury that cost him the remainder of the year and forced them to overpay for Carson Palmer.
The results haven't been good for either side.
Campbell started one game for the Chicago Bears this past season—an embarrassing 32-7 loss at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football. The veteran threw for just 107 yards and had two interceptions on 22 pass attempts.
Despite his lack of playing time in 2012, Campbell can be a decent stopgap quarterback in the NFL. He has the solid mechanics that a veteran usually brings to the table, but also possesses a relatively strong arm and decent accuracy.
However, it's looking more and more like Campbell's days as a starter are clearly behind him. He will most likely play out the string as one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league.
37. Charlie Batch, Pittsburgh Steelers
2012 Ranking: N/A
Yes, Batch is still playing this game we call football. Not too well, mind you.
Since being a regular starter for the Detroit Lions between 1998 and 2001, Batch has started just nine games and thrown 12 touchdowns over the last 11 years. It goes without saying that he is nothing more than a serviceable backup or No. 3 option on a decent team.
One thing you cannot teach is experience, and Batch has that. He should be able to latch on for a couple more seasons due to that alone.
36. Shaun Hill, Detroit Lions
2012 Ranking: 36
I may be in the minority here, but Hill could be a relatively good starting quarterback in the NFL.
Think about this for a second: Hill has thrown nearly twice as many touchdowns as Blaine Gabbert in the same amount of starts. In addition, he has 23 interceptions in 954 career passes.
For those of us who are not math wizards, that's about one interception per 41 attempts.
Despite a decent amount of success as a spot starter, Hill hasn't really been given a chance since joining the league in 2005 with the Minnesota Vikings. He has started just 26 games in seven seasons.
Based on Bleacher Report metrics, Hill is the 36th-best quarterback in the NFL today. This seems to indicate that he can be a bottom-feeder starter moving forward.
It now remains to be seen if a team will give him that shot.
35. Ryan Mallett, New England Patriots
2012 Ranking: 40
This could be another Matt Cassel situation all over again. New England has a young quarterback with some solid value and could look to net a couple draft picks in return. Again, this is pure conjecture, as no team has openly expressed interest in the former third-round pick.
One of the primary reasons some are suggesting that Mallett is on the trade block is due to his skill set (via ESPN). The talented youngster has just about everything a team looks for in a franchise quarterback, at least on the field. He had one of the strongest arms in the 2011 NFL draft coming out of Arkansas and can make absolutely every throw on the field.
This, coupled with grade-A mechanics, leads me to believe that he will be starting in the NFL in the relatively near future. Due to a lack of actual experience, Mallett stays about where he was ranked last February.
34. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
2012 Ranking: 23
It just isn't sustainable to have a starting quarterback continue to turn the ball over at the rate we have seen from Michael Vick since the start of the 2011 season. He seems to have regressed a great deal as it relates to decision-making.
What used to be a strength, throwing the ball down the field on the run, has quickly morphed into a major struggle for this veteran quarterback. He continues to make the wrong reads and decisions when outside of the pocket, which is one of the primary reasons that his turnover rate has gone up so much.
It's a deterioration of skills, as well as injury concerns, that has Vick so low on this list. He is no longer an above-average quarterback and needs to be placed in the right system to succeed as a starter in the NFL.
Vick is fortunate that he will get one more shot in Philadelphia (via ESPN.com). If he falters in Chip Kelly's scheme, he may never get another shot to start.
33. Matt Moore, Miami Dolphins
2012 Ranking: 20
You see a major drop here as it relates to Moore. Matt Miller had him above the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Michael Vick and even Josh Freeman entering the 2012 offseason. This was in large part due to a solid 2011 season with Miami in which he completed over 60 percent of his passes for nearly 2,500 yards and 16 touchdowns compared to nine interceptions.
Even with the higher ranking, Miller honestly didn't believe Moore was much more than a stopgap starter in the NFL:
Moore will never be a franchise quarterback, but he has value as a bridge starter at quarterback and as a very good No. 2 quarterback in a situation where a young or fringe starter is in place.
Nothing has changed here. Moore will be a competent backup in the right system and for the right starter. He will never be a long-term solution or someone that ups the play of his offense. That ship sailed even before assembly.
32. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2012 Ranking: 27
Again, Josh Freeman struggled with decision-making in 2012. After four seasons as a starting quarterback in the NFL, I thought those issues were past him.
It just seems that Freeman, who has a rifle of an arm, doesn't go through his progressions to find secondary options a majority of the time.
Freeman targeted Vincent Jackson 147 times this past season. Despite being a Pro Bowl receiver, Jackson caught less than half of the passes thrown in his direction (via ESPN).
Freeman needs to find a way to spread the ball around the field in the passing game. Until that happens, he will continue to make mistakes and won't progress into anything more than an average starter at this level.
The talent is most definitely there; it is now up to Freeman to pick his game up and improve on these downfalls.
31. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
2012 Ranking: 28
Jake Locker struggled miserably after returning form injury in 2012. He threw for less than 200 yards and just one touchdown per start in his sophomore season. Most of these struggles can be directly linked to poor mechanics and below-average accuracy on intermediate routes.
This shouldn't come as a huge surprise to those who followed his collegiate career at Washington. While Locker didn't have the best supporting cast, he completed less than 55 percent of his passes in Washington.
Once Locker is able to improve on these mechanical issues, there is no reason to believe that he won't be an above-average starter in the NFL. He possesses a strong arm, fluid touch and great athleticism. As with every young quarterback, Locker just needs to put it all together.
30. Chad Henne, Quarterback, Jacksonville Jaguars
2012 Ranking: 45
Chad Henne jumped 15 spots from his ranking last season. The primary reason is that he actually got an opportunity to prove he can be a viable starter in the NFL.
While the Jacksonville Jaguars did lose his final five starts of the 2012 season, Henne wasn't the reason. He continued to drive the ball down the field and showed a surprisingly strong arm.
While the Michigan product will never be a franchise quarterback in the NFL, he can be successful in the right system with the right tools in place.
It goes without saying that Henne didn't have that in Jacksonville this past season. I still expect him to get a chance to start somewhere in 2013.
He has earned that shot.
29. Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders
2012 Ranking: 18
I don't understand why the Raiders would hang on to Palmer. I fully understand that releasing him would cause a salary-cap bind following the 2013 season, but he just isn't that good anymore. Heck, he hasn't been anything more than decent since a Pro Bowl 2006 season and subsequent knee injury.
Palmer makes way too many mistakes in crucial situations and is far too inconsistent to be counted on. This is all magnified by the fact that he is set to earn $13 million in 2013.
It may just be time for Oakland to go with the youth movement at quarterback. As it is, Palmer dropped a whole 11 spots from this time last year.
28. Colt McCoy, Cleveland Browns
2012 Ranking: 24
One of the primary reasons former Cleveland Browns general manager Tom Heckert was shown the door following the 2012 season was the way he handled their quarterback situation.
While Colt McCoy leaves a lot to be desired as a starting quarterback in the NFL, there was absolutely no reason to give up on him in lieu of a rookie quarterback that is four years older than him. Cleveland would have been in a much better situation giving McCoy another shot under center rather than "wasting" a first-round pick on Brandon Weeden.
This doesn't mean that McCoy is the long-term solution in Cleveland or will even get another chance with his original franchise.
He has averaged about 200 passing yards and one touchdown per game in 21 career NFL starts. In addition, his inability to get the ball down the field due to a lack of arm strength has handcuffed him in the NFL.
Best-case scenario is that McCoy finds a situation that best suits his limited range of skills. In the worst-case scenario, he is relegated to backup duty for the remainder of his career. That's pretty much what you expect from a quarterback ranked 28th on this list.
27. Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee Titans
2012 Ranking: 17
At 37, Matt Hasselbeck is clearly in the twilight of his career. He started just five games for the Tennessee Titans this past season, going 2-3 in the process. While the veteran definitely brings experience and savvy to the field with him on Sundays and has acted as a great mentor to Jake Locker, he just isn't a starter anymore.
This runs contrary to the belief that some have about Hasselbeck as a decent stopgap option for another team in 2013.
I honestly don't see it that way.
