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DFWPROSPORTS Official NFL QB Rankings (numbers 9-16)

July 19, 2012

After a few weeks off I’m back to finish my top 32 QB ranking. Next up is the playmakers section which is a group of passers that are consistent playmakers for their team yet are a step below the franchise quarterbacks that make up the top quarter of the league. All of these quarterbacks have had regular season success and some of them have had postseason success yet none have broken through for MVP awards or a Super Bowl win.

16. Matt Hasselbeck:

Positives: He‘s a smart, experienced (14 year veteran) QB who has been very consistent if not spectacular (7 seasons of +82 QB rating). He also has done all of this despite an utter lack of talent to work with during his career as from 2001-2010 his #1 receiver (by yards) was Koren Robinson, Darrell Jackson, Bobby Engram, John Carlson, TJ Houshmandzadeh, and Mike Williams with none of them making the Pro Bowl. While other QBs had a few seasons with a Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, or Torry Holt he was left with a bunch of retreads yet still consistently put up solid stats. He’s extremely accurate, understands how to attack defenses with eye deception and pump fakes, and is a great leader.

Negatives: He’s become rather fragile later in his career missing 19 games the past 8 seasons and only starting all 16 games 3 of those 8 seasons. He also isn’t very mobile and doesn’t have the strongest arm so his best fit is in an offense that attacks but doesn’t spread it out as much as the Saints or Packers do. He’s an aggressive signal caller and sometimes this comes back to hurt his team as he has 14 or more interceptions 4 of the past 6 years.

Overall: The man left for dead so many times just continues to have one more season left in him. He’s consistently been one of my most underrated players in the league as I understood the lack of respect he got as his numbers were only above average but with his supporting cast people should have looked at that as an accomplishment. Last season with Kenny Britt as his first Pro Bowl caliber receiver he ever had I was excited to see what his numbers would look like and he didn’t disappoint as he had a +90 QB rating each of the first 4 games. Unfortunately Britt had a season ending injury and in the final 12 games his QB rating was +90 only 3 more times. He’s last in my playmaker section but still deserves to be in this section as with the right talent around him he has the ability to carve up even the best of defenses and should have another good season in 2012.

15. Joe Flacco

Positives: When looking at Joe Flacco the first two things you notice are his height (6’6) and his arm strength. Having slacked a little in my Top 32 QB rankings I happened to catch Ron Jaworski’s profile of Flacco and agree with him that he probably has the strongest arm in the NFL. He also has been a very clutch QB with at least 1 playoff win in each of his first 4 seasons with a 44-20 record (.688 winning %) in the regular season.

Negatives: The stats. I’m a stats guy so it’s no surprise that I have Flacco much lower on my list than Jaws does as for a resume Flacco has it all, regular season wins, playoff wins, yet looking at stats he’s hardly an impressive quarterback. Last season he was 18th in the league in QB rating (80.9), 24th in yards per attempt (6.66), 26th in completion % (57.6), and 15th in QBR (57.9). It all adds up to a player who is an average to below average quarterback. What’s even worse is that he’s doing it while handing the ball off to one of the best RBs in football, with an offensive line that is above average, with wide receivers who are very capable, and with a defense that often gives him a short field. His stats should be much better than this.

Overall: Joe is a difficult player to grade as he’s basically the antithesis of Tony Romo as his stats say he’s a slightly below average quarterback who with his supporting cast could be downgraded to a well below average ranking, yet he wins and his team is in the playoffs AND winning in the playoffs every year. I would argue that the majority of his wins have been more due to his top notch defense and running game than about him but wins are wins and in today’s NFL that makes him a top QB in most peoples eyes. I disagree and can’t put him any higher than #15 but admit that I might be in the minority on this one.

14. Cam Newton

Positives: Athletically he is arguably the most talented QB to ever play in the NFL as he has size (6’5 248), speed (4.59 40), and an absolute cannon for an arm. He also surprised with a solid completion percentage (60%), an elite yards per attempt (7.84-10th in NFL), and a positive TD/INT ratio (21/17) none of which I expected from a player with great physical talent but who looked very raw coming out of Auburn. His size and strength is a huge asset on the goal line as he’s able to take on defenders head on and still push forward for that final yard to score. He’s one of the 3 most mobile quarterbacks in the NFL and can buy extra chances for his receivers downfield. He also has become one of the faces of the NFL and seems to have a lot of respect from players around the league which I could see being used favorably in the future when Carolina tries to attract top level free agents.

