Thursday, December 4, 2014

So who are the best QB's available in the pro game?

I never finished this one either. I started writing this around mid-season.   I meant to evaluate about 45 QBs ---basically the guys who I think can play a little --- but I lost steam after 32 and the list has been mothballed ever since.  I am tired of looking at it, so it's publication day...

"I decided to take a mid-season snapshot of NFL quarterbacks.  I am weighing the evaluation heavily based on who these guys are today rather than slaving the list to what these guys have done in their careers.  I want to look at the best quartebacks today.

Lets start at the top. 

I think in looking at QBs you have to start with the elites.  The Hall of fame caliber guys. The QBs who can consistently get you into a game with their play and have shown the skills to move you vs. the best defenses.

1. Andrew Luck - I know that stats do not bear it out, but to me he is the most dangerous QB in the NFL.  He took a pathetic team and got them into the playoffs and followed that up by becoming the NFL's most feared 4th quarter QB.  He delivers in the playoffs too.  His team is never out of a game.  If his surrounding offensive talent was a little better, no one would question him being #1 on this list.  Give him a slight line improvement another quality receiver and look out.
2. Aaron Rodgers - The NFL's highest rated QB, Rodgers willed a mediocre Packers team to a title a few years ago.  One has to wonder what Rodgers could have done if his team shopped for groceries and churned the roster like New England.  I just cannot escape the feeling that as good as Rodgers has been since winning the superbowl, he just hasn't hit that zone since. I don't think GB can win a title without him playing at that level.
3. Ben Roethlisberger - Big Ben has been lighting it up lately and has the resume to belong in the elite group.  His size and skillset can erase a lot of problems in his supporting cast.  I have thought for years that Pittsburgh's offensive talent has held him back.  It looks like they finally have enough raw skill position talent around him to allow him to show what he can do.
4. Tom Brady - Remember, this is not a "career accomplishment" list. New England does a great job of churning the roster, but their receiving corps has been garbage for a while now.  Brady makes them appear much better than they are.  Brady is one of the toughest outs you will find come playoff time, but his teams have been flawed lately and it has hurt the perception of him.
5. Phillip Rivers -  I love this guy.  The coaching change in San Diego has him and the Chargers back on track.  I think it is even money or better that he will carry his team to a title Aaron Rodgers-like before his career is over.  He makes players around him better.
6. Peyton Manning - The old man cranks up the stats  with his loaded Denver offense.  Personnel is making him look better than he really is, but in spite of that, he is damned good.  A couple years ago they had a stat on Manning throwing under duress and his season rating in that scenario was insane --- If I recall his rating was like 104 or higher in that situation.  I think it outpaced his normal stats!  He is a gamer, but at the end of the day, Brady has owned him for most of their careers.  When it comes to making plays in the brightest of spotlights, Brady is better.
7.  Drew Brees -  I have always thought Drew Brees was helped a lot by his system and his coach's playcalling.  To me, he has always been a hair below the QBs above him on this list, and this year personnel changes have his stats reflecting it.  Still Brees is an easy Hall of Famer.
8. Tony Romo - To me, Tony Romo has always been in the top 5 in the NFL in making the tough play on third down to move the ball.  That he has done this with an often suspect running game is telling. The trouble for Romo has been at the end of games, when is only quality running back was either injured or being protected by the coaching staff and when his weak offensive line routinely collapsed up the middle, wreaking Romo's footwork, shaking his confidence, and creating interceptions.  Jerry Jones screwed Romo for years and frankly may have burned the tail end of Romo's career. The OL was finally addressed this year.   Imagine if Dallas had gone ahead and stayed where they were a few years back and drafted G David DeCastro out of Stanford  rather that trading up for the sexy pick in CB Mo Clayborne....Would Romo have the back issues he has today? Did Jerry cost Romo 2-3 years?  The chance to get to a Super Bowl?

The good QBs

Next you have the guys who are not the elite game makers but are very good in almost all games.  To me, for the most part this group is the Troy Aikman wannabes --- For the most part, the guys who are game managers but have the kind of talent that they can be almost impossible to to knock off their game if they have a solid running game, sound blocking, and a money receiver.

