Ranking all 32 NFL teams at quarterback
Ranking all 32 NFL teams at quarterback
Ranking all 32 teams at quarterback
When ranking NFL quarterbacks, it's pretty easy to fill in slots three thru 32. Picking No. 1 and No. 2, on the other hand, is a real headache.
Who do you prefer? The reigning champion or the three-time champion? Which stat do you find more impressive — 12 playoff victories or 275 career touchdown passes? Do you like the guy who silenced his doubters last year or the guy who never had any doubters?
The following rankings are based on team depth charts, not just starters. So we're really pitting Peyton Manning, Jim Sorgi, and John Navarre against Tom Brady, Matt Cassell, and Matt Gutierrez. Does it really matter? When you think about Patriots vs. Colts, do you think of Sorgi vs. Cassell? If Matt Gutierrez fell in the woods, would he make a sound?
At Football Outsiders, we've done our homework. We've ranked the quarterbacks from all 32 teams based on our groundbreaking DVOA and DPAR metrics, our scouting and game charting data, and a healthy dollop of horse sense. For rookies and prospects, we used the Lewin Career Forecast System, a projection method so accurate that it has generated some sizzle among NFL insiders (you can read more about DVOA, DPAR, and Lewin's Career Forecast System in Football Prospectus 2007, available wherever fine paperbacks are sold). Armed with this arsenal, we can definitively say who's tops among NFL signal callers.
Here's a hint: he does a lot of commercials.
1. Colts (2006 Rank: 1)
If you lumped together all of Peyton Manning's third down pass attempts from the last three seasons, you would get this stat line: 243-of-384 (63.3%), 2889 yards, 38 touchdowns, eight interceptions. The dude is pretty good on third downs.
Take four years of Peyton's fourth quarter performances and add them together to get this stat line: 304-of-454 (66.9 percent), 3,589 yards, 22 touchdowns, 10 interceptions. He's pretty good late in the game, too. If you are only interested in "late clutch" situations (fourth quarter, game within seven points), Peyton is 229-of-335 (68.3 percent) for 2,768 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions. He's not too shabby with the game on the line.
In short, Manning is the guy you want to give the ball to in pressure situations. The "playoff choke artist" isn't dead; he never existed. The Peyton Manning we saw in January and February — the guy who battled back from a 21-3 lead in the AFC title game against the Team of the Decade, who threw for 247 yards against the league's best defense in the rain-drenched Super Bowl — is an all-time great, a legend in his prime.
Jim Sorgi has been in the system for four years and has looked good in mop-up duty. John Navarre provides much needed preseason comic relief as the third stringer.
2. Patriots (2006 Rank: 2)
Fourteen wins. Twenty-four touchdowns. Over 3,500 yards. Another 724 yards and five touchdowns in the postseason. Welcome to an off year, Tom Brady style. When Brady comes within four points of reaching the Super Bowl, he's a disappointment. With three rings on his fingers and a new crop of receivers to throw to this season, he's sure to find a way to bounce back in 2007.
Brady is best in the league at spraying the ball to his backs and tight ends in space, and he has the best pocket awareness since Troy Aikman. Only Peyton is better at dissecting and dismantling coverage schemes. Some micro-analysts think he can't throw the deep ball. Just wait until Brady sees Randy Moss and Donte Stallworth streaking down the sidelines. He'll show you a deep ball.
Backup Matt Cassel has been with the Patriots so long that he once fumbled in Nickerson Stadium. In a preseason game, of course. Cassel is a swashbuckling scrambler with a case of fumble-itis, but he knows the system. Rookie Matt Gutierrez posted marginal numbers at I-AA Idaho State but has NFL size and arm strength.
3. Eagles (2006 Rank: 8)
Donovan McNabb surprised many by participating in a May mini-camp; it was an encouraging sign that he is ahead of schedule in his ACL rehab. McNabb underwent a grueling off-season program of knee exercises that included, among other things, long games of tag. Yes, as in "you're it." Don't laugh; children's games can help athletes improve the strength and flexibility in their legs. In fact, legend has it that Dan Marino overcame his collegiate knee injuries by riding the Double Dutch Bus.
When healthy, McNabb is an elite quarterback. He's great at launching deep passes, but he's even better when the Eagles offense is balanced and he has the chance to throw underneath. McNabb underthrows some passes and is starting to lose his scrambling ability, but he's a great decision maker in the pocket and one of the hardest quarterbacks in NFL history for players not named Ronde Barber to intercept.
McNabb has missed 13 starts in the last two seasons and is coming off a major injury. Luckily, the Eagles have the best quarterback depth in the NFL. A.J. Feeley is an Andy Reid disciple who knows the system and takes what the defense offers. Rookie Kevin Kolb is a shotgun quarterback with great touch and mobility; the Lewin Career Forecast ranks him as an excellent long-term prospect. Kelly Holcomb, acquired in the Takeo Spikes trade, may be the odd man out, but he's a heady veteran who can win a game or two if called upon.
4. Bengals (2006 Rank: 6)
Carson Palmer slipped a bit after his tremendous 2005 season. The lingering effects of his ACL tear troubled him early in the season, and injuries on the offensive line resulted in 36 sacks. Still, 4,000 yards and a 28/13 touchdown-to-interception ratio are nothing to apologize for. Palmer may have the quickest release in football and excels at throwing deep outs and comebacks. He also knows how to check down and can buy time in the pocket. The Bengals would rank third, but mediocre backup Doug Johnson and rookie Jeff Rowe wouldn't win many games in Palmer's absence.
