EJ Manuel and Geno Smith Have both been named starter going into week one of the NFL season as rookies. A decade ago that would have been shocking. Rookie quarterbacks found little success while trying to adjust to the speed and physicality of the game. In recent years that perception has changed with the success of Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin.
Even though rookie quarterbacks are much better equipped to deal with the rigors of the NFL I don’t see the same kind of success early on for Manuel or Smith.
They aren’t the only first time starters that will struggle this season under center.
Here is how I Rank the starting quarterbacks from 32 down to one and what I expect to see from each this season.
Note: this isn’t a fantasy football ranking. The players are ranked based on who is the best player and also their importance to their respective teams.
32. Geno Smith- Smith isn’t at all ready to be an NFL starter and that will show in the Jets record this season. Smith doesn’t make the best decisions which will lead to high interception rates. I wouldn’t be shocked if Smith ended up as the backup to Mark Sanchez when he comes back from his shoulder injury.
31. Terrelle Pryor- how bad does Matt Flynn have to be for Pryor to earn the starting job with the Raiders? Pryor wasn’t a great quarterback at Ohio State and I don’t expect much from him as a first year starter in Oakland.
30. Blain Gabbert- I fully expect Gabbert to be better than he has been in his first two seasons in the league. He won’t make a huge jump this season though, especially without having his best receiver for the first quarter of the season.
29. EJ Manual- Manual is in a better position than Geno Smith but not by much. For that reason I don’t expect much Manual this year. What will help Him is having a couple very talented players around him in CJ Spiller and wide receiver Stevie Johnson.
28. Brandon Weedon- for most of last season Weedon didn’t look like he would last too long in the NFL. He did make some small strides late in the year that showed he still had some promise. He has looked much sharper this preseason and with a new head coach should have a much better season. Don’t expect a pro bowl run by any stretch of the imagination but he will prove he is an NFL quarterback.
27. Jake Locker- the Titans will struggle again this year and one of the main reasons will be because of the play of Locker. He still hasn’t fully adjusted to the speed of the game and it shows in his decision making. I don’t anticipate that changing much this season.
26. Christian Ponder- Ponder doesn’t have to be great for the Vikings to return to the playoffs. All he has to do is manage the game and make enough throws so that opposing defenses can’t load the box with eight and nine guys. The addition of Greg Jennings should help Ponder a great deal but not enough to place him among the top quarterbacks in the league.
25. Alex Smith- Smith is now a member of the Kansas City Chiefs after having great success in the last two seasons in San Francisco. Even though Smith has a starting job once again, he is missing his best asset from his Niner days in Jim Harbaugh. Smith struggled early in his career before Harbaugh got there and I see similar things happening this year with the Chiefs.
24. Ryan Tannehill- Tannehill had a rough first season in the NFL but showed flashed towards the end of the 2012 season for the Dolphins. The addition of Mike Wallace should help Tannehill a great deal but not enough for the Dolphins to be a playoff team.
23. Josh Freeman- Freeman had a very solid year a season ago and more is expected this time around. Freeman has plenty of weapons at his disposal and should have no problem throwing for more than 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. What Freeman really needs to work on for the Bucs to be more successful is his decision making. His completion percentage was really bad and he threw way too many picks.
22. Carson Palmer- Palmer was very solid last season with the Raiders but should take a huge step forward as a member of the Arizona Cardinals. Palmer still throws too many interceptions but finally has the kind of weapons in Arizona that will help him to return to his Bengals form from years ago.
21. Michael Vick- Vick is long past his prime and it was a little shocking that he beat out Nick Foles for the starting job in Philadelphia. Now that he has the job, Vick should flourish in Chip Kelly’s wide open system. Look for Vick to have his best season in a couple years as the Eagles attempt to make a playoff push.
20. Andy Dalton- Dalton came out of nowhere a few years ago to earn the starting job as a rookie and has made steady improvement every season. In his third year in the league, Dalton is poised to lead the Bengals deep in the playoffs. For the Bengals to do that Dalton needs to limit his interceptions and get rid of the ball much quicker. He gets sacked far too often.
19. Phillip Rivers- Rivers was much higher on this list just a few years ago but as the Chargers have declined so has Rivers. I don’t see him getting better any time soon as the Chargers are in rebuilding mode.