He dropped 10 spots from last season and didn't really improve the Tennessee Titans' offensive attack when Locker went down early in the season. He failed to throw more than one touchdown in all but one of his starts.
If a contending team is in need of a game manager with its starter down, Hasselbeck could be someone to call. If a young team wants a stopgap option while its young quarterback sits, I would recommend that it makes the decision to go with the future right now.
As it is, I view Hasselbeck as a solid backup option.
26. Matt Flynn, Seattle Seahawks
2012 Ranking: 21
Pretty much the same ranking as last season. Obviously, the fact that Matt Flynn didn't see anything more than garbage-time action for the Seattle Seahawks in 2012 has a lot to do with this.
Make no mistake about it, Flynn is a quality starting quarterback in the NFL. He just needs to be given a shot to be the guy at some point to prove his worth.
On that note, reports indicate that Seattle is attempting to move the youngster. If he is able to latch on with a team like the Kansas City Chiefs, who have a lot of talent on offense, Flynn will prove his skeptics wrong.
25. Kyle Orton, Dallas Cowboys
2012 Ranking: 31
Probably one of the top three backup quarterbacks in the NFL, and I am using that term loosely, Orton is one of those guys teams would love to have one hit away from suiting up. He has been successful as a long-term starter and rarely makes mistakes in the passing game.
One of his best attributes is his accuracy. He allows receivers to make a play after catching the ball on intermediate routes.
In addition, he has a veteran savvy and confidence to his game. It isn't beyond the realm of possibility that Orton becomes a placeholder starter for another team in 2013.
24. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
2012 Ranking: N/A
Many questioned Washington when it selected Cousins in the fourth round last April. After all, it had just given up a bounty to trade up to the No. 2 slot and select Robert Griffin III to be its franchise quarterback.
Those questions are now moot.
Cousins came in and led Washington to an impressive victory over the Baltimore Ravens when RGIII went down in Week 14. If it wasn't for that performance, the Redskins probably wouldn't have captured the NFC East.
As it is, Cousins will end up being a valuable trade chip when all is said and done. He has the arm strength and mechanics to be a good starter in the NFL.
He needs to improve his decision-making and put more touch on his shorter passes. Once those things come along, Cousins will be a quality starter.
23. Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals
2012 Ranking: 35
Kolb was solid in limited playing time this past season before his offensive line folded like a drunk game of Jenga. He threw eight touchdowns compared to three interceptions en route to winning three of his five starts.
This may not be enough to save his job in Arizona. Recent reports suggest that Kolb will have to restructure his contract to remain in the desert. Even if that happens, I am not entirely sure that new head coach Bruce Arians will want to depend on him in 2013.
The future is still somewhat bright for Kolb, who does possess some positive attributes on the football field. He is extremely accurate on intermediate routes and will not be forced into too many mistakes down the field.
While Arizona might not give him a great chance to start in 2013, I fully expect some team to in the short term.
22. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
2012 Ranking: N/A
Many experts expected Ryan Tannehill to have major issues transitioning from college to the NFL. While his rookie season wasn't without young mistakes, Tannehill played much better than most anticipated.
He led the Miami Dolphins to a 4-3 start before fading a bit down the stretch, losing six of his last nine starts. By no means does this indicate that Tannehill will regress moving forward.
He continued to make good decisions and go through his reads during his rookie season. Those are two signs that the young quarterback is ready to take his game to the next level.
We all knew that the Texas A&M product was about as raw as a rookie quarterback gets, but he proved wise beyond his years on the field.
Expect great things from him moving forward. Miami has finally found its franchise quarterback.
21. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
2012 Ranking: 19
This past season featured Sam Bradford improve on what was a disastrous 2011 campaign. He racked up career highs in passing yards, touchdowns and quarterback rating. It is, however, important to note that Bradford was expected to be much more than a serviceable starting quarterback in the NFL when he was selected No. 1 overall prior to the 2010 season.
At this point in his career, Bradford really hasn't been able to up his game from a marginal signal-caller.
He does have everything you look for in a franchise quarterback. He has a solid throwing motion, can get zip on the ball pretty much all over the field and is very accurate.
It is all up to him to take his game to the next level. That means taking more chances down the field, anticipating coverage and being more fluid in the pocket.
