John Clayton, the man that has the inside scoop for just about everything related to the NFL, put out a quarterback rankings list yesterday. He broke the signal callers into three groups: The Elite, The Chad Pennington Division and the Hit-Or-Miss Division.
Obviously we know where most of the quarterbacks fall, but there may be a few surprises embedded within this list. I'll attempt to break it down, naming some of my disagreements and some of the players I think are headed for breakout seasons.
Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are all guys that ESPN drools over constantly. For them to go through a SportsCenter segment without a single mention would be a feat in it's own. It stands to reason that they lie on the top of the pile, as they have each quarterbacked Super Bowl championship squads. It's towards the end of this "elite" group that I begin to question Clayton's judgment.
Can Joe Flacco be described as an elite quarterback? He plays on a great defensive team with a great coach, but Flacco has never passed for over 3,700 yards (which is really good, but not elite) and his quarterback rating is a career 87.9. Personally, I'm not buying it. Don't be surprised if Flacco, along with Eli Manning and the always hailed Tony Romo fall out of this category by the end of the season.
Moving on to the "Chad Pennington Division," there are a few guys that are poised to have breakout years and could find themselves in the top tier by year's end. At the vanguard of this group is Sam Bradford of the St. Louis Rams. We all know the name and we can expect him to give the Arizona Cardinals everything he's got twice a year for the next decade or more. Like Clayton said, if he had a better bunch of receivers to throw to, look out world.
Jay Cutler and Mark Sanchez are both overrated in my eyes. Again, these are two players who are decent quarterbacks, but would appear to be really bad if not for the fact that they play on good teams. I call this the, "Trent Dilfer Syndrome."
Let's look at our favorite guy, Kevin Kolb. Kolb is currently ranked as the 18th best QB in the NFL, according to Clayton. We don't know much about him right now, so he remains a big question mark as we enter the 2011 season. However, if he takes the giant leap that he has the potential to take, he could find himself listed as a top ten quarterback before 2012 rolls around. With weapons like Larry Fitzgerald and Todd Heap to throw to, the sky is the limit for Kevin Kolb.
One other player in this group I want to note is Matthew Stafford. If he can stay healthy, he also has plenty of toys to throw to and could have a monster season. Look out, NFC North, this guy is the real deal.
Lastly, let's look at the lowest graded quarterbacks in the NFL, or as John Clayton likes to call them, the "Hit-Or-Miss Division." Honestly, most of these guys are a miss, we already know that. Chad Henne, Alex Smith and the Shanahan Gang up in Washington are all dismal and should be ranked as such. I am a bit surprised to see Ryan Fitzpatrick in this group, but when you play for the Bills, nothing good can come out of that.
There are only three players that have a chance of making it out of the doldrums: Cam Newton, Andy Dalton and Colt McCoy. McCoy could find himself out of the bottom as soon as this season, for the Browns are improving and could find themselves with an eight win season. Dalton and Newton, on the other hand, may have to wait a couple of years. They are very young and very inexperienced, which means they will have a steep learning curve.
The Panthers did a lot to upgrade their team in the off-season, so if Newton lives up to his first overall pick draft status, they could contend in the division down the road. I don't know if I can say the same for the Bengals, but I think Dalton has a good chance of getting "Clausen'd" when the Bengals select Andrew Luck with the first pick next year.
What do you think of this list? I know I am going to catch some flack for some of what I said, but I'm open to it. Let the debating begin.