9.  Joe Flacco - Baltimore really did a disservice to Flacco in letting Anquan Boldin go.  I understand the finances, but it was still the wrong move.  Boldin was uncoverable and pushed Flacco into the top tier. Adding Steve Smith to fill that role has helped, but Flacco needs a true, big, physical money reciever.
10. Russell Wilson - Superbowl aside, Wilson's stats in the first few years of his career are really unbeleivable and put him in rarified company.  His ability to move around and make the right decisions puts him near the elite level.  Ultimately he isn't quite there, but he could get there.
11. Ryan Tannehill - I am loathe to give credit to an A&M QB and I thought that drafting him was a mistake, but there is no questioning the decision at this point.  Tannehill is already in the top half of NFL QBs and when his offensive line gets to a similar level it seems safe to predict he could move into the top tier in the league.  He makes plays for his team when they need them.
12. Cam Newton - The guy is having a very, very poor year, but his talent suggests it is just as much a fluke as teams figuring him out.
13. Collin Kaepernick -  It will be intersting to see how he fares under the next 49ers coach.  I think Kaepernick could re-write the record books if SF would pair a couple of deep threats at the WR spot for Kaepernick to play off his mobility.  I think the SF receiving talent doesn't match his game currently.
14. Matt Ryan -  One gets the feeling that the moment has passed for Matt Ryan, but he is still quite a fine and capable QB.  There seems to be a piece or two missing from this offense.
15. Johnny Manziel - Admittedly a total projection on a guy who hasn't started a game in the NFL, but I think Manziel would project out about here. To me, I see a spoiled and less disciplined Tony Romo.  He ate up Nick Saban's good Alabama defensive teams in college and the previous star QB from the Kevin Sumlin system, the modestly talented Case Keenum, played pretty well in the NFL last season. I think Jerry Jones would look pretty brilliant offering a third to Cleveland for Manziel at season's end.
16. Robert Griffin - RG3's on the feild play has him about here.  He would get better as he gets healthier. The trouble is he has a slight frame and takes a ton of unneccessary shots.  His unwillingness to play smarter may cause him to get placed on NFL team's "not a starter" lists (as happened to Tebow due to his limited passing ability). I would not be surprised to see Washington cut him after the season.  Heaven forbid if a coach like Chip Kelly gets a hold of him.  I would love to see Dallas be pre-emptive and fish for a deal for this guy.
17. Mark Sanchez - I am going out on a major limb here, but this is where I would put Sanchez.  He won playoff games in schemes which were not ideal for him before he had a clue how to play in the NFL.  I firmly beleive that Chip Kelly is not sold on Nick Foles and never was and that Sanchez was brought in to take Foles' job.  Now that Foles is out, I think Sanchez will.  Philly's scheme will score points.  Sanchez is just better under pressure than Foles. It is sad for me as a Cowboy fan as I don't fear Foles at all. I think a lot of teams are going to regret not picking up Sanchez.

The best of the straight game managers

Below here you have the guys who manage a game well but lack the top end talent.

18. Brian Hoyer - This is a money game manager.  Will he hang around in Cleveland?  Word is Johnny Football has to go for Hoyer to re-sign.
19. Austin Davis - Davis is a more than competent starter. He is a real suprise and should hold on to that job.
20. Alex Smith - Smith's small hands hurt him. Take away his fumbles and he may be 13th or so on this list.  He has become an accomplished game manager, but he really isn't a guy who can make you the big play when you need it.  Still, he rarely loses his teams any games.
21. Colt McCoy - Does he have the build to consistently weather a season as an NFL starter?  The real secret about McCoy is that he is freakishly accurate on short and mid-range passing and is a great leader.  You can build around that and you can win around that.  Given a shot, he could move up this list.
22. Andy Dalton - I hear the moans now.  "Dalton spits the bit in big games!" Well, yeah, he does, but lets be clear, that only started happening when he reached the NFL.  The guy was money in college.  I look at Dalton and am fairly certain he just happens to be a poor fit there.  He is a Hoyer-esque game manager on a team that offensively is similar to what the Cowboys have thrown out the last few years.  Put him on a team with a dominant running game and a solid offensive line and I think you would see the kind of play Dalton had in college, but Cinci is built for a Tony Romo/Drew Brees type --- a guy who can buy time and has a knack for throwing.  Cinci wants too much out of him.  But I think it is too early to give up on him as an NFL starter.  Sink a few high picks into offensive linemen next year and make your decision on him after next year's playoffs.  Career-wise I am reminded of the NFL career of Jake Plummer.  Like Dalton, Plummer never had the right offense to allow him to blossom in the NFL.  That may be Dalton's lot in life.  One wonders what he could do on a team with a culture more up his alley --- say Chicago.

