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Top twelve quarterbacks to watch in 2012

Top twelve quarterbacks to watch in 2012

Jul 6, 2012

By Dave Brown – NFL-EN


Sure, I could just put up a list of the twelve best quarterbacks from 2011 and tell you they are the ones to watch, but sometimes they are not the ones drawing the attention. Take, for example, Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos last season.

Tebow doesn’t make this list, not directly, but the Tebow influence will be felt.

These are the young guns, the QBs getting a lot of attention for one reason or another, and guys that might have someone breathing down their neck for that starting job. Call it must watch QB TV if you want, I like to think of it that way.

#12 Drew Brees - New Orleans Saints
Brees completed 468 of 657 passes for a completion percentage of 71.2 and a total of 5,476 yards, 46 TDs and 14 INTs. His QB rating of 110.6 was second only too Aaron Rogers. We all know the numbers are staggering, but that is only part of the reason Brees is on this list.

The drawn out by the media franchise tag war between Brees and the Saints, and whether Brees will get that long term contract are also reasons to watch, along with the bounty backlash.

It’s simple, really. Can Brees carry a team with leadership issues, and suspended players, after a drawn out and at times ugly contract negotiation,  at the age of 34?

I bet he doesn’t set records in 2012, but I do expect him to have a solid season.
* threat to throw for 5,000 yards and 40 TDs

#11 Josh Freeman - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Why is Josh Freeman #11 on this list? He  completed 346 of 551 passes for a completion percentage of 62.8 and a total of 3,592 yards, 16 TDs and 22 INTs. His QB rating for 2011 was 74.6.

Look at that again. 16 TDs and 22 INTs. 2012 is a year that Freeman needs to get it going again. He was thought to be one of the best up and coming young quarterbacks in the NFL, but if he flops this season, the Buccaneers might be looking for another quarterback soon.

#10 Robert Griffin III - Washington Redskins
The Redskins traded up to the number 2 spot in the draft with the St. Louis Rams to get their future quarterback. Did they?

There is no question, Griffin is a play maker that can throw and has blazing speed for a quarterback. I have news for Redskins Nation, there are linebackers out there waiting to welcome Griffin to the NFL.

How often will he run, and if he does run often, how long before the first injury? ThinkMichael Vick and Vince Young. Thing is, I think Griffin can throw the rock better coming out of college.

#9 Andrew Luck - Indianapolis Colts
The #1 overall draft pick for 2012 has to make this list. He is a QB, and has been touted as a can’t miss prospect.

The Colts are in desperate need of an overhaul, and this is the guy they want to build around. Don’t expect Luck to go off like Cam Newton did in 2011, I don’t think the Colts will be as good as the Panthers were last season.

Nonetheless, Luck is one to watch in 2012.

#8 Alex Smith - San Francisco 49ers
When you think of the 49ers, you don’t think about a premier passing offense, it’s more pedestrian. Before last season, Alex Smith was considered a bust. Smith was drafted #1 overall by the 49ers in the 2005 NFL draft. In 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010, Smith threw 51 TDs and 53 INTs, and never cemented himself as the starting quarterback for the 49ers.

Then, in 2011, Smith completed 273 passes of 445 attempts, a 61.3 completion percentage, with 17 TDs and 5 INTs for a QB rating of 90.7, his best yet. Those might seem like pedestrian numbers, but the 17 TDs to 5 INTs sticks out.

The 49ers have a great defense, and last season Smith became a game manager that could lead the team down the field without the costly turn-overs. I don’t think he will ever throw for over 5,000 yards, but was last season a fluke? Can Smith do it again?

#7 Joe Flacco - Baltimore Ravens
Yeah, I know, he thinks he’s elite now. Look Joe, the Ravens defense got you farther than you could take the team on your own. If you want to be one of the elite few QBs in the NFL, you had better do better than that 57.6 completion percentage, 80.9 QB rating, and 20 TDs to 12 INTs.

Flacco threw for 3,610 yards in 2011, so he isn’t going to set the air on fire with his stuff. This is another game manager, and Flacco needs to show he has what it takes in the 4th quarter more often if the Ravens are going to make a push for the Super Bowl again.

#6 Mark Sanchez - New York Jets
The Jets are a running team that plays good defense, and for some reason they started throwing the ball more in 2011. That didn’t work well for Sanchez, who threw 308 completions with 543 attempts, a completion percentage of 56.7. Sanchez threw for 3,474 yards, 26 TDs and 18 INTs and finished the season with a QB rating of 78.2.

Sanchez finished 23rd in QB rating and 27th in completion percentage, and many Jets fans started to show some frustration by the end of the season.

