2013 NFL Quarterback Rankings: 32-25
The NFL is rapidly evolving into a quarterback league, but that does not mean a franchise needs to find the next pocket passer to get to the Super Bowl.
See the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers as examples of the detour to success. Super Bowl champion Russell Wilson and young phenom Colin Kaepernick were not first round picks, but they are taking the league by storm with their combination of passing prowess and mobility.
These two along with others like Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton have changed the definition of the prototypical quarterback and are living proof of how to build a top-tier team without a gunslinger like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.
Over the next four weeks, I will release my 2013 quarterback rankings. In last year’s edition, Aaron Rodgers took the top spot after a spectacular season. It’s been a slightly down year for some of the best players in the game, whether due of an injury, underachieving rosters, or turnover proneness, meaning there will be a bit of a shake up to 2013’s top-10 group.
I’ll breakdown eight quarterbacks (in some cases tandems) from all 32 teams over four days, along with a recap of their season and my rationale for their ranking, beginning with quarterbacks 32-25.
32. Matt Schaub and Case Keenum
Last season’s ranking: Schaub- 13th, Keenum-NR
There are plenty of people to blame for the Houston Texans’ 14-game losing streak, but the biggest culprits might be these two. Schaub started the season off in disastrous fashion, throwing an NFL-record five interceptions for touchdowns in seven games.
After a mediocre performance in a 38-13 loss to the St. Louis Rams, head coach Gary Kubiak made the switch to Keenum. The second-year pro, who broke passing records at University of Houston, started off the season well. In his first three outings, Keenum threw for seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
Despite averaging 220 yards in his first eight games as a pro, Keenum could not end Houston’s losing streak and missed the final two games of the season because of a thumb injury.
The Texans have the first overall pick in the draft and likely will use it on a quarterback. Whether the team chooses Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles or Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel, Houston will need to find an answer to its quarterback problem.
31. Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden
Last season’s ranking: Campbell- NR, Weeden 27th
Weeden’s sophomore season was filled with injuries. The 30-year-old entered the season as Cleveland’s starter, but he struggled in the first two games of the 2013 campaign before a thumb injury sidelined him in Week 3. After Brian Hoyer tore his ACL, recently fired head coach Rob Chudzinski went back to Weeden, who suffered a concussion in early December that knocked him out for the rest of the season.
The final piece of Cleveland’s quarterback trio was Campbell, who played eight games in 2013. Although his statistics were ordinary—he threw for 2,015 yards, 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions—the Browns went 1-7 in Campbell’s eight starts.
Campbell is a solid veteran backup going forward, but Weeden’s future with the Browns could be in question. Weeden had the worst Total QBR (24.7) of 37 qualifying quarterbacks and threw only nine touchdowns in eight games played.
The Browns pick fourth in May’s draft, which means they could end the Weeden project after just two seasons by taking a quarterback.
30. Chad Henne
Last season’s ranking: 29th
Playing quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars is not easy, but Henne did not make much of his opportunity as the starting quarterback in 2013. Henne’s numbers were mediocre, as he threw for 3,271 yards and only 13 touchdowns in 13 starts. One bright spot for Henne was his 60.6 completion percentage, which ranked 20th among quarterbacks.
The Jaguars were 4-9 in those starts. Henne could be a backup in 2014 if the Jaguars decide to look or a quarterback in the draft, which is a good possibility. Recent reports are that Jacksonville has put a high priority on re-signing Henne as a second string. The Jags will likely try to rebuild around another guy after Blaine Gabbert failed to live up to his top-10 selection in 2011.
29. Geno Smith
Last season’s ranking- NR
Smith’s year would be best described as a high-speed roller coaster ride with plenty of peaks and valleys. Smith led the New York Jets to an 8-8 record in his rookie season, but it came with 21 interceptions and several trips to the bench.
Smith threw for 3,046 yards, which is a record for Jets rookie quarterbacks and led five game-winning drives. In the final four games of the season, Smith threw four touchdowns, ran for three more and threw only two interceptions. Smith’s strong finish gives the Jets some hope for next season, when the team’s brass can bring in respectable weapons for Smith to throw to.
Smith had a frustrating rookie season, but provided enough flashes of brilliance to give himself a good shot at New York’s starting job next season.
28. E.J. Manuel
Last season’s ranking: NR
Manuel’s rookie season was unspectacular, but it wasn’t alarming either. He missed six games due to ligament injuries in each knee. In the 10 games he played in, Manuel averaged 197 yards per game and threw 11 touchdowns with nine interceptions. The Bills were 4-6 in Manuel’s starts.
The Florida State product was taken 16th overall by the Bills, which was surprising to some analysts. Unlike fellow rookie Geno Smith, Manuel averaged less than one interception. The Bills don’t have any better options in their quarterback group and it would be a surprise if Manuel wasn’t given the starting job for Week 1 next season.
27. Terrelle Pryor
Last season’s ranking: NR
Oakland’s head coach Dennis Allen took a chance on Pryor, hoping he could perform much like fellow dual-threat quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. Pryor made plenty of plays with his feet, but was not very consistent as a passer. In nine starts for Oakland, Pryor threw only seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He averaged 52 yards per game on the ground and went 3-6 in his starts.
Carelessness was also a problem with Pryor. Along with his 11 picks, Pryor coughed up the football seven times. He only played in 11 games as he battled a nagging knee injury toward the second half of the season.
Pryor’s 2013 performance likely wasn’t enough to earn him the starting job in 2014, as the Raiders will likely use their first round draft pick on another quarterback.
26. Sam Bradford and Kellen Clemens
Last season’s ranking: Bradford- 22nd, Clemens- NR
Through seven games it seemed like Bradford had turned the corner. He had thrown 14 touchdowns and four interceptions along with three games with a completion percentage of over 70 percent.
Then, in a 30-15 loss to the Carolina Panthers, Carolina’s Mike Mitchell shoved Bradford as he tried to run out of bounds on a scramble. Bradford’s next step landed awkwardly and the first overall pick in the 2010 draft was carted off to the locker room with a torn ACL.
Clemens replaced Bradford and didn’t do terribly, leading St. Louis to a 4-5 record in his nine starts. Clemens didn’t have any gaudy numbers, throwing for 1,673 yards, eight touchdowns and seven interceptions, but did almost pull of an upset of the Super Bowl champion Seahawks in his first start of the season.
The Rams will need to find some higher-caliber targets for Bradford. If they do, he could develop further and get closer to becoming the top quarterback the Rams have been waiting for since Kurt Warner. Until then, the jury is still out.
25. Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel
Last season’s ranking: Ponder- 21st, Freeman- 20th Cassel- NR
What a messy situation the quarterback position was in Minnesota. Ponder was given the reigns after helping the Vikings get to the playoffs last season. It was a tough year for Ponder, who suffered several injuries and saw a dramatic decline in his numbers because of it. Ponder threw for only 1,853 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013.
Minnesota had a 2-8 record in Ponder’s 10 starts.
Cassell split his six starts in relief of Ponder and had slightly better statistics. He threw for 1,809 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Although his numbers were not gaudy, Cassell recently voided his option with the Vikings for the 2014 season and could generate some good market value as a backup quarterback.
Josh Freeman only muddled the controversy further. After going 0-3 in his first three starts with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he was traded to Minnesota, where he only played in one game on Monday Night Football against the New York Giants. Freeman was miserable, going 20-for-53 with 197 yards and an interception in his only playing time for the Vikings.
Like most of the teams previously mentioned, the Vikings will likely go for a quarterback in May’s draft.
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