Power Ranking NFL QB Depth Charts
Ask anyone who the best quarterback in the NFL is, and you're likely to get a quick answer and an argument slanted toward their favorite team. Now ask who has the best quarterback depth chart in the NFL, and you're going to get a furrowed brow.
In the NFL 1000 series we looked at which quarterback played best in 2013, but which team has the most talent at the position? Looking at current depth charts—courtesy of Ourlads—and projecting ahead, which team has the game's best depth chart at quarterback?
It's important to know that this is a projection—both in terms of the depth chart and in how each player will play. That means using predraft rankings when evaluating rookies and a wide margin of forecasting when projecting how young players will develop and how veterans will decline.
So which NFL team has the most talent in its quarterback meeting room?
32. Houston Texans
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Ryan Fitzpatrick; 2. Case Keenum; 3. Tom Savage (rookie)
The Houston Texans head into the 2014 season with no clear-cut starter and no identifiable long-term option on the roster.
The front office tabbed Tom Savage in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL draft, but drafting a quarterback that late doesn't inspire much confidence in his long-term ability. In front of Savage for the time being are Ryan Fitzpatrick—added this offseason through free agency—and incumbent backups Case Keenum and T.J. Yates. All three are not likely to make the active roster.
It's easy to imagine the depth chart with Fitzpatrick starting—he does have the most experience, after all—with Keenum holding the No. 2 spot and Savage learning the ropes to start the season. But don't be surprised if Savage is the one starting by midseason if this team struggles as expected.
That lack of talent has the Texans in last place on this preseason ranking. Savage may be the starter of the future, but as of now this position holds only question marks.
31. Detroit Lions
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Matthew Stafford; 2. Kellen Moore; 3. Dan Orlovsky
The Detroit Lions have a good starter in Matthew Stafford, but this is a ranking of the entire depth chart, not just the starting quarterback.
Stafford ranks as a good mid-level starter, but his 2013 season has left doubts about whether he'll be able to enter the upper echelon of quarterbacks. Behind him, the Lions are in serious trouble with Kellen Moore and Dan Orlovsky.
Should Stafford miss time, go ahead and count the games as losses for Detroit, as neither Moore nor Orlovsky has the skill set to carry this team or manage the offense in Stafford's absence. This is a team built for big, quick strikes with Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Eric Ebron and Reggie Bush, but the huge gap at quarterback has to be in the back of every Lions fan's mind.
30. Buffalo Bills
Projected Depth Chart: 1. EJ Manuel; 2. Thad Lewis; 3. Jeff Tuel
The Buffalo Bills drafted EJ Manuel in the first round of the 2013 draft, but due to injury they didn't get a full look at the future of the franchise.
While he was down, the team did get a good look at Thad Lewis, who impressed in Doug Marrone's system. Lewis played much better than anyone could have expected, but the overall talent at quarterback is still a very big question mark in Buffalo. The difference between QB1 Manuel and QB2 Lewis isn't huge, but that's not a great situation, given the team's investment in Manuel (first-rounder) and Lewis (undrafted free agent).
Behind them, the team has Jeff Tuel, who is a solid No. 3 but not a long-term fixture or developmental prospect. The Bills can feel good about this depth chart, but again, the total talent of the top three quarterbacks keeps them lower on the list.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Chad Henne; 2. Blake Bortles (rookie); 3. Stephen Morris (rookie)
The Jacksonville Jaguars may not have a great quarterback depth chart, but you have to like the way Gus Bradley and Dave Caldwell have built this group.
Chad Henne is a solid veteran, and while he may not be good enough to get the Jaguars above eight wins with little talent around him on offense, he'll manage the game and play well enough to keep them in close games. He can win games when the defense keeps the team alive—he proved that in 2013.
Blake Bortles was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft and is the future at the position. The team should view 2014 as a complete redshirt year for him, though, as the former UCF quarterback is not NFL-ready at this stage of his development. He may be the future, but he's not the present.
Stephen Morris looks like the team's third-best option at quarterback, but he's very similar to Bortles in that he's nowhere close to ready for the NFL right now. He also lacks Bortles' upside, size and arm strength. Morris has the potential to be a good backup but doesn't add much instant talent or value to the depth chart.
