Where Would Geno Smith Rank Among NFL's Starting QBs?
Teams do not spend first-round picks on quarterbacks to let them sit on the bench. Geno Smith, the consensus top quarterback in this draft, will start at some point this season. More likely than not, that point will be on opening day.
With that in mind, Smith's future team will want to know: Where exactly does Smith fit in among NFL starting quarterbacks?
There are at least 32 points of comparison in the NFL's starting quarterbacks. Will Smith turn out like Blaine Gabbert, or does he have Tom Brady-like potential?
As is usually the case, the truth lies somewhere in between. To guess where Smith will fit in, I compared him to 32 NFL starting quarterbacks. Let's take a look at exactly how Smith compares.
No position in any sport requires a more diverse skill set, both mental and physical. To effectively grade Smith in comparison to his future peers, I am comparing him in the skills that are most important to NFL success.
Arm strength is a bit overrated, as huge arms like JaMarcus Russell and Blaine Gabbert have busted hard. That having been said, there is a minimum level of arm strength to achieve success as an NFL quarterback.
Anything beyond that minimum is just a bonus, and could be the difference between a solid starter and a star.
Probably the most important attribute for a quarterback is accuracy. Throwing the ball with accuracy consistently is an absolute prerequisite to be an NFL quarterback.
Some quarterbacks just hit the bare minimum in terms of accuracy, showing inconsistency or just not throwing perfect balls. Others can fit the ball through the tightest of windows while regularly hitting their receivers in stride.
This is the goal for all NFL quarterbacks, and this ability is what separates the top tier from the mediocre.
By intelligence, I mean the ability to read defenses and knowing where to go with the football. Does the quarterback regularly throw into double coverage? Does he stare down his No. 1 target? These are not the attributes of an intelligent quarterback.
Guys like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are cerebral. They are almost never fooled, and they always seem to make good decisions. They are the standard that everyone else strives to achieve.
Let me be clear: There is a big difference between mobility and athleticism. Tom Brady is mobile, regularly shuffling around the pocket to avoid the rush. Michael Vick is athletic, but he gets sacked so much that his athleticism can almost be a detriment to the team.
So in terms of mobility, I'm grading not just the ability to maneuver around the pocket and make plays with one's feet, but also the intelligence to know when to do so.
The most difficult attribute to grade may be the most important. Work ethic, leadership and character are what guarantee that physical ability translates to on-field success. Even a raw player can develop into a star with the right work ethic.
32. Blaine Gabbert
Arm Strength: Gabbert
One thing that Gabbert does not lack is a strong arm. In terms of throwing the deep ball and in short-area zip, Gabbert puts plenty of velocity behind his throws. Smith isn’t far behind, but he’s not at Gabbert’s level.
Watching Gabbert throw the ball can be painful, as he rarely hits his target.
Gabbert often looks lost on the field. He appears to think too much, actually, resulting in tentative decision-making and an inability to adjust to defenses on the fly.
Gabbert has solid movement skills, but little instinct for when to use them. His footwork also remains raw.
Gabbert inspires no confidence amongst his teammates, his body language is abysmal and he seems to have lost the will to fight.
It’s hard to envision a scenario in which Smith is worse than Gabbert. To be fair, Gabbert has had little support from one of the worst organizations in football.
31. Matt Cassel
Arm Strength: Smith
Matt Cassel’s biggest weakness is his arm strength. He lacks the zip to complete passes outside the numbers with consistency, and he can’t push the ball downfield.
Cassel can complete short and intermediate passes pretty consistently, but his lack of arm strength really costs him.
By and large, Cassel makes decent decisions and has a good handle on the offense. He had excellent coaching in New England, and that helped him limit his mistakes during his time in Kansas City.
Cassel is not a threat with his feet the way Smith is.
Cassel isn’t a bad guy, he works hard and seems to be respected by his teammates. That having been said, he doesn’t inspire confidence and doesn’t improve the players around him.
Cassel is barely an adequate game manager due to his lack of ideal physical abilities. He lacks Smith’s physical tools and overall upside, but Cassel can start in a pinch.
30. Michael Vick
Arm Strength: Vick
Michael Vick has one of the strongest arms in the NFL. He can fling the ball as well as anybody on deep passes, and he puts a ton of velocity on his passes.
