NFL: Tom Brady and the Top 50 Quarterbacks of 2011

Daniel WeissContributor IIIJune 26, 2011

NFL: Tom Brady and the Top 50 Quarterbacks of 2011

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    Patriots quarterback Tom BradyJim McIsaac/Getty Images

    In the National Football League, the quarterback is perhaps the most important position on the field. He is responsible for everything from reading defensive coverages to being the vocal leader.

    This list considers all the skills a quarterback needs to be successful in the NFL. These include, but are not limited to, arm strength, accuracy, athleticism, speed, intelligence, awareness and leadership. The list also considers how a young quarterback finished the 2010 season.

    History has shown that an elite quarterback is a necessity to a team being successful in the NFL. Without further ado, here is the list of the top 50 quarterbacks in the NFL for the 2011-2012 season.

50-41: Career Backups

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    Backup Cowboys Quarterback Jon KitnaChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    These are quarterbacks who are career backups. They won't lead a team to a Super Bowl, but they are more than serviceable as plug-ins.

     

    50: Bruce Gradkowski

    Gradkowski has been solid when given an opportunity to compete for the Oakland Raiders. Last season he played in six games, throwing five touchdowns and seven interceptions. He is a serviceable quarterback at best, but always gives it his all.

     

    49: Dennis Dixon

     Dixon is a quality football player who has done pretty well when given playing time.

    The Oregon product may be best remembered for giving a valiant effort in his first career start on Monday Night Football against Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens. Although the Steelers lost the game in overtime, Dixon threw a touchdown and ran for 27 yards to prove he deserved a place in this league.

     

    48: Jon Kitna

    The former Bengals and Lions starting quarterback has relished as a backup to Tony Romo in Dallas.

    Kitna played in 10 games last season as a result of Romo's season-ending fractured clavicle. Amidst the Cowboys' 1-5 start, little was expected of Kitna. Although he didn't lead them to the playoffs, Kitna went 4-6 down the stretch to give his team some momentum going in to the 2011-2012 season.

    Although Kitna is getting up there in age, he is a serviceable backup whose a valuable commodity on a NFL roster.

     

    47: Kerry Collins

    The Penn State great had a masterful season for the Tennessee Titans in 2008. Collins led the Titans to a 13-3 record that was tops in the AFC. The 38-year-old will now be looked to groom rookie quarterback Jake Locker.

    Update I: Kerry Collins has retired from the Titans.

    Update II: Amid the questions of whether Peyton Manning will be healthy week one, the Colts have signed Collins.

     

    46: Marc Bulger

    Bulger has had quite a career; drafted in the sixth round by the Carolina Panthers, he went from being on the St. Louis Rams' practice squad to being a two-time Pro-Bowler.

    Bulger threw 122 touchdowns and 93 interceptions in eight memorable seasons with the Rams. Although the 34-year-old is past his prime, Bulger has made himself into a satisfactory backup for the Baltimore Ravens.

     

    45: Shaun Hill

    Hill has been one of the best back-up quarterbacks over the past five seasons.

    He began his career with the Minnesota Vikings, but received no playing time. In 2006, Hill signed with the 49ers, and after two years of backing up Trent Dilfer and Alex Smith, Hill was named the starter on Monday Night Football against the Arizona Cardinals. He played well, narrowly losing to the highly-favored Cardinals, 29-24.

    Hill was traded to the Lions for a 2011 seventh round pick and replaced injured starter Matthew Stafford. Over his career, Hill has amassed 39 touchdowns and 23 interceptions.

     

    44: Jimmy Clausen

    Clausen's rookie campaign showed why he was passed by 32 teams in the first round of the NFL Draft.

    The Notre Dame product was mediocre at best, and his stat-line does little to help his cause. Clausen racked up a measly three touchdowns, nine interceptions and had a horrendous 58.3 passer rating.

    The Panthers showed their lack of trust in him by taking Auburn quarterback Cam Newton with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 Draft. It looks like Clausen will either be traded or serve as a backup to Newton in Carolina.

     

    43: Charlie Whitehurst

    A bit of an unknown commodity coming into the season, Whitehurst was thrown to the wolves for his second career start in a Sunday night contest between the Seahawks and the Rams; the winner would move on to the playoffs.

    Whitehurst led the Seahawks to a 16-6 victory over the Rams for their first playoff appearance in three years. It looks like Whitehurst may become the permanent starting quarterback if Matt Hasselbeck is not re-signed.

     

    42: Matt Flynn

    Under the tutelage of Aaron Rodgers, this national champion from LSU has grown into a quality backup quarterback.

    Flynn got his first start against the New England Patriots when Rodgers was not cleared to play as a result of a concussion. He did a wonderful job for the depleted Packers and almost led them to victory.

    Although the Packers lost the game 31-27, Flynn's performance opened the eyes of the Packer faithful and assured them they are two quarterbacks deep.

     

    41: Alex Smith

    There's no better way of saying it, but the former No. 1 overall pick out of Utah has been nothing more than a bust.

    Smith has been lukewarm in his five seasons as the signal-caller for the 49ers, compiling 51 touchdowns, 53 interceptions and a 72.1 passer rating.

    The 49ers seemed to have moved on to a new era by selecting Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the third round of the draft. It's sad to say, but it looks like the former Utah product is nothing more than a backup in the NFL.

40: Byron Leftwich

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Byron Leftwich has been put in some difficult situations throughout his career.