5. Seahawks (2006 Rank: 3)
You may have seen Matt Hasselbeck sporting a blonde wig during mini-camp. Do not be alarmed. Hasselbeck and Mike Holmgren just had some communication issues. Holmgren said that the quarterback had to be more like Montana. Holmgren meant "Joe." Hasselbeck thought he meant "Hannah."
After suffering through his worst season in five years, Hasselbeck probably felt the need to wear a disguise and lay low. Hasselbeck missed four games with a knee injury, then started forcing balls into coverage when he returned. Dropped passes and instability on the offensive line didn't help. Hasselbeck is healthy again (the minor off-season surgery on his non-throwing shoulder is not an issue), so look for him to return to form as soon as he loses the wig. He's a consummate West Coast quarterback who breaks down coverages well and puts tremendous touch on the ball.
Backup Seneca Wallace is a 5-foot-10 scrambler with an average arm. Mike Holmgren changes the offense when Wallace is in the game, calling more shotgun formations and rolling pocket plays. Despite his physical limits, Wallace has a little bit of Flutie Magic and can surprise opponents.
6. Saints (2006 Rank: 10)
He's short. His passes don't exactly whistle in the air. He can run a little, but he's no Michael Vick. He came from the type of spread college offense that has been churning out NFL busts for two decades. Drew Brees' measurables don't add up to a Pro Bowl quarterback, but here he is. Brees has now enjoyed three straight outstanding seasons for two different teams, so it's time to give him his due. Brees is a mechanically sound technician with great touch and accuracy who has good pocket awareness and gets rid of the ball quickly. Combine all of those "little" skills, and you get 4,400 yards, 26 touchdowns, and a deep playoff run.
Backup Jamie Martin has been in the NFL for 13 seasons, most of them as a third stringer. He's auditioning for an offensive coordinator's job. Second-year pro Jason Fife is a project.
7. Rams (2006 Rank: 17)
Another year, another 4,000 yards or so and 24 touchdowns. Bulger may be the most consistent quarterback in the league. He rarely has a truly bad game, and when he does (like last season's 151-yard, zero touchdown, seven-sack effort against the Panthers), it's pretty obvious that there were breakdowns elsewhere on offense. If Rex Grossman could take Marc Bulger pills, Bears fans wouldn't need so much ibuprofen to get through the fall.
Backup Gus Frerotte is a streak shooter with a great arm and tons of experience. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a fleet-footed Ivy Leaguer who throws well on the run. Neither could lead the Rams to the playoffs, but both could win a game in a pinch.
8. Steelers (2006 Rank: 4)
He led his team to a 15-1 season. He won a Super Bowl. Then he turned 24. He accomplished so much that it was easy to forget how young Ben Roethlisberger was. He crashed his motorcycle. He needed an appendectomy. He battled back, but he couldn't overcome the distractions and the expectations. He was awful early in 2006, throwing no touchdowns and seven interceptions in his first three games. He got better, but he kept pressing. Roethlisberger was a terrible fourth quarter passer in 2006: four touchdowns, 11 interceptions, many of the picks coming at the worst possible times. He was trying too hard, playing outside the system. It was a miserable year.
Now, the good news: Big Ben is healthy and focused. The new coaching staff plans to maximize his strengths by introducing more spread formations and a no-huddle package. And he's still only 25 years old. Think of last season as his "rookie lumps" year. He just had it out of order.
Backup Charlie Batch has a poor arm and has lost much of his athleticism, but he's crafty and played well in relief over the last two seasons. Brian St. Pierre has been hanging around practice squads for four years. Brian Randall, a former standout at Virginia Tech, will try to make some noise in camp.
9. Ravens (2006 Rank: 12)
Steve McNair is Captain Checkdown, a dink-and-dunk specialist who never met a slant, hitch, or curl route that he didn't like. McNair still has the arm to throw deep but rarely does; just 13 percent of his passes traveled 16 or more yards in the air, easily the lowest figure among starters. McNair is a marksman on short routes, and while he isn't very fast, he knows when to tuck and run for positive yardage.
Backup Kyle Boller has plenty of experience, throws a great deep ball, and can run away from trouble. Boller played well when McNair was hurt last year but still overthrows too many receivers. Rookie Troy Smith has all the intangibles but must prove that he is more than a shotgun-option rollout quarterback.
10. Chargers (2006 Rank: 22)
Philip Rivers finished fifth in the league in DPAR (88.6), threw for 3,388 yards, and led his teams to a 14-2 record. Still, his performances against the Raiders in Week 12 (14-of-31, 133 yards, one interception) and Chiefs in Week 15 (8-of-23, 97 yards, two interceptions) suggest that Rivers is still suffering through some growing pains. New coach Norv Turner will focus on fundamentals to improve Rivers' awkward backpedal and delivery style. But Turner's system lacks creativity, and Rivers may struggle when opponents figure out the game plan. Backup Billy Volek went from heir apparent to dirty dishrag in Tennessee in just a few weeks last year. Volek has a live arm and has proven he can win games off the bench.
11. Cowboys (2006 Rank: 21)
Tony Romo is no half-year wonder. Romo spent three years on the Cowboys bench learning the ropes from Sean Payton before bursting into the spotlight last October. When he's focused, his mechanics are solid, his release is quick, he makes good decisions, and he can make plays on the run. Focus, though, is the key. By December, Romo seemed to be reading his press clippings; he started scrambling around in search of highlight-film touchdowns and carrying the football like it was an overfilled diaper pail. With a season to settle into his role as a starter, Romo will calm down and return to the form he displayed during his nine-touchdown, one-interception November run.
