The 10 Best Quarterbacks in the NFL Right Now

  • 10. Colin Kaepernick

    This spot could go to a number of different names. There’s Nick Foles, whose numbers last season suggest he’s not only one of the best in the league, but right there with Manning. There’s Eli Manning, who was awful last year but yet still has some classic performances in big moments. There’s Tony Romo, a top quarterback on his talent alone but a player who routinely has brain farts at the worst times. There’s a number of other names you could throw in here as well, going from Joe Flacco to Matthew Stafford to the aforementioned Rivers. But I’m going with the 49ers signal caller.

    Kaepernick’s numbers last year weren’t spectacular, but with the 6-4 26-year-old, it’s never been about numbers. He’s won 17 of 23 starts in the NFL, and even with a talented team like San Francisco, that’s impressive.

    But if you want stats, I can give you a few. He was No. 7 in Total QBR last year at 68.6. He threw eight interceptions the entire year, and added in over 500 yards on the ground to 3,197 through the air. And in his last six playoff games, he’s averaged over 313 total yards from the line of scrimmage.

    He’s not the greatest from the pocket, and often stares down his wideouts, but this year he’ll have former Bill Stevie Johnson joining Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin, and a rejuvenated Michael Crabtree. In other words, this should be Kaepernick’s best year yet.

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  • 9. Matt Ryan

    Ryan and the Falcons fell apart last season, going 4-12 after nearly making the Super Bowl in 2012. Some of that was injuries, some of it was just bad luck. Ryan, for his part, played virtually identical to what he did in Atlanta’s 13-3 run in ’12 when he was first in the league in completion percentage and was near the top in every major passing category.

    Ryan was consistently under pressure — more so than any other QB in the league — and didn’t have Julio Jones or a healthy Roddy White. At 29, Atlanta needs Ryan to take that next step, a step he’s been flirting with throughout the last few seasons. While some evaluators in the league think he hesitates too much and one went so far as to call him the “most disappointing,” it’s hard to argue with someone who can put up monster numbers (67.4 completion percentage, 4,515 yards, 61.1 Total QBR) in a down year.

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  • 8. Cam Newton

    What’s the best determination of talent? In a team-orientated sport like football, it’s hard to say, and it’s doubly hard for quarterbacks. If you win a Super Bowl, like Russell Wilson, does that automatically mean you deserve a spot on a list like this? Even if you had one of the most devastating defenses and running games of the modern era beside you? If the stat pundits and “experts” think you can play, like Matt Ryan, does that mean you just had bad luck and deserve a spot? It’s not an exact science, and neither is what I’m about to tell you, but then again the following should mean something: Cam Newton’s peers voted him in as the 24th-best player in the NFL. Not QBs… the NFL.

    Last season, Newton set career-highs in completion percentage (61.7), touchdown throws (24), and rating (88.8). And while none of those numbers are elite, backing up the claim by many that he doesn’t have rare stuff as a pocket passer, they don’t overshadow the fact that he doesn’t really need to have that.

    If Cam Newton could throw like Rodgers and read a defense like Manning, he’d probably be the best QB in the league. Actually no… he WOULD be the best. Instead, because he’s a duel threat in a system that promotes that skill, but yet not a super great traditional passer, he’s only No. 7 on this list. When you run for over 2,000 yards in your first three seasons while hitting paydirt 28 times by yourself during the same period, you don’t need to have all of that “traditional” stuff. You’d probably need it to be No. 1. You don’t need it to be No. 7.

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  • 7. Russell Wilson

    Last year’s Super Bowl winning quarterback has only been in the NFL for two years and he’s already being called the best young quarterback in the league.

    Through two seasons, he’s started every game and been incredibly consistent, turning in two seasons with plus-100 QB ratings, two years with completion percentages over 63 percent, two years leading Seattle deep into the playoffs.

    Some will say he has a great defense and a great running game backing him up. But so what? Tom Brady has had Bill Belichick. Joe Montana had Jerry Rice. Peyton Manning‘s had great receivers his entire career. You need great talent around you to elevate your own. If you really want to know his value, just know that Adam Schefter is reporting his new contract next year will likely start around $24 million per year.

    Seattle has talent, but Wilson is the leader of that team… at only 25 years old.

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  • 6. Andrew Luck

    Because Indianapolis has been so good for so long, everyone seems to overlook the fact that Luck’s cupboard of weapons was super thin last year. Even before Reggie Wayne went down for the year with a knee injury, there was T.Y. Hilton… and not much else. At all. The rushing attack was especially disastrous with star pickup Trent Richardson averaging less than 3.0 yards per carry.

    As the Colts went 11-5 and made the playoffs — where Luck spearheaded one of the best comebacks you’ll ever see — he clearly separated himself from Robert Griffin III and made his inclusion on this list a must.

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  • 5. Ben Roethlisberger

    This guy has to be the league’s most underrated quarterback. His biggest problem might be that Steelers fans just can’t shut up about him. They have good cause. Last season, he single-handedly saved Pittsburgh season, driving the team to a 8-4 finish even though he played with a terrible offensive line and probably the most suspect running attack of his entire career.

