Updated QB Power Rankings After NFL Week 3
Week 3 of the NFL was loaded with crazy outcomes and unpredictable upsets. It’s fair to say the NFL has been turned upside down and completely shaken up by surprise performances from Cleveland, Baltimore, Carolina, Miami, Indianapolis and the Jets.
As a result of all the craziness, there has been some significant movement in the power rankings this week, including a change in the top five.
Playing well one week does not guarantee a move up the rankings. This list bases quarterback performances directly off one another, so even though QB "X" may have had a better game than last week, he still is not a lock to maintain his current status among his peers.
Every current starting quarterback in the NFL will be considered and valued through numerous categories, each weighted differently as the season progresses. Considering we're in the early stages of 2013, I am currently putting more weight on last year's performances along with this year’s preseason.
In addition, I have given consideration to a quarterback's long history of stellar play by factoring in his total career "Approximate Value," courtesy of Pro Football Reference. I've also given points for Super Bowl victories.
After that, I factor in several key attributes for the quarterback position such as intelligence, arm strength, accuracy, athleticism and leadership.
Wins throughout this season will also give quarterbacks a slight boost in addition to their individual performances based on several metrics ranging from basic to advanced. These statistics will come exclusively via ESPN.com, NFL.com and ProFootballFocus (subscription required), unless stated otherwise. Personal observation and opinion will also play a key role each and every week.
Starters from Previous Weeks Who Didn't Play in Week 3
Why he didn't play: Lacerated hand.
Last Rank: 32nd
Replacement: Chad Henne
Why he didn't play: Injured thumb.
Last Rank: 32nd
Replacement: Brian Hoyer
32. Chad Henne, Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 31st
After only two uninspiring starts for the Jaguars’ backup quarterback Chad Henne, he’ll apparently resume his role as such by stepping down for Blaine Gabbert, who will take over the starting duties in Week 4.
There’s no telling whether or not we’ll see Henne again this season judging by the way Gabbert has played throughout his career.
Henne has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns and has a passer rating in the 60s. In his two-game audition, he has done little to sway favor toward himself. Now he must be patient and hope for another opportunity to show what he can do.
Perhaps when they get Justin Blackmon back from suspension, the Jaguars can actually put up enough points to be competitive.
31. Brian Hoyer, Cleveland Browns
Last Week: N/A
Brain Hoyer threw for three touchdowns and over 300 yards through the air as the relatively unknown replacement for Brandon Weeden gave the Browns their first win of the season.
To put this into perspective, Alex Smith has yet to throw for 300 yards in a game this year.
There’s no question this victory was a shocker for most around the league, including myself. But before we get carried away with Hoyer as the savior of the franchise, it’s worth noting that he did throw three interceptions while completing only 55 percent of his passes.
Despite the inspired performance, Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski remains undecided about who the starter will be for Week 4. Perhaps the fact that Hoyer led Cleveland to more points in one game than it scored in the first two combined should be factored into the decision-making process.
30. Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 28th
Christian Ponder continues his descent into one of the NFL’s inferior basement-dwellers. Ponder has failed to guide his Vikings to a single victory in three games this season while throwing only two touchdowns compared to five interceptions.
His saving grace last year was his ability to avoid turnovers and not give the game away. In 16 games, he only threw 12 picks.
This year, however, he appears to be regressing as Adrian Peterson‘s production becomes more akin to that of a mortal man. Could the majority of Ponder's success be the result of defenses keying in on the run? Has anything changed in that regard?
We could end up seeing Matt Cassel take over for Ponder at some point this season. If that’s the case, we can consider Ponder’s status as a first-round bust officially a worthy label.
29. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 29th
When a veteran starting quarterback fails to complete at least half of his passes through three games, panic becomes a trending narrative around the organization.
Josh Freeman is off to a lousy start in 2013, with a series of ominous signs beginning to mount against him. The origins of these mishaps date back to last April, when the team drafted rookie quarterback Mike Glennon in the third round to push the struggling incumbent for the starting job.
Since then, Freeman failed to be recognized as a captain among his peers, only to follow that up by missing the team photo because he overslept.
As this sums up Freeman's momentum to date, he has little choice but to look at Week 4’s matchup against the Cardinals as the most important game of his career. Should he falter yet again, head coach Greg Schiano will likely pull the plug on the Josh Freeman experiment in Tampa once and for all.
