There’s no player who is criticized more in the NFL than each team’s starting quarterback. If a team loses, the blame automatically goes to the quarterback. If a team wins, the praise automatically goes to the quarterback.
It’s a tough system to figure out. Every year, the Super Bowl-winning quarterback instantly becomes considered one of the top quarterbacks in the league, even if he’s clearly not (example: Eli Manning).
Regardless of where each quarterback is ranked, a list of quarterback rankings always ignites debates amongst fans. So, I decided to compile a list of the top 32 quarterbacks in the NFL right now.
A couple of notes: the list isn’t based solely on the playoff record of each quarterback (you’ll certainly notice this) and rookies were not considered as they haven’t played in an NFL game yet.
1. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: No quarterback is more accurate in the NFL than Drew Brees. Add his stellar leadership to his 71.2 % completion percentage and 5,476 yards and you have the prototypical quarterback.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: It was hard to not put Rodgers number one on this list. He threw for 45 touchdowns in 2011 but Brees just barely edged him out.
3. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos: Prior to missing the 2011 season, Manning was the top quarterback in the NFL. Even with a neck injury he’ll still excel in 2012.
4. Tom Brady, New England Patriots: Despite losing in the Super Bowl, Brady still threw for more than 5,000 yards in 2011, making it easy to rank him as the fourth-best quarterback.
5. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers: No quarterback is better in the final two minutes than Roethlisberger. Even if the Steelers are down by 14+ points in the fourth quarter, they are never finished as Big Ben is notorious for leading the Steelers from behind to win.
6. Eli Manning, New York Giants: Yes, he has won two Super Bowls, but those two victories weren’t solely because of him. Manning still has several inconsistencies in his game that he must fix before he cracks the top five of this list.
7. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys: He’s by far the most over criticized quarterback in the NFL. Keep in mind Romo threw for 31 touchdowns and posted a completion percentage of 66.3 in 2011.
8. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: One of the most under appreciated quarterbacks in the league, Matt Ryan threw for 29 touchdowns in 2011.
9. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: This position on the list is a combination of a spectacular rookie season and enormous potential. He could be in the top three of this list in a few years if he continues to progress.
10. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers: I said that Matt Ryan was under appreciated, but Philip Rivers may be even more under appreciated. He’s thrown for 20+ touchdowns in six straight seasons yet is hardly ever considered one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
11. Matt Stafford, Detroit Lions: After a stellar 2011 season (5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns), Stafford is quickly becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. But, I sometimes wonder if Stafford would still be this good without having Calvin Johnson to throw to.
12. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears: He has the worst offensive line protection in the NFL and still excels. The Bears were primed to make a run for the title in 2011 before Cutler’s season was abruptly ended due to a thumb injury.
13. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles: Vick has as much talent as any other quarterback in the NFL, but he has struggled to stay healthy and play consistently since becoming the starting quarterback of the Eagles.
14. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens have won a playoff game each of the last four season, but that wasn’t because of Flacco. He has been wildly inconsistent despite playing on one of the best teams in the NFL.
15. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans: If Schaub had stayed healthy and played in the playoffs, the Texans would’ve made the AFC Championship Game and possibly even the Super Bowl.
16. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams: His growth has been stunted by injuries and a sub par supporting cast, but Bradford has loads of potential.
17. Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers: He may have had a stellar supporting cast around him in 2011, but you can’t overlook the fact that Smith threw for only five interceptions.
18. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals: He led the Bengals to the playoffs and threw for 20 touchdowns in 2011. What more could you ask from a rookie quarterback?
19. Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs: If he can stay healthy in 2012, there’s no reason why the Chiefs shouldn’t win the AFC West.
20. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: He did throw for only 16 touchdowns in 2011, but he has enormous potential. He throws a great deep ball and his arm strength is clearly his forte.
21. Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders: It’s tough to rank Palmer since he dealt with a less-than-ideal situation in 2011. After being traded to the Raiders midway through the season, Palmer still performed well enough to keep the Raiders in the playoff hunt.
22. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets: While it appears he will lose the starting job to Tim Tebow at some point during the 2012 season, Sanchez is still good enough to be a franchise quarterback in the NFL.
23. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills: When he limits his turnovers, Fitzpatrick plays as if he’s a top-10 quarterback in the NFL. But, interceptions (23 in 2011) have prevented him from being as good as he should be by this point in his career.
24. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans: Only two teams have two quarterbacks on this list and one of those teams is the Titans. Locker is currently better than his teammate Matt Hasselbeck and there’s no reason why Locker shouldn’t start for the Titans in 2012.
25. Matt Moore, Miami Dolphins: It’s unknown whether Moore will start for the Dolphins in 2012, but when given a chance, he’s shown that he can be a solid NFL quarterback.
26. Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee Titans: While he’s nearing the end of his career, he still performed well in 2011, throwing for 18 touchdowns and 3,571 yards.
27. Tim Tebow, New York Jets: Say what you want about his completion percentage, but he’s a true dual threat quarterback who throws a great deep ball.
28. Colt McCoy, Cleveland Browns: His struggles in Cleveland haven’t been solely his fault. With a good supporting cast, McCoy could be a top-20 quarterback in the NFL.
29. Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings: If he can’t improve his anticipation and reads of defense, he will quickly be labeled as a “game manager.”
30. Matt Flynn, Seattle Seahawks: It’s hard to rank a guy who’s only started two games in the NFL, but you can’t overlook his 480 passing yards against the Lions in Week 17 of last season.
31. John Skelton, Arizona Cardinals: He showed some signs of improvement in 2011 and has a chance to start for the Cardinals this season.
32. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars: If he can’t improve his poise in the pocket, Gabbert will be handing over the starting job to Chad Henne rather quickly.