Backup Brad Johnson aged quickly last year. He's a fine sounding board and mentor for Romo, but the Cowboys are in trouble if he plays.
12. Jets (2006 Rank: 26)
Chad Pennington is the best play-faker in the NFL, and few can match his touch and timing on crossing routes. The Jets would rank much higher if Pennington could throw deep. Only five percent of his passes traveled more than 25 yards in the air, one of the lowest figures in the league. The handful of bombs he did throw fluttered like plastic bags in an autumn breeze. Pennington looked like a budding star before the shoulder injuries; now, he seems destined to have a Brad Johnson career. There are worse fates; Johnson, after all, won a Super Bowl.
Sophomore Kellen Clemens gets high marks from the Lewin Career Forecast, and Eric Mangini hinted early in the off-season that Clemens would get a chance to challenge Pennington. But Clemens didn't perform well in mini-camp and may face a challenge from fleet-footed ex-Raider Marques Tuiasosopo for the backup role.
13. Cardinals (2006 Rank: 14)
Matt Leinart's completion percentage was 51.6 in October, 59.3 in November and 61.3 in December last season. He averaged 5.9 yards per attempt in October, 7.2 in November, and 7.5 in December. By season's end, he ranked 16th in the NFL in DPAR, ahead of such veterans as Jake Delhomme, Eli Manning, and Matt Hasselbeck. Leinart has a great arm, lightning-quick release, and the decisiveness to improvise when plays break down. He should benefit from Ken Whisenhunt's guidance.
Kurt Warner fumbled 10 times in five starts last season and is a rickety, jittery shell of the quarterback who threw 41 touchdowns and won a Super Bowl in 1999. Still, his football IQ and big-game experience make him an ideal mentor.
14. Titans (2006 Rank: 28)
The Lewin Career Forecast predicts that Vince Young will grow into a very good passer, not a great one. Add exceptional running to very good passing and you have one heck of a player. We caught a glimpse of a possible future during Young's late-season hot streak: he beat opponents with his arm and his legs, demonstrating more grace under pressure than the typical rookie.
The fear in Tennessee is that Young may have experienced too much success too soon. If Young lets the Pro Bowl berth, Rookie of the Year award, and press clippings go to his head, it could stunt his development. Don't be surprised if Young suffers through a serious sophomore slump this year. Everything broke right for him in 2006, and he may be asked to do too much while breaking in a new receiving corps on a still-rebuilding team.
Kerry Collins joined the Titans late in the 2006 off-season and was unprepared to start on opening day. He's through as a starter, but he's a quality backup who can still make all the throws. Tim Rattay played very well in a late-season trial with the Bucs last season. He can look like Joe Montana for short stretches, but he lacks the arm and athleticism to contribute on a regular basis.
15. Chiefs (2006 Rank: 7)
Brodie Croyle spent June mini-camp taking reps as the Chiefs starting quarterback while preparing for his wedding. Compared to the wedding, the sophomore told the Kansas City Star, "football is a piece of cake." Speaking of cake, Brodie, Bridezilla just called. It's a triple-tiered tiramisu with white chocolate fondant or else she marries Casey Printers.
Damon Huard finished second in the NFL to Peyton Manning in DVOA last year. So why isn't he the starter? Huard is a 34-year old career backup coming off a charmed season. Croyle is an athletic, strong-armed youngster with a head for the game who would have been a first-round pick in 2006 if he hadn't suffered numerous college injuries. The Chiefs' run-heavy offense is very quarterback-friendly, so why not install the youngster now? If he falters or gets hurt again, Huard is a capable backup.
16. Packers (2006 Rank: 19)
You know when you are over the hill: it's when your mind makes a promise that your body can't fill. Favre sees the coverage converging, thinks back to 1996, and truly believes he can rifle the ball to his receiver before the safeties arrive. Unfortunately, his release is a bit slower and his fastball a few degrees cooler, so 1990s touchdowns have become new millennium interceptions.
Still, DVOA grades Favre as an average passer. His gunslinger mentality resulted in 47 interceptions in the last two seasons, but it also produced a fair share of big plays. Many teams, like the ones further down this list, would be thrilled to have a veteran quarterback with some big-play ability who never, ever misses a start.
Backups Aaron Rodgers and Ingle Martin are true unknowns. Rodgers took over for a briefly injured Favre last season and promptly suffered a season-ending ankle injury. Martin, a small-school project, took some reps with the starters in mini-camp and threw two interceptions in his first practice session. He needs more work.
17. Panthers (2006 Rank: 15)
While his overall stats didn't look bad, Jake Delhomme grades out as a below-average quarterback according to DVOA. Our system evaluates things that aren't obvious in the stat totals, like six interceptions, 12 sacks, and a 50.4 completion percentage on third down. Delhomme has great accuracy and throws an excellent deep ball, but he forces lots of passes, makes bad reads, and doesn't feel the pass rush until after the ball has been stripped. Too many Panthers losses last season were decided by Delhomme miscues.
Backup David Carr completed 68.3 percent of his passes last season, but most of his receivers were three yards away in the Texans' dink-and-dunk attack. Carr is a tough competitor, but he's wobbly after enduring 249 sacks in five seasons, and he never had great athleticism or fundamentals. Sophomore Brett Basanez is smart and looks the part, but the Steelers defense ate him up in his lone outing last season.