Negatives: For as “great” as Newton’s rookie season was said to have been he still was only 15th in QB rating, threw the 6th most interceptions of any QB, was sacked the 11th most times, and his team went 6-10. It was a great year in context of him being a rookie who didn’t have an offseason due to the lockout and came from one of the simplest offenses in the country in Auburn yet if these are his numbers for the next 10 years he’ll be classified as a slightly above average QB. He struggled reading defenses at times (3 games with 3 or more interceptions), was helped out a lot by Steve Smith’s outstanding bounce back season, and didn’t perform very well in the 4th quarter. Newton also was guilty of some of the worst sideline body language I have ever seen as in the Saints game and the Falcons game he was almost inconsolable on the sidelines at times. He admitted it this offseason and said he will be better going forward but only time will tell if he improves.

Overall: Newton at first glance looks like one of the rising stars in the NFL and there is no denying he has all of the talent in the world, yet I’m the first to admit that I saw a lot of issues with him that need to be fixed before he can take that next step. In 2010 Josh Freeman put up far superior numbers and I didn’t buy those either as I saw a lot of connections on deep balls that inflated his stats. Steve Smith did the same thing for Newton in 2011 and with a TD/INT ratio of 21/17 he easily could be a QB who takes a plunge in 2012 with defenses having more tape on him and when the deep ball isn’t connected on as often. He has the talent to be a franchise quarterback but whether he goes up or down on this list next year is very debatable in my eyes and we could be seeing him have a sophomore slump in 2012.

13. Jay Cutler

Positives: When comparing Jay Cutler to Aaron Rodgers there is very little physically different between the two. Both are 6’3 220 guys with underrated mobility who have cannons on their right shoulders and the mentality needed to thread the needle against even the best defenses. He had solid QB ratings (86.3 and 85.7) the past two seasons despite playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league and throwing to one of the worst sets of wideouts. He was sacked an NFL high 52 times in 2010 and was on pace to be sacked 37 times in 2011 (would have been 6th most in the league) if not for being injured 10 games into the season and not returning.

Negatives: Unlike Rodgers who has a 4.3 to 1 TD/INT ratio Cutler has trouble holding onto the ball with a 1.6 to 1 ratio the past two seasons. While his sack total is mainly a result of his poor offensive line he does tend to hold onto the ball too long. He has never had a QB rating higher than 88.5, his rookie year interestingly enough, despite having a few seasons paired with Brandon Marshal who is a top level wideout. He also has had his leadership skills and toughness questioned in his time in the NFL. I would defend his toughness as any QB still standing after leading the league in sacks has to be tough yet there is some validity to the knock of his leadership. He never took his collegiate team to a bowl game and only has led his NFL team to the playoffs once, a very poor return for a player who has started 8 full seasons at QB (2 Vanderbilt, 3 Denver, 3 Chicago).

Overall: I’ve never been a big fan of Cutler’s as he has the arm, mobility, and accuracy to be an elite QB but at the age of 29 years old he still seems unable to put it all together. A lot of his teammates aren’t fans of his, he isn’t the hardest worker, and I’ve seen no real improvement in his stats since he joined the league (in 5 of his 6 seasons he has a QB rating between 85.7-88.5). The addition of Marshall and possibly the improvement of the Bears offensive line could bump him up but until that happens I’ll throw him in as an above average quarterback who continues to fail in moments where he can become great. Wake me up when that changes as I expect he’ll be 12-16 in the rankings next year as well.

12. Matt Ryan

Positives: His regular season success is elite as he’s had a winning record in each of his first four seasons despite the fact that he inherited a team that had gone 11-21 the previous two seasons. He’s been +90 in QB rating the past two years ranking him 11th in 2010 and 8th in 2011 and appears to be continually improving each year. He’s a film junkie and one of the most underrated ones as the Mannings, Brees, and Bradys all get credit for studying so thoroughly but scouts consistently point to him as one of the most prepared and hardest to trick.

Negatives: Physically he never has been that great. He isn’t very fast or athletic and his arm strength is average at best which is why his film study is so important to his success as he’s one of the worst quarterbacks in the league at making plays when things breakdown. The Falcons have been a run first team throughout his short career with Michael Turner being one of the 3 leading rushers 3 of the past 4 years. For a supposedly franchise quarterback to have such a dominant running game the offensive numbers for Atlanta are very average as Atlanta has been 16th in the NFL two of the past three years in points scored. He’s 0-3 in his brief playoff career yet the worst part of it is that he’s been blown out by 49 points in the past two games combined. He’s quickly earning the reputation as a choke artist with his offense being blanked by the Giants last January not helping matters.