There are times that Vick can make awe-inspiring completions in triple coverage. There are also times where he misses a receiver just a few yards away from him. He’s extremely inconsistent and is generally not trustworthy.
Vick makes aggressive decisions to the point of becoming a turnover machine, and he seems to struggle to play within the offense.
Vick is among the best athletes at his position in the NFL, but he doesn’t always use that athleticism well. Vick is regularly among the most sacked quarterbacks in the NFL.
Even if Vick has turned his life around, he’s still a distraction.
Vick probably shouldn’t be a starter anymore, but Chip Kelly could turn his career around yet again. Then again, Smith could come in and take his job. Realistically, Vick’s lack of accuracy and durability concerns keep him from being even a marginal starter at this point.
29. Brandon Weeden
Arm Strength: Weeden
Weeden, a former pitcher, has a rocket arm. He is a natural thrower of the football with tremendous arm strength and velocity.
Weeden never looked comfortable last season and it showed in his accuracy. Though he could make the occasional big throw, he never found the rhythm to consistently complete passes in any area of the field.
Weeden came out of a spread-style offense, where he was about as far along in his development as Smith. Unfortunately, Weeden is significantly older, so Smith gets the nod here.
Weeden is not a great athlete, as he’s more of a pocket passer.
Weeden is a hard worker, but his confidence was shaken at times as a rookie, which affected his team.
Believe it or not, Smith and Weeden are similar prospects, but Smith is a superior athlete and does not have the age concerns that Weeden had.
28. Christian Ponder
Arm Strength: Smith
Probably the biggest concern about Ponder coming out of college was his arm strength. He’s done nothing to alleviate those concerns, showing the inability to push the ball downfield and make tough throws outside the numbers.
Like his new teammate Cassel, Ponder lacks the arm strength to make certain throws. He’s generally reliable on shorter throws.
Ponder does a good job of keeping the offense running relatively efficiently without crucial mistakes. The second-year quarterback threw just 12 interceptions last season, and he has a good handle on how to operate an NFL offense.
Ponder is surprisingly athletic, but he’s not a threat with his feet. Ponder does do a solid job of avoiding sacks, thanks in part to a solid offensive line.
Like most of the quarterbacks in this tier, Ponder is a good teammate, but he doesn’t inspire confidence nor raise the level of play of those around him.
Ponder lacks the upside to ever be an above-average starter, but he is serviceable in the short term. There is still hope for Ponder, but we’ve seemingly seen his ceiling.
27. Jake Locker
Arm Strength: Locker
Jake Locker is a former baseball player with a rocket arm. He is among the best athletes in the NFL regardless of position, and that includes his ability to rocket the ball anywhere on the field.
The biggest knock on Locker is his accuracy. In college, there were games where it seemed Locker couldn’t hit anyone. He’s definitely improved since college, but he remains a scatter-shot.
Locker has always been more of an improviser than a cog in a functioning offense. He is also a risk-taker, having thrown 11 interceptions in just 314 attempts. His turnover total will always probably be relatively high.
Not only is Locker fast, but he’s also a strong runner capable of breaking off big runs. He gets sacked slightly more than average, though.
Locker helped turn a dormant program into a bowl contender at Washington, then inspired his teammates to play better in limited reps in Tennessee. His teammates respond to him, and he is clearly a diligent worker in the weight room and film room.
Locker’s accuracy will always be a hindrance, and I can’t imagine him running an NFL offense consistently. Smith possesses similar playmaking ability but more upside in a conventional NFL offense.
26. Kevin Kolb
Arm Strength: Smith
Kevin Kolb’s arm strength exceeds the minimum, but he doesn’t make awe-inspiring throws either. He’s about average.
Kolb can throw the ball pretty accurately to all parts of the field. The consistency hasn’t quite developed yet, but his accuracy is probably in the top half of the league.
Kolb is far from cerebral, but he really seemed to develop as a decision-maker last season.
Kolb is not a playmaker with his feet, but he can’t be blamed for the ridiculous pressure he faced last season. He was sacked 27 times in just 217 dropbacks.
This is probably Kolb’s biggest weakness. Kolb was never asked to lead an NFL team, and his personality does not seem suited to that. His toughness has occasionally come under fire as well, but I’ll give him credit for playing behind the Cardinals offensive line without complaint.
If he could stay healthy, Kolb could skyrocket up this list. He lacks the upside of Smith, though, who has a superior arm and better athleticism.