Update: As of Wednesday Josh Freeman has been benched in favor of rookie quarterback Mike Glennon per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport.
28. Geno Smith, New York Jets
Last Week: 30th
In a showdown between the top two rookie quarterbacks in last April’s draft, Geno Smith surprisingly emerged as the victor. Doing his part to secure the “W,” Smith looked impressive in the pocket as he threw for 331 yards on the day.
Considering the limited talent on offense surrounding Smith in New York, we need to give the youngster credit for pulling out two victories in his first three starts as a pro.
With that said, Santonio Holmes showed up big as a weapon for Smith, racking up 154 of those yards through the air. If these two can find their groove, there could be reason for Jets fans to get excited for the 2013 season.
Smith is currently the lowest-ranked starting QB with at least two wins thus far. If he continues to gain confidence and develop his game, expect this rookie to climb the ladder as the season progresses.
27. Terrelle Pryor, Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 26th
Raiders fans may have finally found a quarterback worth keeping after years of disappointment in what seemed like an endless revolving door.
Terrelle Pryor has continued to look like a guy worth building around despite the loss in Denver on Monday night. His ability to both run for first downs and hit receivers efficiently downfield has caused his stock to rise each and every week. Pryor started out the season ranked 31st among starters and has slowly moved his way up to 27th.
Unfortunately, Pryor suffered a concussion toward the end of the game on Monday night, rendering his status for next week uncertain.
26. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 24th
In an earlier power ranking, I warned readers about the over-hyped "turnover factory" known as Carson Palmer.
Somehow this guy continues to be a coveted commodity by mystifying coaches with a beautiful release and prototypical frame. Yet underneath the eye candy resides a man completely lacking the ability to make wise decisions from the pocket, especially when the pressure is on.
Palmer has already thrown four interceptions in three games to go with a lousy passer rating of 71.7.
Though this is the lowest he’s been ranked so far, it likely won't be the low point of Palmer’s season as we move forward.
25. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 27th
Last weekend was arguably the most impressive performance by Jake Locker in his entire NFL career. The biggest sign of improvement came with his ability to be accurate downfield. Locker has been notoriously inaccurate as a quarterback dating all the way back to his college days in Washington. On Sunday, he completed 23 of 37 passes with no interceptions.
It was promising to see Locker orchestrate a big-time game-winning drive to pull off the victory.
Another impressive element to his game that he really needs to use more is his athleticism and ability to make plays with his legs. Locker ran for 68 yards against the Chargers, including a rushing touchdown on a designed draw in the red zone.
The more defenses fear his ability to scramble, the more he will inadvertently open up passing windows down the field.
Currently, Locker is the sixth-rated quarterback in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus (paid site).
24. EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 23rd
EJ Manuel began the season ranked unusually high for a rookie quarterback, yet has managed to linger around the same neighborhood as his original ranking of 22.
After losing a sloppy battle to Geno Smith in a head-to-head matchup, Manuel drops down a slot in the rankings. This drop comes despite the fact that he avoided throwing an interception. However, he only connected on 19 of 42 passes on the day, which is well below the league average.
Manuel has still completed 59 percent of his passes on the season and is one of the more accurate young quarterbacks in the league. His drop in efficiency on Sunday should be largely contributed to Rex Ryan’s potent defense.
23. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 25th
Last week, Andy Dalton received his lowest ranking of the season at No. 25. This week, he took a positive step forward by guiding his team to its second victory of the season over Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in an exciting matchup.
Although Dalton has a passer rating of 93.2, his grade from Pro Football Focus is in the negatives.
Some of the major knocks on Dalton are his arm strength and mediocre physical tools by NFL standards. However, this kid has definitely proven to be a winner at every level of competition and should not be taken lightly regardless of his physical limitations.
22. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
Last Week: 20th
Sam Bradford is currently sitting at his lowest ranking all year long. This was supposed to be the year of atonement for the fourth-year quarterback, but so far he looks unable to take that next step in his development.
On the positive side, he has thrown six touchdown passes to only two interceptions with a respectable passer rating of 88.7.
Bradford has been ranked as high as 17th this year and could end up closer to the top 10 before the season is said and done. He just needs to mesh more with his young receivers and get better protection from the offensive line.