Once that happens, Bradford will be just fine.
20. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
2012 Ranking: 16
As one of the most fundamentally strong young quarterbacks in the game, it shouldn't be surprising that Andy Dalton has led his Cincinnati Bengals to the postseason in each of his first two years in the NFL.
In addition to success as it relates to wins on the football field, Dalton improved in every single major statistical category from his rookie campaign of 2011. He completed over 62 percent of his passes for 3,669 yards and 27 touchdowns as a sophomore this past year.
Those are really solid numbers for a quarterback that is still a couple years away from hitting his prime.
That being said, Dalton remains about where he was last season. Cincinnati went one-and-done in the playoffs, in large part due to a really bad performance from Dalton against the Houston Texans.
Dalton also needs to improve on his reads and progressions. He relies too heavily on A.J. Green in the passing game, which will end up causing mistakes and consistency issues down the road.
There is plenty to like about Dalton, but he still has a lot to improve on to crack the top 16.
19. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
2012 Ranking: 7
What happened to Matthew Stafford's mechanics in 2012? Seriously, he seems to have reverted back to his undergrad days at Georgia. He throws off-balance way too much, doesn't understand when to throw the ball away and locks on to Calvin Johnson more than he should.
He threw less than half the amount of touchdowns in 2012 than he did the year before, but had roughly the same amount of interceptions. This isn't the type of regression I expected from a quarterback that seemed to be nearing elite status after a ridiculous 2011 campaign.
The Detroit Lions now need to work with Stafford to get his mechanics back to where they were just two seasons ago. If this happens, he should be just fine. If not, Stafford's regression into nothing more than a pedestrian starter will be even more magnified this fall.
18. Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers
2012 Ranking: 14
Let's see here...Alex Smith, who was among the most prolific quarterbacks in the NFL in terms of accuracy and quarterback rating in the first half of the season, lost his job due to injury in October. Colin Kaepernick then came in and led the San Francisco 49ers to their first Super Bowl appearance since the 1994 season.
The writing is on the wall here.
This doesn't mean that we will end up as a backup quarterback in 2013.
As evidenced by his No. 18 ranking, Smith can be a serviceable starter for a team looking to get a couple solid years of production in the passing game. He will not make unnecessary mistakes, is pretty darn accurate on intermediate routes and has proven himself to be a winner over the last two seasons.
Some team, whether via trade or in free agency, will be calling on Smith to start this fall. You can bank on that.
17. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
2012 Ranking: 13
It's interesting to look at it this way, but Philip Rivers has quickly become an enigma of sorts for the San Diego Chargers. Prior to 2011, Rivers' trajectory in the NFL couldn't have been brighter. He was coming off two consecutive Pro Bowl performances and led the league in passing yards in 2010.
Then something happened.
I am not entirely sure what that something was, but Rivers has now thrown more interceptions (35) in his last two seasons than he did in his previous three (33).
It could be a lack of proper mechanics in the backfield. Maybe Rivers is struggling finding seams down the field without the services of Vincent Jackson, who bolted to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers prior to last season.
As it is, Rivers, who is still a solid starting quarterback, needs to get it right before he starts to be called overrated.
16. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
2012 Ranking: 11
Let me get this out of the way right now: Tony Romo isn't the problem with the Dallas Cowboys. If it wasn't for his play the last two seasons, they would have been no better than a six-win team. Jerry Jones and company have a whole lot that they have to deal with outside of the quarterback position.
That being said, 2012 wasn't great for this veteran quarterback. He led the NFL in interceptions with 19 and continued to struggle making plays in the clutch.
Inconsistency is a major theme for Romo. When he attempts to carry a talent-stricken offense on his back, bad things happen. This was in full evidence against the Washington Redskins in Week 17 and a couple other times throughout the season.
At his best, Romo is a top-10 quarterback in the NFL. At his worst, he is among the most inconsistent regular starters in the league. He falls five spots in these rankings due to poor decisions and turnovers.
15. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
2012 Ranking: 9
In case you didn't notice, Cam Newton dropped a whole heck of a lot in the rankings after a disappointing 2012 campaign. While the young quarterback did pick it up a great deal in the second half of the season, decision-making and reading defenses were major issues for him as a sophomore in the NFL.