    Drafted by the Jaguars with the seventh pick of the 2003 NFL Draft, Leftwich was expected to resurrect a struggling franchise. He played relatively well in nine games during his rookie campaign, compiling a 3:1 touchdown to interception ratio.

    But after seasons as the Jags' signal-caller, head coach Jack Del Rio decided it was best to cut the former first-round pick and start backup David Garrard. Leftwich had played inconsistently in those three seasons and also experienced a number of nagging injuries.

    Leftwich was then picked up by the Atlanta Falcons, who were in shambles after star quarterback Michael Vick was convicted of dog fighting. Leftwich did his best to aid the falling Falcons, but this was well near impossible given the circumstances.

    He has since played for the Buccaneers and most recently the Steelers. Leftwich has played well when backing up Ben Roethlisberger.

    Leftwich is known around the league as a fiery competitor who will do anything it takes to win. Today, he is probably a backup, but he can definitely still make plays.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 1 game played
    • 42 yards
    • 0 passing touchdowns
    • 0 interceptions
    • 71.4 completion percentage
    • 86.6 passer rating

39: Colin Kaepernick

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Drafted in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Colin Kaepernick has become the face of the future in San Francisco.

    The Nevada product has great physical tools, as he is listed at 6'5", 233 lbs. and ran a 4.53 40-yard dash at the combine. Kaepernick possesses solid arm strength and made good decisions with the ball in his hands throughout college.

    The one question is whether or not he can adjust to a pro-style offense; running the Pistol formation at Nevada, it may take Kaepernick awhile to adjust.

    No one can argue though that Kaepernick is a winner and he will try to compete for the starting job from day one.

38: Troy Smith

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The former Heisman Trophy winner out of Ohio State has surprised many in his short career.

    In 2010, Smith was first given an opportunity to start for the 49ers when Alex Smith went down with a fractured finger. Troy played well in his debut, leading the Niners to a 24-16 victory over the Broncos. He went 12-of-19 and added both a running and passing touchdown; Sports Illustrated named him NFC Player of the Week for his quality play.

    Smith continued to excel in 2010 and led the Niners to a 3-1 record as starting quarterback. Look for the Ohio State product to continue to produce for the Niners in the future and fight off rookie Colin Kaepernick for the starting quarterback job.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 6 games started
    • 1,176 yards
    • 5 passing touchdowns
    • 4 interceptions
    • 50.3 completion percentage
    • 77.8 passer rating

    Update:

    Smith was not resigned by the 49ers and is currently a free agent.

37: Tarvaris Jackson

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Tarvaris Jackson has been a solid game manger for the Minnesota Vikings since being selected in the second round of the 2006 Draft.

    Jackson is a versatile quarterback who can both run and throw for big gains. While his time with the Vikings didn't materialize as some may have expected (thanks in part to Brett Favre), Jackson showed signs of promise when given the opportunity to compete.

    Although Jackson may be inconsistent at times, when you combine his average arm with his above-average legs, you have a quarterback who has a future in this league.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 3 games played
    • 341 yards
    • 3 passing touchdowns
    • 4 interceptions
    • 58.6 completion percentage
    • 63.9 passer rating

    Update:

    Jackson signed a two year, $8 million contract to be the starting quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks.

36: Rex Grossman

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    'Skins fans may not be happy about it, but it looks like "Sexy Rexy" will be Washington's starting quarterback once the lockout ends. His gunslinger attitude can be a double-edged sword at times, as he is inconsistent (to say the least) and can be quite erratic with his decision-making. In his career, he has thrown an even 40 touchdowns and 40 interceptions.

    Although Grossman has been wildly inconsistent (and I do mean wildly), no one can deny the fact that he can lead a team to a Super Bowl. In 2006, Grossman had a terrific postseason, leading the Bears to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1985. Even though Chicago fell short, losing to the Colts 29-17, Grossman showed he could manage a team in pressure-filled situations.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 3 games started
    • 884 yards
    • 7 passing touchdowns
    • 4 interceptions
    • 55.6 completion percentage
    • 81.2 passer rating

35: Tim Tebow

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Many questioned the Broncos trading up to select Tim Tebow in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

    Scouts said he would never be a quarterback, they should have gone with Jimmy Clausen and Tebow's arm motion was too long.

    Tim Tebow has proven the skeptics wrong and had a strong first season with the Denver Broncos. His competitiveness is unmatched, and the Broncos were able to use his unique abilities on the field to produce touchdowns.

    Tebow is unlike any quarterback in the league right now. He is built like a horse and would rather run over someone than go in for a slide. The Broncos could have tried to dissuade Tebow from playing with reckless abandonment like he did in college, but give the Broncos credit for allowing Tebow to do what he does best. 

    Although he only started three games his rookie season, Tebow was productive, throwing five touchdowns and three interceptions. He also would come in for short yardage packages and added six rushing touchdowns through these short-yardage running formations.

    For Tebow to make the next step, he needs to improve his 50 percent completion and cut down on his interceptions. Tebow is simply a winner, and nothing with him would be surprising; he goes out and competes at the highest level, regardless of what the skeptics say.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 3 games started
    • 654 yards passing
    • 5 passing touchdowns
    • 3 interceptions
    • 50 completion percentage
    • 82.1 passer rating
    • 227 yards rushing
    • 6 rushing touchdowns

    Update: The Broncos named Kyle Orton the starting quarterback and Tebow will be competing for the backup job in Denver.