The upside here is very good, but judging the talent heading into the upcoming season, things don't look great for Jacksonville.
28. Cleveland Browns
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Brian Hoyer; 2. Johnny Manziel (rookie); 3. Tyler Thigpen
The Cleveland Browns have a very interesting situation at quarterback. Interesting isn't always good.
Brian Hoyer flashed some starter potential in two games before being injured four pass attempts into his third start. He was Mike Lombardi's guy, and that regime is no longer in town, but coming off an ACL tear, he is the most NFL-ready of the team's quarterbacks. He could become a Chad Henne-like quarterback for the Browns as they groom their future star.
That star is Johnny Manziel. The team's second first-round pick in 2014, he will start sooner or later, and I'd bet on sooner. He has rare athleticism and instincts for a quarterback, but no one has any idea how well his blend of run-and-shoot quarterback play will translate to the NFL—especially at 6'0" and 210 pounds. He may be the next Steve Young, but right now he's another rookie with big expectations and a lot to prove.
Tyler Thigpen rounds out the group and looks like a good spot starter and veteran mentor. All in all, the Browns have two journeyman quarterbacks and one undersized rookie. And since we're judging Manziel's 2014 potential and not long-term success projection, the Browns rank near the bottom of the league's quarterback depth charts.
27. Atlanta Falcons
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Matt Ryan; 2. Dominique Davis; 3. Sean Renfree
With a high-level starter like Matt Ryan leading the way, why are the Atlanta Falcons ranked so low on the list? Because this is a ranking and breakdown of the total talent on the roster at quarterback. Behind Ryan, the Falcons have a scary depth chart.
You might not feel like Ryan is an elite quarterback or in the top tier of starters, but he's in the top 10 and maybe higher if you look at what he can do with an improved offensive line and healthy wide receivers. Love or hate him, you have to respect Ryan and what he can do with the football. The question is, what happens to this team without No. 2 at quarterback?
No NFL team would be great without its starter, but many can survive with a backup in the game. Look at Green Bay with Matt Flynn, San Francisco when Alex Smith got hurt and Colin Kaepernick came in or even Tampa Bay with Mike Glennon last year.
Those teams had good game plans for a quarterback injury. The Falcons do not.
Dominique Davis and Sean Renfree are not the type of quarterbacks to step in and manage the game for a talented offense around them. If Ryan were to go down with an injury, the Falcons wouldn't be favored to win any game they played with Davis or Renfree under center.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Josh McCown; 2. Mike Glennon; 3. Mike Kafka
Lovie Smith's arrival in Tampa Bay has people very excited about the Buccaneers' 2014 season and for good reason. But at the most important position in football, Smith has to face the biggest question mark on his roster.
Josh McCown was brought in to be the starter after Mike Glennon stumbled through an up-and-down rookie season. The battle for the starting job will be intense, and there is a lot to like with McCown's stability and Glennon's potential, but neither has the steady hand needed to lead this team deep in the playoffs. At least not as of this writing.
The No. 3 quarterback job is a nonfactor here. Mike Kafka looks to win the job after the Bucs waived undrafted free agent Brett Smith following rookie minicamps.
25. Tennessee Titans
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Jake Locker; 2. Charlie Whitehurst; 3. Zach Mettenberger (rookie)
The Tennessee Titans face a make-or-break year with Jake Locker. That said, after watching Ken Whisenhunt work his magic on Philip Rivers as the San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator in 2013, you have to like Locker's chances for big growth in 2014.
He is the starter heading into the season, and he'll have one season to prove he's worth big money and the label of "franchise quarterback." Looking over his shoulder will be a solid veteran in Charlie Whitehurst, but he's no threat to take the starting job unless Locker really falls on his face.
The player to watch is Zach Mettenberger. The LSU rookie has a huge arm and prototypical quarterback build. He could be a huge steal after falling to the sixth round amid concerns about a torn ACL late in the 2013 season, a potentially bad back and off-field issues that led to his dismissal from Georgia. If healthy, he has the tools to become a starter.
But each player has a question mark hanging over his head, and that's why this group isn't ranked higher.