18. Bills (2006 Rank: 32)
J.P. Losman improved tremendously in the last two seasons. He's still a mad bomber who likes to take chances deep, but last season he learned to check down and use his underneath receivers more effectively. Losman still takes too many hits, but he no longer tucks and runs before his receivers have time to flash open. Losman's emergence keeps Craig Nall on the bench, where he must be mighty comfortable. Nall has never started an NFL game, but he has a gaudy 139.4 career passer rating thanks to some mop-up work in Green Bay. Rookie Trent Edwards is smart but injury prone and doesn't have a great arm.
Re: Ranking all 32 NFL teams at quarterback
19. Giants (2006 Rank: 18)
Eli Manning appeared to turn the corner at the start of last season. He threw nine touchdown passes in his first four games, completed 67.1 percent of his passes, and brushed off an eight-sack pounding by the Eagles to lead an improbable comeback. Then came a miserable November stretch; the Giants kept losing, and every Manning pass seemed to be two seconds too late or five yards too high. Manning has a quick trigger and can drop a bomb into a receiver's arms 40 yards downfield like he's sinking a free throw. But zone blitzes mystify him and, unlike his brother, he makes some awful game management decisions. Eli is no lost cause, but it will be tough for him to get better while battling opponents, his own overmatched coaches, and the often hostile Big Apple media.
The Giants backups are more interesting than effective. Jared Lorenzen looks like Billy Kilmer after a White Castle Crave Case binge. Tim Hasselbeck's wife hates Rosie O'Donnell.
20. Lions (2006 Rank: 24)
Jon Kitna finished 11th in the NFL in DPAR, but even Football Outsiders stats can be snookered once in a while. DVOA ranked him as a league-average quarterback, but an average quarterback who throws 596 passes is a pretty valuable commodity. Kitna was exceptional in the final two weeks of last season — 589 yards, seven touchdowns, one interception against the playoff-bound Bears and Cowboys — but he surrendered too many sacks and turnovers before the yuletide surge. He's a serviceable custodian who reads defenses well and can pick apart zones.
Dan Orlavsky and Drew Stanton are vying for the heir apparent role. Orlavsky, a third-year player from Connecticut, has NFL size and athleticism, but he hasn't distinguished himself. Stanton survived the John L. Smith era at Michigan State, so he's ready for the worst the Lions can throw at him. He's a scrambler who throws a nice short ball but needs to work on his mechanics and recognition.
21. Broncos (2006 Rank: 5)
Jay Cutler fared well for a rookie in five late-season starts. He play-fakes and throws deep well, making him a perfect fit in Mike Shanahan's offense. He has the arm to throw deep outs and can take a licking in the pocket. Cutler doesn't have the elite ability of a Leinart or Young, and he still must work on ball security and blitz pickup, but he's a legit prospect. Patrick Ramsey has lost his youthful glow and must settle into a career as a backup-for-hire. He's a heady player with average talent.
22. Jaguars (2006 Rank: 9)
Byron Leftwich is a big-armed, immobile passer with a funky windup delivery. He is at his best when standing in the shotgun and firing the ball down the field. Leftwich is the most experienced quarterback on the roster and the nominal starter, but Jack Del Rio lacks confidence in him. David Garrard is a "makes things happen" type, a scrambler who is more effective than Leftwich on short routes. He had big games against the Titans and Dolphins last year, but the more defenses see of him, the worse he looks. Third-stringer Quinn Gray has Leftwich's arm and Garrard's legs, and after four years in Jacksonville he expects a crack at the starting job. There's a quality quarterback here somewhere. The Jaguars might waste the whole season trying to find him.
23. 49ers (2006 Rank: 29)
Alex Smith's mechanics and decision making improved last season, transforming him from an awful quarterback into a mediocre one. Smith's small hands are a liability, and he still produces some ready-for-the-blooper-reel fumbles, but he's an athletic specimen from the wrist up. Smith is just five months older than Brady Quinn, so he still has plenty of time to develop. Backup Trent Dilfer is a straight-off-the-rack mentor who can share horror stories with Smith about the high expectations that come with being a player taken high in the draft.
24. Buccaneers (2006 Rank: 24)
Jeff Garcia is only as good as the offense around him. He led a great Eagles team to the playoffs last year but floundered in his stints with the Browns and Lions. Garcia's tendency to tap dance in the pocket sometimes results in great plays, but he'll often dance right into harm's way behind Tampa's work-in-progress offensive line.
Chris Simms is still technically in the hunt for a starting job but won't beat Garcia in camp. Simms got off to a terrible start in 2006 before rupturing his spleen against the Panthers in Week 3. Simms is streaky and has confidence lapses. Sophomore Bruce Gradkowski is a fiery scrambler who won a few games before the league figured him out last season. He still has some long-term potential. If Jake Plummer comes out of retirement, he'll only add confusion, not quality.
25. Bears (2006 Rank: 27)
Lovie Smith stuck with Rex Grossman through hell and high water last year. Hell came in the form of a two-game, zero-touchdown, six-interception stretch against the Patriots and Vikings. High water came in the Super Bowl, when Grossman laid a two-interception, two-fumble ostrich egg on the biggest stage in sports.
Grossman is a five-year veteran who still makes basic mistakes when reading defenses. He throws a fine deep ball and will have some hot streaks, but he has awful lapses in timing and judgment. Grossman admitted that he didn't adequately prepare for the Bears' meaningless season finale. He needs to take practice and film study more seriously if he hopes to become more consistent.
