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- Quarterback Rankings - Who's No. 1?

Chris Pokorny August 6, 2006
Chris Pokorny
PFC Owner & Writer

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How much of a difference does a year make? In our quarterback rankings from last year, quarterback Kerry Collins was rated as the No. 1 quarterback in the AFC West, while Jake Plummer was rated dead last in that division. Boy, was I wrong. Collins isn't even on an NFL roster this season, and Plummer is a solid candidate to be considered the top quarterback in that division. If you ignore the whole Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens fiasco from last year, I'd actually consider the rest of my rankings to have been dead on from last year. However, 2006 is a whole new year. Free agent acquisitions, team changes, and personal injuries must be accounted for.

In last years rankings, I listed the quarterbacks that had really emerged out of no where in 2004. However, looking back at last season, there were three quarterbacks who made their mark known, compared to the beginning of the season. When Alex Smith got a chance to play, he was only able to throw one touchdown. Phillip Rivers didn't get a chance to play due to Drew Brees. So, which three quarterbacks made an impression? Let's take a look:

Mark Brunell: We all know that Brunell has had success throughout his career, but no one expected him to have the tremendous amount of success that he did with the Redskins, especially since Patrick Ramsey started the season as the starting quarterback. Brunell managed the short passing game so well with Chris Cooley and various other weapons, and then utilized Santana Moss in the aerial attack. Brunell turned a below average offense into a team that was good enough to make the playoffs.

Chris Simms: Although quarterback Brian Griese did well before going down with an injury, Simms stuck with the Buccaneers and was able to lead them to the playoffs. He definitely showed his youth throughout the season, but he also showed a lot of potential, especially as the playoffs drew closer.

Charlie Frye: Between these three quarterbacks, Frye was the only one to not make the playoffs. He took over for Trent Dilfer later in the season, and did not do a bad job for a team that had a below average offensive line and missing Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards.

Now that we have nailed down the quarterbacks that succeeded last year, which quarterbacks will surprise the league this year? Last year, I picked J.P. Losman and Eli Manning to experience success. I feel I was wrong about Losman, but Manning did rather well. Here are two potential candidates that could make an impression this season:

Phillip Rivers: After sitting on the bench, Rivers hopes to live the same storyline that Carson Palmer did. It may take him a year before he elevated to the next level, but after this season is over, the Chargers will know that they've made the right choice for the future.

Chad Pennington: Granted, I don't think Pennington will be able to lead the Jets to the playoffs, simply because they don't match up well enough to the Patriots or Dolphins yet. However, after a few seasons full of injuries, Pennington will rise to the occasion if he wins the starting job and show fans why he still has something left in his tank.

And now, it's time to get to the actual rankings, which will be done by division:

AFC East - Major Quarterback Change

The past few years, the quarterbacks in this division have been relatively the same. Pennington has dealt with injuries with the Jets, the Bills can't stay pleased with a quarterback, and Brady dominates the division. The Dolphins dealt with a combination between the Jets' and Bills' situation, but that's about to change.

1. Tom Brady - New England Patriots - Once again, Brady is not only the quarterback to beat in his division, but possibly the quarterback to beat in the entire NFL. Deion Branch will be back as Brady's favorite target. One of the key attributes that Brady has always had is the ability to work with whatever receivers he has. He lost his second-favorite target, David Givens, to the Tennessee Titans. To replace him, the Patriots added Reche Caldwell and Chad Jackson in the draft. Caldwell quietly did very well during his time with the Chargers, while Jackson was a steal for the second round. Brady also has an extra rookie running back if Dillon goes down again, and will continue the tremendous poise he has always showed.

2. Daunte Culpepper - Miami Dolphins - If you scroll down a little bit, you'll see that the Bills quarterback platoon is ranked fourth. However, if Culpepper performs like he did last year, he would be way below that level. However, if he performs up to his capabilities like he did two years ago, he could even make a run to overtake Brady as the best quarterback in the division. He won't reach the better of those levels this season, but he'll do a fine job in a new system where he can get off to a fresh start. He finally has a running back to work with in Ronnie Brown, something he never really had with the Vikings. Chris Chambers should develop into his new favorite receiver, alas Randy Moss, but with a better attitude.

3. Chad Pennington - New York Jets - Backup Patrick Ramsey could still win this job, but I would rank him third in the division as well. Despite Pennington being ranked third, he would be fourth in almost every other division in the league. That isn't due to his shoulder problems in the past, but instead due to the team's lack of offensive threats. Laveranues Coles is a solid No. 1 receiver, but beyond that, the Jets didn't make any drastic improvements at the position. With Curtis Martin's health in question, the Jets don't have a stable running back either.

4. Competition Winner - Buffalo Bills - Between Kelly Holcomb, J.P. Losman, and Craig Nall, I honestly can't decide who should win the starting job. However, it's not like any of them will be so special. Honestly, if a team had a solid quarterback to begin with, there wouldn't be a need for a competition to begin with, right? The Bills hope Peerless Price can revive his reputation with the team from a few years ago, but it won't be enough.