24. St. Louis Rams
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Sam Bradford; 2. Shaun Hill; 3. Garrett Gilbert (rookie)
The St. Louis Rams have an interesting season brewing, and it's safe to say 2014 will be a true make-or-break campaign for Sam Bradford.
The former No. 1 overall pick has shown tremendous potential in his pro career, but he's also battled injuries, terrible offensive line play, constantly changing offensive coordinators and a lack of talent at wide receiver. Now the Rams have a team around him—anchored by first-rounders in Greg Robinson and Jake Long on the offensive line and Tavon Austin at wide receiver.
Bradford needs to prove himself in 2014.
If he cannot prove himself worthy of the starting job or stay healthy, Shaun Hill is capable of stepping in and carrying the team. He is a smart, savvy veteran with the accuracy and pocket presence to do well in a short-term situation. He's not the franchise's future, but with a strong defense and good running back, he could produce.
Garrett Gilbert is a player to watch here. The former Texas quarterback left for SMU and had a nice career there, but he still needs some development. He'll get that in St. Louis and could be a future option. In the meantime he's a nice talent to have at the back end of the depth chart.
23. Baltimore Ravens
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Joe Flacco; 2. Tyrod Taylor; 3. Keith Wenning (rookie)
Joe Flacco may or not may be elite, but he has a Super Bowl ring. What the Baltimore Ravens don't have behind him is much talent at quarterback.
Flacco's job as the starter is safe here as long as he's healthy, but the Ravens are one injury to him away from losing a lot of games. Yes, that may seem obvious, but this article is littered with teams that have a solid Plan B at quarterback. That's not the case on this team, where the spot behind Flacco is full of uncertainty.
Tyrod Taylor is an exciting athlete but so far not much of a passer. He's a different animal than Flacco and would give the team a more wide-open offense with a run threat at quarterback, but his lack of accuracy and field vision would hurt the offense.
Baltimore drafted Keith Wenning from Ball State in the sixth round, and he has the upside to be the future No. 2 quarterback here, but he's not ready to be one hit away from playing in the AFC North.
22. Chicago Bears
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Jay Cutler; 2. Jordan Palmer; 3. David Fales (rookie)
There is no doubting Jay Cutler in my book, yet many will do it in the comments below this article. What you can doubt is the Chicago Bears' talent behind No. 6 at quarterback.
After losing Josh McCown to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency, the Bears faced an offseason with a need to find a true No. 2 quarterback to play behind Cutler, who does have a history of injury. Even with a much-improved offensive line in front of him, Cutler hasn't proved to be the most durable quarterback in the NFL. That's why it's odd to see Jordan Palmer in place as the backup quarterback.
Palmer was last seen preparing Blake Bortles for his pro day and working as a quarterbacks coach, but now he's one Ndamukong Suh hit away from starting for a team with major playoff potential. Maybe that's why general manager Phil Emery invested a sixth-round pick in San Jose State quarterback David Fales.
Fales is smart, accurate and agile, but he's also small (6'2", 212 lbs) and lacks the arm strength needed to play in a cold, windy stadium. He has good potential to be the team's future No. 2, but this potent Chicago offense would be in trouble if he's forced into action this season.
21. San Francisco 49ers
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Colin Kaepernick; 2. Blaine Gabbert; 3. Josh Johnson
The San Francisco 49ers have a true talent in Colin Kaepernick, but after trading away Alex Smith and failing to find a project at QB2 before the 2013 season, they are looking at creative avenues to fill their backup passer spot.
Kaepernick has shown his ability to drive the 49ers deep into the playoffs and challenge the best of the best in the NFL. He's locked in as the future of this team, and he should be receiving a new contract that reflects that belief very soon.
But behind him? If you're a 49ers fan, just hope his streak of healthy starts stays intact.
Blaine Gabbert was thought to be the franchise quarterback in Jacksonville but quickly flamed out there, and the Jaguars traded him to San Francisco for a sixth-round pick. The hope is that Jim Harbaugh can work his quarterback magic and reclaim some of the talent Gabbert showed coming out of Missouri in the 2011 draft.
Josh Johnson has bounced around the NFL with stops in Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Cincinnati and now his second stint with the 49ers. He's a good athlete and will allow the 49ers to continue to run their offense if he's forced into duty, but the honest hope has to be that that never happens. As much as any team in the NFL, the 49ers would see a massive drop-off in talent if their starter went down.