The Jets traded up in the 2009 draft to take Sanchez 5th overall, the second quarterback taken in that draft. If Sanchez struggles, will the Jets coaching staff and front office cave in to the pressure from the fans to see Tim Tebow start? (Tebow finished 27th in QB rating and 33rd – dead last – in completion percentage)

This is the year, get it going Mark.

#5 Eli Manning - New York Giants
Eli threw for 4,933 yards, 29 TDs and 16 INTs, had a completion percentage of 61, and finished the regular season with a QB rating of 92.9.

Elite? Not in my book. The Giants won the Super Bowl because they have a good defense and got the running game going better in the playoffs. Eli does make the big plays in the 4th quarter, but had a lower QB rating than Matthew Stafford, threw fewer TDs than Stafford, and the same number of INTs, with a lower completion percentage.

The Lions did not win the Super Bowl, but in my book, Eli is not Elite, not yet. Give big brother Peyton a team like that and watch him, see what happens.

Can he throw for 5,000 yards and 40 TDs with a low number of INTs? I think he can, but he is the one who has to prove it, not me.
* threat to throw for 5,000 yards and 40 TDs

#4 Aaron Rogers - Green Bay Packers
Rogers hit a startling 68.3% of his passes, throwing for 4,643 yards, 45 TDs, and only 6 INTs to finish the season with a QB rating of 112.5, the best of all quarterbacks in 2011. Rogers finished just 357 yards shy of 5,000, but sat out the final game of the season to rest up and stay healthy for the playoffs.


That might have been a mistake, because Rogers looked rusty when the Packers played. Rogers is a threat to be the best QB every year, and 2012 should be no different. Will the Packers be able to hold off the surging Lions and Bears to retain the NFC North crown?
* threat to throw for 5,000 yards and 40 TDs

#3 Peyton Manning - Denver Broncos
I know, it sounds strange, Manning in Denver. I feel like the football world is turned upside down.

You all remember when Peyton was all the news you heard about in free agency, possibly the biggest free agent ever? Well, there’s a reason for that, and if you lapsed and forgot about him, you will be hearing plenty when the season starts.

Think about it, the Broncos with a QB. Can Peyton lead them to the playoffs?
I think so, if he stays healthy. The Broncos allowed a few sacks last season, and they need to do a better job of protecting Manning.

#2 Cam Newton - Carolina Panthers
This is one of the best young guns in the league, and he broke a few records as a rookie in 2011 to prove it. Over 4,000 yards through the air as a rookie? Yes, and I’m not kidding.

With better receivers and a better defense, the Panthers could make a huge racket in the NFL this season.
How good can Newton be in just his second year? Will he suffer a sophomore slump?
#1 Matthew Stafford - Detroit Lions

Why is Matthew Stafford #1 on this list? He  completed 421 of 663 passes for a completion percentage of 63.5 and a total of 5,038 yards, 41 TDs and 16 INTs. His QB rating of 97.2 is almost 5 points higher than Super Bowl winning Eli Manning. If you think those numbers are all because of Calvin Johnson, I have some more info you need to think about.

Take a look at Aaron Rogers. Rogers had his first five TD game in 2011, his seventh year. Rogers will be 29 in December. Now, I want you to think about Stafford, who threw for five TDs in a single game his rookie year, throwing the fifth one after separating his left shoulder with no time on the clock to give the Lions a come from behind win. Stafford has thrown for five TDs in a game three times, even though 2011 was his first full season, and he will be 24 years old in 2012.

Take a look at those 5,038 yards and 41 TDs from 2011, only Dan Marino and Matthew Stafford have done that at the age of 23. Sure, QBs are throwing the ball all over the place, but that doesn’t make 5,000+ yards and 40+ TDs common. Three QBs threw for over 5,000 yards in 2011, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, and Drew Brees. Eli Manning threw for over 4,900 yards, but had only 29 TDs, with the same number of interceptions Stafford had, 16.

Two QBs threw for over 5,000 yards and 40 TDs, Stafford and Brees. Now that we know that, I think you should take into serious consideration the fact that Stafford played with a broken index finger on his throwing hand for three games in 2011.

Name a QB that played with a broken finger on his throwing hand for three games and still threw for over 5,000 yards and 40 TDs. There is only one in the entire history of the NFL.

Stafford at 24 is the top QB to watch in 2012, must see QB TV.
* threat to throw for 5,000 yards and 40 TDs

Well, there it is, my twelve quarterbacks to watch in 2012. Yeah, no Tom Brady, among others. The Patriots will be a solid team with playoff hopes, and I am sure Brady will have a great season.

He almost made the list.

Who do you want to watch in 2012? Leave a comment and lets get the conversation going!


Check out other great articles at NFL Evidence Network.

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