25. Carson Palmer
Arm Strength: Smith
There was a time when Carson Palmer had one of the strongest arms in the NFL, but injuries and age have robbed him of his former velocity. He is no longer able to make the throws necessary for an NFL quarterback to excel.
Palmer was never the most accurate passer, even in his prime. His reduced arm strength has exacerbated the problem. He is relatively consistent, but there are certain throws he just can’t make.
Palmer’s greatest strength is his knowledge of the game, which helped him keep an otherwise dormant Oakland offense relatively competitive. Palmer had relatively few interceptions considering his 565 pass attempts, and he did a solid job of finding open receivers.
Palmer has limited mobility. He actually avoided getting sacked a lot last season, but he will never make plays with his feet. He’s no sitting duck, but he’s not a threat either.
You have to respect the way Palmer has been thrown into an awful situation in Oakland but has done his best to carry that team without complaint. He isn’t a fiery leader, but Palmer is a stabilizing influence in an otherwise insane organization.
Smith would have to love to achieve what Palmer did in his prime, but Palmer’s prime was relatively short. Now, Smith has the superior arm, comparable accuracy and much more upside.
24. Geno Smith
Arm Strength: Above League Average
Geno Smith might lack the rocket arm that stands out, but he can make all the throws with relative ease. He can complete the deep ball, and he has the ability to hit big throws along the sideline as well.
Accuracy: Equal to League Average
We haven’t gotten to seen as much of Smith’s accuracy as one would like thanks to West Virginia’s screen-heavy offensive scheme. That having been said, Smith has been roughly average on his pro-style throws. His accuracy does not stand out, but it certainly won’t be problematic either. His biggest struggle seems to be on deep throws along the sideline, but that is also the toughest throw to make.
Intelligence: Below League Average
The biggest knock on Smith has to be his inexperience in a pro-style offense. West Virginia’s offense did little to prepare Smith for a complicated pro-style scheme. There have been no indications, though, that Smith won’t be able to pick up such a scheme.
Mobility: Above League Average
Few quarterbacks are faster than Smith, as his sub-4.6 40-yard dash at the combine shows. Further, Smith displays excellent cognition of when to run and when not to. He picks his spots well and does a good job of avoiding pressure.
Intangibles: Above League Average
Obviously the biggest question mark, as Smith hasn’t been tested at an NFL level. He was definitely a winner and a team leader at West Virginia, as evidenced by his Orange Bowl victory over Clemson. He also excelled in some big games, including a close loss to Oklahoma and the previously mentioned Orange Bowl.
Overall: Equal to League Average
Expecting Smith to excel the way 2012’s rookies did would be unrealistic, but he should at least be average in his initial NFL season. He has all the requisite physical tools, meaning his mental development will be the deciding factor in his career.
23. Ryan Tannehill
Arm Strength: Tannehill
This is close, but Tannehill has an absolute rocket arm that ranks among the NFL’s best. He can make every throw with velocity and push the ball downfield with the best arms. Tannehill probably has a top-10 arm.
Tannehill doesn’t have elite accuracy, as his 58.3 percent completion percentage indicates. His deep accuracy is fantastic, but Tannehill lacks overall consistency.
Smith and Tannehill are at similar places in terms of college development, but Tannehill’s NFL experience resulted in significant development during 2012. His improvement was an underrated story this past season.
Both Smith and Tannehill are extremely athletic, as Tannehill was a former receiver. Smith is just a hair faster, though, and is less of a gambler with his feet.
Again, Smith and Tannehill are comparable, but Smith has more big-game experience than Tannehill has even after an NFL season. Tannehill has yet to completely take the Dolphins on his shoulders, but he definitely can.
If Tannehill’s development continues at the rapid pace he displayed last season, then he could shoot up these rankings. For now, Tannehill and Smith are on roughly the same tier and are extremely comparable players.
22. Sam Bradford
Arm Strength: Smith
Bradford is hardly a gunslinger, but he has passable arm strength. There are, however, certain throws he shouldn’t be asked to make.
Bradford has made his living thus far in his career by consistently delivering the ball accurately. He won’t wow you with flashy throws, but when it comes to consistently making the easy throw there are few better than Bradford.
Bradford certainly looks comfortable running an NFL offense, as he has quickly acclimated to the NFL game. He plays like he is truly in charge of the Rams offense.
