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DFWPROSPORTS Official NFL QB Rankings (numbers 17-24)

June 26, 2012

With Ron Jaworski breaking down his top 30 QBs I thought it would be a fun exercise to follow in his footsteps and create my own list (why top 30 why not top 32). I haven’t seen his list yet so his opinions won’t be influencing mine in any way and I’ll be curious to see how similar our rankings end up being.

I’ll be breaking up the groups into 4 quarters as the second group of quarterbacks (17-24) are the playmakers who have the talent and/or track record of being more than bus driver quarterbacks but have holes in their games to varying degrees. These are the quarterbacks who have the talent to be elite but aren’t elite yet so it’s no surprise that you’ll find quite a few young players in this sub-section. Some might argue that rookies such as Luck andGriffinshould be ahead of no one because they’ve done nothing yet but it’s hard to argue that Luck should be behind a player like Blaine Gabbert who has tried and failed.

24. Brandon Weeden:

Positives: He’s tall (6’4), accurate, mature for a rookie QB (28 years old), and was one of the most underrated players in college football last season. He beat Luck,Griffin, and Tannehill last season yet was drafted behind them due to his age. Long term his age is a problem but short term it’s a bonus for his team as it’s his second time to have a professional career (minor league baseball player), his maturity and leadership were raved about last season, and he’ll be more ready to play than most rookies.

Negatives: He’s a bit of a gunslinger in his approach to the position which at times can get him in trouble (4 multiple interception games in 2011). He isn’t very mobile and will need to have a strong offensive line in front of him to be successful. As much as his age will help him it still will be his first time to play against NFL defenses so he likely will struggle as a rookie.

Overall: I’ve told anyone who would listen that if Weeden was in his early 20’s he would have been a Top 10 pick. He was far superior to Ryan Tannehill in almost every facet of the game and superior to Griffin in everything except the deep ball and mobility. Weeden is a very intelligent player who has the accuracy, timing, and mentality to fit the ball into tight spots. This is important as I’ve found that some of the biggest busts at the QB position have been based on their inability to thread the needle. Some lack the accuracy (Gabbert) while others lack the mentality (Brady Quinn, David Carr), and others lack the arm strength (Alex Smith). Weeden will throw his share of interceptions early but he’s the type of QB you can win with as he’ll always be attacking a defense. I liked him coming out of Oklahoma St. and think that he should be in the Top 20 as early as next year.

23. Robert Griffin:

Positives: The moment he steps onto an NFL field he’ll immediately be one of the most athletic players to ever play the position. He has legit 4.4 speed and if given an opportunity he can take it the distance. He also has a cannon of an arm and throws one of the best deep balls of any player I’ve ever scouted. He’s considered a hard worker and a “clean” kid who doesn’t have the risk some of the other athletic quarterbacks have (Vick, Newton, Young).

Negatives: While guys like Merril Hoge love to show clips of Griffin throwing a picture perfect deep ball and make the case that RGIII is better than Luck it just isn’t the case. His accuracy is extremely inconsistent and he goes hot and cold. When hot (against TCU, OU, UT, and Washington) he looks phenomenal but when cold (against Texas A&M, Oklahoma St.) he looks very mediocre. For a player who is expected to be a running threat I worry about his size as he was injury prone a bit at Baylor (concussion vs. Tech in 2011, missed most of 2009 season) and he lacks the bulk of a Tebow or Newton. Vince Young and Michael Vick are more his body type as they are fast and lean yet both have had injury issues with Young admitting he basically is no longer much of a runner at all due to the risk of wear and tear.

Overall: RGIII is a step below Luck who is more cerebral, bigger, and more accurate on short and intermediate throws yet RGIII is still one of the best QB’s I’ve graded in the past 10 years. His combination of athleticism, ability to throw the deep ball, intelligence, and character is rare and I think the Redskins made a shrewd move both to move up to get him and then to acquire numerous speed receivers to help his development. Shanahan loves to pound the ball and then either curl the QB on a play action to the right side of the field or take a shot deep. Both plays will fit perfectly into RGIII’s strengths as he’s mobile and throws a great deep ball so I expect this marriage to work brilliantly. I expect him to be a Top 15 QB by year 3.

22. Alex Smith:

Positives: He’s tall (6’4), somewhat accurate, smart, and is coming off the best season of his career in which he set career highs in attempts, completions, completion %, yards, yards per attempt, TD to INT ratio, and passer rating. He was an overtime loss away from leading his team to the Super Bowl. He has good mobility. He’s mentally tough as few QBs who struggle like he has end up with a late career renaissance like he did in 2011.

Negatives: Where to begin. In two of his first three seasons he had a QB rating under 60. He lacks the arm strength to throw a good deep ball or thread the needle on a regular basis. His TD/INT ratio of 68/58 (1.2 to 1) is terrible especially considering he’s a bus driver type who isn’t asked to make the big play but expected to avoid the big mistake. He has some of the smallest hands in the NFL (8 ½ inches) and it’s resulted in 33 career fumbles. His rate of fumbles of 1 for every 59 pass attempts is nearly twice Tom Brady’s rate of 1 per 93. Speaking of Tom Brady, Alex Smith’s best completion % (61.3) in 7 seasons is inferior to Brady’s worst completion % (61.8) in his last 7 seasons. He’s won 1 playoff game in his 7 year career. 