34: Jason Campbell

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    Tim Umphrey/Getty Images

    Jason Campbell has been put in some difficult situations, but it seems he has finally found a home with the Oakland Raiders. Drafted in the first round by the Washington Redskins in 2005, Campbell never seemed to gel with the 'Skins and had a rocky relationship with former head coach Jim Zorn.

    After the 'Skins finished the 2009 season with a franchise-worst 4-12 record, there was little chance Campbell would return to the red and gold. It made matters worse when it was highly publicized that the Redskins were pursuing alternatives at the quarterback position.

    Campbell was finally traded in the offseason to the Raiders. Although he lost his starting spot in Week 2 to Bruce Gradowski, Campbell returned to start following a Gradowski injury. Campbell is an underappreciated quarterback in the league, and he has been put in some difficult situations, but has been a class-act through all of it.

    Campbell has found a niche with the Raiders and will be a major part of their progression from the basement to the top of the NFL.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 12 games started
    • 2,387 yards
    • 13 passing touchdowns
    • 8 interceptions
    • 59 completion percentage
    • 84.5 passer rating

33: David Garrard

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Having come into the league as a backup to Byron Leftwich in Jacksonville, David Garrard has matured into a solid starting quarterback. He has above-average speed and makes good throws while out of the pocket.

    Garrard also does a good job of putting the ball in running back Maurice Jones-Drew's hands, as well as taking advantage of screens and dump-offs.

    Garrard has also done well given the fact that he has never had a big-play receiver. He is a great game manager who will not win a game for you, but will certainly not lose it either.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 14 games started
    • 2,734 yards
    • 23 passing touchdowns
    • 15 interceptions
    • 64.5 completion percentage
    • 90.8 passer rating
    • 5 rushing touchdowns

32: Blaine Gabbert

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    The Jacksonville Jaguars were so impressed with Blaine Gabbert, they traded up to the 10th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft to select him.

    Gabbert possesses great arm strength and put up a comparable 40-yard dash time to fellow QB Cam Newton.

    The questions with Gabbert is whether or not he can adjust to a pro-style offense. He worked exclusively out of the shotgun formation at Missouri, so for him to succeed in the NFL, he will need to learn to work from under center. He will also need to improve his decision-making and cut down on interceptions.

    The Jaguars believe they have found their quarterback of the future in Gabbert and believe he will make a great tandem with running back Maurice Jones-Drew.

31: Chad Henne

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Drafted in the second round of the 2008 Draft by Bill Parcels, Chad Henne was on the fast track to becoming the next great Dolphins' quarterback since Dan Marino.

    In his second season, Henne played relatively well, leading the Dolphins to a 7-9 record and third-place finish in the AFC East. It was a solid sophomore campaign for Henne, who was expected to make an even greater leap in his third season. This did not transpire though, as Henne's interceptions went up from 14 to 19.

    Although Henne did not make the jump many people anticipated, he is still the starting quarterback and leading offseason conditioning workouts.

    This is a make-or-break season for Henne and the Dolphins; if they fail to make the playoffs in 2011, look for Henne and the Dolphins to move in a separate direction.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 14 games started
    • 3,301 yards
    • 15 passing touchdowns
    • 19 interceptions
    • 61.4 completion percentage
    • 75.4 passer rating

30: Andy Dalton

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Drafted in the second round out of TCU by the Cincinnati Bengals, Andy Dalton is primed for success.

    Dalton has the second-most wins for a quarterback in college football history, and he also makes quality decisions with the ball in his hands.

    There have been many questions though about his arm strength; the ball seems to lack the pop other top quarterbacks get when they throw the ball.

    Dalton will have some great talents around him who will help ease him into his new role as a quarterback in the NFL. Having A.J. Green going long and Jordan Shipley underneath will certainly make life easier for the former Horned Frog.

    Update:

    Since Carson Palmer has refused to come to Bengals' camp, Dalton will likely be the opening week starter.

29: Carson Palmer

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The former No. 1 overall pick had quite a career, but it seems it is dwindling to an end.

    Palmer has requested a trade from the Bengals, the team that drafted him; he has said if they don't trade him, he will retire.

    Palmer was an extremely talented quarterback before suffering a brutal injury in a divisional playoff game against the Steelers. Since the injury, Palmer has lacked throwing power and mobility. If he is traded, he should be an asset as a mentor to a younger quarterback.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 16 games started
    • 3,970 yards
    • 26 touchdowns
    • 20 interceptions
    • 61.8 completion percentage
    • 82.4 passer rating

    Update:

    Bengals' president Mike Brown has refused Palmer's demands to be traded so at this point, Palmer is retired.


28: Christian Ponder

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    One of the biggest surprises of the 2011 NFL Draft was the Minnesota Vikings' selection of Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder with the 10th pick; many experts projected Ponder to still be available in the second round.

    This selection was interesting to say the least, but Ponder should be successful in the Purple and Gold. He has a lot of talented pieces around him, including All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson and wide receiver Percy Harvin.

    The Vikings also used their second-round pick to select Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph. This was an extremely important pick for the Vikings because Rudolph will give Ponder easy completions and alleviate some of the pressure the QB will be under.

    Ponder is a mobile quarterback with good arm strength and a natural leader. He should see significant playing time as a rookie and could quite possibly start Week 1 for Minnesota.

    Update:

    Veteran Donovan McNabb will start for the Vikings week one.

27: Jake Locker

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    Ed Szczepanski/Getty Images

    Had Jake Locker declared for the draft a year earlier, he would have most likely been the first overall pick in the draft.