Bradford is not a plus athlete. His quick release alleviates some of these concerns, but Bradford will not make a lot of plays under pressure.
Bradford has become a team leader in St. Louis, and he’s clearly a student of the game. He’s not particularly fiery, though, nor does he have a track record of big game success.
At this point, Bradford is a superior player to what Smith should expect to be. Bradford will efficiently but quietly run the Rams offense, making few mistakes but few flashy plays. Surrounded with talent, Bradford can be a playoff-quality quarterback, which is a level Smith may need a few years to reach.
21. Alex Smith
Arm Strength: G. Smith
He's not a game-breaker, but Alex Smith can make most of the throws. His smallish hands limit his velocity to an extent.
Accuracy: A. Smith
Over the past two years, Alex Smith has been among the most consistent quarterbacks in the game. He is more limited than most successful quarterbacks, but his consistency on shorter passes is top tier.
Intelligence: A. Smith
Alex has been hampered by several coaching changes in his career, but two years under Jim Harbaugh have had a huge impact on Smith’s knowledge of the game. He has always been an intelligent guy, but Harbaugh helped make him an intelligent football player.
Mobility: G. Smith
Alex Smith has good straight-line speed, but he isn’t a sudden athlete. Given the opportunity to escape from pressure or make plays with his feet, though, Alex can deliver.
Alex Smith handled the transition to Colin Kaepernick perfectly, displaying a desire to get back on the field but the humility to help his replacement and respect his coach’s decision. He isn’t an inspirational guy, but he’s a great teammate.
Overall: A. Smith
Alex Smith is the definition of game manager. He won’t hurt you, but he won’t put you over the top either. Getting Geno to that level of consistency this season would have to be considered a big victory.
20. Josh Freeman
Arm Strength: Freeman
Without JaMarcus Russell in the league, Josh Freeman may have the NFL’s strongest arm. He is definitely in the discussion.
Freeman’s biggest concern is inconsistency with his accuracy. He can make jaw-dropping throws, but he is prone to missing his target badly. There are few quarterbacks who are more boom-or-bust on every throw than Freeman.
Despite poor accuracy, Freeman does possess solid field awareness. He loves to push the ball downfield, but he picks his spots well. He definitely is among the more turnover-prone quarterbacks in the NFL, though.
Freeman has some straight-line speed, but he’s not quick. He only got sacked 26 times, though, so his mobility is certainly a plus.
Probably Freeman’s biggest strength is his leadership. Freeman is the unquestioned leader of the Buccaneers, and he helps get the most out of his offensive teammates. There is no question that Freeman is a positive force, especially in the biggest of moments.
We’ve probably seen the best Freeman has to offer, and right now, that’s better than Smith. He will never be consistent, but he’s a good leader capable of producing big plays.
19. Cam Newton
Arm Strength: Newton
Again, we’re talking about another rocket arm. Cam Newton can make all the throws, even on the run.
Newton makes a lot of difficult throws, which hampers his completion percentage. That having been said, he’ll occasionally misfire on throws he should make.
Newton acclimated quickly to the pro game, and then the pro game quickly acclimated to him. After starting out with a bang, the NFL seemingly figured Newton out. He matured as a player as 2012 went on, though, and he seems to really be making the transition from playmaker to consistent quarterback.
Few quarterbacks run the ball more effectively than Newton, who can run with both speed and power. He also does a great job of escaping pressure and making big throws outside the pocket, even without an excellent offensive line in front of him.
The biggest knock on Newton is really his diva attitude. He has turned off some fans with some abrasive interviews, but he is unquestionably a leader in Carolina. He remains controversial.
Newton is the physical ideal for an NFL quarterback, but he needs to develop the consistency and character that teams expect from a franchise quarterback. He showed marked improvement late in 2012, putting him well above Smith at this point.
18. Andy Dalton
Arm Strength: Smith
Andy Dalton has the ability to throw the ball downfield, but not accurately. His arm strength is somewhere between marginal and average.
Dalton is generally solid on short and intermediate throws, but please don’t ask him to make a deep throw. His deep accuracy is among the worst in the league.
One thing Dalton does well, though, is keep the Bengals offense running efficiently. He picks his spots well, he is clearly in command and reads defenses well for such a young player.
Dalton is about average in terms of foot speed and escapability. Though he is generally a pocket passer, Dalton can occasionally surprise defenses with a nifty run.