21. Mike Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 19th
Turnovers continued to be the narrative for Mike Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles as they dropped their second game in a row courtesy of the Chiefs.
Vick had a number of impressive plays throughout the day using both his legs and arms, but he also made just as many mistakes, throwing critical interceptions, fumbling the ball and missing his reads in the passing game.
At some point, this talented playmaker is going to have to figure out how to eliminate devastating turnovers. If this careless play at quarterback continues, head coach Chip Kelly may have to dig into his bullpen for a guy who can manage the game better.
Vick did rush for 99 yards on Thursday, but he needs to complete more than just 13 passes on 30 attempts.
20. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
Last Week: 16th
Matt Schaub played unusually poorly on Sunday against the Ravens, as he threw for only 194 yards on 35 passes. Of those 35 attempts, he failed to get the ball in the end zone once.
If Houston hopes to get further into the playoffs than in years past, Schaub absolutely must step up his game and become a guy who can consistently put up yards through the air. So far, his career has greatly benefited from a devastating running game which has allowed him to make easy throws off of play-action passes.
The challenge doesn’t get any easier for Schaub next week, as the Seahawks bring the NFL’s best defense into town.
19. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 22nd
Joe Flacco is ranked rather low for a quarterback just coming off a Super Bowl victory and a record-breaking contract extension. But the truth is he has never been that great in the regular season.
At best, Flacco has been a middle-of-the-road-type quarterback during non-playoff football. So far in 2013, not much has changed other than the fact he has fewer weapons on offense and is struggling a bit more to move the ball.
Fortunately for Baltimore, it finally found a way to put up points and get an impressive victory over the Texans.
Joe Cool has only been able to manage a passer rating of 80 so far this season.
He’s currently on the rise from 22 to 18 but will need to pick things up if he intends on justifying his massive salary. This should be a great challenge given all the injuries on offense at the moment.
18. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Last Week: 17th
Stafford got off to a bad start with sacks and a pick-six to DeAngelo Hall, but he eventually found his groove as he and the Lions settled down to get the victory. Stafford threw for an impressive 385 yards in the win over Washington. However, he did struggle whenever Washington was able to speed up his decision-making with a little pressure
One thing Stafford can do well is sling the ball downfield. He has been impressive in his two wins this season and is on pace for another 5,000-yard season through the air.
Stafford has a passer rating of 99.9 and a Total QBR of 64.1. Each of those statistics happens to be good enough for top 10 in the league.
The reason he dropped a spot despite playing well and getting the win is because two guys leaped ahead of him after impressive performances of their own.
17. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Last Week: 21st
Philip Rivers seems to be a changed man this season, as he has avoided turnovers while playing lights-out football despite the Chargers being incredibly thin at the receiver position. Barring his second-half performance against Houston, this could actually be the best football Rivers has played in his entire career, all things considered.
It’s difficult to say whether Rivers can keep this up for the entire season, but if he does, he should be the hands-down winner for Comeback Player of the Year—a reward usually given to a player returning from injury rather than horrendous play.
16. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 18th
The development of Ryan Tannehill as a legitimate pocket passer has been inspiring to witness. This week, he moves up two spots after being 18th a week ago.
Tannehill is currently the lowest-ranked quarterback on the list without a loss on his record this season.
With a passer rating of 94 and a completion percentage of 66, this second-year pro looks to be a quarterback on the rise. Last year, he was the forgotten man as Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III lit up the league. This year, he seems poised to close the gap between the Big Three quarterbacks of his draft class.
It’s been rather surprising how little this former wide receiver elects to run with the ball, considering he is one of the faster quarterbacks in the league. At least it’s good to know he has the ability to take off when he must.
Considering he has been sacked a league-high 14 times, he might want to think about taking off a bit more as the season goes on.
15. Eli Manning, New York Giants
Last Week: 12th
As bad as Eli Manning’s season is going from a statistical standpoint, we still need to consider the guy has been getting killed on pretty much every pass attempt. Peyton’s younger brother has been sacked 11 times so far, which is the second most in the NFL. But even when Eli isn’t being sacked, he’s still under constant pressure.
Manning was once laughed at for calling himself an elite quarterback. He backed that claim up by winning two Super Bowls. Now he seems to have regressed back to the Manning of old, the one who would be laughed at yet again for any claim of elite status.