20. Miami Dolphins
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Ryan Tannehill; 2. Matt Moore; 3. Pat Devlin
The Miami Dolphins have an ideal scenario taking shape heading into the 2014 season with Ryan Tannehill maturing and developing as he moves into his third season and a smart, capable veteran behind him in Matt Moore. The talent here is noticeable.
Tannehill started to take a big step forward in 2013 before seeing his offensive line decimated by internal strife and off-field issues. Now he'll have as many as four new starters in front of him and a much better running attack to help shoulder the load. What we should see is a more comfortable and confident Tannehill—and that could be scary good.
Moore is what every team would love to have in the QB2 slot. He's smart, a great teammate and capable of coming in and keeping the offense churning if called into action. You can't ask for a better mentor and reliever.
The Dolphins are in good shape when you look at their situation at QB1 and QB2, but that QB3 spot held down by Pat Devlin isn't great. Of course, not every team can, or should, have three game-ready passers, and Devlin is a bit of a project, but he is keeping Miami from a higher ranking.
19. Carolina Panthers
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Cam Newton; 2. Derek Anderson; 3. Joe Webb
The Carolina Panthers were a huge surprise in 2013, but that looks unlikely as we head into the 2014 season. But don't blame the quarterback.
My love for Cam Newton is well documented, but expecting a repeat of the 2013 season with the talent around him isn't fair. Predicting a step back this year would be reasonable. His raw ability is unreal, but it's doubtful we see him have as much success this year.
Behind Newton, Derek Anderson is a very good No. 2 quarterback. He has a huge arm and is an excellent downfield thrower, which is great for a wide receiver corps featuring rookie Kelvin Benjamin. Joe Webb is a nice option as a third quarterback, given his running skills and ability to make something out of nothing.
In fact, in their backups, the Panthers have a nice mixture of Newton's skills—Anderson's arm and size, combined with Webb's agility and athleticism.
18. New York Jets
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Geno Smith; 2. Michael Vick; 3. Matt Simms
Some may look at the New York Jets' quarterback depth chart and see question marks. I look at this roster and see talent, upside, veteran intelligence and thorough depth.
Say what you want about Geno Smith, but after watching all of his 517 dropbacks from his rookie season, I'm encouraged by the upside he brings to the table. Smith is poised to enjoy a big season in 2014 if the new talent added—Chris Johnson, Eric Decker, Jace Amaro, Jalen Saunders and Shaq Evans—comes together well. Smith finished the 2013 season on a hot streak, and his chemistry with Jeremy Kerley cannot be slept on as the team develops an offense.
Michael Vick may be past his prime, but he's one of the best teammates a young quarterback can have. He has tasted success and learned how to fight back from adversity. He's also good enough to step in and play well if needed for short stretches. Some may see him as a better 2014 option than Smith, but it's more likely he would be a more athletic but less accurate option at quarterback.
Matt Simms has the big arm Smith lacks and is a very good No. 3 option here. He's on a developmental path to take the No. 2 job post-Vick if he can fight off sixth-round pick Tajh Boyd at the position.
17. Arizona Cardinals
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Carson Palmer; 2. Drew Stanton; 3. Logan Thomas (rookie)
The Arizona Cardinals have all three tiers of their quarterback depth chart figured out. While the talent may not be elite at each tier, the structure is ideal.
Tier 1—Starter Carson Palmer is ideal for Bruce Arians' offense. He's big and strong in the pocket, runs a mean play-action and can throw the ball a mile. With receivers Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and now John Brown, Palmer is the prototypical passer for this offense.
Tier 2—Drew Stanton is one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL in terms of Week 1 readiness. He's also a great fit in this offense, given his experience, arm strength and added mobility in the pocket. He could fill in for Palmer very well in case of injury.
Tier 3—Logan Thomas is a developmental prospect with the arm talent and athleticism to make Arians very happy. Thomas isn't yet mechanically disciplined, but he's a 2015 project for Arians and quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens to work with.