The biggest thing Dalton has done in the NFL is solidify a locker room that was once in disarray. With Dalton under center, the Bengals have become a respectable NFL franchise, and his leadership has played a big role in that.
Dalton’s passing limitations will always hamper him, but he is a steadying presence. Smith should eventually surpass him, but for now, Dalton is more reliable and dynamic as a leader.
17. Philip Rivers
Arm Strength: Smith
Phillip Rivers was at one time among the best pure passers in the NFL, but his deep-ball ability isn’t what it once was. Rivers has average arm strength.
Again, Rivers is no longer as accurate as he once was. Rivers was spoiled by excellent teammates in years past, but a struggling offensive line and mediocre receivers exposed him somewhat. He was definitely asked to do too much, though, so expect some recovery from him.
Years of running some of the NFL’s most successful passing offenses have made Rivers among the NFL’s smarter quarterbacks, but his cockiness can lead to turnovers.
Rivers is pretty slow, and he won’t make many plays outside the pocket. He does, however, move well inside the pocket.
Rivers is not well-liked, mainly for his brash attitude. He is unquestionably a leader of his team, but the Chargers would probably have liked for Rivers to be a bit more marketable.
Rivers is due for a rebound, but the Chargers front office seems intent on surrounding him with mediocrity. There was a time Rivers was a top-10 quarterback, and the talent remains for him to get there again. We don’t know that Smith has that ability.
16. Jay Cutler
Arm Strength: Cutler
Jay Cutler has a cannon arm, and he knows it. Though he gambles too often, his awesome arm strength makes those gambles pay off more often than they should.
Cutler has never been and will never be the most consistent guy. He will make awe-inspiring throws, but he’ll also miss open receivers. He’s pretty typical in this department for a gunslinger.
Cutler has received some great coaching from Mike Shanahan and even Mike Martz. He has gradually learned to manage games rather than improvising too much, but he can still make boneheaded mistakes from time to time.
Cutler has underrated speed to make plays with his feet, but his pocket awareness isn’t great. He holds the ball too long, and thinks he’s more athletic than he is.
Though not always the best interview, Jay Cutler is a leader for the Bears and a tough guy. He’s dealt with a lot of injuries, but has never backed down from a challenge. The Bears are a playoff team with Cutler healthy, and not even a .500 team without him.
Cutler is the consummate gunslinger. Smith has similar physical skills, but isn’t quite the risk-taker that Cutler is. Since Cutler has the goods to make those risks pay off, he is among the better quarterbacks in the NFL. Smith will take time to join that tier.
15. Tony Romo
Arm Strength: Smith
Tony Romo is about average in terms of arm strength, but he does throw the ball on the run well.
Though inconsistent, Romo can hit every throw. He’s streaky, but Romo is usually among the more accurate quarterbacks in the NFL.
Again, Romo is inconsistent in this regard. He occasionally enters a zone in which he makes perfect decisions, looks off coverage and becomes unstoppable. Then he has five-interception meltdown games. He’s definitely a smart guy, though.
Romo isn’t quite the athlete that Smith is, but he picks his spots to run and scramble as well as anybody in the NFL.
Romo is accused of wilting under pressure, and there is some truth to that. He has always handled the criticism with grace, though, and he is the unquestioned leader in Dallas. He’s never been surrounded by a stable atmosphere, but he’s handled it well.
Romo is a case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and when bad Romo is out, he might be the worst quarterback in the league. Bad Romo sightings are getting rarer, though, putting him in the top half of NFL quarterbacks. He has comparable physical tools to Smith, with the mental side of the game under control as well.
14. Matt Schaub
Arm Strength: Smith
Matt Schaub’s arm has never been a cannon, but it was really exposed in the Texans’ playoff loss to the Patriots. He is simply not a difference-maker.
That having been said, Schaub is among the best pure game managers in the NFL. He makes the easy throws just about every time, and his intermediate accuracy is just about as good as it gets.
What makes Schaub such a great game manager is his knowledge of what he can and cannot do. He is not a risk-taker, electing instead to make sound decisions and let his elite playmakers do the work. That’s what Smith needs to do early in his career.
Schaub has never been and will never be a threat with his legs.
Schaub isn’t a vocal leader, but he is a calming influence who helps his teammates excel.
