Although it by no means guarantees success, quarterbacks blessed with abnormally strong arms are coveted by offensive coordinators and most of all scouts. Teams love to be able to call every route in the playbook, and with any of these quarterbacks, there will never be an issue with ball velocity or underthrowing the receiver.
In the history of the league, everybody can remember names like Brett Favre and John Elway. These quarterbacks made their names with their rocket passes and deep balls. However, there have been even more players like Derek Anderson and the infamous JaMarcus Russell, who could heave the pigskin a mile but struggled with other aspects of their trade, like reading coverages and passing with great accuracy and touch.
A disclaimer for this article is that my rankings are more or less totally subjective. There has never been a speed radar in the NFL, and when it comes down to it the difference between the strongest arms in the NFL is a couple of yards. If you disagree with the list or can think of anyone I forgot to mention, please inform me of that in the comments section.
Coming in at No. 5 is the young gunslinger from the Ravens. Although his receiving corps has a distinct lack of speed, Flacco has one of the strongest arms in the league. He has great throw velocity on intermediate routes and was disappointed with a throw of 74 yards in the quarterback challenge when coming out of Delaware in 2008.
Big Joe has the prototypical frame for a big-armed quarterback. His 6'6" frame and long arms allows him to get a lot of leverage on his throws.
This is also the reason why he drops to fifth on the list. He throws a hard ball that can fly almost a whole football field but relies on his levers to create it. This makes his action slower than those higher up this list and gives him a slower pass on short routes where he cannot wind up as much.
Flacco is often forgotten on lists such as this because he does not throw many deep passes. However, his team drafted wide receiver Torrey Smith in the second round this year, and his speed and skills should help open up the Ravens passing game vertically. I expect big things from Flacco and his offense in 2011.
Freeman is another young quarterback who can throw laser passes. Like Flacco, he stands 6'6" and fills his frame out completely. While he struggled in his rookie season, with the addition of some quality young wide receivers in 2010, he showed how well he could throw the football.
Freeman has amazing strength in his arms, which allows him to throw the ball deep downfield even when off balance or on the run escaping pressure. He puts a great deal of spin and zip on the ball too and throws with great velocity.
Josh has certainly proved his critics wrong. Coming into the 2009 NFL draft, Freeman was touted as a second- or third-round pick with a very strong arm but questionable instincts and touch. In fact, his scouting report read in a similar way to Ryan Mallett this year.
Like Mallett, Freeman was expected to have to sit for a few years to be able to deal with the pro game. However, he has blossomed very quickly in the NFL and is the best young quarterback in the league.
Freeman drops to fourth because of his deep lofted passes. While they still can travel 60 yards, they are not as fast nor travel as far as those of the top three quarterbacks on this list. Nevertheless, he is second to none passing intermediate routes.
Michael Vick's forte: Passing on the run
Unlike the previous two quarterbacks on this list, Vick is not a towering presence under centre. Just as his running ability completely broke from tradition at the position, his throwing power is surprising for such a short quarterback.
Rather than creating his power from long levers, he has a short and smooth action that relies on his quick twitch muscle and athleticism to throw as well as he does.
Vick, like Freeman, throws laser-like bullets as well as anyone, but while he can throw a better bomb than Freeman, he still loses some velocity and distance to the top two on this list. While saying this, his deep ball is still very good.
For those needing any convincing, take a look at Vick's first pass of the game on Monday Night Football against the Redskins. It travelled about 60 yards in the air to set up DeSean Jackson's 88-yard touchdown.
It is very possible that if this list was being done in 2001, when Vick was a fresh rookie, he would be first or second on this list. Age has taken away a bit of his zip, but he can still launch a football with the best.
Cutler has one of the strongest arms ever, and most years he would be the strongest-armed quarterback of the NFL. He can throw bullet passes on short and intermediate routes and has the arm strength to launch deep passes off balance or on the run.
His throwing power comes more from arm strength than technique, and this is shown by his ability to throw a football 65 yards while kneeling down. However, he is not able to step this up a lot more when throwing in a throwing standing stance. This ultimately is what drops him to second.
In all, it is really a travesty that he plays for a Mike Martz offense. Cutler is not his prototypical quarterback, who needs to be very accurate, have great anticipation and be fearless in the pocket. Cutler is better suited to a run-based offense like at Baltimore, Kansas City, Denver or San Diego. These offenses take deep shots downfield and prefer quarterbacks who can stretch the field, like Cutler.
Here he is: the once in a generation arm that pushes Jay Cutler out of first place. This may be influenced by my love of the Lions, and a fan of the Eagles would probably place Vick first, just as a Bears fan would give this caveat to Cutler. However, I do not think that this is a ridiculous decision to give this title to Stafford.
Unlike Cutler, Stafford has not been recorded to have thrown a football 60 yards from his knees. This may be because he has not tried this yet, but the point is that when in a playing stance, no one can throw the ball better than Stafford.
He throws with a tight spiral, has a powerful arm when his shoulder is healthy and has a perfect technique that allows him to get the most out of his action. He can throw intermediate routes with great velocity and can also throw deep with power off balance.
For proof of this, look for his performance against the Cleveland Browns in his rookie season. He threw the ball more than 50 yards while taking a hit to his shoulder.
In 2011, I am sure that Stafford will prove me right with a full season and a bevy of deep threats in the passing game.