2011 NFL Preview: Top 10 Quarterbacks in the NFL Today

Mike Shannon@@DLman91Featured ColumnistSeptember 7, 2011

2011 NFL Preview: Top 10 Quarterbacks in the NFL Today

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    For some reason, people get very defensive about quarterback ratings.  You could rank linebackers, defensive ends, cornerbacks or centers and no one would bat an eye.  However, if you dare say that Drew Brees is better than Philip Rivers then prepare for a hurricane of emotion.

    "Who do you think you are?  You don't know anything about football!  Have you ever even SEEN a Chargers game?  You're awful."

    As your fearless author, it is my job to tackle subjects such as this and face them head-on.  I'm sure people will disagree with this list so feel free to comment down below as usual.

    Just be assured, I do know something about football.

#10: Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    The 23-year-old Freeman is certainly a star on the rise in the NFL.  In his first year in the league, the former Kansas State standout completed 61 percent of his passes along with 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions.

    Freeman has also endeared himself to the Tampa faithful by playing with a chip on his shoulder and coming through in the clutch multiple times.  He also finished second among all QBs in rushing yards and has the size to plow over linebackers if he's in need of extra yardage.

    To prove he's not a flash in the pan, Freeman needs to lead a young, skilled Bucs team to the playoffs this year.  The tools are in place and the young Freeman needs to take advantage of that and prove that he is a truly a future superstar.

#9: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

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    While I'm not ready to buy stock in the "Matty Ice" empire, Matt Ryan has certainly shown that he will be a force to reckoned with in the coming years.  By throwing a touchdown on his first career passing attempt, Ryan put the league on notice that the Atlanta Falcons were no longer the NFL's doormat.

    Ryan has increased his touchdown total and decreased his interception number every year he's been in the league, tossing 28 scores with only nine interceptions in 2011. 

    The drafting of Julio Jones to run alongside "Rowdy" Roddy White and Harry Douglas creates the potential for Ryan to have a career year.  However, to prove he is amongst the NFL's elite, Ryan must lead the Falcons deep into the postseason and make a run at the championship.

#8: Matt Schaub, Houston Texans

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    A fantasy darling, Matt Schaub has topped 4,000 yards passing in two consecutive seasons, leading an aerial assault on the AFC South and attempting to lead the Texans to the promised land.

    Every year it seems the Texans are the sexy pick to rise from mediocrity and make a playoff run but each year they fall a bit short.  Schaub has a plethora of offensive weapons at his disposal and fantasy fans will tell you that his value has not been hurt at all.

    However, I deal in reality not fantasy and the simple fact is that the Texans have not made the playoffs under Schuab's leadership.  While people may point to his great statistics as proof of his effectiveness, a quarterback must make the playoffs before he can be considered one of the league's best.

#7: Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Whether you love him or hate him, there's no question that Michael Vick is a true game-changer.  The man is simply his own play-action fake, giving defenses migraines with his speed and elusiveness.

    Vick passed for 3,000 yards with 21 TDs and ran for 600 more yards and nine scores.  For a part of the year, Michael Vick was simply unstoppable.

    However, the second half of the season teams started blitzing him more and he took a huge number of hard hits, causing quad and rib injuries. In the month of December, Vick threw eight touchdowns but also tossed five interceptions.

    He was sacked nine times for every 100 dropbacks, a number that has to decrease if the Eagles want to keep him on the field. 

    Vick's storybook comeback could be complete this year with an All-Star team at his disposal and hopefully the Eagles star can finally silence all of his critics.

#6: Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

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    Now here's the first name that I'm sure will make some people upset.

    Another fantasy superstar, Philip Rivers has not been able to translate regular season statistical dominance to playoff glory. 

    Last year, the North Carolina State alum threw for a career-high 4,710 yards, an absolutely amazing number to go along with 30 touchdowns.  Rivers also completed 66 percent of his passes, placing him amongst the league leaders in that category.

    The problem comes along when the calendar turns to January.  Last year, Rivers QB rating plummeted to 73.4 and he threw no touchdowns as the Chargers were unable to salvage a disappointing season and missed the playoffs.

    There is no doubt that Rivers puts up statistics but ask Dan Marino if he would rather have passing records or Super Bowl titles.

#5: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

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    The reigning Super Bowl MVP, Aaron Rodgers made a believer out of a lot of people last year (present company included) when he led the Packers on an amazing playoff run in 2010.  Rodgers threw nine touchdowns and only two interceptions during the postseason, topping that off with a masterful performance against a great Steelers defense.

    Rodgers has thrown 28 or more touchdowns in each of his last three seasons and passed for 12,394 in that same time period.  Even though the Packers were plagued by injuries, Rodgers put the team on his back and made himself a near-legend in Green Bay.

    The California graduate is still early in his NFL and could end up being one of the greats when all is said and done.

#4: Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts

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    There have been so many articles on Peyton Manning that there is almost nothing left to tell.  He might be the best quarterback of his generation and has crafted a legacy that will be almost impossible to follow.

    However, offseason neck surgery will cause Manning to miss his first career start since 1994 when he was still a Tennessee Volunteer.  There are huge questions as to whether or not Manning can return to the form that made the Colts a perennial playoff contender and Super Bowl favorite.

#3: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

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    Drew Brees has put up absolutely phenomenal statistics the past five years, never going below 4,300 yards and topping out at an amazing 5,069 yards in 2008.

    Brees is the unquestioned leader in New Orleans, leading a passing attack that is always amongst the league's best and strikes fear in the heart of defenses everywhere. 

    Last year, Brees did his absolute best in the playoffs, throwing for 404 yards in a New Orleans loss to the unlikely Seattle Seahawks (though that loss can mostly be blamed on the defense). 

    While the numbers that Brees puts up could be attributed to a Saints offense that concentrates almost solely on passing, there is no question that the Purdue graduate is one of the league's best quarterbacks.

#2: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Probably one of the most under-appreciated quarterbacks of all time, Ben Roethlisberger has a record that speaks for itself.

    Starting with a rookie year where he went 17-1 and went to the AFC title game, Big Ben followed that up with two Super Bowl titles and three AFC championships. 

    Roethlisberger is also one of the most clutch performers of the last ten years, leading the Steelers on an amazing two-minute drill to defeat the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl after the defense had surrendered the lead.

    Any coach in the NFL will tell you that Roethlisberger is the most difficult QB in the league to tackle as he possesses incredible strength and size that makes him extremely difficult to wrap up. 

    Roethlisberger threw for 3,200 yards in only 12 games last season, meaning that it's very likely he would have topped 4,000 if he played a full 16 games.

    While he may have his detractors, Roethlisberger already has two Lombardi Trophies under his belt and is young enough to add a few more.

#1: Tom Brady, New England Patriots

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    As much as it pains me to say this, Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. 

    His remarkable 2007 season will go down in the history books courtesy of his 50 touchdowns and 4,800 yards passing.  And just when you thought Brady was on the downside of his career, in 2010 he tossed 36 TDs and only four INTs, leading the league in quarterback rating.

    Brady and his three Super Bowl rings are undoubtedly heading to the Hall of Fame one day but the question is this:  How many more rings will he be wearing when he gives his speech?