I suppose the lesson here is—don’t count Eli out just yet; he has a history of surprising us when we least expect it.
14. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 13th
Thursday night’s win was a big one for the Chiefs on the road. Alex Smith has yet to throw an interception on the season.
If his mission heading into this season was to make people question whether the 49ers kept the wrong quarterback, he just may be succeeding. With that said, Smith still hasn’t thrown for 300 yards as a Chief, but with a defense playing this tough, you don’t really need to put up gaudy numbers.
The question with Smith remains, can he win for you when the game becomes a high-scoring shootout?
13. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Last Week: 14th
Head coach Marc Trestman has transformed Jay Cutler into an extremely efficient quarterback so far. The Bears have yet to lose a game this season, and Cutler continues to climb the power rankings. This is now the highest he has been listed all year, and for good reason.
He’s currently third in the NFL in Total QBR with a score of 78 and has not lost a single game so far.
The most impressive play of the game against the Steelers last Sunday might have been when Cutler ran for the first down late in the fourth quarter. Instead of sliding feet-first, he decided to lower his shoulder and deliver a punishing blow on an unsuspecting Steelers defender.
12. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 15th
For the first two games, it seemed as if Cam Newton was trying to prove he could be a pure pocket passer to the extent that he avoided using one of his most dangerous assets. On Sunday versus the Giants, Newton played the game with an impressive balance of athleticism and decision-making from the pocket.
In other words, he tucked the ball and ran when it made sense to do so.
This also marks the second game in a row in which he put a perfect touch on his deep-ball strikes for touchdowns.
Looking toward positive signs of growth, Newton looked much improved from inside a collapsing pocket, keeping his eyes down field and maintaining poise for most of the day.
As of right now, Newton sits at the 12th spot, which is his best position all year.
11. Robert Griffin III, Washington
Last Week: 10th
Although Robert Griffin III has shown signs of returning to his old self, he still is not quite the dynamic player from a year ago we’re all used to seeing. Part of the reason is due to the conservative nature of Washington’s play-calling.
Last year, Griffin’s legs were a significant part of the Washington offense. This year, RG3 has been protected from any unnecessary running while he slowly learns to trust his reconstructed knee.
Griffin has fallen out of the top 10 for the first time this year after the Lions handed the Redskins their third-straight loss of the year. Just getting a victory at this point has to be the top priority for the second-year QB, which means he may need to resort back to the run threat he became famous for.
10. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 7th
Though it’s easy to criticize Colin Kaepernick’s performance the last two weeks, we do need to put things into perspective. First of all, the 49ers faced the best secondary in the league while on the road at the loudest stadium in the NFL. Then the following week, Kaepernick had to make plays without one of the most dangerous weapons in football, Vernon Davis.
With that said, Kaepernick does indeed need to play better. His focus and competitive edge seem to have diminished from what we saw a year ago. As a result, his decision-making has really taken a dive. If this had been the version of Kaepernick we got to see last year, Alex Smith would probably still be a 49er.
It should be interesting to see how this young QB can handle true adversity for the first time in his brief NFL career.
Will he bounce back or sink under the pressure?
9. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 11th
Tony Romo has been on fire this season, completing 72 percent of his passes while throwing six touchdowns to only one interception—in addition, his passer rating of 103 ranks fifth in the NFL.
Dallas made short work of the Rams on Sunday, as Romo benefited from a sound running game which kept the defense completely off-balance.
If Romo can keep this style of play up, he could be headed for his first playoff win as a starting quarterback. So far, the gunslinger has shown rare restraint through three weeks, giving the Cowboys a much better chance to win games by reducing turnovers.
8. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 8th
We can’t blame all of the Steelers’ woes on Ben Roethlisberger considering what he has to work with on the offensive line and the play-calling of Todd Haley. Heck, we can't even put half of the blame on Big Ben.
Pittsburgh has officially lost its identity as a smash-mouth, hard-nosed team from years past. Big Ben has tried to run around and make things happen, but nothing seems to be going right early on.
Starting out 0-3 is weird to see from one of the most consistent organizations in football. Perhaps the return of rookie running back Le’Veon Bell will spark the offense and provide the team with the balance it has been seeking all year long.
