With the Denver Broncos signing of Peyton Manning, I figured it was time to begin a series of posts ranking the 32 best players at each position in the NFL, beginning with the quarterbacks. For the purpose of these rankings, one player from each team will be ranked for each position. That way we can compare the talent at the game's key positions for each individual team.
The rankings are based on the current make up of each NFL team, with two exceptions. In all likelihood the Colts will draft Andrews Luck No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft and the Redskins will snag RGIII at No. 2. Neither team has a legitimate starting QB on the roster, so both Luck and Griffin are almost guaranteed to start right away. In order to correctly project the QB talents of both teams, I will include both Luck and RGIII on this list. The rankings are also based on player value and ability for the 2012 season. It is not a projection for the future, or a look into the past, but a ranking that symbolizes that player's value heading into the upcoming season. With that in mind, let's start with the top QB in the league:
1. Tom Brady - New England Patriots: Consistently takes his team to the playoffs and proved last season he still has a lot left in the tank. He took a Patriots team with a terrible defense all the way to the Super Bowl and was within a hail mary of winning his fourth championship. Has the edge over Rodgers because he did more with less in 2011.
2. Aaron Rodgers - Green Bay Packers: Finished last season with the most impressive statistics of any QB in the league. Had a 122.5 rating and tossed a career high 45 touchdowns. He is surrounded by elite talent and should keep the Packers in consistent Super Bowl contention.
3. Drew Brees - New Orleans Saints: Will suffer this season without Sean Payton on the sideline but remains easily the most important player on the Saints roster. Sometimes throws too many interceptions, but runs the offense with efficiency and is always in the MVP conversation.
4. Eli Manning - New York Giants: The goal of every NFL team every season is to win the Super Bowl. The younger Manning has proven that he is a clutch performer in the playoffs and that there is no better QB in the league in a game-winning situation.
5. Peyton Manning - Denver Broncos: The neck injuries make me a bit wary of putting Peyton this high, but if he is healthy (as he and the Broncos claim) then he is easily still a top-5 QB in this league. Makes everyone around him better and knows the game better than anyone else. Just needs to improve his reputation for shrinking in the playoffs.
6. Ben Roethlisberger - Pittsburgh Steelers: Doesn't have the stats of a lot of the elite QBs on this list, but belongs in the upper echelon because of his ability to win and perform in the clutch. He is a big body that can allude pressure with the best in the NFL and has two Super Bowl rings, which is two more than everyone that trails him in these rankings.
7. Cam Newton - Carolina Panthers: Proved he is a top-tier QB in this league with the best rookie season for a quarterback in NFL history. Newton showed ability to sit in the pocket and hit receivers and knew how and when to escape and run for big yards. He played for a terrible team in Carolina last season and still managed to put up huge numbers and single-handidly added wins for his team.
8. Phillip Rivers - San Diego Chargers: Would be higher on this list if he could get the Chargers to play some consistent football. His team has been as talented as they come over the past few years yet they have continued to falter throughout the season.
9. Jay Cutler - Chicago Bears: A player that is often hated on a little too much for my liking. Has a great arm and will only get better with Brandon Marshall in the fold. His value to the Bears was demonstrated when the team finished 1-5 without him behind center.
10. Matthew Stafford - Detroit Lions: If he can stay on the field he will move up on this list. He's got Megatron locked up for the next few years, and that could be a fun tandem to watch.
11. Tony Romo - Dallas Cowboys: He is the Lebron James of the NFL -- he gets blamed for everything negative that happens on the field, even if its not his fault. Has great athleticism and accuracy, just needs to make smart decisions in tight games.
12. Matt Ryan - Atlanta Falcons: Led the Falcons to the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history, but faltered both years in the first game. Has the offensive weapons with Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner to make some real things happen in 2012.
13. Michael Vick - Philadelphia Eagles: When he is on his game, he is the most electrifying player on the field. The 2010 Monday night game against the Washington Redskins is evidence of how good he can be. Unfortunately, he never reached those heights in 2011.
14. Matt Schaub - Houston Texans: Had he played the entirety of 2011, the Texans would have challenged New England for the AFC Super Bowl birth.