16. Cincinnati Bengals
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Andy Dalton; 2. Jason Campbell; 3. AJ McCarron (rookie)
The Cincinnati Bengals have made the playoffs in all three of Andy Dalton's seasons as the starter, yet the pressure is mounting for a playoff victory with him at the helm. The 2014 season is a big one for the former second-round pick.
Dalton's contract expires after the 2014 season, and he has to be hoping for a Joe Flacco-type "prove it" year that gives him leverage and a massive contract. He'll need to win like Flacco did in his Super Bowl campaign to quiet some doubters in Cincinnati.
Behind Dalton the Bengals have insured themselves well. Jason Campbell is no longer a great long-term option, but he could captain the ship with veteran leadership and a big arm if Dalton gets hurt. The Bengals may still be a playoff contender with Campbell but not as likely to win in the postseason.
AJ McCarron is very similar to Dalton, if only a little less athletic, but he gives this staff a developmental project at quarterback. A worst-case scenario for him is that he becomes a very good backup.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Ben Roethlisberger; 2. Bruce Gradkowski; 3. Landry Jones
The Pittsburgh Steelers made a late run in 2013 and nearly capped off an improbable comeback with a playoff berth. That will be the goal in 2014, but to do so they need a healthy Ben Roethlisberger.
Big Ben is one of the NFL's best quarterbacks when healthy. The work he has done with a bad offensive line and a revolving door at wide receiver is impressive. He'll have a solid front five protecting him and a strong running game, but once again he'll have new faces catching his passes. After losing Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders in back-to-back offseasons, Roethlisberger has had to adjust and improvise plenty but remains a top-tier quarterback.
Behind him the Steelers are in good shape. Bruce Gradkowski may not push for a starting job on any NFL roster, but among No. 2 quarterbacks he's very good. His experience, mobility and arm talent would allow the Steelers to continue running their offense without making schematic changes.
Landry Jones is still a bit of a project, but accounts are positive for the sophomore quarterback. He gives the team a nice upside player at the back end of the depth chart.
14. New York Giants
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Eli Manning; 2. Josh Freeman; 3. Curtis Painter
The thinking in New York heading into the season is that Eli Manning's worst season is behind him and the only direction to go is up. Following a season in which he threw 27 interceptions, he surely can't be any worse in 2014.
When he is on, he's very good. That's evident by his two Super Bowl rings and the film he's put out in his 10 NFL seasons. But when he's off, he's erratic and irresponsible. That's when you get 27 interceptions or 25 like he threw in 2010. Manning can go from great to maddening in a hurry, and that's important to remember.
Behind him the team has solid depth. Josh Freeman is just one year removed from being the face and future of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He had a serious falling out with then head coach Greg Schiano, and the Bucs shipped him to Minnesota, where the Vikings rarely let him see the field. Now Freeman has something to prove and can do so while learning from Manning.
Curtis Painter and Ryan Nassib will battle for the No. 3 job, and each has his own value. Painter is experienced and has started NFL games. He can handle the gig if pressed into action. Nassib, a 2013 rookie, has upside but struggled in his first season to prove he's NFL material.
13. New Orleans Saints
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Drew Brees; 2. Luke McCown; 3. Ryan Griffin
Drew Brees is great, but what the New Orleans Saints have in place behind him should terrify their fans every time No. 9 takes a hit.
Brees hasn't showed signs of slowing down as he enters the back end of his brilliant career. At 35 years old, he will look to once again go over 5,000 yards passing while leading one of the NFL's elite passing attacks. With a good, athletic offensive line and a ton of targets to work with, he should once again dominate.
But should he go down—even for one game—the Saints are in big trouble.
Luke McCown is not driving this team to the playoffs. Nor is Ryan Griffin, a developmental talent picked up after the 2013 draft. He has fun potential, but he's not ready to lead a high-octane offense like this.
It's common sense that almost every NFL offense would suffer without its QB1, but notice that Denver, New England and Seattle are all ranked higher than New Orleans due to their preparedness in case their star at quarterback were to go down.
12. Minnesota Vikings
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Matt Cassel; 2. Christian Ponder; 3. Teddy Bridgewater (rookie)
A quick look at the Minnesota Vikings' depth chart may lead you to think that having three quarterbacks but no clear-cut No. 1 is a big problem. To me, it looks like a very good unit with the pieces to be great.