They're ranked 25th, but in many ways the Bears have the worst quarterback situation in the NFL. Grossman will have to blast a hole 10 feet below rock bottom for Smith to switch horses. The other horse, Brian Griese, is an injury-prone dink-and-dunker who doesn't fit the system. Grossman could mature this off-season, but if he succumbs to bad practice and in-game habits, the Bears are doomed.
26. Falcons (2006 Rank: 16)
Michael Vick has enjoyed a distraction-free off-season. A consummate student of the game, he memorized every page of Bobby Petrino's playbook down to the watermark. He spent six hours every day mastering his delivery and footwork, then spent two more hours studying game film of NFC South opponents. It has been a blissful couple of months, unmarred by obscene gestures, suspicious bottles, restaurant openings, or animal abuse allegations.
Vick is poised for a breakout year. He'll complete 72 percent of his passes, rush for 1,100 yards (while only running when he has to), and lead the Falcons to an undefeated season. He'll then accept a cabinet position as Secretary of Education. His backups won't be needed, but all are excellent options. Joey Harrington is coming off wildly successful stints in Detroit and Miami, D.J. Shockey is a known commodity with gobs of experience, and Chris Redman is well rested after several years out of football.
(The preceding comment was furnished by the Ill-Informed Wishful Thinkers of America and does not represent the opinions of Mike Tanier, Football Outsiders, FOXSports.com, or anyone with half a clue.)
27. Dolphins (2006 Rank: 11)
If Trent Green were a used car, his Carfax report would reveal that his odometer has turned over and he was totaled in a collision on Sept. 10, 2006. Green was once an excellent system quarterback, a point guard who always got the ball to his receivers in space on short routes and could pick his spots downfield. But he was very shaky when he returned from last year's concussion. Take away his 297-yard, four-touchdown game against the Browns, and he threw for just 1,045 yards, three touchdowns, and eight picks in seven starts. Green turned 37 last week, making him an old dog trying to learn the new tricks of Cam Cameron's offense in a shortened off-season.
Green will be an excellent mentor for John Beck, the 26-year-old rookie from Brigham Young who, like Green, is a ball distributor with good pocket presence. Cleo Lemon, who didn't embarrass himself in some late-season action, is also in the mix.
28. Redskins (2006 Rank: 13)
Jason Campbell fared well in seven late-season starts last year. He didn't make the highlight reel very often, but he avoided sacks (just seven) and fumbles (one) and proved that he was a decent decision maker. Campbell must improve his accuracy and show that he can handle the entire playbook. Backup Mark Brunell is on his last legs. His arm is spent and he bails on too many plays. Todd Collins is a well-traveled third stringer. Rookie Jordan Palmer is Carson Palmer's brother, but most of their similarities are buried in the DNA sequence.
29. Texans (2006 Rank: 23)
Where were you on Oct. 9, 2005? Matt Schaub was in Atlanta, earning $48 million with a three-touchdown effort against the Patriots. Schaub looked great in that game, but it was two years ago, and we've only seen him in exhibition and mop-up duty since then. Until we have more than 161 career attempts to analyze, Schaub ranks among the rookies and the unknowns. Backups Sage Rosenfels and Bradlee Van Pelt won't threaten Schaub's status as the starter. Rosenfels looked good in a relief appearance against Tennessee last year. Van Pelt is a discount rack scrambler who spent a few seasons with Gary Kubiak in Denver.
30. Browns (2006 Rank 25)
The Lewin Career Forecast predicts great things for Brady Quinn, a four-year starter in a complex, pro-style offense at Notre Dame. Quinn displayed the accuracy, touch, and decisiveness to succeed in the NFL, and he held up under intense media scrutiny in college and at the draft. Yes, he looked bad against top competition, but Peyton Manning never beat Florida, and he turned out OK.
That being said, Quinn won't succeed immediately. The Browns will probably open the season with either Derek Anderson or Charlie Frye at quarterback. Anderson is a one-half wonder who led the Browns in their comeback against the Chiefs in Week 13. He can run, and his arm looks great after watching Frye for a few weeks. Frye couldn't throw a football 50 yards if you pumped the pigskin full of helium. Quinn will rank in the top half of the league by 2009. But this year, he and the Browns are mired here.
31. Raiders (2006 Rank: 30)
From draft day until the start of Raiders mini-camp in June, JaMarcus Russell spent an average of nine hours per week on the telephone with his coaches learning the playbook. Two thoughts here. 1) Nine hours per week isn't a whole lot. Some people spend that many hours per week stuck in traffic. Maybe they should get on the phone and learn an offense instead of honking their horns and cursing. 2) The telephone may not be the best device for imparting complex football information. The Raiders could invest in some video conferencing equipment, but Al Davis is probably too old school.
Despite phoning in his off-season study sessions, Russell fared well in mini-camp. The organization is saying all the right things: he's in shape, his arm is as good as advertised, he's the coolest cucumber in the crisper, and so on. Still, he's a rookie who will likely be the Opening Day starter for a team that won two games last season. He has a promising future, but 2007 will be a long year. Backup Andrew Walter is out indefinitely after knee surgery, leaving Josh McCown as the only experienced quarterback on the roster. McCown played for the Lions last year — at wide receiver. 'Nuff said.