Overall: Having just turned 27 years old Ryan is one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. He has improved each year he’s been in the league, has worked to add weight to his light frame, and studied film with the best of them yet it will be interesting to see if he plateaus from here or if he can continue his rise in the quarterback rankings. As a player with average arm strength and poor athleticism it’s conceivable that the Falcons will be left with this level of quarterback for the next 4-6 years yet it’s also possible that his elite understanding of Xs and Os will allow him to continue his ascent up the QB ladder until he’s in the top 8. Neither would surprise me but if the improvement occurs it probably will occur either this year or next year while Julio Jones emerging dominance combines with Roddy White and Michael Turner before they begin their inevitable decline. Ryan has one of the best sets of skill players around him and if he can’t move up into the top 10 soon it’s likely that it will never happen.

11. Matt Schaub

Positives: In almost every statistical category he’s a top 10 QB. In QBR he’s ranked 6th, in QB rating he’s 6th, in yards per attempt he’s 3rd, and he had a 7-3 record in his 10 games this past season. He’s a tall (6’5), strong armed QB who has had a QB rating in the 90’s, a completion percentage in the 60’s, and a YPA at 7.61 or higher for 4 straight seasons yet still gets no respect.

Negatives: First off is the perception that a lot of his elite stats have come from throwing to one of the best wide receivers in the game the past 5 years in Andre Johnson. There’s no denying that it’s influenced his numbers but I question if it is as big of a deal as many think. The second issues is that he’s not only never won a playoff game but has never played in a playoff game. This season he spotted his team to a 7-3 record but it was TJ Yates who finished the season due to injuries. The third issue is his injuries as he’s missed 16 games the past 5 years including 3 seasons in which he played 11 or fewer games. If any of those issues was by itself they would be dismissed due to his elite stats but with all three issues plaguing him it causes most fans to leave him out of the conversation of top QBs.

Overall: I love Schaub, when healthy, as he’s a deadly player who has all of the stats in the world and, going into last season, he had led one of the 4 most prolific offenses in all of football each of the previous three seasons. Yet the injury bug got him again and it’s becoming so consistent that it does make a team wonder if they can truly count on him at the end of the season when they’ll need him the most. When fully healthy I truly believe that he’s one of the 8-10 best quarterbacks in football yet due to his injury history and his lack of history as a playoff performer he settles in at #11. Most won’t have him this high but if you look at the stats it’s pretty easy to argue that #11 is actually too low which shows just how underrated the guy is. One full 16 game season ending in a playoff win or two would fix that real quick.

10. Michael Vick

Positives: Simply put Michael Vick is the greatest athlete to ever play quarterback in NFL history. It’s the reason why he was and still is the greatest prospect coming out of college that I’ve ever graded. He has (had as he appears a step slower than his mid 2000’s version) legit 4.2 speed, a cannon of an arm (one of the 5 strongest in the NFL), and his ability to start and stop or juke a player during a run is on par with the top RBs in the NFL. He appears to recently have put in more time in the film room, he admitted that he almost never watched film before signing with the Eagles which is borderline unfathomable as an NFL QB, and has progressed as a pure passer. His past 3 seasons with the Eagles have been the 3 highest QB ratings he has had in his 9 year career.

Negatives: Well why did it take him until he turned 29 years old to begin watching film? It sums up his career as he hasn’t put much effort into his NFL career and still is year in and year out one of the 15 best QBs in the NFL. If he had a strong work ethic during his early years he could have been one of the greatest players the NFL has ever seen yet I think that time has officially past. He isn’t as fast as he was before and it appears to have affected his durability as he isn’t quite able to avoid hits like he used to. In 4 of his last 5 seasons with the Falcons (pre jail time) he played in 15 or more games each season yet in his 3 seasons with the Eagles (post jail time) he’s played in 12, 12, and 13 games showing a lack of durability that has often come back to bite the Eagles at the end of the year. He isn’t the most accurate passer, struggles to read complex defenses, is a questionable leader (though a very popular one in the clubhouse), is very short for the position (6’0), and has had numerous off the field issues in his career. He hasn’t won a playoff game since the 2004 season making his salary, 4th highest among QBs behind only Brees, Manning, and Brady, very questionable.