Schaub is like a pass-first point guard in the NBA: He won’t wow you with his own play, but he makes his teammates look great. That’s a skill in itself, something that Smith seems capable of developing over time.
13. Andrew Luck
Arm Strength: Smith
The only knock on Andrew Luck coming out of college was his lack of elite arm strength. It’s not bad, but he doesn’t always make the difficult throws that other quarterbacks can.
Luck occasionally struggled with his accuracy, but he was asked to do a lot as a rookie. When the quality of his teammates improves, I expect Luck’s consistency to improve as well, as he won’t have to make as many difficult throws.
Luck threw a lot of interceptions early in his career, but he was a quick study who ran a complex offense pretty well as a rookie. He has been very well coached, and he is a true student of the game.
Luck isn’t a burner, but he is sneaky fast with a great eye for deciding when to run or scramble.
Luck is the ideal quarterback in terms of disposition. He’s humble yet confident, a hard worker with a winning edge. Perhaps no quarterback has better intangibles than Luck.
Luck was asked to do so much as a rookie, but he responded relatively well, especially in the clutch. Smith won’t be able to handle such a heavy load as a rookie.
12. Matthew Stafford
Arm Strength: Stafford
Stafford has a top-five arm in this league. Enough said.
Stafford really struggled with his accuracy this season, as his mechanics got a little out of whack. He would probably do better if he wasn’t asked to throw the ball a record amount of times, as he did seem to get into some bad habits.
It takes a smart quarterback to throw 727 passes and just 17 interceptions. Stafford is a gambler, but he usually picks his spots well. At the very least, he’s smart enough to know to get the ball to Calvin Johnson as much as possible. Even so, he doesn’t overuse Johnson, which is impressive in its own right.
Stafford has the athletic ability to make plays with his feet, and he picks his spots pretty well. He isn’t exactly a threat, though.
Stafford has been asked to carry the Lions and has helped make them competitive again. With some more help, he is clutch enough and diligent enough to win big in the future.
At this point, we are getting to the quarterbacks who are consistent difference-makers, something that Smith will not be in his first year. Where Stafford is now is a realistic upside for Smith.
11. Russell Wilson
Arm Strength: Wilson
Russell Wilson’s diminutive stature belies his rocket arm, one trained by years as a baseball player.
Wilson was consistent on just about every type of throw, but he wasn’t asked to do much in the Seahawks’ conservative offense.
Wilson did a great job in his rookie year of avoiding turnovers, finding open receivers and taking off when necessary. Few rookie quarterbacks have ever looked as in control as Wilson did.
Smith and Wilson are comparable athletically, but no quarterback did a better job of scrambling at the right time last season than Wilson. He regularly extended plays and was always a threat to tear off a big gain on the ground.
Though he wasn’t asked to shoulder a heavy load, Wilson came in and immediately stabilized the Seahawks’ quarterback position. He was the leader of this team and brought them among the NFL’s elite.
Wilson had one of the finest rookie seasons in NFL history. He is the total package, but I still have reservations about how Wilson will do when asked to carry the offense himself. All signs are positive, though, and he certainly set a standard that Smith won’t be able to match.
10. Robert Griffin III
Arm Strength: Griffin III
Robert Griffin III is an Olympic-caliber athlete, and it shows in his arm strength. He’s got an absolute whip, both from the pocket and on the run.
Accuracy: Griffin III
Griffin wasn’t asked to shoulder a heavy load in the passing game, but he threw a lot of intermediate and deep balls, and he did it well.
Intelligence: Griffin III
Few quarterbacks did a better job of finding open receivers than Griffin. He was helped by an offense that really opened up the field, but rarely did Griffin throw a contested pass. He’s a smart player.
Mobility: Griffin III
There is no more dangerous running quarterback than Griffin. He is blazing fast, elusive and has excellent vision.
Intangibles: Griffin III
Even the best quarterbacks only take a team on their shoulders. Griffin took a whole city on his shoulders, making the District of Columbia care about their Redskins for the first time in years. He is a leader, a warrior and an all-around good guy.
Overall: Griffin III
Griffin was awesome last season. He was roughly equal to Wilson in terms of ability, but he was asked to do more, so he gets to be a spot above the Seahawks’ standout, and thus well above Smith.
9. Colin Kaepernick
Arm Strength: Kaepernick
Kaepernick is yet another former baseball player with a cannon for an arm. The ball just explodes off of his hand.