32. Vikings (2006 Rank: 31)
Tavaris Jackson started two games at the end of last season and looked helpless. Jackson is a decent athlete who has the arm and IQ to succeed, but he faced a huge adjustment from a Division I-AA spread offense to Brad Childress' quantum physics scheme. Jackson's first instinct last season was to run at the first sign of trouble. Brooks Bollinger, who may challenge Jackson, went 2-7 as a starter for the Jets in 2005; the teams he beat had a combined 9-23 record. Bollinger is an undersized high-effort guy with decent mobility but little else. Tyler Thigpen, a rookie from Coastal Carolina, will get a long look in camp. Thigpen, like Bollinger, lists at 6-foot-1, an inch shorter than Jackson. Childress may want to hire some roller coaster attendants to make sure that his quarterbacks meet minimum height requirements.
Drew Henson, who is pretty tall, is also in Vikings camp. He's still hoping for a September call-up from the Yankees.
Re: Ranking all 32 NFL teams at quarterback
QB analysis: Manning tops list
Owners who bypass taking Peyton Manning in the second round will find value with solid, veteran quarterbacks in the fifth round or later, possibly landing Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Carson Palmer, Donovan McNabb or Marc Bulger.
Revealed are the unsung players who owners can claim as their second quarterback, including Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler and Ben Roethlisberger.
However, potential disappointments like Michael Vick, Steve McNair and Trent Green lurk where owners should draft other signal callers or take a chance on a sleeper running back or wide receiver instead.
1. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis
He's the model of consistency among all fantasy quarterbacks, passing for at least 4,000 yards in seven of his nine seasons and completing at least 26 touchdown passes in every year. What's impressive is that those feats are difficult for quarterbacks to achieve in a single season. Only five signal callers (Brees, Manning, Bulger, Palmer and Jon Kitna) reached 4,000 yards last season, and only three quarterbacks (Manning, Palmer and Brees) threw for at least 26 touchowns in 2006. But Manning has achieved those baselines on nearly a yearly basis. In fact, Manning has a legitimate chance to finish first in passing yards and touchdowns every season. This past year, Manning finished first in touchdown passes (31) and missed being No. 1 in passing yards (4,397) by just 22 yards.
This season, Indy's defense is expected to be weaker after several free-agent defections. This will force the Colts to win mostly by outscoring opponents with an aggressive passing attack, rather than successfully protecting leads by accumulating time of possession with a more conservative, running game.
In addition, its No. 1 draft pick, wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez, is well-suited for the slot position on crossing patterns and will have a talent advantage over nickel cornerbacks. This will provide Manning with a potent gamebreaker for his No. 3 receiver and making it even more difficult for defenses to cover Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne.
He could be in line to exceed last year's passing totals and approach his season highs set in 2004 of 4,557 yards and 49 touchdowns.
2. Tom Brady, New England
Despite working with one of the league's worst receiving groups, Brady still threw for the league's seventh-most yards (3,529) and the fourth-most scores (24) last season. Aging veteran Troy Brown was the only one among New England's receivers that had clinched a 1,000-yard season for his career, and he had achieved that distinction five years ago in 2001.
Now, though, Brady has been given three new wideouts to replace last year's top three wide receiver targets. Randy Moss, Donte' Stallworth and Wes Welker comprise one of the league's most talented trio of receivers. That's a significant upgrade from last year's top three wideouts of Reche Caldwell (61 catches for 760 yards), Troy Brown (43 catches, 483 yards) and Chad Jackson (13 catches for 152 yards).
Expect Brady to have a strong chance to set new career highs in passing yards (4,110) and touchdowns (28).
3. Drew Brees, New Orleans
He exploded in his first season with the Saints, finishing first in passing yards (4,418) and third in touchdowns (26). Add in a second season in Sean Payton's potent offensive system, and expect Brees to remain as one of fantasy's top quarterbacks again. As an indication of his passing prowess, Brees clinched eight games of at least 300 yards, including one of 510 yards in Week 11 last year. His best receiver Marques Colston will only be better in his second year. Receiving a full season of health from Colston will also only help to ensure that Brees reaches 4,000 yards again.
4. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati
A season-ending injury in the 2005 playoffs contributed to Palmer's slow start last season. He compiled four games where he threw one or zero touchdowns in the first half of the season compared to just two such contests in the second half. In addition, Palmer averaged only 234 yards and 1.5 touchdowns in the first eight contests compared to 270 yards and two touchdowns in final eight games. Using his final eight games as the barometer for this season, Palmer's stats would project to him setting a career high in passing yards (4,320) and matching his career high of a league-leading 32 touchdowns set in 2005. Though No. 3 wideout Chris Henry is suspended for the first eight contests, Palmer will be throwing to one of the league's top receiving duos in Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
5. Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia
Though McNabb is being drafted after Manning, Brady, Brees, Palmer and even Bulger, he was projected to pass for 4,567 yards and 32 touchdowns over a full season before his season-ending injury in the Eagles' 10th game. That would have clinched him as fantasy's top quarterback last season. He was also having an outstanding season in 2005 when he passed for 2,507 yards and 16 touchdowns before a sports hernia ended his season after nine games.
Unlike the top four quarterbacks in front of him, McNabb also offers the bonus of rushing stats. He ran for 212 yards and three touchdowns last season. However, though his recent knee surgery may curtail his running production, McNabb still offers superb passing skills as an experienced signal caller in the productive West Coast offense to rank among the league's top fantasy quarterbacks.
Though the team lost Donte' Stallworth, Kevin Curtis provides a reliable, speedy target for McNabb. In addition, Stallworth has been more prone to injuries than Curtis. In addition, Reggie Brown is ready to clinch his first 1,000-yard season in as Philly's top wideout in his third season. L.J. Smith remains one of the league's top receiving tight ends, while running back Brian Westbrook has been one of the league's most dynamic backfield receiving threats.