Teddy Bridgewater ranked as my top overall player for the 2014 draft, and since this article relies heavily on predraft ranking in evaluating how rookies will fit into the NFL, the Vikings receive a big boost due to Bridgewater's placement. But don't sleep on Matt Cassel or Christian Ponder in this offense if Bridgewater doesn't earn the starting job right off the bat.
Norv Turner comes to Minnesota as offensive coordinator and has a track record of working magic with quarterbacks. This is the man who made Brian Hoyer look good in Cleveland. If he can do that, Cassel or Ponder could see a career rebound with Turner's system in place and a very stout run game fueling the offense.
The available talent, plus Turner's coaching and scheming, puts the Vikings way up on this list.
11. Oakland Raiders
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Matt Schaub; 2. Derek Carr (rookie); 3. Matt McGloin
There's no need to adjust your screen: The Oakland Raiders are really ranked No. 11 overall at quarterback.
Matt Schaub was brought in to win now, and he can do that. Sure, he had a very bad 2013 season in a no-win situation in Houston, but he's a steady, solid quarterback with the accuracy, vision and experience to move the chains. He may no longer be an eight at quarterback, but he's easily a seven.
Behind Schaub is the future of the position, Derek Carr. Ranked as my No. 3 quarterback in the 2014 draft, he will be starting in the NFL in 2015. Coming out of Fresno State, he's pro-ready and needs to only work on his pocket presence and footwork under duress before seeing starting reps.
Matt McGloin is a very good No. 3 quarterback and has rare experience for that position after seeing major reps in 2013.
10. Indianapolis Colts
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Andrew Luck; 2. Matt Hasselbeck; 3. Chandler Harnish
The Indianapolis Colts come in ranked at No. 10 overall, and that's all because of the top two quarterbacks on their depth chart.
Andrew Luck is my favorite passer of all the young quarterbacks in this league. He does it all, isn't afraid to challenge defenses and doesn't know how to give up when his team is behind. He will make mistakes, but he'll also make throws and rally his team in a way that few young quarterbacks can or have. He's a rock-solid, future-face-of-the-league type of player.
Matt Hasselbeck just might be the best No. 2 quarterback in the entire league. He's smart, incredibly experienced and still talented enough to come in and make noise if needed due to injury. He's also a brilliant film study companion for Luck who can counsel the young passer on every aspect of quarterback play.
The downside to this depth chart is No. 3 quarterback Chandler Harnish. He's a good project, but the Colts have a big drop-off in talent from QB2 to QB3.
9. San Diego Chargers
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Philip Rivers; 2. Kellen Clemens; 3. Brad Sorensen
The San Diego Chargers were lucky that Philip Rivers returned to form in 2013 after struggling in 2011 and 2012. Last year he was one of the NFL's best passers and reaffirmed his ranking as a top-tier quarterback.
Thanks to new head coach Mike McCoy, offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt (now the head coach in Tennessee) and quarterbacks coach Frank Reich (now offensive coordinator), Rivers was back to his pre-2011 levels. And with Rivers locking down the starting job and having started 16 games for his eighth straight season, the Chargers are in great hands at QB1.
They're not in bad shape at the spots behind him either.
Kellen Clemens stepped in when Sam Bradford went down in St. Louis and arguably did a better job than the former No. 1 overall pick. As the second quarterback in San Diego, he's a great option in a worst-case scenario should Rivers' streak of consecutive starts end.
Third quarterback Brad Sorensen, a 2013 seventh-round pick, is a very nice developmental prospect. He wouldn't be someone you want to see on the field this season, but by 2015 he could be in the QB2 slot.
8. Kansas City Chiefs
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Alex Smith; 2. Chase Daniel; 3. Aaron Murray (rookie)
The Kansas City Chiefs may not have elite talent at quarterback like the Indianapolis Colts or New Orleans Saints, but what the team lacks in top-end talent, it makes up for in solid depth, talent and potential across the board.
Starter Alex Smith may be one of the most underrated players in the game. He's not going to put up sexy numbers, but give him a run game and one good wide receiver, and he can win games. He proved that much in 2013.
He may never throw for 4,000 yards and 35 touchdowns, but he's also not working with the game's best receiving corps.