The flawed talents & the up and comers

Here are the guys who play well enough to hold down a starting job, but IMO are unlikely to be difference makers in the rest of their careers and the noobs who do have a shot.

23. Eli Manning - It pains me to put Eli Manning on this list.  Like a lot of the QB's on this list, Manning is hurt by his team's personnel choices.  The Giants see the problem. They have brought in a few 1st round OLs in the last few years, but more help is needed.  Manning is getting the competitiveness beaten out of him and interceptions are habit making.  Manning had a good shot to be a HOF QB after his second title win, but you can't get there throwing 20 INTs a season, year after year. It isn't out of the realm of possibility that he could move back into the tail end of the top tier of NFL QBs, but I think it is unlikely. I think he is becoming David Carr. You can't unlearn that kind of damage.
24. Derek Carr - I think the Raiders have their first truly good QB in several year in Carr.  I think this is a kid with top tier potential.
25.  Nick Foles - I have felt that Chip Kelly was never sold on Foles.  Foles's game has come back to earth hard now that teams have figured him  and that offense out.  Putting up those numbers in Kelly's offense is criminal. The question is how much will Foles improve now to compensate?  I am not sold that the answer is a lot. 
26. EJ Manuel -  This guy was a surprise first round pick last year.  Most teams had him as a 4th rounder or lower.  He really looked exceptional out of the gate, then he got injured.  It seems like Buffalo has decided he isn't the right move for them and has opted to go with a veteran backup.  I think that move will likely get their coach fired ---probably by next season.
27. Matt Stafford - He really hasn't learned how to play QB in the NFL at a high level.  He puts the ball up for grabs all the time, which is OK with a healthy Calvin Johnson, and not without.  I think Megatron will slow down and Stafford will be undressed in the near future.
28.  Jay Cutler - To me, he is a poor man's Jeff George.  He has talent.  He can play at an elite level for a game, but likely won't ever do it for 3 playoff games.  I think he just isn't a professional.

Backup Caliber

These are guys who are backup types.

29. Kirk Cousins - Cousins had more up and down play in this year's run of games starting for RG3.  He could be a solid mid-level starter in the NFL with some development.
30. Carson Palmer - I think Arizona is nursing a guy who mentally retired years ago to a solid year.  I think he is still the weak link in Pheonix.
31. Kyle Orton - Orton plays at a slightly higher level, but there is no way to coat the fact that he walked out on his last team and looks like a guy who likes collecting a paycheck instead of playing.  This move will come back to haunt Buffalo.
32. Ryan Mallet - I am unconvinced he will last long enough to really take hold in Houston, but he could.  He is what Houston needs, but he needs a good OL, which Houston doesn't have.  Will the Texans "David Carr" him out of the league?

Guys out of the league who shouldn't be.

Tim Tebow - I'd rank him about 20th.  I know he is not in the league, but he absolutely should be. I know he would be in the bottom third of starting QBs evaluated strictly on his passing, but passing IS NOT the bottom line with quarterbacks.  The bottom line in the NFL is winning or at least should be.  Tebow has proven his skillset is a winning one in this league.  His tough running turned a decent running game into an elite running game.  He is difficult for most teams to defend, he picks up third downs and short yardage easily, and he protects the ball. If you can move the chains, score in the red zone, and don't wilt in the 4th quarter, you are a winning NFL QB.   That is Tebow.  He is a hard worker and a student of the game.  Plus he is flat out dangerous in the fourth quarter.  Why he is not the backup in Dallas (or anywhere else), I can't say.  He's hard to prepare for, he's a damnsight better than our current backup, and you can't find anyone more the "right kind of guy" than Tebow.  "

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