6. Marc Bulger, St. Louis
Under the guidance of new coach Scott Linehan, Bulger established career highs in passing yards (4,301) and touchdowns (24) last season. The Rams added Tennessee's No. 1 wideout Drew Bennett to provide Bulger with one of the league's top No. 3 wideouts and as insurance against aging Isaac Bruce, 34, as St. Louis' No. 2 receiver. The maturation of the Rams' young offensive line, anchored by All-Pro Orlando Pace, ensures that Bulger will have more time to throw this season. He was sacked the league's second-most times (49) last year.
The Rams' running attack has improved immensely with the insertion of Steven Jackson as the featured running back. A more balanced attack will leave defenses focusing less on stopping the passing game led by Bulger and Torry Holt and more on thwarting Jackson. In addition, Jackson's receiving prowess and the addition of Randy McMichael at tight end as another legitimate receiving target will help boost Bulger's passing stats and help him finish among fantasy's top quarterbacks again.
7. Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle
A sprained knee forced Hasselbeck to miss four games last season, and off-season shoulder surgery put him on the sidelines again. Still, a healthy Hasselbeck means he can repeat his solid 2005 passing stats of 3,459 yards and 24 touchdowns. Deion Branch has replaced the departed Darrell Jackson as Seattle's No. 1 wideout, keeping the talent level intact and upgrading stability at that slot. Injuries had forced Jackson to miss 13 contests in the last two seasons.
Fifth-year wideout Nate Burleson already has one 1,000-yard season under his belt and will be competing to be Seattle's No. 2 wide receiver after spending his first season learning Mike Holmgren's intricate West Coast offense. Bobby Engram remains one of the league's most reliable secondary targets. No longer will Hasselbeck have to contend with an inconsistent Jerramy Stevens at tight end. Replacement tight end Marcus Pollard offers vast experience and is an adequate receiver. A healthy Shaun Alexander translates to an effective running attack, opening up more passing lanes in Holmgren's well-balanced attack. Look for Seattle's offensive line to be improved after learning to cope with the unexpected free-agent departure of All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson last year.
8. Tony Romo, Dallas
Media reports have insisted that Romo has been highly dedicated to improving as the Cowboys' starting quarterback despite appearing in the spotlight as singer Carrie Underwood's significant other. Though he had a tumultuous ending in the playoffs when he botched a last-minute field-goal snap, his reputation as a hard-working, skilled quarterback should pay significant dividends in his first full season of starting for Dallas.
His top receiver, Terrell Owens, is one of the league's most talented receivers and best touchdown makers. Romo owns the strong arm and accuracy to deliver passes adeptly to one of the league's best play-makers. In addition, his mobility helps compensate for the Cowboys' inconsistent offensive line and provides more passing chances to orchestrate big plays. Terry Glenn also offers the skills to emerge as a top receiving threat on a weekly basis, and Jason Witten offers a legitimate target at tight end.
While Romo's learning curve will be helped by the addition of new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, his inexperience will likely lead to some inconsistent outings.
9. Jon Kitna, Detroit
Despite being sacked a league-high 63 times, Jon Kitna still managed to stay upright enough to pass for the league's fourth-most yards (4,208) last season. Adding the draft's No. 2 overall pick, Calvin Johnson, will help boost Kitna's 2006 touchdown total of 21. Throwing to one of the league's best receivers, Roy Williams, and one of the NFL's most productive third receivers, Mike Furrey, means another big season for Kitna in Mike Martz's high-powered offensive system.
The Lions also bolstered their running back depth behind Kevin Jones, adding Tatum Bell and T.J. Duckett. A legitimate running game will help prevent defenses from pressuring Kitna heavily as much. Since Martz's system lends itself to increased pressure on the quarterback, Kitna may be at greater risk for injury.
10. Eli Manning, New York Giants
While it appeared that Manning regressed last season, he completed a higher percentage of passes and still equaled his 2005 passing score total of 24. Still, he failed to make the substantial progress expected of a young quarterback in his second full season as his passing yards decreased by 518. He also may be heavily burdened by the departure of Tiki Barber, who provided Manning with a strong running game and was one of the league's top receiving threats from the backfield.
As a result, the Giants' running attack has question marks, putting more pressure on Manning to produce in the passing attack. His two brightest spots are receiving targets Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey. But both offer doubts with Burress' inconsistency and Shockey's frequent nagging injuries. In addition, the Giants lost their best offensive lineman in left tackle Luke Petigout and have yet to replace the crucial spot with a legitimate talent to protect Manning's blind spot.
Best Value as No. 1 QB: Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia
He could be drafted after a half dozen quarterbacks, but McNabb offers the potential to be fantasy's No. 1 quarterback if he plays a full season.
Best value as No. 2 QB: Philip Rivers, San Diego
He will make the leap into a viable weekly fantasy starter in his second full season of starting. Rivers' mental acuity will catch up to his physical skills this season and enable him to surpass last year's passing stats of 3,388 yards and 22 scores. Add the league's best running back LaDainian Tomlinson and the top tight end Antonio Gates with a strong offensive line to protect him, and Rivers will find single coverages to exploit downfield with talented wideouts like Eric Parker, Vincent Jackson and rookie Craig Davis. He will also be more comfortable in the pocket to increase his multiple touchdown games.