Chase Daniel is a very bright No. 2 quarterback, and after a long stint in New Orleans to begin his career, he's been able to learn from two of the NFL's smarter quarterbacks (Drew Brees and Smith) while working with two of the league's best offensive minds (Sean Payton and Andy Reid). Daniel has limited regular-season snaps, but preseason reps against first- and second-team defenses have shown his ability and upside.
Aaron Murray may end up being the steal of the 2014 draft. Nabbed in Round 5 after suffering a late-season ACL tear, he is the ideal fit for Reid's offense. He's mobile in the pocket, super-smart and accurate over the middle and on intermediate routes. He could be looked at as the future of the position if Smith isn't locked up for the long term.
7. Philadelphia Eagles
If we're grading the top talent at the quarterback position, not just the starter, you cannot ignore what Chip Kelly has assembled under center in Philadelphia.
The Eagles found the future of the franchise when Nick Foles took over for Michael Vick last year. Along the way he earned a Pro Bowl invite while passing for 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions. That level of play is good enough for Foles to be the long-term answer at quarterback for Kelly's team. Foles is primed to take the next step and move higher up the quarterback ladder in the NFL next fall.
Mark Sanchez went from the top of the mountain to the floor of the valley in his time as the New York Jets' starting quarterback, but a career restart in Philadelphia is exactly what he needs. There is no pressure, and Sanchez can be coached up by the smart men who are running a fast-paced offense and not the circus that was Rex Ryan's team. Sanchez's career story is far from being over, and there is still talent here to work with.
Matt Barkley is a very nice option at QB3. He's young, smart and savvy coming out of the USC offense, and after learning on the job in his rookie season, he's ready to challenge for the backup gig.
6. Green Bay Packers
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Aaron Rodgers; 2. Matt Flynn; 3. Scott Tolzien
The Green Bay Packers have a unique situation in that every one of their quarterbacks started a game for the team in 2013. They're hoping that's not the case in 2014, though.
In 2013 Aaron Rodgers started nine games, Matt Flynn started four and Scott Tolzien started two. That type of experience and familiarity with the offense is incredibly valuable to a playoff-caliber team. But the Packers' real chance of winning another Lombardi Trophy is all on Rodgers' shoulders.
One of those shoulders gave out in 2013, and Rodgers missed seven games with a broken collarbone. But when healthy, he's arguably the NFL's best quarterback. He offers an incredible amount of talent and value to spearhead the Packers depth chart.
Flynn has had his shot as a starter in Seattle and Oakland, but he knows home is in Green Bay as Rodgers' understudy. It's a good role for him and for the Packers.
Tolzien flashed some potential in his limited starts but quickly showed he wasn't quite ready for extended playing time. But for a No. 3 quarterback, he's very experienced and still has room to improve with coaching and time.
5. Seattle Seahawks
It's always nice when every quarterback on your roster has starting experience. That's the case for the Seattle Seahawks, as every passer brings an athletic skill set and starting reps to the roster.
Russell Wilson has started every game in his two NFL seasons, and while 2013 saw him being more of a game manager, there's no doubt that when needed, he can make big plays. He carried the team at times, and at other times the team carried him. It was a good enough arrangement for the Seahawks to dominate the Denver Broncos while winning their first Super Bowl trophy.
Now in his third season, Wilson could be even better. Every quarterback evaluator is taught that Year 3 is when a quarterback is truly comfortable and ready to run the show. If so, he could be scary good.
Behind him the Seahawks have talent, experience and similar athletes to run the offense. Tarvaris Jackson and Terrelle Pryor will compete for the No. 2 job, and both have the mobility and arm strength for this speedy offense. Pryor is the better athlete, but Jackson has the edge in terms of accuracy and experience.
That type of battle for the backup spot is a great problem to have, though, and one that few NFL teams can boast.
4. Dallas Cowboys
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Tony Romo; 2. Kyle Orton; 3. Brandon Weeden
The Dallas Cowboys depth chart is unsettled entering late May, but a look at the current roster shows a good amount of talent and a ton of experience.
