The memories of confetti falling from the top of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis in February are still entrenched in many an NFL fan’s mind, yet incredibly, the 2012 NFL season is a mere two months away. Fans everywhere are starting to ready their Fantasy Football draft boards and load up on tailgate gear for the big season. Many teams, particularly the Denver Broncos, made significant upgrades at the quarterback position this off season, while other teams will turn to familiar faces to call the signals in 2012.
This article marks the first installment in my series reviewing the NFL’s top players at each of the offensive skill positions. Here now, are your top ten quarterbacks in the NFL entering the 2012 season.
1) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers– The 2011 league MVP comes in at #1, following a season that saw him throw 45 touchdowns with a miniscule 6 interceptions. Rodgers completed 68.3 percent of his passes, leading Green Bay to victory in 14 of the 15 regular season games he played. How amazing was Rodgers’ season? He posted the highest Quarterback rating in the history of the NFL.
2) Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints– Drew Brees set the NFL record for most passing yards in a single-season in 2011, shattering Dan Marino’s 27-year old mark by nearly 400 yards. Brees simply eviscerated opposing defenses and led the NFL in passing touchdowns and completion percentage. Now, like Rod Tidwell of Jerry Maguire fame, all New Orleans needs to do is show him the money.
3) Tom Brady, New England Patriots– The fact that Brady shows up #3 on any list is testament to the outstanding quality of quarterbacks at this point in history. LIke Brees, Brady also eclipsed Marino’s record in 2011, throwing for a staggering 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns. For some, Brady falls into the category of, “The one guy I’d want starting a game for me if I had to win.” That owes largely to his three Super Bowl rings. Yet he’s also lost the last two Super Bowls he’s played in. Maybe one Wes Welker catch late in the 4th quarter could have forever changed history. Though one thing is for certain- Brady is still as hungry and perhaps as good as ever.
4) Eli Manning, New York Giants– Eli Manning threw for nearly 5,000 yards in 2011, propelling the Giants passing game to new heights. Manning may not deliver the gaudy, weekly touchdown totals of the top three QB’s on this list but what he has delivered are two Super Bowl titles in the last five seasons. As the brilliant Gatorade advertisement reads, “What do you tell the doubters? Nothing. You already told it to them twice.”
5) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers– Love him or hate him, Roethlisberger has earned the moniker of, “Toughest QB in the NFL.” Iron City’s steel-tough signal-caller fought through a litany of injuries to lead Pittsburgh to a 12 win season, while averaged the 8th highest yards per game tally among NFL QB’s. Roethlisberger holds the 4th highest career winning percentage, for a starting QB, in NFL history. The man is a winner.
6) Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos– We all know the results when he plays. Manning is one of the greatest winners and quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. Peyton will likely pass Dan Marino this season and have sole possession of 2nd place on the all-time passing touchdowns list. He can fill up a stat sheet in less than one half of play. But he did not play a single game last season. He’s coming off a neck injury, which is never easy to recover from for anyone, much less a football player. However, he appears healthy and if all systems are go, then look out.
7) Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions– The former #1 pick revitalized the spirits of the fan base in Detroit, leading the Lions to their first Playoff berth since 1999. Along with Brees and Brady, Stafford also threw for over 5,000 yards in 2011 and developed an unstoppable connection with, perhaps, the league’s best receiver: Calvin Johnson. Stafford attempted the most passes of any QB last season. There’s every reason to believe this promising stud will have the green-light once again, all season long.
8) Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys– Romo seems like a forgotten man, given the bevy of passing stars in the league, yet the Dallas man held the 4th highest quarterback rating in the league in 2011. The Cowboys were outclassed by the New York Giants in the regular season finale, in what was a de-facto playoff game, leaving Dallas on the outside looking in at the postseason for the second straight year. Yet, Romo continues to pick apart NFL defenses and is still in the prime of his career, giving hope to an ever impatient Dallas fan base.
9) Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons– Ryan’s first four years in the NFL have been nothing short of excellent. His quarterback rating has increased each year in the league and his passing yards rose above 4,000 for the first time during the 2011 season. Ryan has led the Falcons to the Playoffs in three of his four seasons yet Atlanta has still not won a postseason game with the former #1 pick under center. Expect that to change in 2012 and for Ryan to blossom into one of the elite quarterbacks in the league.
10) Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers-Last on our list is the player with perhaps the highest potential of any other in the National Football League. The 2010 Heisman Trophy winner and National Champion from Auburn burst onto the scene in 2011, throwing for the most passing yards by a rookie, in a single-season, in NFL history. He finished with a 60% completion percentage. And oh by the way, he ran for 706 yards on 5.6 yards per rush, scoring 14 touchdowns on the ground. Newton should continue to mature in his game but will need to cut down on his interceptions. Though if last season was a sign of things to come, he could be on his way to shattering the record books when all is said and done.