He needs to become more of a quarterback than just a passer because the raw talent is most definitely here across the board.
Newton dropped in the rankings simply because he wasn't anywhere near as good as his rookie season. Expect the Carolina Panthers to work with him in the offseason and for the youngster to come through with another stellar season in 2013.
14. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
2012 Ranking: 6
Matt Schaub dropped a bit on this list, and for good reason. Once Arian Foster was taken out of the game by defenses, a rarity in 2012, the Houston Texans struggled moving the ball on offense. They simply could not rely on Schaub to win games on a consistent basis.
This has been the knock on the former Virginia standout since he was traded from the Atlanta Falcons prior to the 2007 season. He simply doesn't make the talent around him better.
That being said, he has been consistently good since arriving in Houston. He has put up a quarterback rating of over 90 in each of his last fives seasons, leading the Texans to the playoffs for two consecutive years.
At 31, it seems we have seen the best from Schaub. If he hasn't taken his game to the next level yet, I highly doubt he will. He is, by all accounts, that dreaded game manager.
13. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
2012 Ranking: 10
In terms of talent, one of the major factors for this list, Jay Cutler is right up there. He possesses a rifle arm, can make every single throw on the football field and has better accuracy than most give him credit for.
In terms of production, Cutler doesn't belong anywhere near the top of this list.
He has never won more than 10 games in a season in his career, despite playing for some really talented teams in Denver and Chicago. He makes too many mistakes down the field and struggles checking off into his second or third reads.
For Cutler to become a more complete quarterback and jump up this list, he will need to fix his field awareness and mechanical issues. Now that he has seven seasons under his belt, I have a hard time believing that will ever happen.
12. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
2012 Ranking: 43
Colin Kaepernick put up 2,900 total yards and 20 touchdowns in just 10 starts this past season. He led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl after just starting seven regular-season games. This is something that has never really happened outside of what we saw with Tom Brady, also a second-year player, more than a decade ago.
Dynamic doesn't even begin to explain what Kaepernick brings to the table. He has one of the strongest arms in the NFL, is way more accurate than most people give him credit for and is probably the most athletic quarterback in the entire league.
The future couldn't be brighter for No. 7. In fact, you can expect him to be a top-10 quarterback in the NFL when all is said and done next season.
That being said, there are a couple things Kaepernick can work on to become a truly elite quarterback.
He needs to put some touch on the ball every now and then. Receivers dropped a high percentage of intermediate passes because Kaepernick was throwing a fastball when he should have laid it in there better. In addition, he needs to be able to progress past his primary read more often.
Once that happens, watch out.
11. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
2012 Ranking: N/A
Yes, Andrew Luck turned the ball over a whole heck of a lot as a rookie. Yes, his completion percentage was among the lowest for any rookie quarterback in 2012. No, this doesn't mean that he didn't live up to expectations as the No. 1 overall pick.
Luck is a once-in-a-generation type of quarterback. He blends great accuracy with a strong arm and elite intelligence to form three of the primary things that scouts look for in a franchise quarterback.
Once Luck matures with the talent around him and gets a better offensive line in front of him, he will be among the most productive players in the entire NFL.
The skills that I see, both on tape and in live-game action, tell me a story of a quarterback that will quickly ascend to elite status. After all, he did lead Indianapolis to a nine-win improvement from 2011 as a rookie this past season.
Tell me the last time that happened in the NFL.
10. Eli Manning, New York Giants
2012 Ranking: 5
Eli Manning struggled with consistency throughout the entire 2012 season. This shouldn't come as a huge surprise to anyone that has paid close attention to his career. Manning normally saves his best football for when it counts the most.
See his two Super Bowl rings for evidence of that.
In terms of scouting, Manning struggles against some of the quarterbacks ahead of him on this list. He can make great decisions and reads at times, but also makes some really bad decisions between the hashes and down the field. We saw this on full display against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2 and then a few weeks later at home against Washington.