    Locker instead stayed his senior season and had a subpar season, ultimately falling to the eighth pick in the draft. After a tumultuous season in Washington, Locker was able to overcome adversity to lead the Huskies to a 19-7 win in the Holiday Bowl.

    Locker has all the physical tools; he has a cannon for an arm and is one of the faster quarterbacks in the league.

    The problem with Locker though is his decision-making. Too many times in college did Locker force balls into small windows or double coverage. For Locker to make it in the league, he has to make good decisions.

    It will certainly help Locker that he was selected by the Tennessee Titans, as he will be joining a team with an established group of veterans and one of the most versatile players in the NFL in Chris Johnson.

    Locker may not play this season, but he has a bright future in Tennessee.

26: Matt Hasselbeck

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    After Charlie Whitehurst led the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks to a postseason matchup against the New Orleans Saints, one would have thought Hasselbeck's career was seemingly over.

    Well, guess again.

    Hasselbeck led the Seahawks to an improbable 41-36 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Saints despite being 11-point underdogs. He played one of his best games in recent memory, throwing 272 yards and a playoff franchise-record four touchdowns.

    The 35 year-old quarterback seems ageless. Although Hasselbeck is currently a free agent, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll called it his "No. 1 offseason priority" to re-sign the QB.

    It looks like Hasselbeck is going to give it another go with the Seahawks this coming season.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 14 games started
    • 3,001 yards
    • 12 touchdowns
    • 17 interceptions
    • 59.9 completion percentage
    • 73.2 passer rating

    Update:

    Hasselbeck signed a three year, $21 million contract to be the starting quarterback of the Tennessee Titans. He will presumably help groom Titans' first round pick Jake Locker until he is ready to take over the reigns and start.

25: Vince Young

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Since being selected with the third overall pick of 2006 NFL Draft, Vince Young has been wildly inconsistent. Nevertheless, he possesses an incredible frame at 6'5" and 235 lbs. with a strong arm and great speed.

    Simply put, "VY" is one of the best athletes in the NFL.

    There are times when Young will complete impressive passes through tiny windows, and there will be other times when the Longhorn product cannot hit the broadside of a barn.

    Despite Young's physical tools, his main issue is his lack of maturity. Young has had a couple run-ins with the police and a heated public battle with former Titans head coach Jeff Fisher.

    Nonetheless, Young can win football games. Since being drafted, he has won 64 percent of his games started, which puts him in rare company with some of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.

    Titans owner Bud Adams said Young will not be returning as the starting quarterback next season. He would be a perfect fit to play under a cagey veteran who can teach him about the nuances of being a professional quarterback both on and off the field.

    At only 28 years old, Young has time to rewrite his career.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 9 games started
    • 1,255 yards passing
    • 10 passing touchdowns
    • 3 interceptions
    • 59.6 completion percentage
    • 98.6 passer rating
    • 125 yards rushing

    Update:

    Young has signed a one year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles that could be worth as much as $5.5 million. Young gives the Eagles a quality insurance piece if Vick gets hurt. With the assistance of Andy Reid, Young is presumably looking to resurrect his career in a similar way that Vick did with Eagles.

24: Cam Newton

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, a lot will be expected of Cam Newton in Carolina.

    The Auburn product has an incredible frame that makes him look more like a tight end than a quarterback; Newton is listed at 6'5", 248 lbs. and ran a 4.56 40-yard dash at the combine.

    He was extremely productive in his one season at Auburn, winning the National Championship and the Heisman Trophy.

    Despite his productiveness though, Newton comes with many questions.

    His run-in with the police over an apparent stolen laptop led Newton to transfer from the University of Florida. He has also been questioned about a pay-to-play scheme that would have inhibited his eligibility at Auburn.

    There have also been questions about his demeanor, most recently in a Sports Illustrated interview where Newton referred to himself as an "icon."

    It's not just off-the-field questions that are swirling around Newton either; he played in a hurry-up spread offense at Auburn and will need to adjust to the NFL game.

    Nonetheless, Newton is a great competitor and one of the best athletes to play the quarterback position in recent memory. It may take time, but he will become one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.

    Update:

    Newton will most likely be named the starter over Jimmy Clausen but Panthers' coach Ron Rivera is yet to officially announce a starter in Carolina.

23: Colt McCoy

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The Browns had a great 2010 NFL Draft, as they addressed their need at secondary in the first two rounds with defensive backs Joe Haden and T.J. Ward.

    Then in the third round, they took the face of their franchise, Colt McCoy.

    McCoy proved skeptics wrong by showing patience in the pocket and extending plays for big gains. There was still quite a learning curve for him, as he threw only six touchdowns in eight games.

    McCoy is a natural leader and will continue to develop into a quality starter. A few years from now, he may be remembered as the best quarterback of the 2010 NFL Draft class.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 8 games started
    • 1,576 yards
    • 6 passing touchdowns
    • 9 interceptions
    • 60.8 completion percentage
    • 74.5 passer rating
    • 1 rushing touchdown

22: Donovan McNabb

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    There's no better way of saying it other than Donovan McNabb had the worst season of his Hall of Fame career in 2010.

    McNabb went down considerably in every statistical category and seemed out of sync with his new teammates in Washington.

    Even though he struggled, it should still be noted that he was voted the 100th best player by his fellow players in an NFL poll.

