2011 NFL Power Rankings: Ranking All 32 Starting Quarterbacks in the NFL
With the season inching closer and closer, and with free agency and training camp under way, we now have a better idea of who is playing where, as well as who is likely to start at quarterback for each team.
With this information, we can begin to look around and see which teams are in the best shape at the quarterback position—and which teams will almost certainly fail due to their lack of a bona fide passer in a quarterback-driven league.
Here are the preseason power rankings of the top 32 NFL quarterbacks in 2011.
32. Rex Grossman, Washington Redskins
No one can really blame Donovan McNabb for the way he played for the Washington Redskins.
When the overrated Santana Moss is literally the only player who could logically be considered a weapon, combined with no run game and a poor offensive line, then the quarterback is bound to fail.
Sure, McNabb is not the same player he was with Philadelphia, but one thing we definitely know is that if McNabb failed, Rex Grossman will certainly fail.
If there is one quarterback in the NFL who will certainly put together a laughable season, it is Grossman.
31. Tarvaris Jackson, Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks went out and spent big money to bring in possibly the most prized wide receiver in all of free agency in Sidney Rice.
Sounds good, right?
No, not really. Not when the new starting quarterback they signed is Tarvaris Jackson.
Jackson was not able to utilize Rice when they played together in Minnesota, so why would he be able to do it in Seattle?
At least Kevin Kolb would've had some mystery to him. We don't know that Kolb is awful due to his lack of playing time, but we certainly know that Jackson is not a suitable NFL quarterback.
The Seahawks brought in some talented players in Rice, tight end Zach Miller and offensive guard Robert Gallery, but all of those moves could be spoiled by their inability to find a real quarterback.
30. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Quarterback Carson Palmer threatened to retire if the Bengals did not trade him, and it looks as though he will make good on that promise.
Palmer is absent from training camp, which leaves nothing but Bruce Gradkowski and the rookie Andy Dalton at the quarterback position.
Gradkowski has displayed brief flashes of potential throughout his career, but he has proven that he can't handle being a full-time starter.
The rookie Dalton was drafted last April in the second round out of TCU, and while he is actually a very promising prospect, he still has a lot of rawness to him, which is why he was drafted in Round 2 and not Round 1.
Though the Bengals will probably be in trouble at the position this season, it's possible that they'll eventually have a promising future with Dalton.
However, the future can't be that bright as long as Mike Brown is running the show.
29. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
After only 10 starts and a 58.4 quarterback rating, 2010 second-round pick and prima donna Jimmy Clausen will hand over the quarterback starting duties to the 2011 No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton.
Newton is a known winner and an extraordinary athlete, so while maybe he's not as ideal as a pure pocket passer like 2010 No.1 overall pick Sam Bradford, Newton could still have a great career for Carolina.
However, along with the athleticism comes a lot of rawness.
Newton will need to adjust to an NFL-style offense, which will be difficult to do with virtually no receiving targets outside of 32-year-old veteran Steve Smith.
The Panthers were able to bring back running back DeAngelo Williams, who will combine with Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson for a solid run game, which could ultimately help Newton surprise the NFL.
However, the more likely scenario is that Newton will go through a lot of growing pains, but it will be for his own good.
28. Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers
Rather than making a move for Kevin Kolb, Donovan McNabb or Kyle Orton, the 49ers decided to stick with a known loser in Alex Smith.
The solid core of the 49ers is not getting any younger—Patrick Willis will turn 27 during the season, Vernon Davis will turn 28, Justin Smith will turn 32 and Frank Gore is already showing decline at the age of 28.
So can the 49ers really afford to waste another season under the mediocre wings of Alex Smith?
The 49ers used their second-round pick in 2011 on Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who will likely start at some point this year after Smith fails, but Kaepernick needs some time to develop.
The 49ers needed a solid veteran capable of playing at a fairly high level for several seasons until Kaepernick is ready, but they failed to do so, which will result in a wasted season.
27. Chad Henne, Miami Dolphins
It takes quarterbacks drafted in the second round some time to develop, so no one should be writing off Chad Henne as of yet.
However, Henne has done nothing to show Miami fans that they should be excited about him returning as their starter.
Everything he has done as a starter has been average at best, and he doesn't have the poise or the swagger of a top NFL passer.
Also, with the loss of running back Ronnie Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles, and with Ricky Williams still shopping himself, the Dolphins run game will suffer, which will hurt Henne significantly.
26. David Garrard, Jacksonville Jaguars
As of now, David Garrard is considered the starting quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
However, the latest training camp reports state that he missed a scrimmage due to a sore back, which will give rookie first-round pick Blaine Gabbert a chance to shine.