Kaepernick did an excellent job of hitting receivers in stride, and his deep accuracy is among the best in the NFL.
All it took was a year-and-a-half of coaching from Jim Harbaugh, and Kaepernick looked like a seasoned pro. He was a quick study who handled the 49ers’ hybrid offense to perfection.
Kaepernick is among the best running threats in the NFL, and he throws on the run well.
Kaepernick now has Super Bowl experience, and he’s already a team leader. Kaepernick is also among the most humble quarterbacks in the NFL, never failing to praise his teammates or the guy he replaced, Alex Smith.
In his first year as a starter, Kaepernick got to a Super Bowl and revolutionized NFL offenses with his zone-read plays designed to use his great speed. Don’t expect Smith to be that good, but he has the ability to get there.
8. Matt Ryan
Arm Strength: Equal
Matt Ryan has the requisite arm strength to be a successful NFL quarterback. He doesn’t have a rocket launcher, but he has enough to excel.
Most of the time, Matt Ryan is one of the most accurate passers in the NFL. He has a few bad stretches every year, especially during the playoffs, but he’s usually superb.
Decision making might be Ryan’s biggest flaw, as he does throw into double-coverage too often. He definitely has a great grasp on what it takes to make the offense run, though, and he always knows where his teammates are going to be.
Ryan is no threat on the ground, but he maneuvers well in the pocket.
In the regular season, Ryan is clutch and a leader. In the playoffs, he’s a whole different quarterback. He’s well-liked in Atlanta, though, as he really turned around a reeling franchise. A definite high-character guy.
Ryan was an MVP candidate for much of this season, and for good reason. Don’t expect the same from Smith. Not even close.
7. Joe Flacco
Arm Strength: Flacco
Flacco can heave the ball downfield with the best of them and his velocity is top tier.
Flacco’s biggest weakness is his accuracy. He tends to overthrow shorter routes while underthrowing deep patterns. When he’s on, there are few more accurate quarterbacks, though.
Flacco has developed into one of the smarter quarterbacks in the NFL, making excellent decisions while starting to tailor the offense to his skill set. He really developed under Jim Caldwell late in the season.
Flacco is a sneaky athlete with good straight-line speed, but he doesn’t have great vision. He does scramble very well, though.
Now a Super Bowl champion, Joe Flacco has really taken this team on his shoulders. He’s supremely confident and has the respect of his teammates.
Statistically, Flacco might not be that far ahead of Smith, but don’t expect Flacco’s playoff prowess right away.
6. Eli Manning
Arm Strength: Smith
Eli Manning has enough arm strength to make all the throws, and that’s it. He won’t wow you, yet the ball will get there.
Though inconsistent, Manning is capable of hitting any throw and getting into a rhythm. He is a bit too much of a gambler, but the simple throws are usually consistent.
Definitely too much of a gambler, as he often throws to covered receivers. He definitely knows how to run an offense efficiently, though, and he always seems to have a good handle of the situation.
Eli is maneuverable in the pocket, but not a real athlete.
With two rings and plenty of experience dealing with the tough New York fanbase, Eli is among the most accomplished leaders in the NFL. He’s marketable and the ideal face of the franchise.
Smith is unlikely to ever be as big of a star as Eli, but he has a chance to achieve a similar level of statistical success. Eli has never had a passer rating over 93.1 in his career: Geno probably will.
5. Ben Roethlisberger
Arm Strength: Roethlisberger
Big Ben Roethlisberger once had one of the strongest arms in the NFL. Injuries and age have diminished that somewhat, but he still has a cannon.
No quarterback is more baffling than Roethlisberger, who has the ability to make any throw and miss any throw. That having been said, there is definitely more good than bad with Big Ben.
The consummate gambler, Roethlisberger is a gutsy playmaker that seems to have cerebral field vision. His gambles tend to pay off thanks to that field vision, but he can sometimes be questioned for gambling too often. More of an improviser than a cog in a well-oiled unit.
Roethlisberger is perhaps the most exciting scrambler in the NFL, but his scrambling ends up in a sack too often.
Roethlisberger is tough and a team leader. He had some off-field concerns in his earlier years, but those seem to be behind him.
Smith and Roethlisberger are completely different players, so comparing them is hard. Smith will always be more of a system guy, while Roethlisberger defies the system. Smith will never be the improviser that Roethlisberger is, but he could run better offenses in time.