    Regardless, there stands little chance McNabb will return to the Redskins this coming season. There will be many teams that will be interested in acquiring his services. Although McNabb is getting older, he still makes plays and puts his team in position to win games.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 13 games started
    • 3,377 yards
    • 14 passing touchdowns
    • 15 interceptions
    • 58.3 completion percentage
    • 77.1 passer rating

    Update:

    McNabb was traded from the Washington Redskins to the Minnesota Vikings for a sixth round pick in 2012 and a conditional sixth round pick in 2013. McNabb also agreed to restructure his contract with the Vikings.

21: Ryan Fitzpatrick

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    The Harvard graduate put up some great numbers last season for a horrendous Buffalo Bills team.

    Fitzpatrick is an athletic quarterback who makes plays both with his arm and his feet. He put up career bests across the board, throwing for 23 touchdowns with only 15 interceptions and posting 81.8 passer rating.

    The Bills showed faith in Fitzpatrick by not selecting another quarterback in the 2011 NFL Draft. Much of the future of the Bills rests on the shoulders of the Harvard product, and he is ready to produce.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 13 games started
    • 3,000 yards
    • 23 passing touchdowns
    • 15 interceptions
    • 57.8 completion percentage
    • 81.8 passer rating

20: Matthew Stafford

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    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    The former No. 1 overall pick out of the University of Georgia has so far has been plagued by injuries and inconsistent play.

    But the fact of the matter is that Matthew Stafford is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL, and he should come back from injury to be what the Lions thought they were getting when they selected him in 2009.

    Stafford has arguably the strongest arm in the NFL, which he uses to get the ball through tight windows only the all-time greats would consider an option.

    When Stafford is not accurate though, the Lions are looking at a quick three-and-out.

    It helps Stafford to have one of the most talented receivers in the NFL in Calvin Johnson. But like Stafford, Johnson has had injury-plagued seasons that have hurt their chemistry.

    If Stafford can get back on course, he should be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and the Lions will go as far as Stafford can take them. With the best defensive line in football and a top-flight wide receiver, the Lions are ready for the playoffs.

    The only thing holding them back is the progression of Stafford.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 3 games started
    • 535 yards
    • 6 touchdowns
    • 1 interception
    • 59.4 completion percentage
    • 91.3 passer rating

19: Kevin Kolb

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    There are many questions that still need to be answered with Kevin Kolb.

    Because of the emergence of Michael Vick, the Eagles will have the option to trade Kolb once the lockout is lifted.

    There will be many teams interested in his services.

    Kolb is a solid quarterback who is extremely accurate on short-to-intermediate passes. Although he doesn't have the strongest arm in the league, he can still make all the necessary throws to move the chains.

    Kolb is still a bit of an unknown though. The Eagles made a huge statement when initially naming him the starting quarterback and trading Donovan McNabb, but he has not had much action on the field in his career.

    Any team interested in acquiring Kolb should be skeptical, as he has had little playing time in his five-year career. It will be extremely important for Kolb to have quality supporting players around him to relieve the burden of being a starting quarterback. A team like the Arizona Cardinals, who have one of the best receivers in the league in Larry Fitzgerald, would be a perfect fit for Kolb.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 5 games started
    • 1,197 yards
    • 7 touchdowns
    • 7 interceptions
    • 60.8 completion percentage
    • 76.1 passer rating

    Update:

    The Philadelphia Eagles traded Kolb to the Arizona Cardinals for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and second round pick in 2012. Kolb signed an extension with the Cardinals for six years, $65 million with $21.5 million guaranteed.

18: Kyle Orton

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Kyle Orton has had a difficult career. He was the starting quarterback with the Chicago Bears, then was abruptly traded to the Denver Broncos in the Jay Cutler deal. Orton did a terrific job as the quarterback for the Broncos and showed steady improvement each season.

    Now it looks as though Orton will either be traded or named the backup to Tim Tebow in Denver.

    Through no fault of his own, Orton simply cannot catch a break. Over the past two seasons as the starting quarterback in Denver, he compiled 41 touchdowns and only 21 interceptions with a 60 percent passer rating.

    Orton is a quality starting quarterback in the league who is underappreciated. Many teams will be interested in trading for him once the lockout ends.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 13 games started
    • 3,653 yards
    • 20 passing touchdowns
    • 9 interceptions
    • 58.8 completion percentage
    • 87.5 passer rating

    Update:

    Kyle Orton was not traded like many expected and has been named the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos.

17: Matt Schaub

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Since being traded from the Atlanta Falcons to the Houston Texans, Matt Schaub has been one of the most productive quarterbacks in the NFL.

    Schaub is a pocket passer who should continue to improve with the emergence of Arian Foster in the running game. Foster will put more defensive players in the box and give All-Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson some potential one-on-one's down the field.

    Schaub took a small step back from his career year in 2009, but he is still one of the the most efficient quarterbacks in the NFL.

    The next step for Schaub and the Texans is to reach the playoffs, which has never been done in the franchise's short history. Houston is poised for a strong year in 2011, and their success rests on the shoulders of their quarterback.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 16 games started
    • 4,370 yards
    • 24 passing touchdowns
    • 12 interceptions
    • 63.6 completion percentage
    • 92.0 passer rating

16: Matt Cassel

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Matt Cassel has gone from no-name backup to Tom Brady in New England to one of the best starting quarterbacks in the AFC.

    Cassel improved tremendously from his 2009 campaign. In 2010, he had 10 more touchdowns and cut his interception total down by more than half. His passer rating also improved from 69.9 to 93.

    Cassel is one of the many reasons the Chiefs won their first division title in seven seasons. In 2010 the Chiefs had one of the best drafts in recent memory, selecting impact players like Eric Berry, Javier Arenas and Dexter McCluster.