Unless Gabbert can do something significant in training camp or the preseason to win the starting job, Garrard will remain under center in Jacksonville.
If Garrard is the starter, we've already seen what he's capable of.
He will have a good game on occasion, but he will finish the year with pedestrian numbers and a low win total, and at the age of 33 he might not be able to accomplish even that much.
25. Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals
In four NFL seasons, quarterback Kevin Kolb has a career record of 3-4 with 11 touchdown passes against 14 interceptions, 2,082 passing yards and a career quarterback rating at a modest 73.2.
Yet somehow, for some reason, he was considered a hot commodity on the trade block.
The Arizona Cardinals decided that Kolb's mediocrity was worth Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round draft pick in 2012.
On a side note, Rodgers-Cromartie is probably jumping for joy.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals have won the Kolb sweepstakes, so they will no longer have to put up with Derek Anderson. Instead, they will have a quarterback capable of playing like, well...Kevin Kolb.
It's certainly an upgrade over what they had last season, but is upgrading from an awful quarterback to an average one really worth the price they paid?
24. Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee Titans
The Titans quarterback situation has improved over last season with the addition of Matt Hasselbeck, who should still have some juice left in the tank, but the move is still somewhat questionable.
The Titans used their 2011 first-round pick on quarterback Jake Locker, so with such high stakes already invested in a quarterback, was it really necessary to sign the 35-year-old Hasselbeck to a three-year deal worth $21 million?
If they wanted a mentor for Locker, that's fine, but surely there are cheaper veterans out there capable of tutoring.
With the contract they offered, the Titans are obligated to start Hasselbeck.
Meanwhile, while he isn't completely over the hill yet, he will still play at a pretty average level for the Titans.
The presence of Chris Johnson could certainly elevate the play of Hasselbeck, but there will still be certain limitations due to his age.
23. Jason Campbell, Oakland Raiders
Jason Campbell quietly put together a very solid year for the Oakland Raiders in 2010.
In only 12 starts he had 2,387 yards and 13 touchdowns with a 84.5 quarterback rating, which is good enough for Oakland to feel somewhat comfortable with its quarterback situation entering the 2011 season.
However, the Raiders will get solid play out of Campbell, but that's about it.
Campbell is not capable of putting the offense on his shoulders and leading it to victory, and he's certainly not capable of operating a high-powered attack.
The Raiders can win games with Campbell at quarterback, but the actual production will have to come from other aspects, such as their run game.
22. Colt McCoy, Cleveland Browns
Prior to the 2010 draft, Colt McCoy was bombarded with accusations that he lacked real NFL arm strength and that he was too short to play quarterback at 6'1".
However, even though McCoy was not overwhelmingly impressive as a rookie last season, he showed enough potential to excite the Cleveland fanbase.
In just eight NFL starts he had 1,576 yards and a 74.5 quarterback rating, but he only had six touchdowns versus nine interceptions.
So while McCoy has Cleveland fans excited about their quarterback for a change, he still has a lot of growing to do before being considered a legitimate NFL quarterback.
21. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills
The emergence of career journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick in Buffalo was a blessing for the Bills.
His presence allowed the team to focus on positions other than quarterback in the draft last April, which is a luxury that few bad teams have.
That luxury allowed the Bills to make solid picks, such as Marcell Dareus and Aaron Williams, as opposed to searching for the next franchise passer.
Fitzpatrick had 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns in only 13 starts, so it's clear that he was not the problem last year.
However, putting the offense in Fitzpatrick's hands is still a bit of a gamble—2010 was his only admirable year out of his six NFL seasons, so who knows if he'll go back to his old form in 2011? Last season could have been a complete fluke.
Even if it wasn't a fluke, Fitzpatrick still has plenty to prove before he climbs this list.
20. Donovan McNabb, Minnesota Vikings
The play of Donovan McNabb in Washington left a lot to be desired, but the the biggest factor working against him was playing for a team as bad as the Washington Redskins.
It's hard to believe that McNabb would have posted such pedestrian numbers for a playoff contender.
While the Minnesota Vikings were far from playoff contenders in 2010, they still have more weapons on offense than Washington.
McNabb will have the luxury of arguably the best NFL running back in Adrian Peterson, as well as targets such as Percy Harvin, Michael Jenkins and Visanthe Shiancoe.
While the 34-year-old quarterback is far from his former self, he should be a suitable starter until rookie first-round pick Christian Ponder is ready to take the reins.
19. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Matthew Stafford only played in three games in 2010, but in those three games he had six touchdowns versus one interception, along with a quarterback rating of 91.3.
Stafford was the No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 draft, but injuries have caused him to miss 19 out of 32 games, which probably worries most Lions fans.