Manning has never completed more than 62 percent of his passes or tallied a quarterback rating of over 93.1 in any of his nine NFL seasons. As it relates to 2012, he went through a stretch of five games in which he threw two touchdowns compared to five interceptions.
He then finished the season with 14 touchdowns and just four interceptions in his final six outings.
Again, it is all about getting hot at the most opportunistic time. He has done that twice in his career to date.
9. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
2012 Ranking: N/A
Russell Wilson had one of the most impressive rookie seasons for a quarterback in the history of the NFL this past season. Coming out of Wisconsin, many had concluded that he just wasn't your prototypical quarterback. Of course, a lot of this had to do with his smaller stature in the pocket.
Wilson completely threw that idea out the window. He had absolutely no issues seeing over the top of defenses and even used his lack of size to break away from the pocket and find open receivers outside the hashes and down the field.
Overall, Wilson tallied three times more touchdowns than interceptions and led the Seattle Seahawks to the playoffs. Despite an awe-inspiring performance in a comeback effort against the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round, Seattle was unable to advance to the NFC Championship Game.
Last season was just the beginning for Wilson, who promises to find himself in quite the quarterback rivalry with Colin Kaepernick in the NFC West over the next decade.
It should be fun.
8. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
2012 Ranking: 4
To say that Ben Roethlisberger is the Pittsburgh Steelers would be an understatement. A career that started with him riding the coattails of a talented roster has quickly morphed into him being one of the most valuable players in the entire NFL.
If it wasn't for Big Ben missing three games due to injury this past season, Pittsburgh probably would have made the postseason for the seventh time in his nine seasons as its starting quarterback. As it is, the Steelers lost two of their three games with him sitting on the bench.
Despite a three-game losing streak toward the end of the season, Roethlisberger had one of the most productive seasons of his career. He threw 26 touchdowns and tallied a strong 97.0 quarterback rating in 13 starts. Equally as important, Roethlisberger had only eight interceptions in 449 pass attempts.
It's now up to Pittsburgh to put the talent around its franchise quarterback for him to be successful moving forward.
7. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
2012 Ranking: N/A
It really is hard to quantify in pure statistics or analysis exactly how good Robert Griffin III was as a rookie this past season. Think about this for a second: The Baylor product threw as many interceptions (five) all season as Matt Ryan threw in one game against the Arizona Cardinals.
You just don't see rookie quarterbacks playing at a high level without making mistakes like we did with RGIII in 2012.
He has the arm strength, accuracy, field awareness, intelligence and athleticism to be an absolutely dominating quarterback in the NFL. Heck, we saw this at times this past season.
In reality, RGIII has everything it takes to be the best the NFL has to offer. He now needs to get healthy and avoid future injuries.
6. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
2012 Ranking: 15
Prior to what has to be one of the best postseason performances in the history of the league, Joe Flacco was struggling through another mediocre season as the Baltimore Ravens' starter.
He tallied one touchdown pass or less in 10 starts and put up a quarterback rating of under 80 seven different times during the regular season. This pretty much added more fuel to the fire that he wasn't a franchise quarterback in the NFL.
Then things changed.
Flacco put up 11 touchdowns compared to zero interceptions and won the Super Bowl MVP in New Orleans earlier this month.
Was it a flash in the pan? I guess time will tell.
That being said, these rankings are based purely on what Matt Miller sees on tape and how it translates to the field on Sunday. We'll have to see more production from Flacco over an extended period of time to start believing he is among the most productive long-term quarterbacks in the NFL.
5. Drew Brees, Quarterback, New Orleans Saints
2012 Ranking: 3
Needless to say, 2012 was a down season for Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
He tied Tony Romo for the league lead in interceptions with 19 and just didn't seem to be making the right reads on a consistent basis like we had seen in the previous seasons. A lot of this had to do with the suspension of head coach Sean Payton, but it is still noteworthy nonetheless.
Brees still tallied over 5,000 yards for the third time in his career and over 40 touchdowns passes for the second consecutive season.
In short, Brees is still one of the best overall quarterbacks in the NFL.
4. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
2012 Ranking: 8
Matt Ryan finally took that step toward elite status in 2012. Not only did he show statistical improvement for the third straight year, but the Atlanta Falcons finished with 13 wins and were the No. 1 seed in the NFC entering the playoffs.