Ben is the highest-rated quarterback without a win this season—and rightfully so.
7. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 9th
What an impressive upset by Andrew Luck and the Colts over the San Francisco 49ers on the road. This was supposed to be an easy victory for the 49ers, yet Luck did all the right things to pull off the big win.
The game plan for Luck seemed to be to play things safe and not create any unnecessary turnovers.
Luck is a vastly underrated athlete who can take off and surprise you with his running ability at any moment. We saw several flashes of this on Sunday. He is also establishing himself as one of the toughest quarterbacks in the NFL.
If you’re starting a franchise tomorrow, Luck has to be the first player picked if you want greatness at the quarterback position for the next 10-14 years. His ability to win games and work with limited talent around him is reminiscent of none other than Peyton Manning himself; but Luck is much more athletic.
6. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 6th
Russell Wilson holds steady at his highest position with a ranking of sixth. Wilson has played situational football as well as anyone in the NFL at this point, which is why his performance so far vastly outweighs his statistical numbers. With that said, Wilson’s numbers are impressive in their own right, as he's racked up a passer rating over 100 while averaging an astounding 9.1 yards per pass.
Wilson would have to play unbelievable football from here on out if he hopes to unseat the heavy-hitters in the top five. That group is designated specifically for the elite quarterbacks in the league. This is a distinction I’m not sure Wilson is ready for in only his second year as a pro.
At least for now, he can bask in the glory of being the highest-rated second-year quarterback out of an impressive batch of names.
5. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Last Week: 4th
There's definitely something to be said about the youth at the receiver position in New England, but Tom Brady still played unusually poorly against the Buccaneers, looking erratic and uncomfortable for most of the game. In one instance, he threw the ball right into clear double coverage for an interception in the red zone—something very uncommon for Brady to do in scoring territory.
He was ranked third overall in the power ranking heading into the season, yet has slowly dropped down to fifth, which is the lowest he’s been all year.
At the end of the day, Brady and the Patriots are still finding a way to win, but they’ll need to get this offense clicking on a much higher level if they hope to be contenders come December.
4. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 5th
The Falcons may have lost last weekend to the Dolphins, but Matt Ryan continues to impress as a quarterback. With Tom Brady struggling as of late, Ryan finally had an opportunity to jump ahead of him at the coveted fourth spot on the rankings.
Matty Ice is having a solid all-around season with impressive numbers in every major category for a quarterback.
To get in front of the names ahead Ryan on this list will require Hall of Fame-caliber play. However, just holding onto the fourth spot would be an accomplishment in and of itself.
3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 3rd
To the surprise of many, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints remain undefeated at 3-0. Brees has put on a show thus far with his usual displays of greatness by way of pinpoint accuracy and an uncanny ability to find the preferred matchup.
Watching Brees play quarterback is like getting a lesson in perfect QB mechanics.
His Total QBR and passer rating are impressive, but his leadership, poise and intelligence are what really make this guy special. He's definitely one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game.
After all, he is the only man in NFL history to throw for over 5,000 yards in a season on three different occasions. He also has a career passer rating of 94.2—not too shabby.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 2nd
Aaron Rodgers was under duress pretty much the entire game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
His troubling tiff on the sideline with head coach Mike McCarthy was clearly the result of building frustration after struggling in two of the last three games. Apparently, the star quarterback is not excited about the play-calling, particularly in the red zone, and would like to get the issue corrected.
Rodgers and the Packers are now 1-2 after their disappointing loss to the Bengals. The offensive line cannot seem to protect one of the most valuable assets in the league and frankly looks dangerously vulnerable. At this rate, it would be a miracle to see Rodgers finish out the season standing on his own two feet.
1. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Last Week: 1st
The level at which Peyton Manning is playing the quarterback position is absolutely amazing. On Monday night in front of a national audience, he set the NFL record for most touchdown passes in the first three games.
Manning has 12 touchdowns on the season, but more important is that he has yet to throw an interception. This type of play is what we like to call being in the zone.
The 37 points the Broncos put up last night against the Raiders was actually the lowest point total they’ve had all year.
This is going to be a long season for NFL defenses.
The big question for Manning is whether or not he can play at this level once the playoffs begin.
Ryan Riddle is a former NFL player and current Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.