2011 NFL Player Rankings: Top 5 Quarterbacks Under 25
They say, "defense wins championships", and although that might be true, the last five Super Bowls have had one common theme, great quarterbacks.
There is no doubt in anyone's mind that the quarterback is the most important position on the field, and, in a league in which guys like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are getting older, there is an influx of new exciting young players who are already making a name for themselves in a short amount of time.
Here are my top five quarterbacks under 25.
No. 5 Colt McCoy
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When initially drafted in Round 3 of the 2010 draft by the Cleveland Browns, the thought was, if given some time to sit and learn behind veterans Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace, in a few years McCoy could be a solid starting quarterback. Due to injuries to both veteran quarterbacks, McCoy was faced with the tough task of making his first start against the Pittsburgh Steelers. McCoy finished the day with 281 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Although McCoy's end-of-the-year numbers did not jump off the page (1,500 yards, 6 TD's, 9 INT's), the addition of new head coach Pat Shurmur's west-coast offense and his development of Sam Bradford last season both point to McCoy continuing to progress and becoming a solid quarterback in the league.
No. 4 Mark Sanchez
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It's not very often that, in his first two years in the league, a quarterback helps his team reach the conference championship in consecutive seasons, but Mark Sanchez has.
After being selected fifth overall in the 2009 draft, Sanchez took over the starting quarterback position in training camp and began the season as the starter. Sanchez struggled at times in his rookie season, throwing for 20 interceptions, but was lucky to have a strong running game and one of the best defenses in the NFL. The Jets eventually lost to the Colts in the AFC Championship game despite Sanchez throwing for over 250 yards and tossing 2 touchdowns.
Sanchez again helped lead his team to the AFC Championship game, after having a much stronger season in which he threw for 3,200 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. Sanchez and the Jets again lost, being defeated by the Steelers, while Sanchez had another solid game of over 230 yards and two touchdowns.
Sanchez has been given plenty of weapons in New York, with Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress as his top receivers. Look for Sanchez to continue to improve, and, if he can continue to make better decisions in the pocket, Sanchez and the Jets might finally get over the hump and make it to Super Bowl XLVI
No. 3 Matthew Stafford
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For a team that has seen a season in which they did not win a game, years of miserable seasons and awful draft picks, the Detroit Lions finally appear to be on the right track.
In 2009, the Lions drafted Matthew Stafford with the number one overall pick. Stafford had a solid, yet nothing-spectacular rookie season. He threw for over 2,200 yards and 13 touchdowns in 10 games, but also threw 20 interceptions. His second season started with an injury in the opener against Chicago causing Stafford to only play in three games.
The biggest question mark about Stafford is not his talent but his injuries.
The Lions and many around the league feel that if Stafford can stay healthy, he has a chance to put up great numbers, plus he has arguably the best receiver to throw to, Calvin Johnson, of any quarterback on this list.
With Stafford's big arm and abilities he has the chance to push the Lions towards relevancy and an opportunity to make the playoffs.
No. 2 Sam Bradford
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After an incredible first two seasons at Oklahoma, many believed that Sam Bradford would forgo his junior season and enter the NFL draft. Bradford decided to pass on the draft and returned for his junior year. After an knee injury in the opener and another injury to his shoulder weeks later, Bradford was only able to compete in two games that season.
Despite the limited playing time that season, Bradford was still picked as the number one overall pick in the 2010 Draft. Bradford started all 16 games for the Rams last season, throwing for over 3,500 yards, 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Bradford became just the third quarterback to start all 16 games of his rookie season and pass for over 3,000 yards, joining Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan.
Bradford has all the keys to becoming an elite quarterback in this league, good size, great accuracy, and good decision making. As long as the Rams are able to continue to put good talent around him, Bradford and the Rams have the chance to become a powerful force in the league.
No. 1 Josh Freeman
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No quarterback in the league burst out quite like Josh Freeman did in 2010, his second season.
Freeman, the former 17th overall pick in the 2009 draft, was thought to be the third best quarterback behind Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez. Although Freeman has not had the playoff success that Sanchez has, or the hype surrounding Stafford, he has become the leader and face of a young talented Buccaneers team.
In Freeman's rookie season, he only started nine games and finished the season with over 1,800 yards passing, 10 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions. Freeman was given the starting quarterback position in his second season and helped lead his Buccaneers to a 10-6 record, but narrowly missed out on the playoffs.
Freeman's performance last year was spectacular, throwing for 3,451 yards, 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions.
With such great young talent around him, and with great arm strength, mobility, and a knack for fourth quarter comebacks, Josh Freeman is poised to become the next perennial pro bowler and, if the Buccaneers continue to provide him top talent, expect the Buccaneers to be contenders for years to come.