    Cassel also found a receiver he could lean on in Dwayne Bowe, who had a Pro Bowl season for the Chiefs.

    With a slew of a talent, Kansas City is in no way a one-hit wonder. The Chiefs will be poised to take another step forward in the 2011-2012 season.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 15 games started
    • 3,116 yards
    • 27 passing touchdowns
    • 7 interceptions
    • 58.2 completion percentage
    • 93 passer rating

15: Sam Bradford

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    Sam Bradford had an excellent rookie campaign for the St. Louis Rams, leading them to a 7-9 record in 2010-2011, a six-win increase from the 2009 season.

    Bradford started all 16 games for the Rams, throwing 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He showed great chemistry with running back Steven Jackson, getting him the ball by utilizing screens and short routes.

    The selections of wide receivers Austin Pettis and Greg Salas in the third and fourth rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft will give Bradford more weapons in the passing game. Another huge acquisition that will benefit Bradford is the hiring of Josh McDaniels as the offensive coordinator. McDaniels, who played a huge role in the development of Matt Cassel in New England, will be looked at to take Bradford to the next level.

    The former Heisman Trophy winner out of Oklahoma played exceptionally well for a rookie quarterback. The Rams were a win short of reaching the playoffs in 2010 and will need Bradford to continue to improve at the quarterback position to take the next step in making the postseason.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 16 games started
    • 3,512 yards
    • 18 passing touchdowns
    • 15 interceptions
    • 60.0 completion percentage
    • 76.5 passer rating

14: Jay Cutler

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Since forcing a trade out of Denver, Jay Cutler has been one of the most polarizing quarterbacks in the NFL.

    Cutler's first season in Chicago was a forgettable one, as he threw for a woeful 26 interceptions. Reasons for the struggles could have been attributed to a running a new offense and struggling to become acclimated to his new teammates.

    Cutler's second season in Chicago was much improved, as he only threw 16 interceptions. He also played relatively well given the fact that he had arguably the worst offensive line in the NFL.

    Cutler has a laser for an arm, but can be wildly inconsistent when it comes to making the easy throws. He definitely has that gunslinger mentality, which makes him a high-risk, high-reward player.

    The Bears are a team that improved under Cutler in his sophomore campaign and look for them to contend for a Super Bowl going forward.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 15 games started
    • 3,274 yards
    • 23 touchdowns
    • 16 interceptions
    • 60.4 completion percentage
    • 86.3 passer rating

13: Mark Sanchez

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Mark Sanchez is as much a celebrity as a starting quarterback for the New York Jets.

    Since the Jets traded up to select Sanchez with the fifth pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, the "Sanchize" has been the talk of the Big Apple. His cameo on the HBO show Hard Knocks showed Sanchez as a jokester who still has room for improvement, especially with consistent play.

    He has shown he can lead a team to a Super Bowl, losing in the AFC Championship game in each of his first two seasons. The next step for Sanchez and the Jets though is to reach a Super Bowl, which hasn't happened since Joe Namath guaranteed a Super Bowl win in 1968.

    Sanchez has a tremendous supporting cast around him, both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. It will be important for the Jets to re-sign free agent wide receivers Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith to continue his progression. Jets fans should be happy to hear Holmes has already said he would give the Jets a hometown discount to re-sign him in New York.

    Look for the "Sanchize" to have a huge third season and lead the Jets to their first Super Bowl since 1968.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 16 games started
    • 3,291 yards
    • 17 passing touchdowns
    • 13 interceptions
    • 54.8 completion percentage
    • 75.3 passer rating

12: Tony Romo

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    Tony Romo had an injury-riddled 2010 campaign that forced him to miss 10 games for the Cowboys. Cowboys Stadium went silent when Romo was rolling on the turf after suffering a fractured clavicle.

    Despite Romo's injury in 2010, he has been a durable quarterback throughout his career. He is a mobile quarterback who does a good job of finding passing windows while on the run. The Cowboys used their first-round selection in the 2011 NFL Draft to take offensive tackle Tyron Smith out of Southern California; Smith will be looked at to step in immediately and protect Romo. He also has some of the most dynamic receivers in the NFL in Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten.

    Last season was more of a fluke than a sign of the future for the Cowboys. They were facing injuries across the board, and chemistry was a major problem, but look for Romo and the Cowboys to return to prominence after a forgettable 2010 season. They could potentially surprise some skeptics and make the playoffs.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 6 games started
    • 1,605 yards
    • 11 passing touchdowns
    • 7 interceptions
    • 69.5 completion percentage
    • 94.9 passer rating

11: Josh Freeman

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    Josh Freeman had an excellent second season for the Buccaneers, leading them to a 10-6 record that was the greatest single-season turnaround in franchise history.

    Listed at 6'6" and 248 lbs., Freeman is a physical, strong quarterback with a huge arm. His rookie season was forgettable, but his sophomore campaign made up for it; in his second season, Freeman threw for 3,451 yards, 25 touchdowns and six interceptions.

    Freeman was also a clutch performer, winning five games in the fourth quarter. He also played especially well, given the young receiving corps he was paired with.

    The Bucs will look to continue to improve the talent around Freeman and try make the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 16 games started
    • 3,451 yards
    • 25 passing touchdowns
    • 6 interceptions
    • 61.4 completion percentage
    • 95.9 passer rating

10. Joe Flacco

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    Joe Flacco was the second quarterback taken in the 2008 NFL Draft out of Delaware. He is another big, physical quarterback who is listed at 6'6". Flacco has one of the strongest arms in the league and can make throws from anywhere on the field.