Love him or hate him, Tony Romo is a dang good quarterback. Period. Forget the narratives about him losing games in the fourth quarter (not true) or that he's soft and injury-prone. Romo is good, and the Cowboys are lucky to have him at the QB1 spot. No amount of Johnny Manziel linkage to Jerry Jones will change that.
Behind Romo the Cowboys hope to have Kyle Orton, but that's up for debate as of this writing. He has told Jerry Jones he would like to retire, but at only 31 years old that does seem questionable. If Orton is on the roster, Dallas would have one of the NFL's most experienced backup quarterbacks and a talent who could probably push for a starting job on a lower-level team.
At QB3 is Brandon Weeden. A former first-rounder for the Cleveland Browns, he never answered the prayers of the Dawg Pound to become a legitimate franchise passer. Still, he's experienced and has a big arm. As a third option—or even as the second one—Weeden is a good backup solution behind a talented Dallas offensive line.
On the Washington depth chart sit three very different quarterbacks, but they all have one thing in common—starting NFL experience.
Robert Griffin III heads into a pivotal third season completely healthy and ready to be unleashed in new head coach Jay Gruden's offense. RGIII has unique, rare talents and abilities but must become more consistent and learn to stay healthy. He has the talent around him to thrive.
Should he go down again with injury, fans in D.C. can breathe easier knowing Kirk Cousins has starting experience and has proved his worth over the last two seasons. The third-year quarterback has now started four games and played major minutes in eight total games. The results have been mixed, but there are people around the NFL who believe he has starting potential.
Colt McCoy went from a starting job in Cleveland to the No. 2 job in San Francisco, but now he's in Washington and provides the experience and veteran presence the team didn't have with two young guns in Griffin and Cousins atop the depth chart. McCoy isn't a player you want starting for 16 games, but in a two- or three-game situation, he could keep the offense afloat.
2. Denver Broncos
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Peyton Manning; 2. Brock Osweiler; 3. Zac Dysert
The Denver Broncos have a depth chart featuring an elite, aging quarterback, but general manager John Elway has also set the team up for the future by adding young passers to develop. That's why Denver comes in at No. 2 overall.
Peyton Manning is a 10 on a 10-point scale at quarterback, and his presence alone brings huge value and credibility on this list. Manning, at age 38, is still one of the NFL's best. He proved that with a record-setting 2013 season. While his Super Bowl performance wasn't great, he shouldn't be doubted now that he has critics to silence in 2014.
Behind Manning, Elway has readied his team for the inevitable future. Brock Osweiler was a second-round pick in 2012 as an insurance policy in case Manning's neck and arm didn't hold up post-surgery. He was also added as the future of the position for the team once Manning is done playing. As a second-round pick, Osweiler is only under contract for the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons, so the team needs to see live reps from him soon to determine his potential.
Zac Dysert was a seventh-round add in 2013 but was at one time viewed as a much better prospect before a so-so Senior Bowl performance hurt his draft stock. He's a very good developmental project, and working under the Broncos staff, he could become either a future starter or good No. 2 option.
1. New England Patriots
Projected Depth Chart: 1. Tom Brady; 2. Ryan Mallett; 3. Jimmy Garoppolo (rookie)
No team in the NFL has a better situation at quarterback than the New England Patriots. With Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett and now Jimmy Garoppolo, Bill Belichick's quarterback depth chart is the envy of the NFL. Why?
Brady, even at 37 years old as the 2014 season begins, is still one of the NFL's best quarterbacks. Yes, his 2013 season was a down year for him, but he was also without Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski for much of the year. Not even Peyton Manning could make Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins look like No. 1 wide receivers.
Don't bet against Brady in 2014. I'm not.
Behind the legend, the Patriots are in great shape. Ryan Mallett is under contract for one more season and has the experience and knowledge of the playbook to step in if needed. The question with Mallett is what he could do in that time, as he's only taken limited snaps (eight passes) in three seasons. The potential was there when he left Arkansas, though, and Mallett has upside.
New England drafted Garoppolo to be the future of the franchise if Brady decides to retire in the next four seasons—the length of a rookie contract for a second-round pick. The Eastern Illinois passer doesn't have Brady's stature or pocket presence, but he has a live arm and a quick, snappy release on top of good mobility. Garoppolo won't be forced into action, but he was a great value and a big talent to find at the end of Round 2.