15. Andrew Luck - Indianapolis Colts: Yes, Andrew Luck will be better than about half the starting quarterbacks in the NFL in 2012. He might not have Cam Newton rookie stats, but he will make the Colts much better than 2-14 and will benefit from the resigning of Reggie Wayne.
16. Robert Griffin III - Washington Redskins: Yes, RGIII will be better than about half the starting quarterbacks in the NFL in 2012. I actually think he will have a chance to put up better overall numbers than Luck simply because the Redskins have a better all-around team than the Colts.
17. Alex Smith - San Francisco 49ers: Resigning with the Niners was the best possible decision for Smith. He struggled in the red zone last season but with the addition of Randy Moss, continued dominance of Vernon Davis and further instruction from coach Jim Harbaugh, he should improve.
18. Joe Flacco - Baltimore Ravens: Has steadily improved since his rookie season and put up decent numbers for a playoff team in 2011. Finished the year with 20 TDs and an 80.9 quarterback rating. Needs to improve his completion percentage in the upcoming season.
19. Andy Dalton - Cincinnati Bengals: Had numbers very similar to Flacco's in 2012 but has a lot of room to improve. Great season for a rookie and will benefit in 2012 from more offseason drills and more time to mesh with fellow first round pick AJ Green.
20. Matt Flynn - Seattle Seahawks: Could be a great player if he performs like he did against the Lions in 2011. Needs more starts before a consensus can be made.
21. Carson Palmer - Oakland Raiders: Threw way too many interceptions last season but basically entered the starting lineup after sitting on the couch all offseason. Maybe a new coach will make a difference in his game. Plus, an offseason to learn the offense and work with WRs is always beneficial.
22. Ryan Fitzpatrick - Buffalo Bills: Started off the season on a tear, got a huge contract, then plummeted. He has the potential to be a legit NFL quarterback. Time will tell.
23. Josh Freeman - Tampa Bay Bucs: Had a great rookie season before regressing exponentially last year. He was part of one of the most dysfunctional team situations but that's no excuse to throw 22 interceptions versus 16 touchdowns.
24. Matt Hasselbeck - Tennessee Titans: Threw for over 3500 yards and tossed 18 touchdowns. Not too shabby for a guy in his twilight years on a team that focuses on running the ball. Could be supplanted by Jake Locker if the season doesn't start well.
25. Matt Cassel - Kansas City Chiefs: Hasn't done anything to set himself apart since signing with the Chiefs following his stint as a backup for the New England Patriots. He is an average quarterback at best and is a big reason why so many Chiefs fans were calling for Scott Pioli to chase Peyton Manning.
26. Kevin Kolb - Arizona Cardinals: A similar player to Cassel. Signed a big contract after having a few big starts with a winning team but hasn't proven anything since taking over a permanent starting gig.
27. Mark Sanchez - New York Jets: I've never been a fan of the Sanchize. Finished with a poor QB rating last year despite having an abundance of talent around him. The fact that the Jets just gave up two picks for Tim Tebow makes me think they are trying to push their incumbent QB this season.
28. Sam Bradford - St. Louis Rams: Followed a promising rookie campaign with an awful 2011. Finished with just six touchdowns for a bad team. Has potential to be a solid QB in this league but needs more weapons and needs to show improvement this year.
29. Matt Moore - Miami Dolphins: Helped the Dolphins finish strong at the end of last season, but the fact that the team chased both Peyton Manning and Alex Smith this offseason makes me think that new coach Joe Philbin has little faith in the current starter.
30. Christian Ponder - Minnesota Vikings: Will be pushed by Joe Webb throughout this season. Wouldn't be surprised to see him relinquish his starting job to his fellow young quarterback if things don't go well early in the year. Could really struggle if Adrian Peterson doesn't play.
31. Colt McCoy - Cleveland Browns: They tried their best to trade for the No. 2 pick in the draft to take RGIII. That says they don't see a future with Mr. McCoy.
32. Blaine Gabbert - Jacksonville Jaguars: Finished his rookie campaign with an abysmal 65.4 ranking and barely a 50% completion percentage. Looked lost on the field, especially compared with fellow rookies Newton and Dalton.