4. Drew Brees
Arm Strength: Smith
Drew Brees has average to slightly above-average arm strength. He can’t heave the ball 70 yards, but the velocity is perfect.
Not only is Brees usually spot on with his throws, but he also throws a supremely catchable ball. Few quarterbacks can boast Brees’ impressive 65.6 percent career completion percentage. In fact, that’s third all time.
Brees is the ultimate system quarterback. He knows his offense like the back of his hand, he always knows where to go with the ball and runs that offense with unmatched efficiency.
Brees is maneuverable in the pocket but is not a threat on the ground.
Brees helped buoy the spirits of an entire city in New Orleans. He is one of the most marketable players in the NFL, as well as one of the most charitable. Few players can boast his level of leadership or his level of importance to his team.
Some have accused Smith of being a system quarterback. If that’s the case, then maybe he can aspire to be like Brees, who is the best system quarterback in the NFL. If a team builds around Smith properly, he has a ceiling as high as Brees’.
3. Peyton Manning
Arm Strength: Smith
Peyton Manning has always had a solid but unspectacular arm. Last year, he surprised by maintaining decent arm strength and getting stronger as the year went on. He’s still probably not in the top half of NFL quarterbacks, though.
Manning is perhaps the most accurate quarterback in the NFL and definitely in the top three. He is spot-on on just about every short and intermediate throw, and his deep ball is underrated as well.
Manning is without question the most intelligent quarterback in the NFL in terms of game planning. The Broncos basically have a quarterback and a coach in Manning who knows the game better than any player. Sometimes Manning will think too much, which can lead to problems, but his intelligence is really the reason Manning is one of the greatest of all time.
Manning’s mobility is next to none, and he knows it. He plays accordingly and doesn’t let it become an issue.
A great leader who improves the players around him, Peyton deserves more credit than he gets for being among the greatest of all time. He might not be a stud in the playoffs, but perhaps no quarterback better guarantees success than Manning.
There is no way that Smith will ever compare to Manning’s intellect, but no one else can either. Still, Smith would be lucky to even get close to any of Manning’s career stats, win totals and overall success.
2. Aaron Rodgers
Arm Strength: Equal
Though not known for a rocket arm, Aaron Rodgers can make every throw with velocity. He often makes tough throws on the run, too, showing his solid arm strength.
Rodgers is usually very accurate, especially on deep balls. He was probably the most accurate deep passer in the NFL, and it’s worth noting that Rodgers has the second-highest career completion percentage in NFL history.
Rodgers is a brilliant student of the game, but he’s more instinctive than other top quarterbacks. He is probably the biggest improviser among the top quarterbacks, but he usually plays within himself.
Rodgers is a good athlete, as few quarterbacks have had his success running the football. He’s not a big-play threat, but he runs smart.
Rodgers is a leader, a marketable force and an elevator of the talent around him. He’s helped make stars out of guys like Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, and he’s even done it without a running game for most of his career.
Looking back, Rodgers was everything an NFL prospect should be. Since then, he’s become a true star and one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Smith is a rawer prospect than Rodgers was, and he won’t enter as good of a situation either. He will be hard-pressed to ascend to Rodgers’ level.
1. Tom Brady
Arm Strength: Smith
Tom Brady can make any throw, and his velocity is superb. He’s never had the rocket arm of the better athletes, though. The scouts that pushed Brady down in the draft had a point about his lack of arm strength, but he definitely proved those concerns overblown.
Tom Brady is so accurate that incompletions almost feel intentional. Short and intermediate throws are almost automatic for Brady, but his deep accuracy is just average.
Though he falls just short of Peyton Manning in terms of brilliance, Brady knows the game as well as just about anybody. He’s been well coached, and he is always in control of his play. Rarely forces passes that aren’t there.
Brady ran a 5.28 40-yard dash. He is not an athlete. That’s not a big issue, though, as few quarterbacks maneuver in the pocket better than Brady.
The ultimate leader, the ultimate playmaker in the clutch—no active quarterback has more rings, and no quarterback elevates his teammates’ play the way Brady can.
Tom Brady is in the discussion for best quarterback of all time. Geno Smith does not have that level of upside. He could be a Pro Bowler someday, and even a Super Bowl champion. Never, though, will he reach the level of greatness that Brady, Manning, Rodgers and Brees have reached.