Stafford has the ability to be a very good quarterback if healthy, but he can't throw touchdown passes from the bench.
This is probably a do-or-die year for Stafford. If he can't stay healthy, then the team will bring in another quarterback in 2012 to compete with him.
18. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
While quarterback Mark Sanchez has been to two AFC Championship Games in only two NFL seasons, those appearances were hardly because of his stellar play.
Sanchez has a career quarterback rating of only 70.2, as well as a career completion percentage of only 54.4.
Having said that, Sanchez is a capable athlete who will be looking to turn the corner in 2011, but still, it's the Jets' run game and defense that carry Sanchez, not the other way around.
17. Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos need to do the intelligent thing and keep Kyle Orton as their starting quarterback.
John Fox is not the one who used a first-round draft pick on Tim Tebow—he should have no personal ties to that pick, and he should not be held responsible for the way that pick pans out.
Rather than benching or trading a very promising quarterback in Orton, they should make him the starter, and one or two years from now we will be hearing about Tebow trade rumors, rather than the Orton trade rumors that we've been hearing.
Orton is not a top-10 quarterback at this point, but the Broncos will certainly sink down this list if they go with Tebow.
16. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
Joe Flacco generated a lot of hype as a rookie in 2008 with his 80.3 quarterback rating, but he needs to take a bigger step forward if he wants to inch closer to the top-10 list.
It's not that he hasn't improved since his rookie year; in fact, he had a great year in 2010 with 3,622 yards and 25 touchdowns.
However, he has the luxury of having one of the best NFL defenses assisting him. It's hard to believe that he would be capable of leading an offense to a 12-4 season without help from a defense that is consistently ranked in the top 10.
With Ray Lewis now 36 years old, it's time for Flacco to take the next step and show everyone that it's his team, not Lewis'.
15. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Despite being one of the most hated athletes in the NFL, especially after suspicion arose that he was faking an injury during the last NFC Championship Game (which turned out be false), Jay Cutler still put together a great season in 2010.
On top of helping his team get to the NFC Championship Game, he also had 3,274 passing yards and 23 touchdowns.
Cutler will probably never be considered an elite NFL quarterback, but if he continues to develop under offensive coordinator Mike Martz, he could do some great things for the Bears.
14. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
Sam Bradford was the No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 draft, and he instantly made a difference as a rookie.
He broke Peyton Manning's rookie records for completions and pass attempts, and he was also only the third rookie in NFL history to throw for over 3,000 yards (3,512).
Bradford also accomplished everything he did with no legitimate targets outside of Danny Amendola.
It's almost unheard of for a rookie quarterback to have success without playing on a playoff contender, let alone a team that went 1-15 in 2009.
The team found Bradford some new weapons in free agent Mike Sims-Walker, as well as the newly drafted tight end Lance Kendricks.
If his development stays on track, expect Bradford to emerge as the next elite NFL quarterback, maybe as soon as this season.
13. Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs
Matt Cassel just had a very good season with Kansas City, as he passed for 3,116 yards and 27 touchdowns, but now he just has to worry about continuing that success in 2011.
The Chiefs found Cassel two new targets in the offseason—they drafted wide receiver Jon Baldwin and signed free agent Steve Breaston.
The two new receivers, combined with an already dangerous run game, put Cassel at a great advantage in 2011.
12. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
Despite the Houston Texans' inability to defeat the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South, it's clear that Matt Schaub is not the one holding the team down.
Schaub passed for 4,770 yards in 2009 and 4,370 yards in 2010. He also finished 2010 with a quarterback rating of 92.0.
As long as Andre Johnson is a member of the Texans, Schaub will be able to post respectable numbers.
Those numbers will also benefit if Adrian Foster can continue his success in 2011 and prove that he was not a fluke.
If the Texans can put together even an average defense, then the Colts could be in trouble.
11. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
You can look at the fact that Tony Romo has never had a quarterback rating below 91.0 throughout his five years as a starter, or the fact that he's capable of posting top-tier numbers, but that's not all that matters.
Romo just missed 10 games due to injury, which is not his first time getting banged up. Also, he is a known choker in the postseason.
The regular season stats are what they are, but he will never crack the top 10 until he does something significant with his career.
10. Eli Manning, New York Giants
Eli Manning has been living under the shadow of his older brother, but if you can ignore the comparisons and think of Eli as an individual, then you'll notice he has put together an impressive career.
He now has two consecutive 4,000-yard seasons, as well as his first 30-touchdown season in 2010 despite throwing 25 interceptions.
The Giants are also a winning franchise, so Eli knows how to win. He won the Super Bowl in 2007, so it's clear that he is able to win the big games.
