It’s that time of year again that we at If It Ain’t Steel are doing our NFL quarterback rankings. When choosing our rankings we didn't look at their being fantasy darlings, we looked at their overall work and what we think they will do this season. We didn’t go by the sexy picks of the Top 100 or any other so-called expert picks, we went by our opinion of their overall career and what we project they will do the upcoming season. This ranking is solely based on that. (Addendum: For a breakdown of the criteria of our Top 12, refer to last season's Top 12 QB blog)
1. Tom Brady
He last season had a rating of 105.6 and threw for 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. Why did we choose Brady? Let’s look at last season. The Patriots had one of the worst defenses in the league-they were good at manufacturing turnovers, but not much else. He led the Patriots to a 13-3 record in the regular season. He carried that team on his arm and led them to a Super Bowl with that same defense. Though they ultimately lost, he still got them there. He did what needed to be done to make up for his suspect defense, which is what Brady does: he finds that drive to carry his teammates and win when it counts. In that SB, some like myself, believe that Brady was only a few dropped passes away from winning his 4th Ring. Face it, whether we like Brady or not, as long as he is healthy, he is always going to be right there in the thick of things come the postseason. So we give props where props are due and he gets our highest honor this year.
2. Drew Brees
Brees had a rating of 110.6 and threw for 5,476 and 49 TDs to 14 INTs. Brees gets the second nod because personally we believe, even with all the Bounty Gate suspensions, Brees will still be right there as one of the top ranked QBs in the NFL. He broke Dan Marino’s passing record last season and we look for more the same this season. Brees, like Brady, has that will and drive to win, no matter what it takes. The Saints do have a lot of obstacles to overcome this season, with the loss of their head coach and defensive players to suspension, but that does not change the fact that Brees is one the premier QBs in the league. We believe the play of Brees will put the Saints right into the thick of things come postseason.
3. Aaron Rodgers
Had a rating of 122.5 and he threw for 4,643 yards with 45 TDs to 6 INTs. I know what you are thinking, "Why isn’t Rodgers #1?" Well, I'll tell you why. Yes, Rodgers led the Packers to a 15-1 regular season, but was one and done in the playoffs. Unlike Brady who made up for his suspect defense, Rodgers didn't when it counted. Rodgers won the NFL MVP of the year and was named the No. 1 player in the NFL’s Top 100 list, but as I pointed out, we don’t just look at stats, but at overall play. That is the only reason that Rodgers is below Brees and Brady. We feel Rodgers will have another great season this year and put up much of the same numbers, making him on the top tier QBs in the league.
4. Ben Roethlisberger
A passer rating of 90.1 and he threw for 4,077 yards and 21 TDs to 14 INTs. Big Ben has proven year in and year out that he deserves to be in the Top 5. We at If It Ain’t Steel think that Ben will take another step forward this season. The Steelers lost in the wildcard round of the playoffs, but the team was plagued with injuries, even Big Ben was playing hurt. That is no excuse and we're not making any, just stating fact. We believe Ben will take his play to the next level and move up the rankings with his play. There is talk of there being issues with him and new offensive coordinator Todd Haley, but we do not see it-it's a media fabrication. Big Ben and Haley share a common trait, and that is that they both like winning. Each has a true drive to get to the top of the NFL world again. We look for this to be one of Big Ben’s biggest seasons yet and for him to lead the offense to being one of the top ranked units in the league. He has all the requisite weapons around him and a solid offensive line in the making. We feel this could be Big Ben’s best season yet.
5. Eli Manning
Passer rating of 92.9 and he threw for 4,933 and 29 TDs and 16 INTs. We are well aware that Eli is the reigning SB MVP and all that other stuff. Remember, though, we don't only look at things like that. Don't get it twisted, we respect what Eli has accomplished over the past 8 seasons. So, since we look at overall play, realize that there were times that Eli didn't look so good. He turned it on in the postseason, when it counted, and won the Super Bowl. They barely made the post season in the first place, though. We felt last year’s SB could have gone either way (and was the most boring SB we have ever watched). Eli will have to show that fire this season because he and the Giants have a tougher schedule in front of them. Let’s see if he can be the first QB to get to the big show in back-to-back seasons in a long time. Then maybe he will move up our list.
6. Peyton Manning
There are no stats for Peyton because we are all aware he did not play last season. He gets the No. 6 nod because, c'mon, he's Peyton Manning. Peyton will be with a new team this season, but I believe that we will see the same Peyton we've seen in the past. He may not have the likes of Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clarke around him, but he can make any average receiver look very good. Eric Decker and Damarius Thomas and Jacob Tandee are more than capable of filling those roles. His ability to read defenses and shred them makes him one the best to ever lace them up. I think he will make the Broncos look a lot better than they did with Tebow, even though that wouldn't take much. Peyton can actually throw the ball.
7. Joe Flacco
His passer rating was 80.9 and he threw for 3,610 yards and 20 TDs and 12 INTs. Joe Flacco jumped our list this year because of his play last season. He starting out benefiting from a great defense and really did not have to do much. Last season, though, Flacco took a step forward by twice beating his arch nemesis, aka the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger. He also showed his moxy in the playoffs by showing that he can lead the Ravens when needed. His play in the AFC Championship game was very good, and while we hate to admit it, he had us cheering for the Ravens to take the Patriots out. It was one of those moments where, being a Steelers fan, we were rooting for the lesser of two evils. For so many seasons Flacco got blamed for the Ravens woes, that he was the reason they didn't make it to the Super Bowl. This past season, though, he put that team on his back in the championship game and took them right down into a winning position. He was NOT the reason they lost, he did everything to set them up to win. This season will be the next step for Joe Flacco-with the defense getting older and with injuries to key players as well as losing some other key players to injury, he must take on a greater load. Time will tell if he can handle that task.