    In 2010, the Baltimore Ravens evolved from a more of a run-first team to a pass-first team. Flacco has one of the best receiving corps in the league, which includes Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Donte Stallworth. He also has the benefit of utilizing do-it-all running back Ray Rice in short routes and screens.

    The Ravens have positioned themselves to contend for another Super Bowl in 2011. It seems like the years of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are winding down in Baltimore, so Flacco will need to step up his game for the Ravens to compete. The Baltimore defense will lean on Flacco to continue making strides into a top-flight NFL quarterback.

    The fans in Baltimore will certainly be "Wacko for Flacco." Look for the Ravens to make another deep run in the postseason.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 16 games started
    • 3,622 yards
    • 25 passing touchdowns
    • 10 interceptions
    • 62.6 completion percentage
    • 93.6 passer rating

9: Eli Manning

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    After an up-and-down start to his career in New York, Eli Manning has become a top-10 quarterback in the league.

    Eli will never be at the level of his older brother Peyton, but he is extremely gifted at the quarterback position. Eli showed there weren't just two great Manning's in the family (Peyton and father Archie), but three, when he knocked off the previously-undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

    Eli came into the league as a quiet quarterback who would lead by example, but has improved his vocal leadership over the years.

    If it weren't for a fluke loss to the Eagles in Week 14, the Giants would have made the playoffs over the Green Bay Packers last season. The Giants will bring back all their weapons from last year's team, including wide receivers Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Steve Smith. All three can stretch the field for Eli, and can make catches both underneath and with the deep ball.

    Eli will continue to be a consistent quarterback in 2011. He has shown over his career that he can be trusted in the big moments and pull the Giants to a victory. Look for the Giants to return to the postseason in 2011 with Eli at the helm of the offense.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 16 games started
    • 4,002 yards
    • 31 passing touchdowns
    • 25 interceptions
    • 62.9 completion percentage
    • 85.2 passer rating

8: Matt Ryan

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    Since being selected with the third overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons, Matt Ryan has resurrected the franchise and made them one of the best teams in the NFL.

    The Falcons needed a new face of the franchise following the imprisonment of star quarterback Michael Vick for dog fighting; Matt Ryan was that guy.

    It didn't take too long for Ryan to show what he was made of, throwing a 62-yard touchdown on his first professional pass. Since then, the Falcons have had winning seasons in each of Ryan's three years in the league.

    "Matty Ice" as he is called for staying cool under pressure, led the Falcons to a 13-3 record in 2010 and the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Although the Falcons were crushed by the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, it was certainly a season to remember in the Dirty South.

    Ryan has weapons to throw to all over the field, including Pro Bowlers Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and now Rookie of the Year favorite Julio Jones. The Dirty Birds also have Pro-Bowl running back Michael Turner to keep teams honest.

    The Falcons' offense is simply stacked for the 2011 season. "Matty Ice" will certainly benefit from one of the best offenses in the NFL.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 16 games started
    • 3,705 yards
    • 28 passing touchdowns
    • 9 interceptions
    • 62.5 completion percentage
    • 91 passer rating

7: Ben Roethlisberger

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    Ben Roethlisberger had an extremely difficult season off the field in 2010. He was accused of sexual assault and was suspended four games by commissioner Roger Goodell.

    This gave Roethlisberger the chance to take a step back and look at his career. Because of it, he became more of a leader in the Steelers' locker room.

    The physical tools of Roethlisberger have never been questioned. He is 6'5", 241 lbs. and a load to bring down. He has great arm strength and can still make big plays when the pocket breaks down.

    He has some great weapons to throw to in speedster Mike Wallace, Hines Ward and Heath Miller.

    Over the years, Roethlisberger has proven he is more than a great quarterback, but also a winner. He has played in three Super Bowls during his seemingly short career, winning two of them.

    Roethlisberger came back strong to have a great 2010 season after being suspended the first four games. The Steelers' defense is still one of the most feared in football. Combine that with the improved offense led by Roethlisberger, and one is looking at a team that is a favorite to return to the Super Bowl.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 12 games started
    • 3,200 yards
    • 17 passing touchdowns
    • 5 interceptions
    • 61.7 completion percentage
    • 97 passer rating
    • 2 rushing touchdowns

6: Michael Vick

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    Michael Vick had an incredible 2010 season for the Philadelphia Eagles.

    After missing two seasons for his role in a dog fighting scheme, Vick found homage with the Eagles. Despite missing two years, Vick showed he still had uncanny arm strength and was the fastest quarterback in the NFL.

    In 2010, he had one of the best statistical seasons of his career, throwing 21 touchdowns on only six interceptions. He also ran in nine touchdowns to lead all quarterbacks.

    Vick had a great crew of speedy receivers to throw the ball to, including Pro-Bowler DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. The Eagles had one of the most dynamic offenses in 2010.

    Despite what one's opinion may be of Vick, he is certainly one of the most exciting players in the NFL. His brand name will never be the same after being convicted of dog fighting, but he is still a great football player.

    Look for the Eagles to continue making strides in 2011. They are young and have incredible speed all over the field; don't be surprised if the Eagles soar to the Super Bowl.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 12 games started
    • 3,018 Yards
    • 21 passing touchdowns
    • 6 interceptions
    • 62.6 completion percentage
    • 100.2 passer rating
    • 676 yards rushing
    • 9 rushing touchdowns

5: Drew Brees

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    Drew Brees lifted the hearts of millions in New Orleans following the Saints' victory over the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.