His statistics were off the charts.
Ryan finished with a quarterback rating near triple digits and accumulated over 4,700 passing yards. In addition, he racked up a career-high 32 touchdown passes compared to 14 interceptions.
With all that in mind, Ryan finds himself out of the top four. At times he struggles with turnovers and decision-making, as evidenced by poor performances against the Arizona Cardinals and Oakland Raiders in the regular season.
His second-half performance against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game is also a primary reason that Atlanta didn't make it to the New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII. He is now just 1-4 in his career in the postseason.
To be considered elite, Ryan needs to lead Atlanta to a Lombardi Trophy. Until that happens, he will always be considered on the verge of being one of the best in the game.
3. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
2012 Ranking: 12
Peyton Manning was No. 12 on the list last season simply because he didn't play in 2011. When on the football field, there really is no better quarterback to watch play the game. He leads the team like a general, understands nearly every single nuance of the game and makes it look easy.
Matt Miller pretty much concluded that Manning is one of the best this time last year in B/R 1,000:
A healthy Peyton Manning is one of the best in the game, but no one knows if or when we will see him play again.
It's hard to argue against that.
What Manning did following a series of neck surgeries is simply amazing. He led the Denver Broncos to 11 consecutive wins to end the regular season, throwing 26 touchdowns compared to eight interceptions during that span. When all was said and done, Manning finished with the second-best quarterback rating of his Hall of Fame career. Considering that he had been to the Pro Bowl 11 times prior to 2012, this is simply amazing.
It is, however, important to note that Denver, who finished as the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC, lost its first postseason game in the divisional round against the Baltimore Ravens. Manning threw two interceptions in that loss.
Overall, Manning has won just one Super Bowl championship despite boasting a .693 regular season winning percentage and leading his team to the playoffs 12 times.
The NFL is all about winning, and the No. 1 quarterback on this list has won more Super Bowls than Manning. When talking about Hall of Fame players, that is the most important thing to take into account.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
2012 Ranking: 1
Aaron Rodgers drops from No. 1 to No. 2. He does so after leading the NFL with a 108.0 rating and throwing 31 more touchdowns than interceptions.
While you may not agree with the ranking here, it is important to note that all three of the top quarterbacks are in leagues of their own. They are interchangeable at the top.
For his part, Rodgers did throw just three touchdowns in the first three games of the season, as Green Bay lost two of its first three. Since, Rodgers tallied a ridiculous 36 touchdowns compared to six interceptions.
It may be pure conjecture on my part, but Rodgers is coming off the best two-year stretch in the history of the league. He has completed 68 percent of his passes for nearly 9,000 yards and 84 touchdowns since the start of the 2011 season. It's no coincidence that Green Bay has won 25 of his 31 starts during that span.
At just 29, Rodgers will end up being in the Peyton Manning/Tom Brady category when all is said and done. You can take that to the bank.
1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
2012 Ranking: 2
Tom Brady's marginal playoff performance last month aside, he is one of the most decorated quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. When losing in the AFC Championship Game is considered a failure, you know a quarterback is doing something right.
Brady has been to five Super Bowls, winning three of them. He possesses a .777 winning percentage and has thrown the fifth-most touchdowns in NFL history.
As it relates to this past season, Brady was up to his old tricks. The future Hall of Fame quarterback threw 34 touchdowns compared to eight interceptions and went 11 games without throwing a pick. Overall, Brady has not been intercepted in 34 of his last 48 starts.
That's simply insane.
While father time will eventually catch up to Brady, he seems to have another four or five great years remaining in that body. He will, however, have to adjust to playing a different style of game.
Brady was never really mobile in the first place. As age catches up with him, he will have to become a pocket passer on nearly every play. We saw this to an extent in the playoffs this past season.
Brady jumped up to No. 1 on Matt Miller's rankings in large part due to the scouting trends experts look at. He has a strong arm, is as accurate as nearly every quarterback in the NFL, is a true winner on the football field and has exceptional pocket awareness.
Those are trends that scouts look for when taking in the combine in Indianapolis for potential franchise quarterbacks.