NFL: Power Ranking the Arm Strength of All 32 Starting Quarterbacks
Arm strength isn't everything, but a quarterback who can sling the ball will usually be able to complete more "NFL throws" than a non-powerful signal-caller.
Having a gun opens up an offense the same way that having pinpoint accuracy does.
Here are the NFL's 32 starting quarterbacks, each of them ranked purely by their utilizable arm strength (i.e., just because Chad Henne can throw it 400 yards laying down, doesn't mean he's high on the list—he needs to complete the passes deep to be considered).
32. Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings' Christian Ponder may have the worst arm strength in the entire NFL.
It's certainly arguable, but a quarterback with smarts, deadly accuracy and pro-style experience wouldn't get a second- or even third-round grade if his arm strength was a joke.
Ponder will be successful, but don't look for the Vikings to be a vertical team for a while.
31. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
We'll assume that Dalton is the starter in Cincinnati, since the Carson Palmer situation is still unresolved—as such, Dalton falls next to last on this list.
Dalton has less-than-questionable arm strength and struggles to work the ball down the field past about 30 yards.
Dalton should be a successful quarterback in the NFL, but A.J. Green and the other Bengals wideouts shouldn't expect many deep passes.
30. Colt McCoy, Cleveland Browns
The fact remains that Colt McCoy is successful because he's a leader, a winner and an above-average accuracy passer.
However, when it comes to deep throws, McCoy shows his true weakness—the former Longhorn doesn't have arm strength.
Despite the pride of Texas, this young quarterback really doesn't have much of a gun.
29. Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers
Alex Smith has a bad reputation for being one of history's biggest busts after going first overall in the draft.
Smith has gotten ridicule for his seemingly small hands and incapability to lead. Another thing he can't do is throw the ball deep.
Unlike a certain draft bust from 2007, Smith has a noodle arm and gets by with the quick passing game.
28. Rex Grossman, Washington Redskins
Rex Grossman lacks the basic skills needed to play quarterback in the NFL, and arm strength happens to be one of those skills.
Grossman has a problem completing passes, whether they be deep or short. The quarterback has many inconsistencies that need work.
The former NFC Champion has one of the least powerful arms in the NFL.
27. Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs
Matt Cassel has been called a noodle-armed system quarterback, having success only because of the Patriot way.
The Chief knows how to win ballgames and protect the football, but his lack of arm strength severely limits the Kansas City offense.
Cassel can't sling the ball on par with many NFL quarterbacks, so he slides down the list.
26. Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks
It's tough to say what makes Matt Hasselbeck good at this point, but it's rather easy to rule out arm strength by now.
Hasselbeck is also a bit of a noodle arm and his success under Mike Holmgren led Holmgren to draft fellow noodle arm Colt McCoy.
The Seahawk quarterback gets it done, but not with his ability to gun the football.
25. Jason Campbell, Oakland Raiders
Jason Campbell gets a little bit of slack here, because every now and again he is able to lead the vertical Raider offense downfield.
However, the Oakland quarterback remains in the bottom quarter of NFL starters in arm strength with his inconsistent deep ball.
Campbell is spotty with his throwing power, while it is there, and he falls to 25th on this list.
24. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
Sam Bradford certainly has some arm strength, but it is not on par with the average NFL quarterback after his rookie year.
The Ram signal-caller had shoulder surgery coming out of college on an already somewhat weak throwing arm.
Bradford is no gunslinger, but he gets the job done with deadly accuracy and a knack for winning football games.
23. Chad Henne, Miami Dolphins
We are about to enter a very tough stretch when it comes to ranking these next guys.
Chad Henne falls to the bottom of what I call "Tier Three" of the four tiers of NFL quarterbacks in the arm strength food chain.
His inability to move the ball downfield puts him low on the list.
22. Eli Manning, New York Giants
Like I said in the Henne slide, this is where I have to be objective and focus solely on arm strength.
Manning has limited arm strength downfield, but he doesn't need to sling it for the Giants to succeed.
The quarterback has a Super Bowl ring and is definitely good, but his lack of big-time arm strength somewhat limits him.
21. Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos
This job is Kyle Orton's to lose, but I will proceed as though he is the Broncos starting quarterback.
Orton proved he has some arm strength when throwing the ball deep to Brandon Lloyd, but he still has relatively below-average arm strength.
This quarterback benefited greatly from Josh McDaniels' offensive play-calling, which masked his arm.
20. John Skelton, Arizona Cardinals
Contrary to popular belief, John Skelton can air the ball out very well—he might have above-average arm strength.
However, until he can complete the ball down the field, this Cardinal has some work to do to move up the list.
Skelton has good arm strength, but must first harness it.
19. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
Mark Sanchez isn't known for his arm strength, but here and there he can get the job done throwing the football deep.
Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes may make Sanchez look like a better deep passer than he actually is, but the Jet still manages to get an average ranking here.
The former Trojan can hit deep passes now and again, but it's not enough to move him up the list.
18. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
Jake Locker gets a little bit of slack for throwing into the Washington rain. Also, many people raved about how he could gun the ball when push came to shove.
Locker needs to be much more accurate, but he wasn't the eighth overall pick just because of his leadership and intangibles.
This quarterback has serious arm strength and already ranks ahead of some established NFL guys.
17. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills
Ryan Fitzpatrick grades out as dead-average in all categories for starting quarterbacks.
Arm strength is no different, as the Bills quarterback can hit deep passes through the snow and, at other times, not throw deep at all.
Fitzpatrick has good arm strength, but he needs to showcase it more to be higher on this list.
16. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
I see Matt Ryan as a very average quarterback when it comes to throwing power.
Some are better than him throwing downfield, and some are worse—Ryan falls right into the middle.
The former Boston College signal-caller gets the job done, but the Falcons aren't known for a very vertical attack.
15. David Garrard, Jacksonville Jaguars
David Garrard is the line between average and good arm strength, considering he has both.
Garrard seems to choose how strong he wants his arm to be on a given day and falls at 15 on the list with his relative inconsistency.
The Jaguar can lead drives and hit deep passes, but he's not shown enough to be a Top-10 guy at this juncture.
14. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton's placement on this list marks the end of the rookie quarterbacks.
Some may argue for Locker over Newton, but while Locker was struggling with even his short accuracy, Newton was completing deep passes and leading his team to a National Championship.
This quarterback can hit the deep throw when necessary and has slightly above-average arm strength for an NFL guy.
13. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
Before I get chewed out for putting Romo so high on this list when his arm isn't that strong, consider that Romo is fourth all-time (all-time) in yards per passing attempt with 8.1 yards.
This quarterback may not have the strongest arm, but he shows his arm strength better than any signal-caller below him on this list.
The Cowboy quarterback falls just outside the Top 12, but he is still dangerous in the vertical passing game.
12. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers don't go out and try to beat their opponent with deep throws, but Aaron Rodgers ran many offensive sets and used his above-average arm strength to win games everywhere.
Rodgers worked the ball in space to Greg Jennings and other Packer wideouts like James Jones, showcasing his ability to sling it when needed.
The Cal graduate gets props because of how hard he throws the ball—not just how far he throws it.
11. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
I hate ranking Ben Roethlisberger just ahead of Aaron Rodgers after the Super Bowl, but Roethlisberger's arm strength is just better.
The Steelers quarterback completes many deep throws on the run and threads the needle deep like most can't.
Though he lost in the Super Bowl, Roethlisberger has great arm strength, and Mike Wallace helped him show that.
10. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
I also hate putting Joe Flacco over Ben Roethlisberger after their playoff game, but Flacco blew people away like no other at the Scouting Combine with his rare arm.
The Delaware product can throw it deep with the best in the NFL, and look for Torrey Smith to reap the rewards in 2011.
Flacco can throw the ball deep—he just needs guys who can catch it when it's there (hello to you too, TJ Houshmandzadeh).
9. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
I'm a bit hesitant to put Rivers at only number nine, but he doesn't have the pure arm strength of any guy above him on this list.
Forget the numbers or the playoff appearances, Rivers has a great arm when it comes to throwing deep.
Though he throws from three-quarters arm positioning, Rivers throws deep very well and ranks ninth on the list.
8. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts
I'm sorry if it offends anyone, but I'm done drinking the Peyton Manning Kool-Aid.
Manning has a great arm, and he is still rather high on this list, but I have some doubts about his elite arm strength at this point.
The Colt passer can complete short and medium passes all day long, but he isn't elite when it comes to throwing deep.
7. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
Matt Schaub has truly rare throwing power and helps Andre Johnson to be the league's best wide receiver.
Thanks to Schaub's seldom-seen strength, the Texans utilize a very vertical attack and put up a lot of points.
I'm not sure if Schaub has elite arm strength, but it's certainly debatable enough that he falls on number seven here.
6. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
A player who has the single-season all-time touchdown passes record deserves to be high on this list. Brady even showcased his arm last year with deep passes to Brandon Tate and Deion Branch.
Brady's arm opens up the Patriot offense, but he falls just outside of the Top Five.
5. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
I never said that being injury-prone could diminish a player's standing on this list. When Stafford is on the field, there is no denying his jaw-dropping arm strength.
Stafford can hit passes that many quarterbacks would have no chance of getting, which helps Calvin Johnson to be a big-time weapon.
The Lion quarterback kicks off the Top Five passers with elite arm strength.
4. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Jay Cutler has truly sick arm strength, and he uses his powerful arm to run Mike Martz' offense well.
Hitting deep throws to Brandon Marshall and now to Devin Hester or Johnny Knox, Cutler has always had hard-to-match arm strength.
The Bear quarterback isn't well liked, but credit must be given where due.
3. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Josh Freeman's arm strength is relatively unrivaled, and he completed the ball deep to previous no-names like Mike Williams last year.
Freeman leads an offense in Tampa Bay that becomes more vertical with each game. Look for the former Kansas State signal-caller to come up throwing in 2011.
The Buccaneers are fun to watch again, but this time it's thanks to their offense.
2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
The Saints have one of the game's most vertical passing attacks. They truly made the deep throw a regular for NFL play-callers.
Sean Payton runs his offense through Drew Brees, who has one of the strongest arms today.
Brees can hit passes down the field all day long. One should look no further than his 2009 highlight reel to see him go to work.
1. Michael Vick, Philadephia Eagles
Remember Michael Vick's 88-yard touchdown pass on Monday Night Football?