Top 5 Quarterbacks Under 25
Each year, increased attention is given to NFL offenses and, in particular, the quarterback position. But regardless of rule changes and the emphasized value in pocket protection, quarterbacks, by nature of the job, are placed in a great degree of harm’s way.
In a season where everyone is looking at the Colt’s unfortunate quarterback situation, teams are giving more attention to their own futures at the position. Teams always have to prepare for the unthinkable; as an example at the highest level, the New England Patriots have taken out Brady-insurance in the form of Ryan Mallet (third round pick).
Increasingly, young quarterbacks are viewed as more than just insurance. Look at Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, and Mark Sanchez! All quarterbacks who have been able to lead at a young age. These young athletes began their athletic development so early on that they often have faced the rigors and scrutiny that go along with the position for the better part of their lives. We should no longer doubt the readiness and experience of today’s young quarterback.
The days of Ryan Leaf are over. Here is the next generation of studs at the quarterback position.
Sam Bradford – Age: 24
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
The 2010 Rookie of the Year shook off all injury concerns and led the overachieving Rams to the verge of the playoffs. Sam Bradford and teammates have gone through a slew of injuries early in the season, but with the return of Steven Jackson, look for the Rams to stay competitive in the always lackluster NFC West.
Pairing Bradford with offensive guru Josh McDaniels was arguably the biggest splash of the offseason for St. Louis. Their young O-line will need to improve in the pass rush and I fully expect management to look for playmakers in next year's draft. Sam Bradford is a true franchise player, they need to make big investments in him.
Josh Freeman – Age: 23
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
The promising, young Freeman leads a Buccaneers team full of young offensive weapons including big receiver Mike Williams and tailback LeGarrette Blount. Much has been made about Freeman’s leadership both on the field and in the classroom. Cerebral gunslingers are the way of the future, and his dedication should not be undervalued.
What will carry him throughout his years is his size, standing 6'6" and 250 pounds, Freeman will have the durability to support a successful career in the violent NFL. The Tampa Bay organization has done a great job of a building a strong offensive line in front of him and will always feature a respectable defense.
Josh hasn't lit up the stat sheet three games into the year, but they are 2-1 and he's led his team through fourth quarter wins in the last two weeks. Every game thus far has been close, and they will rely on his leadership to pull them through the fire. The NFC South will be tough this year, but expect the young Bucs to compete for playoff positioning throughout this decade. They are built for the long haul.
Matthew Stafford – Age: 23
Adam Bettcher/Getty Images
Matt Stafford’s first three years have been riddled with injury and unsuccessful seasons, but don’t doubt the young field general’s future, as he is only 23. His best football days are ahead of him and he will lead a revamped Lions offense with what may be the strongest throwing arm in the entire game.
Having Calvin Johnson, the best young receiver available, won’t hurt either as the Lions try to fight there way into a playoff spot out of the always competitive NFC North. Jahvid Best, Brandon Pettigrew, and Titus Young highlight Stafford’s supporting cast and these fresh playmakers should only help brighten the future of the Detroit organization.
After dismantling the Chiefs in Week 2 and in the second half of Week 3's game in Minnesota, Stafford and company looked primed for a playoff hunt.
Cam Newton – Age: 22
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Ladies and gentleman, the 2010 National Championship and Heisman Trophy winner is for real. After Cam Newton’s record breaking Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals he responded with 432 passing yards and two touchdowns (a pass and a run) against the defending champion Green Bay Packers.
It is only fair to give a Newton a fresh start from all of the controversy that shrouded his decorated college career. And in the first three weeks, he has shown every bit of the talent and leadership qualities required to succeed in the NFL. He outdueled fellow first rounder Blaine Gabbert last week versus the Jaguars.
The Panthers sport a great, young offensive line and have just enough weapons that they should be able to compete. Although the losses of Jon Beason and Thomas Davis will greatly damper their playoff hopes, I find the revival of wide receiver Steve Smith a key to their season. Newton would love adding Justin Blackmon, Alshon Jeffery, or Robert Woods in next year’s draft.
Andrew Luck – Age: 22
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
When Andrew Luck begins the 2012 NFL football season I fully expect him to start and succeed for what ever team drafts him. Luck is generally perceived to be the most pro-ready prospect since WR Calvin Johnson and potentially the most prepared quarterback prospect of all time.
The professional consensus is that Luck has all the physical and mental attributes to prosper and possesses virtually no flaws in his game. The days of JaMarcus Russell and Alex Smith quarterback prospects are over; organizations do their homework and make better football decisions than the Raiders and 49ers once did. They will protect and build around Luck’s talents and he has the potential to turn around the most sorry of NFL fortunes.
This far into the NFL season I expect the Seahawks, Chiefs, and Colts to be front-runners in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. He will be the most hyped draft prospect since LeBron James and his impact on the league could be just as influential. Miami Dolphins?