As we slowly move closer to training camp, we are in for about three months of pure speculation and debate. In a good way to add fuel to the fire, we will go through every position and rank the top ten players at each position. Before making the rankings, first it should be clarified how these players are ranked. These aren’t players with the best statistics from last year, or with the best teams around them. It isn’t the best play per contract, or the young but unestablished vs. old and experienced debate. It is more so a projection of talent and determining that if a game was in two weeks, and I had to pick a player to be on my team, who would I take over the others. It comes down to a gut opinion, but having watched nearly every snap of the NFL in the past two years via NFL Game Pass I do have confidence in my opinions. At the end of the day it is another discussion of debate so check it out and let me know what you think. For the first position will go with the most important in quarterback.
- Aaron Rodgers
There was not much debate for me in this one. Rodgers has flaws, and he showed some of them last year, but Rodgers is still the best in the game. What separates himself from everyone is two things: footwork and arm strength. When combined it is the most lethal combination. In terms of footwork, his escapability, awareness in the pocket and ability to set his feet instantly is the best in the business. His arm strength isn’t just impressive in the way he can drill a 60-yard hail mary, but the fact that a flick of his wrist is a 10-yard dart. He is truly the last person that you want to see with the ball driving against your team and adding up the entire package says that he is still the best.
2. Cam Newton
Don’t get me wrong Newton deserved the MVP last year. He has similar abilities to Rodgers in terms of arm strength, but there are a few qualities Rodgers has over him. Rodgers has more touch, and while Newton is a tank, Rodgers in the pocket is still harder to track down. What makes Newton better than any other quarterback is his freakish combination of size, athleticism and arm talent. To put his size in perspective, he has about 20 pounds on Ben Roethlisberger, and he can play closer to a running back than any quarterback. He is underrated in how accurate he is, and his only real knock is that he can throw it high on receivers at times. Still, to have a power running back be able to throw darts and create mismatches and problems for any defense he deserves this position.
3. Tom Brady
In Tom Brady’s last drive of the 2015 you knew this guy still had it. He was beaten down by the Broncos defense all game, but down eight with 1:34 left in his season on 4th and 10 he dropped an absolute dime on Rob Gronkowski. He got the touchdown in that drive, didn’t get the two, but what he did do was assert himself as a guy who is arguably still the best option at quarterback in the league at age 38. What he doesn’t have that Rodgers and Newton do is the deep ball arm strength and accuracy. Brady did drop the dime when he needed it, but his game now is dinking and dunking and beating his opponents with his brain and decision making. It keeps him relevant and successful this deep into his career, so at the end of the day you cannot disrespect what he did.
4. Ben Roethlisberger
What makes Roethlisberger so valuable and deserving of this position is really his ability to extend plays and play when he is hurt. This is a guy who had a concussion, a sprained MCL, sprained ankle and eventually cracked ribs and missed 4 games in an 18 game season. He missed 5 starts, but in week 10 he came off the bench as an emergency quarterback and threw for 379 yards and three touchdowns while completing 66% of his yards, all with a sprained ankle. Against the Broncos this season, arguably a top ten defense all-time Roethlisberger was 64-92, 69%, 719 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in two games, one of which was in the playoffs while playing with cracked ribs. There is just no doubting Roethlisberger and his talents as there is no defense in the league that can contain him.
5. Russell Wilson
In the last six games of Russell Wilsons season he threw for 24 touchdowns and one interceptions, while averaging 270 yards per game and completing 71% of his passes. If we were just measuring by most recent performance Wilson is the best quarterback in the NFL. Either way Wilson is here to stay as an elite quarterback. He has escapability in a similar way to Rodgers, although he is not quite as refined as Rodgers pocket footwork. Most of his career thus far he was a bit of a game manager behind a run first offense. Last year however, he took over as the leader of this offense, and coming off of career highs in attempts, completion %, yards, he may be continuing to climb the list this season.
6. Andrew Luck
It is tough to rank Luck given that he was hurt most of last season, and may still be hurt on this very day. Still, when looking at arm talent and being able to stand in the pocket and make last second decisions he is right there with the best. He also remains the youngest quarterback on the top ten list, so with experience he has a good chance to progress. It seems like he came into the league so refined and NFL ready that he hasn’t vastly improved from year to year. He still makes some poor decisions, and his standing in the pocket and consistently taking hits is what eventually led to him on the sideline. The Colts finally invested in their offensive line in the draft this year, and the hope is that Luck will look at this injury and decide to make the quick, sometimes safe decisions.
7. Carson Palmer
A lot of people were quick to bash Palmer after a poor performance in the playoffs against the Packers before a complete meltdown against the Panthers, but none seem to point out he had thumb surgery a week later. Palmer also missed 10 games in 2014, which is really why he cannot be any higher on this list, but when healthy he was putting in work. He led the league in yards per attempt last year, and was second in the MVP behind Cam Newton. Palmer had always been a quarterback who sat right outside the list of the great quarterbacks in the league, so it is kind of nice to see that he is able to put it together and play his best at age 36.
8. Philip Rivers
Before you knock Rivers for being on a team that had a four win season and assume another quarterback was better think about this; the only starters that played 16 games for the Chargers last year was Rivers, his right tackle Joe Barksdale, and outside linebacker Melvin Ingram. That is it. Rivers running back was an injured, over drafted rookie, his top receiver played two games, his slot receiver played eight games, and his top tight ends missed a combined ten games last season. Rivers led the league in passing attempts by 40 attempts and completed 66% of his passes last season. He has played every game since 2006, has arm strength, has accuracy, has faced every defense you can imagine and is still one of the top quarterbacks in the game.
- Drew Brees
Brees is another guy who has not been aided by the talent around him. Still, in Brees you can see that it is starting to go with him now at age 37. Similarly to Brady, the problem with Brees is that he cannot consistently go down the field anymore. Unlike Brady, he still likes to test his limits. He was still able to complete 68% of his passes last year, but was inefficient throwing down the field, and had began to lose opposing teams respect. The Saints will be looking to run the ball and play better defense to aid in Brees’ potential decline, and if he is asked to do less next year, he actually should be able to produce more.
- Eli Manning
Two things really helped Manning over the past two years: Odell Beckham and Ben McAdoo. It makes sense that the Giants would have promoted McAdoo to the head coach because over the past two seasons he has produced the most efficient versions of Manning that we have seen. Manning has always had the arm talent, but now he is performing in a system that is forcing him to down the field less and to rely more on quick accurate passes. The Giants are still trying to build a consistent offense around Manning, but his play is what gives them a chance to be competitive next year.