Overall: Personally I think there are 3 or 4 quarterbacks ranked worse than him that I would prefer over Smith as his lack of arm strength and very average career stats make him more deserving to be in the bus driver group yet there’s no denying his 2011 season and I couldn’t rank him any worse than 22nd. The 49ers managed him perfectly last season as they were a run heavy team that had him pass under only the most advantageous conditions and it resulted in him being a Top 10 QB per passer rating. Yet even that is a little dubious as he was 22nd in QBR rating, he led his team to a 29th ranked passing offense, and the team’s elite defense allowed him to regularly play with a lead. I’m expecting a regression this season from him and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was in the bottom 4 next year or off the list entirely as a backup for some team in 2013.

21. Mark Sanchez:

Positives: A strong armed, mobile QB with all of the physical skills to be an elite QB. When he gets his feet set and knows where to go with the ball he is very accurate and is in the upper echelon in arm strength allowing him to very good at comeback routes. He’s only 25 and is coming off 3 straight seasons where his completion %, TDs, and passer rating have improved. He’s extremely clutch with the best games of his career being in the playoffs in 2009 and 2010.

Negatives: He isn’t the smartest guy, isn’t a very hard worker, isn’t much of a leader, and his accuracy is shaky (below 57% all three seasons). Defenses seem to be able to fool him and he too often makes an interception due to throwing it to the wrong receiver instead of making a poor throw. He can thread the needle but can’t do it consistently. He’s inconsistent and is prone to the bad game (6 games in 2011 he had a QB rating below 70).

Overall: Sanchez is what this group is all about as he has all the talent in the world and at times can be dynamic yet he’s inconsistent and lacks the football IQ and dedication to his craft most teams would want in their quarterback. The silver lining is that each year he does appear to be improving and his QB rating is about to break the 80’s which would place him in the middle ranks of quarterbacks. He has the talent to eventually be a Top 10 QB but it’s likely he’ll plateau as an above average quarterback who throws more picks than he should. People love to hate him and his stats aren’t great but he’s improving and is close to breaking out as a Top 15-20 QB.

20. Ryan Fitzpatrick:

Positives: A smart (Harvard) and accurate quarterback with underrated mobility and great leadership qualities. He has an uncanny ability of working the short passing game with accuracy, timing, and a quick release that keeps defenses off balance. With precious few weapons he led the Bills to a 14th ranked offense and a 6-10 record that just as easily could have been 10-6. His leadership was top notch last season as he played all 16 games despite being beat up behind a poor offensive line and rallied them for a late season win against the streaking Broncos which is even more impressive considering they were on a 7 game losing streak at the time.

Negatives: He has average height (6’2), below average arm strength, and his QB rating the past two seasons of 81.8 and 79.1 are average. The biggest reason for this mediocrity was his TD/INT ratio which in 2011 was 24/23. He turns 30 years old this season and he’s one of the many quarterbacks along the lines of Matt Moore and Kyle Orton who are good enough to win for you but always leave you wanting more. Despite a 6 year $59 million contract extension I have my doubts that he’ll still beBuffalo’s starter in 2014 or even possibly 2013.

Overall: Fitzpatrick is a player that is highly underrated in my opinion because his numbers suggest he’s an average quarterback and that’s quite an accomplishment. As quarterback of the Bills last season he had unknown Chris Hairston, a rookie 4th rounder, as his left tackle. As his #1 WR he had Steve Johnson, who as a 7th rounder had only 112 yards receiving his first three seasons yet united with Fitzpatrick in 2010 and has now had back to back 1,000 yard seasons. As his #2 WR he had David Nelson, an undrafted free agent, who has never had a 100 yard or multi touchdown game. As his TE he had Scott Chandler, a 4th rounder, who was cut four times (twice by the Cowboys) in his first two seasons before uniting with Fitzpatrick last season and having a solid season of 38 catches 389 yards 6 TD. The fact that he took a 7th round WR, an undrafted WR, a rookie LT, and a TE cut 4 times in 2 seasons and turned them into a middle of the pack passing attack shows how good Fitzpatrick is as a signal caller. His numbers suggest he’s a middle of the pack quarterback yet when you dig deeper into the numbers you see a player that deserves far more praise. Unfortunately types like him rarely receive this praise and I expect him to be blamed for everything that will go wrong in the next few years causing a GM to replace him.

19. Josh Freeman:

Positives: A big, strong Ben Roethlisberger type as he has a cannon and at 6’6 250 lbs he has surprising mobility. He had a great 2010 season with the 6th best passer rating in the league (95.6) based mainly on his spectacular TD/INT ratio of 25 to 6. He’s only 24 years old.