    Roethlisberger’s greatest trait is his ability to hang in the pocket, shake off defensive lineman and linebackers, and still find ways to get the ball downfield. The toughest QB, and the hardest to bring down, Big Ben threw for 4,261 yards last year and 28 touchdowns. As good as he was for 16 games during the regular season, he would’ve been even better had his teammates just stepped up enough to get him into the postseason.

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  • 4. Tom Brady

    Brady’s no longer the quarterback he once was, and that’s okay. Seven years ago he threw for 4,806 yards and 50 touchdowns to just eight INTs as the Patriots nearly pulled off an undefeated season. But you don’t always have to be that good. It’s basically impossible. Still, Brady tossed 25 touchdowns last year and threw for 4,343 yards with a thrown-together receiving corps that was missing pretty much everything outside of Julian Edelman for most of the season. (When Rob Gronkowski did come back from injury? Brady was lights out.)

    At nearly 37, his rating has dropped in each of the last four seasons, and he feels the heat more than he ever has. Last year, Brady completed only 57.6 percent of passes under pressure, 28th in the league, and because of a faltering offense line, he’s being sacked more than ever now.

    In the perfect scenario, Brady is still as good as anyone. But once the defense starts bringing the rush, he’s not the same quarterback.

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  • 3. Drew Brees

    With rookie playmaker Brandin Cooks in the fold in New Orleans, don’t expect anything to change for the Saints this year. That offense will still be cooking defenses week in and week out, and it’ll always start with the QB.

    When the Saints finally won a Super Bowl, who got the credit? Brees. When NFL Network analysts discuss Jimmy Graham‘s place on the Top 100 Players, who gets the credit? Brees. The 6-0 star has his fingerprints all over the blueprint down in N’awlins, as he is among the top seven quarterbacks in every major statistical category.

    Since coming to the Saints before the 2006 season, Brees has thrown for at least 4,388 yards in every season, and is literally percentage points away from becoming the most accurate passer in league history. (Last year he finished second behind San Diego’s Philip Rivers.) That is insane.

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  • 2. Aaron Rodgers

    The best in the NFL? He’s right there as 1B. How quickly people forget about someone once they get hurt, or once their team falls out of the spotlight.

    Rodgers had the Packers at 5-2 when he went down with a broken collarbone. He returned in miraculous fashion to help beat Chicago in the final game of the season, vaulting Green Bay into the playoffs. Overall, last year, his numbers were routine for him: 17 TD passes to just six interceptions and a 104.9 QB rating. Since the 2010 postseason, Rodgers has won a Super Bowl and nearly 80 percent of his games while dealing with a number of injuries to his surrounding playmakers and, don’t forget, terrible conditions at Lambeau Field.

    This season, Green Bay is planning on speeding up the offense. You know what that means: big, BIG numbers for No. 12, who just so happens to have the lowest interception percentage in NFL history (1.8 percent).

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  • 1. Peyton Manning

    His team’s destruction in last season’s Super Bowl might’ve overshadowed much of what he did during the season — when he won an MVP with 49 of 50 first-place votes while throwing for 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards, both league records — but let’s not forget how good Denver’s QB is.

    He quarterbacked an offense that set bushels of offensive records while joining Dan Marino and Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks to pass for 60,000 career yards. He did all of this despite the whispers that his arm strength was dying.

    The Broncos remain one of the favorites to make it back to the Super Bowl, but another title isn’t even needed for this guy. His legacy is set.

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  • Colin Kaepernick
  • Matt Ryan
  • Cam Newton
  • Russell Wilson
  • Andrew Luck
  • Ben Roethlisberger
  • Aaron Rodgers
  • Peyton Manning

With the recent release of the Nike Field Generals Collection highlighting what it means to be a leader on the field, it’s as good a time as ever to rank the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Nowadays, because of rule changes, forward-thinking minds, and deep playbooks, it’s more important than ever to have a great signal caller if you hope to win. Look at what happened to the Colts without Peyton Manning or Green Bay without Aaron Rodgers. You can win with a great defense or a solid running game or an experience front office, but you always win with a great quarterback.

So where does your team’s QB rank among the game’s best? We’re counting down the top 10.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @seanesweeney

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Honorable Mention:

Philip Rivers
One of the best competitors at this position in the league, Rivers has kept San Diego competitive ever since he took over the spot in 2006. In seven of those eight seasons, the Chargers went at least .500 and the one year they didn’t, they still won seven games. It’s obvious Rivers can quarterback a successful team, and last year he threw every pass for San Diego as they won five of six to finish the season. That pushed them into the playoffs, where they won a Wild Card Game and then nearly upset Denver.

Rivers led the entire league in completion percentage at 69.5, and finished second among full-time QBs in Total QBR. Quietly, the 6-5 stud had the best season of his career, and improved the little things, such as not fumbling anymore (just one after coughing it up 13 times in 2012) and pushed the ball downfield more often than he did in the two prior years.

So why is it that franchise decision-makers still see him a step below elite? I have no idea. I’m betting a Super Bowl win would mean more to Rivers’ legacy than anyone else on this list right now.