Overall: Vick is a phenom and though it appears his tale will be told with a bunch of would’ves and could’ves in it one must remember that he still has the talent to finish his career on a high note. He just turned 32 years old and is only one year removed from a season where he had a 100.2 QB rating and a yards per attempt of 8.11, both of which ranked 4th in the league. He could focus solely on football, improve his understanding of how to attack a defense, and limit his running (keep himself healthy) allowing him to catapult himself into the upper echelon of QBs in the Top 5. Yet it’s more likely that he’ll have one or two more good seasons with far more average or below average seasons mixed in until his elite athleticism completely leaves him and he becomes a shell of his former self. This is a crossroads season for Vick as I don’t see how the Eagles can consider their $16 million a year investment a sound one when he misses 1/4 of each season due to injuries and his QB rating (84.6) and his TD/INT ratio (18/14) are both average. He has the talent and athleticism to spend another 2-3 years as a top 5 QB but finds himself at #10 due to a questionable work ethic, his injury proneness, and his poor decision making. It wouldn’t surprise me though if he had a bounce back year and was in the top 8 next season.

9. Matthew Stafford

Positives: Matt is a big (6’3 232), strong armed quarterback who blew up this past season and has all the makings of a future MVP candidate. His arm is one of the 3 strongest in the NFL with only Joe Flacco and Aaron Rodgers possibly being stronger, his 5,038 yards passing at the age of 23 makes his ceiling almost limitlessly high, and going into his 4th year it should be expected that he shows improvement in his overall game, if not his numbers, since he’s made huge strides in each of his previous years compared to the preceding year. He was 3rd in passing yards, 3rd in passing TDs, and 5th in QB rating making a very strong case to be included in any discussion of the top 5 QBs.

Negatives: Stafford is a little overrated due to his cumulative stats as his efficiency stats, the ones I pay special attention to, are not nearly as impressive. His yards per attempt were only 13th in the NFL, making his elite yardage totals somewhat misleading as he led the league in passing attempts with 663. It’s like saying Shaquille O’Neal was the “best” free throw shooter since he made the most free throws. Yes he made the most but he also attempted the most and if you look at his efficiency he suddenly doesn’t look like a great free throw shooter at all. Matt also is blessed to play with Calvin Johnson who I’m convinced raises his QB rating by at least 5 points as there were countless plays last season in which Matt just threw the ball up into double coverage to Johnson and it ended with a TD or long gainer. No one last year was bailed out of more bad situations than Stafford was by Megatron and it’s likely to continue for the foreseeable future as both are just entering their prime. Last season was his first in which his completion % was +60%, his yards per attempt were +7.00, and he played in more than 10 games in a season giving pause to all of those people wanting to anoint him as the next superstar as those are all very easy benchmarks to reach and he’s currently 1 for 3 in his career in reaching them. His team’s record is 18-30 in his 3 seasons and while some would point to his injury history as him being absolved of much of that record I would argue that him being fragile has been a key reason for the Lions struggles the past few years so he surely deserves a large part of that blame. He has yet to win a playoff game.

Overall: Don’t get me wrong Matt Stafford is one of the young up and coming stars in the NFL yet anyone who thinks he’s already arrived due to a fluke stat like him passing for 5,000 yards doesn’t understand how and why some NFL teams succeed long term and some teams don’t. The Lions had the 29th ranked rushing attack and the 23rd ranked scoring defense meaning the Lions had to throw to score and their defense forced them to score a lot to stay in games. Quite a few shootouts occurred and the Lions ended up on top enough to earn their first playoff berth since 1999 but that is not a winning formula in the NFL. In the past three drafts the Lions have added two RBs (Jahvid Best, Mikel LeShoure), two defensive tackles (Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley) and an offensive tackle (Riley Reiff) in the first two rounds as they understand that a team without a running game and without a quality defense will eventually be without a winning record as teams that try to only outscore their opponent rarely have long term success. The Lions will run the ball more often and Stafford’s passing attempts could drop by as much as 100 attempts which then will cause people to focus more on his efficiency metrics and they’ll see they aren’t nearly as impressive. He’s a future MVP candidate but as of this year’s list he barely misses the cut as a top 8 QB and settles in at #9.

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