Negatives: His 2011 season was terrible as he dropped from 6th to 26th in passer rating (74.6). He clearly tried to do too much as his elite TD/INT ratio turned abysmal with 16 TD to 22 INT (most in NFC). His 2010 season also is beginning to look like a bit of a fluke as the only QB with a top 14 passer rating with a lower completion percentage as him was Matt Cassel who also regressed tremendously in 2011.

Overall: Both Freeman and the Bucs overall had their 2010 seasons questioned a bit as 9 of their 10 wins came against teams with losing records. That suspicion was realized in 2011 as Freeman’s numbers plummeted along with their win total as the team went 4-12 and had popular head coach Raheem Morris fired. Freeman has enormous talent as a poor man’s Roethlisberger and I still believe in him but I never fully bought into his 2010 season due to his average completion % and the record of his opponents. At the age of 24 and going into his 3rd season Freeman still will be given plenty of opportunities to prove that he’s a playmaking QB and I expect him to improve. Whether he moves up a few spots or makes a quantum leap up the rankings is the only thing I’m uncertain about. Top 17 next year guaranteed.

18. Sam Bradford:

Positives: A tall (6’4), extremely accurate pocket passer with underrated arm strength and a good understanding of the game and how to read a defense. He had a good season in 2010 (3,512 yds 60% 18 TD 15 INT) on his way to rookie of the year honors. He received the third highest grade of any QB to come out in the last 6 drafts by me due to his elite accuracy and prototypical size. Other QBs with lower grades in that timeframe (Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford) have had more success despite less talent.

Negatives: Bradford isn’t very mobile and has been knocked around the past two seasons as a result. His passer rating the past two seasons of 76.5 in 2010 and 70.5 in 2011 is well below average with him being ranked 25th and 30th respectively with those numbers. His Total QBR is also very poor for 2011 as he ranked 31st. Statistically he has been a bad QB his first two seasons in the league.

Overall: With Bradford there is a bit of projection that needs to be made for him to be ranked this high. He’s been sacked 70 times the past two seasons as he’s an immobile quarterback behind one of the worst offensive lines in football. His yards per attempt of 6.06 ranked 32nd this season as he was throwing to the worst wide receiver corp in the NFL. He’s a smart, accurate, strong armed quarterback who has had no help around him and it’s clearly affected him. With a new coach, GM, and offensive coordinator Bradford should be fine this season as he has top level talent and appears to have more help now. Yet another season of his passer rating in the 70’s will have me jumping off his bandwagon as there are only so many times I’ll overlook mediocrity. He still has a below average offensive line and top level option at WR or TE yet it’s time he improved his game and begin his climb up the QB pecking order.

17. Andrew Luck:

Positives: A tall (6’4), big (235), fast (4.67), accurate, cerebral player who is a unique blend of Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow. He has the bulk, speed, and leadership skills of Tebow to go with the elite understanding of the game that reminds so many of Manning. The two things I like the most about him are his consistency and his ability to avoid the negative play. In 2010 he was the Heisman Trophy runner up yet instead of leaving for the NFL or coming back for a less stellar season he came back and again was the Heisman Trophy runner up in 2011. Some will look at that as a negative, losing twice, but I see it as a positive as he was in the discussion as the best player in the nation for two straight years. His stats looked nearly identical as well with +70% completion, 3,300 yds in ’10 and 3,500 in ’11 and a 12-1 record in ’10 and a 11-2 record in ’11. Those are elite numbers and show his consistency. In 2010 he had a 4 to 1 TD/INT ratio followed by a 3.7 to 1 in 2011. Anything above 3.0 on a TD/INT ratio is elite for a prospect so a 3.8 to 1 ratio his last two years is amazing. What’s even more impressive is his sack total as he only allowed 17 sacks in two seasons. The speed with which he reads a defense, makes a decision, and gets the football out is one of the quickest I’ve ever scouted. Factor into that his relentless work ethic and his elite intelligence (mechanical engineering major) and you have the most mentally ready rookie quarterback in a decade.

Negatives: He has solid arm strength but doesn’t have a cannon which makes the Colts decision to draft two tight ends and go to a two tight end set a smart move. He doesn’t have great arm strength and isn’t a great deep ball thrower so a short and intermediate passing game fits him best. He also wasn’t very clutch this season as he threw a terrible pick in the USC overtime game that should have resulted in a loss, threw two costly picks in the Oregon blowout loss, and played well in the Fiesta Bowl but they lost. He also has a weird upper lip that curls up on him and gives him a Butthead type look.

Overall: Luck is the best QB prospect I’ve graded in the past 6 years and is in the discussion with Eli Manning, Michael Vick, and Vince Young for the best QB prospect since 1999 (year I started scouting). How he will perform as a rookie is anyone’s guess as Cam Newton set numerous rookie records last year and Luck is a far more polished passer than Cam was last year yet Hall of Fame caliber QBs like Manning and Aikman struggled as rookies so either is possible. What’s guaranteed is that he soon will be rising in these rankings as he’s too smart, works too hard, and is too talented to not be a top 10 quarterback. The question isn’t if he becomes a Pro Bowl caliber signal caller but when.

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