Best value as No. 3 QB: Jeff Garcia, Tampa Bay
He's the favorite to land Tampa Bay's starting quarterback and is an excellent fit for Jon Gruden's West Coast offense. He will have the chance to operate like Rich Gannon under Gruden in Oakland, using short timing passes to accumulate big yardage.
Top surprise: J.P. Losman, Buffalo
An improved offensive line and dedicated No. 1 wideout Lee Evans will help Losman surpass his career highs in yards (3,051) and touchdowns (19). After throwing just seven touchdowns in his first nine games, Losman passed for 12 scores in his last seven games, including two three-touchdown days. In addition, rookie running back Marshawn Lynch promises to be a better receiver from the backfield than Willis McGahee, helping boost the yardage totals of Losman.
Top breakout: Jay Cutler, Denver
Reach 3,200 yards or 24 TDs
Indicative of his keen passing and big-play arm, Cutler threw for two touchdowns in each of his first four contests. His five-game totals of 1,001 yards and nine scores projects to 3,203 yards and 29 touchdowns. However, he will need to reduce his propensity for fumbling after losing two of eight fumbles. But a full off-season, training camp and preseason as Denver's starting quarterback will help him establish a greater rapport with wideouts Javon Walker, Rod Smith and Brandon Marshall, and tight ends Tony Scheffler and Daniel Graham. Add that defenses must respect one of the league's best running games, and Cutler will take advantage of many single coverages to produce big plays downfield.
Most underrated: Rex Grossman, Chicago
He was the quintessential boom-or-flop player last season, throwing for 18 scores and only one interception in seven games but passing for only five touchdowns and a whopping 19 picks in the other nine games. After learning from his first full season of playing, Grossman will become more consistent and avoid the heavy turnovers that plague many inexperienced quarterbacks. In addition, Chicago's offensive philosophy relies on the big vertical play in the passing game, increasing Grossman's fantasy value. He'll show that he's the big-time quarterback worthy to start in fantasy leagues this season, rather than struggle like a weekly fantasy flop.
Most overrated: Steve McNair, Baltimore
Without the strong ability to rush for significant yardage, McNair becomes a mediocre fantasy quarterback in Baltimore's run-heavy, conservative offense. There's no need for McNair to throw 30-plus times and have a chance for 300-yard days with the Ravens' strong defense preventing opponents from scoring frequently. The Ravens would rather win in a low-scoring output than attempt to post 30 points on the board with an aggressive passing game that brings a greater chance for turnovers.
Top comeback: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh's new spread offense utilizing 3-and-4 receiver sets will allow Roethlisberger to quickly find open targets. He'll have an excellent chance to surpass last year's career passing highs of 3,513 yards and 18 touchdowns. Hines Ward is a reliable top possession target, while Santonio Holmes and Nate Washington add speed downfield. Running back Willie Parker is a dangerous receiver and Heath Miller rates as one of the league's better receiving tight ends. After being beset by a motorcycle accident and emergency appendectomy last year, Roethlisberger's health may be the biggest reason why he will rebound.
Most questionable receivers: Vince Young, Tennessee
Tennessee has zero 1,000-yard receivers on its roster. Its biggest name is David Givens, and he has been a colossal free-agent flop after missing 11 games last season. Its only significant free-agent signing at receiver this season was signing Bears backup receiver Justin Gage. The departure of Drew Bennett leaves Givens and Gage to battle with inexperienced Brandon Jones, Courtney Roby, Roydell Williams and Givens to battle for the two starting spots. Young may be forced to throw solely to tight ends Ben Troupe and Bo Scaife. Without viable receivers who can elude defensive backs, Young may be forced to tuck and run more often. Yet that may not necessarily be a bad thing at times with his explosive athleticism and unparalleled running skills.
Most disappointing: Michael Vick, Atlanta
Vick should rightfully be a fantasy starter based upon his ability and previous fantasy production. Atlanta's new coach Bobby Petrino is establishing a new offense that gives more control to the quarterback to make reads. However, Vick's legal troubles may preclude him from playing a full season, making him a shaky pick as a fantasy starter. His off-the-field difficulties could distract from his play. Owners should be prepared to draft a strong backup.
Top injury flop: Trent Green, Miami
McNabb is another candidate considering his season has ended short by injuries in each of the past two seasons, but his potential to be a No. 1 fantasy quarterback outweighs his risk at taking him in the fifth round or later. Traded to Miami, Green will be age 37 when he suits up as the Dolphins starting quarterback. Green missed half the season last year with a head injury, showing signs that he may be brittle and more prone to injuries. Miami's offensive line remains questionable, and Green's poor mobility makes him susceptible to further injuries. He's no longer a starting fantasy quarterback, so owners should only draft him as a backup quarterback at best.
Top rookie: JaMarcus Russell, Oakland
Josh McCown is expected to start the season as Oakland's starting quarterback. But the Raiders are expected to reside low in the standings again this season, leaving Russell with a chance to gain hands-on experience in the season's second half. He could follow a similar pattern as Vince Young who became a full-time starter last October. Young recorded four multiple touchdown games in the Titan's last 10 contests, including two three-touchdown outputs. As the draft's No. 1 overall pick, Russell has the great talent to produce solid fantasy stats as early as his rookie season.
Top deep sleeper: Jason Campbell, Washington
After securing the starting spot in Washington's last seven games, Campbell showed promise as a fantasy quarterback as a rookie. He compiled two-touchdown passing games in three contests, indicating he could be a consistent producer as he gains more experience. He is supported by a strong running game and has a trio of talented receivers with Santana Moss, Brandon Lloyd and Chris Cooley.
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