He might not be his older brother, but he should still be considered a top-10 quarterback in the NFL.
9. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Josh Freeman put together a fantastic sophomore year in the NFL with 3,451 passing yards and 25 touchdowns, along with a 95.9 quarterback rating.
On top of the numbers, he also made a trip to his first Pro Bowl.
However, he was able to show something much more valuable in 2010.
He is one of only three quarterbacks in NFL history to have seven fourth-quarter comebacks in his first two seasons.
Being a clutch player capable of leading a team to victory from behind is not something that can be taught, so the Buccaneers have a quarterback who possesses a very rare talent.
8. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
Last season we did not witness the same old Michael Vick that we knew in Atlanta.
He was not the same immature player who didn't study defenses or the guy who scrambled in unnecessary situations; instead, we saw the new and rededicated Michael Vick.
The new Vick is not a poor passer like the old one, which is evident from his 3,018 yards and 21 touchdowns in only 12 starts, as well as his 100.2 quarterback rating.
It's clear that Vick is a different type of player, and if you're a fan of an opposing NFC East team, you should be very afraid of the new Vick.
7. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Also, his ability to avoid sacks and make big plays is what separates him from many NFL quarterbacks.
It's easy for cynics to look at Roethlisberger's two Super Bowl rings and give all of the credit to the Steelers' amazing defense, but the truth is that Big Ben is a huge part of the team's success.
If Roethlisberger can stay out of trouble and be around for 16 games, then the Steelers will once again be a Super Bowl threat in 2011.
6. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan generated a lot of buzz as a rookie in 2008 with 3,440 yards and 16 touchdowns, and though he had a bit of a sophomore slump in 2009, he took a big step forward in 2010.
Ryan established himself as a top NFL passer last season with 3,705 yards and 28 touchdowns, and at the age of 26 he will only get better.
He lost a valuable offensive lineman in Harvey Dahl, but the Falcons added a valuable weapon in wide receiver Julio Jones, who will fit in the offense nicely along with Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez.
Expect Ryan to play at an elite level in 2011, and it's possible he could even lead the Falcons on a playoff run all the way to the Super Bowl.
5. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
It's hard to figure out how the Chargers missed the playoffs with the No. 1-ranked offense and defense.
Usually in a situation like this, along with the past incidents of the team choking in the playoffs, it's customary to put the blame on someone, but who could it be?
Certainly not Philip Rivers, who put together yet another remarkable season with 4,710 passing yards and 30 touchdowns.
Rivers is playing as well as any NFL quarterback, but the truth is that he won't be mentioned in the same breath as the Mannings and the Bradys of the world until he wins a Super Bowl.
4. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
It's easy to get caught up in the Aaron Rodgers hype since he just won a Super Bowl last February, but he is still behind a few other quarterbacks at this point in time.
Rodgers made Green Bay fans forget all about Brett Favre, and he has done great things ever since taking over as the team's starter in 2008.
He has over 4,000 yards in two out of his three seasons as a starter, as well as at least 28 touchdown passes in each of those seasons.
He is still a young quarterback at the age of 27, so he will certainly climb this list in the coming years.
3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
We got so caught up in the Aaron Rodgers hype this year that we almost completely forgot about the Drew Brees hype last year.
Except the only difference is that Brees has been doing it better and longer than Rodgers.
He has five consecutive seasons with over 4,000 yards, including his 5,069-yard season in 2008. He also has three consecutive 30-touchdown seasons.
The hype from the Saints' Super Bowl is as good as dead for anyone outside of New Orleans, but Drew Brees is still very much a threat in the NFL.
2. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts
Do you know how to tell when a quarterback is great?
When a "down year" is the result of 4,700 yards and 33 touchdowns with a 91.9 quarterback rating, as well as winning the division with a 10-6 record.
Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever put on pads, but he is also 35 years old, so he could start to show a slight decline at any time, though it's not likely.
Most likely we will see another typical Peyton Manning season in 2011 with over 30 touchdowns and 4,000 yards, along with a spot in the playoffs.
However, out of the top quarterbacks, is he the one most likely to take his team through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl once the 2011 season ends? Not likely.
1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Forget Tom Brady's three Super Bowl rings, or the fact that he plays on one of the best dynasties in NFL history.
Last season he had 36 touchdowns versus only four interceptions, along with 3,900 yards and a passer rating of 111.0.
The Patriots were 14-2, and in the second half of the season they were as good or better than any other Patriots team in recent years.
You can point out the fact that they lost to the Jets in the divisional round of the playoffs, and that's a valid point, but the truth is that Tom Brady is as good as ever, which means the Patriots are as good as ever.