18. Jay Cutler- cutler has never been able to replicate the kind of seasons he had as a member of the Denver Broncos statistically but has gotten much better as a signal caller. Cutler should take another step forward in Playing for Marc Trestman.
17. Cam Newton- Newton really struggled at the beginning of last season but bounced back Late in the year to point the panthers in the right direction. Not a lot is expected Carolina this year but if newton can make plays there is no telling how good they can be.
16. Sam Bradford- Bradford finally has a few decent receivers around him and that should help both Bradford and the rams to have a better Season. For that to happen, Bradford needs to be more accurate.
15. Colin Kaepernick- we will find out how talented kaep is this year now that the niners are without Colin’s safety blanket, Michael Crabtree due to injury. Teams will be much more prepared for his dual threat ability but kaep will still have plenty of success playing for one of the great minds in football.
14. Robert Griffin- although he is coming off a brutal knee injury from last year’s playoffs, Griffin proved that he is a fantastic quarterback. He can beat you with his arm and his legs and was remarkable with ball security.
13. Russell Wilson- Wilson shocked just about everyone by beating out matt Flynn last season to earn the starting job for the Seahawks and proved that Pete Carroll really knows what he is doing. After just missing out on the NFC championship last season, look for Wilson to push the Hawks far deeper this year.
12. Andrew Luck- Luck put up huge numbers as a rookie and should be better this year. For that to happen though, he needs to make better decisions early in games. Luck needs to complete a much better percentage of his passes and throw far fewer picks.
11. Matthew Stafford- Stafford has plenty of weapons around him and no excuses in not leading the lions back to the playoffs. For that to happen, Stafford needs to find a consistent second option and not always look for Calvin Johnson when he’s under pressure.
10. Tony Romo- Romo has all the tools to be a great quarterback in the NFL but never seems to be able to get over the hump. This year will be no different even though he will continue to put up huge numbers for an underachieving team. I can see him throwing for 5,000 yards and 30 touchdowns and the Cowboys missing the playoff once again.
9. Ben Roethlisberger- big Ben had a very impressive season a year ago, especially when you consider that he missed three games. The Steelers were a different story however. They got to watch from the sidelines as one of their biggest rivals won the Super Bowl. For the Steelers to make the playoffs this time around they need an even better season from Roethlisberger.
8. Matt Schaub- Schaub has been getting better every year with the Texans and this year should be no different. He has plenty of weapons and the decision making ability to lead the Texans deep in the playoffs this year.
7. Eli Manning- Manning has taken a step back in the last season because he is so sporadic. He really struggled with consistency thanks in part to a lackluster ground game and injuries to the wide receiver position. Manning will be better this time around as the Giants challenge for the NFC east crown.
6. Joe Flacco- after a remarkable playoff run which ended with a super bowl ring flacco got paid like he was a top tier quarterback. The problem is Flacco’s two favorite targets are now longer available. Anquan Boldin is a member of the forty niners and Dennis Pitta is out for the season after suffering a hip injury. For Flacco to prove he deserves all that money he will have to rely on Torrey Smith a lot more then I think is possible.
5. Matt Ryan- Ryan just might be the most underrated quarterback in the entire NFL. He doesn’t make many mistakes and always seems to be right on target. With all the weapons that surround him look for Ryan to have another monster season as he leads the falcons deep into the NFC playoffs.
4. Drew Brees- Brees is the perfect fit for the saints’ offense having thrown for well over 5,000 yards each of the last two seasons. I don’t expect anything different this year with the return of head coach and offensive guru Sean Payton.
3. Peyton Manning- after his fourth neck surgery many thought that Manning would take a huge step back in his first year with the Broncos. That of course couldn’t have been farther from the truth. With the addition of Wes Welker I fully expect manning to be even better this season.
2. Tom Brady- the patriots have lost many of their best offensive players but as long as Brady is around they will always be a contender. Brady seems to make the right decision on every snap and as long as his new target can hold onto the ball, Brady will continue to be a force.
1. Aaron Rodgers- Even though the Packer line isn’t great and Rodgers gets sacked way too often he is the best quarterback in the league and has been for a few years. As long as he can stay upright this season, Rodgers will to continue to hold that spot. His numbers may drop Just a little bit though now that the Pack have a legitimate rushing attack.