NFL Young Guns: Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco Lead New Group of Up-And-Coming Stars

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NFL Young Guns: Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco Lead New Group of Up-And-Coming Stars
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Beginning in 2008 with the selection of Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, the NFL has seen an influx of young quarterbacks who are setting the NFL landscape aflame with their gun-slinging and providing hope that, in a league where the passing game is taking precedence, there will be no shortage of high-quality quarterback play and parity in a league that prides itself on both.

This is a good thing because from 2005 until 2008 each successive draft produced bust after bust with Aaron Rodgers being the diamond in the rough.

In 2005, Alex Smith headlined a class that also included Aaron Rodgers and Jason Campbell. Smith has lost his job to Troy Smith, himself a fifth round pick in the 2007 draft and Campbell has a tenuous hold on the quarterback position with Bruce Gradkowski, a 2006 sixth round selection, in the rear-view mirror.

The lone standout of that class, and indeed of the quarterbacks taken in the early rounds from 2005, 2006 and 2007 drafts is Aaron Rodgers, a budding superstar and successor to Brett Favre in Green Bay.

In 2006, Vince Young, Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler were all selected to much fanfare at the front of the first round. Leinart has never amounted to more than a career backup, first for Kurt Warner and now for Matt Schaub.

And while Young and Cutler have shown flashes, Young is now out of favor in Tennessee and Cutler has been flailing in mediocrity in Chicago.

In 2007, the early-round quarterback bust trend hit critical mass when JaMarcus Russell, arguably one of the biggest busts of all time, was picked first overall. Several disappointing seasons and some "Purple Drank" later, and Russell is no longer in the NFL.

Russell's failures would have been enough, but this draft also saw Brady Quinn, John Beck and Drew Stanton, who are all backups for .500 or worse teams, selected in the first two rounds.

The only shot this Quarterback draft class has to be redeemed is by the play of Kevin Kolb, who is currently parked on the Eagles' bench behind Michael Vick.

Where was all the early-round quarterback talent? Were scouts just that inaccurate in their evaluations or were the grades curved due to a lull in NFL caliber talent at the position?

Whatever the case, that lull has seemingly came to an end starting in 2008 and leading up to draft day this April. Some of these guys might not ever amount to much, while others might be Super Bowl Champions one day.

Here are the young guns of the NFL that are making names for themselves each week or may be doing so soon.

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