8. Philip Rivers
Rivers had a passer rating of 88.7, he threw for 4,624 yards and 27 TDs with 20 INTs. Rivers had one of the worst seasons of his career last season. At times we were wondering if we were watching Rivers or Jamarcus Russell. He still deserves to be in a Top 12 list, though, because, we think he has a bounce back season this year. Yes, he lost most of his go-to weapons, but his coach and general manager are on the hot seat. If Norv Turner and A.J. Smith get sent packing because you have another bad season, then you may be next. So, he has a little thing called "incentive," because we don't see that happening. We get the feeling we'll hear yet again the nauseating fantasy geeks proclaiming that "Rivers is the best." We won’t (ever) say he's the best, but he is mid-to-top tier.
9. Matthew Stafford
Passer rating of 97.2, he threw for 5,038 yards and 41 TDs with 16 INTs. You may ask why, with stats like that isn't Matthew Stafford higher. Well, last season was a look at things to come. It was the first full season of his career and he showed that he is the real deal. He played solid all season and led the Lions to the playoffs and out of the ashes of being the step-child of the NFL. Stafford showed finally last season why he was a No. 1 draft pick. We see no reason why he can't repeat that performance this season.
10. Matt Ryan
Passer rating of 92.2 and he threw for 4,177 yards and 29 TDs with 12 INTs. Ryan, aka Matty Ice, comes in at 10 in our list. He has shown consistency over the course of his career in Atlanta and has had, much like Flacco, winning seasons every year. Ryan, however, has not had the success in the playoffs that Flacco has had. They both entered the NFL the same year and numbers wise, Ryan is better. Numbers can be misleading, though. Ryan, we think, will step over the playoff hump and get a win this season. He has all the pieces around him to take the next step forward. He plays in a tough division, but he holds his own with the big guns of the NFC South.
11. Tony Romo
Romo had a passer rating of 102.5, he threw for 4,184 yards, and 31 TDs with only 10 INTs. Romo has shown without question that he can win regular season games. It is his record in December and January when Romo gets more blame than he deserves. The playoff losses haven't been only the fault of Romo. We believe this season is going to be make or break for Romo. Jerry Jones has put a lot of pressure on Romo and the Cowboys this season by coming out and saying that “their window is closing." Romo, like Flacco, gets the blame for a lot of the Cowboys woes, which is just not the case. That should have been evident when he went down with injury in 2010. The play at QB is not the problem. Romo can play, plain and simple. If he gets over the hump and wins some playoffs games, then this will not even be a discussion. We could even see putting him in our Top 6 if he does. Will he get there next year? The season will tell.
12. Cam Newton
Passer rating of 84.5, he threw for 4,051 yards, for 21 TDs and 17 INTs. Newton is the real deal. Plain and simple. No one thought he would come out and have the rookie season that he had, us included. But, he went out and played with a fire that most players do not possess until their second, third, even fourth season. The only thing that hindered Newton last season was the lack of weapons around him. He ran the ball for 706 yard and an additional 14 TDs. If the pocket broke down around him he just ran. I think he will only be better this season and move up the list. Though a sophomore slump is possible, we don't see one in his future. Will he get the Panthers to the playoffs? Probably not this season, but he will lead his team to an improvement in the win-loss column.
The honorable mentions are guys we believe will have good seasons and could possibly make the list next season, depending on how they do this season.
Jay Cutler: Cutler is being reunited with his buddy Brandon Marshall and that should only improve his numbers and play. I think Jay will move up to the Top 12 next season if he stays healthy.
Andy Dalton: Dalton shocked the world last season with his play at quarterback. No one gave the Bengals a chance last season and Dalton, along with A.J. Green, proved the doubters wrong. He helped lead the Bengals back to the playoffs, but he and the Bengals were beaten by the Texans. He had a great rookie campaign and we look for him to improve on it.
Josh Freeman: Freeman, had a not-so-good season last year, and, with the Buccaneers' additions this offseason, this could be a great year again for Freeman. We think he only gets better over the season. No Barney Stinson this year, but we still expect Freeman to football suit up!
If It Ain't Steel’s Watch list:
Andrew Luck: Luck is getting ready to start his rookie season with the Colts, replacing some guy named Manning. We think Luck will surprise a lot of people this season and will be better than expected. Not predicting he will get the Colts to the playoffs, but we think he will fill the shoes of that guy in the Direct TV ads well enough to make Indy fans forget sooner than later.
Russell Wilson: I (specifically Jayden) was big on this kid in the draft, I actually had him ranked higher than Tannehill, though he went later to the Seahawks. He was recently named the starter, beating out Matt Flynn, and has sparks of being a good quarterback. I will be keeping my eye on these two rookies and, you never know, they may crack our Top 12 next season.
Robert Griffin III: I (specifically Jason) was big on this kid ever since college. He has all the skills needed to be great in the NFL and more. I was never concerned about his size, unlike Russell Wilson, nor about his having happy feet and leaving the pocket too quickly. He definitely has pocket-presence, but also the pocket-awareness that allows him to use his escapability. Watching him in college I couldn't help but think of other college and NFL quarterbacks with requisite skill sets. Namely Randall Cunningham (multiple playoffs, athletic, 1998 NFL Comeback Player of the Year), Mark Malone (trust me on this, Malone was a hell of an athlete and very good QB at Arizona St. and a promising NFL QB before knee injuries derailed his career-he even filled in at WR for Lynn Swann and held the Steelers' record for longest TD reception for 30 years) and Steve Young (though, admittedly, Young took off and ran more quickly than RG3 does). I will be keeping my eye on this one as well as the other two and see if he cracks the Top 12 next season.