    Brees is a slightly undersized quarterback with below-average arm strength, but he has uncanny accuracy. He does a great job of reading coverages and also knows how to extend plays.

    Brees is the engine that makes the Saints' tantalizing offense go. Because of him, the Saints' offense is one of the elite offenses in the league today.

    New Orleans features an abundance of pass-catchers, including Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore and Jimmy Graham. There are simply few offenses in the game today that can keep up with the Saints.

    The Saints were shocked in the 2010 playoffs by the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks. This was a huge blow to a team that had been given so much praise the previous season. Despite the lockout, Brees has been running something similar to training camp for Saints players, and this will certainly give them an advantage once the lockout is lifted.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 16 games played
    • 4,620 yards
    • 33 passing touchdowns
    • 22 interceptions
    • 68.1 completion percentage
    • 90.9 passer rating

4: Philip Rivers

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    Philip Rivers had a career year in 2010 with career highs in passing yards with 4,710 and touchdowns with 30.

    Since being selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft by the New York Giants (where he was traded to the San Diego Chargers), Rivers has been one of the top-flight, elite quarterbacks in the league.

    Rivers has a quick release and can make all of the needed throws. He also gets the ball out quickly when defenders blitz by finding the weak coverages in zone defenses. Rivers has been known around the league as a trash talker, but he can certainly back it up with his play on the field.

    Although Rivers had a career year in 2010, the Chargers failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2005. It is paramount for the Chargers to re-sign wide receiver Vincent Jackson. Jackson is a tall, lanky receiver who can snag balls out of the air with ease. He is a definite playmaker and a large part of Rivers' growth and development.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 16 games started
    • 4,710 yards
    • 30 passing touchdowns
    • 13 interceptions
    • 66.7 completion percentage
    • 101.8 passer rating

3: Peyton Manning

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    Peyton Manning is arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.

    He has played every game since being selected with the first overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts in 1998 and has made receivers like Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark into all-time greats.

    Manning does a great job of getting the ball out quickly with uncanny accuracy. His signature audibles at the line of scrimmage are what make him special though; he seems to know what the defense is going to do before he snaps the ball. Manning lacks straight-ahead speed, but has enough quickness to move up effectively in the pocket.

    His preparation and film study is unparalleled. Manning certainly has a future as a coach once his playing career ends.

    Despite a subpar 2010 season, it was still an excellent season for Manning by any measurement. The Colts have some excellent weapons for Manning to throw to, including Dallas Clark, Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie.

    Last season was disappointing for the Colts. Although they went 10-6, they lacked a running game which ultimately cost them in a loss to the Jets in the playoffs. If the Colts can get more production out of running backs Joseph Addai and Donald Brown, they will be a team to be reckoned with next season.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 16 games started
    • 4,700 yards
    • 33 passing touchdowns
    • 17 interceptions
    • 66.3 completion percentage
    • 91.9 passer rating

2: Aaron Rodgers

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    Aaron Rodgers had a season to remember in 2010, leading the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl championship over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rodgers had an incredible postseason, leading the Packers to victories over the NFC's top three seeds in consecutive weeks.

    With Rodgers at the helm, the Packers have a realistic chance to win every game. He has elite arm strength, but also has solid speed to move the chains and keep the defense honest. 

    Rodgers returns all of his weapons from last year's team, including receivers Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and James Jones. Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy do a great job of spreading out the defense with four and five wide receiver formations. This helps give Rodgers time to find openings in the defense and move the ball down the field.

    The Packers had an unimaginable amount of injuries last season. They lost starting running back Ryan Grant and tight end Jermichael Finley early in the season. Adding these weapons to a championship team will make Rodgers and the Packers that much more dangerous. Plus, the average age on the Packers last season was only 26 years old.

    The Cheeseheads will be doing a lot more celebrating in the coming years. They have an elite franchise quarterback who is only 27 and will continue to develop. The Packers are certainly one of the favorites to repeat in 2011.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 16 games started
    • 3,922 yards
    • 28  passing touchdowns
    • 11 interceptions
    • 65.7 completion percentage
    • 101.2 passer rating
    • 4 rushing touchdowns

1: Tom Brady

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    New England Patriots QB Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback in the NFL.

    Drafted in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft, Brady has been the greatest steal in NFL history. With four Super Bowl appearances and three Super Bowl victories later, Brady is not only the greatest quarterback in the NFL, but one of the greatest of all time.

    Brady has done incredible things with lackluster talent. Just think, he has made guys like Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead household names. Before joining New England, these guys were either cut or traded because no one thought they could succeed in the league.

    The success that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Brady have had can only be compared to Joe Montana and Bill Walsh with the 49ers.

    At 33 years old, Brady shows no signs of slowing down. He was never a great athlete, but he does a phenomenal job of getting the ball out quickly and making the right decisions. His preparation and leadership skills can only be rivaled by Peyton Manning. Brady has incredible poise in the pocket and seems to be two steps ahead of everyone else on the field.

    The Patriots have a solid talent pool returning for the 2011 season, but it doesn't really matter. If they have Brady at quarterback, they will have a chance to win every game they play.

     

    2010 NFL Stats

    • 16 games started
    • 3,900 yards
    • 36 passing touchdowns
    • 4 interceptions
    • 65.9 completion percentage
    • 110 passer rating