AFC North - Back From the Dead

Ok, maybe they really aren't "back from the dead". However, when you look at this division of quarterbacks, three of them are lucky to be playing currently with the status of their health from the recent year or so. With that said, it could be the most exciting group of quarterbacks to watch in the league.

1. Carson Palmer - Cincinnati Bengals - Palmer is battling back from a devastating injury last season in the playoffs. Last year, he clearly showed that the Bengals are the new offensive powerhouse in the AFC North. He has an incredible cast surrounding him in Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Rudi Johnson. If Palmer does not show any lingering effects from his injury, then nothing will stop him from raising the bar to the standards of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as the best quarterback in football.

2. Ben Roethlisberger - Pittsburgh Steelers - Granted, Big Ben won a Super Bowl last year, and deserves a lot of credit for doing so. However, the Steelers depend on a lot more players than Roethlisberger to win football games. His mobility for his size is what makes him so dangerous. Roethlisberger could hand the ball off or struggle all game, but when the Steelers need a clutch pass, he will deliver a perfectly thrown football. Santonio Holmes may help him a little in the passing game, but his favorite targets will still be Hines Ward and Heath Miller.

3. Charlie Frye - Cleveland Browns - Many people are doubting the potential of Frye, but can you blame them? Since the Browns have returned to the league, they have a new starting quarterback every single year it seems. For the first time in years though, there is no quarterback controversy, and that's because the coaches actually have faith in Frye's ability. The Browns' offense has its greatest potential since returning to the league with an upgraded offensive line and the presence of Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow. Frye is the only quarterback in this division without an injury history in the NFL.

4. Steve McNair - Baltimore Ravens - I hate ranking McNair this low, because everyone knows that the former co-MVP can play. I'm glad the Ravens made an effort to get a quarterback of McNair's caliber, but the reason I'm ranking him low is the same reason I ranked him low last year - his health. He cannot survive an entire season without getting injured, and once that happens, the Ravens are right back to Kyle Boller. If McNair does stay healthy, his chemistry with Derrick Mason will carry over from their days on the Titans. Besides that, McNair could turn out to be a guy who doesn't work well in the Ravens system, unless they've really changed things up.

AFC South - Manning's Division

There's no doubting who the heart and soul of the AFC South is when it comes to quarterbacks - Peyton Manning. However, when it comes to the next three quarterbacks, it's almost a tossup.

1. Peyton Manning - Indianapolis Colts - Is there any doubt with this decision? Honestly, if someone doubts this ranking and ends up being correct, you'd deserve all the credit in the world. Manning never gets injured, he confuses defenses left and right, and he gets the job done (excluding the postseason). Now that Edgerrin James is gone, don't be surprised if the Colts throw the ball more often, which will inflate Manning's stats even more than before. Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne are the same tandem Manning has dealt with for years, and he's very comfortable with them.

2. Byron Leftwich - Jacksonville Jaguars - Although Leftwich typically isn't known as that great of a passer, he was having a solid season before getting injured last year. He will be without his security blanket, Jimmy Smith, who retired in the offseason. However, Matt Jones and Ernest Wilford showed some chemistry in the receiving game last year. The addition of rookie tight end Marcedes Lewis could be one of the most underrated draft picks if Leftwich is able to develop him into a nice possession receiver.

3. Billy Volek - Tennessee Titans - To start the season, Volek should be able to perform like the second-best quarterback in the division. He can heave the ball very nicely, and will have another proven receiving threat besides Drew Bennett after the addition of David Givens. Although the team has a large group of running backs, they will still take chances and heave the ball when necessary. Unfortunately for Volek, it'll only be a matter of time before he loses his job to rookie Vince Young.

4. David Carr - Houston Texans - As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing Carr can really do to dig himself out of the cellar of the AFC South. It's not that he can't perform; it's that the Texans' offense just isn't good enough. Eric Moulds joined them in the offseason to add the veteran offensive receiver they've needed, but until they are able to actually establish something significant, Carr will stay where he is.

AFC West - High-Powered

Last year, Kerry Collins was supposed to revive the Raiders, making this division the best among quarterbacks. That's not the case with the Raiders this year, but the other three teams are still on top of their game.

1. Jake Plummer - Denver Broncos - Last year, Jake "The Snake" Plummer redeemed himself in my book. I doubted him before the season started, and heck, I was still doubting him about half-way through the season. I finally gave in, and negated my negative image of him from prior years. A few weeks can be considered a fluke, but Plummer was able to stay consistent throughout the entire season. Although the signing of Javon Walker is being considered overrated, what if it goes the other way around? Isn't there a chance that the move will be...underrated?

2. Trent Green - Kansas City Chiefs - There's no doubting that Larry Johnson will be the focal point of the offense this year, but there's still plenty of throwing for Green. He doesn't have a strong group of wide receivers, but Tony Gonzalez will always be a key contributor down near the red zone. The Chiefs also execute screen plays very well, and any time you can depend on your offensive line to keep you on your feet, you can step in the pocket and make strong throws downfield.

3. Phillip Rivers - San Diego Chargers - Many people think that the Chargers will fall off the face of the earth just because Rivers is almost a "rookie" of sorts, but let's remember this: he was selected fourth overall a few years ago for a reason. Rivers is fortunate to begin his career as a starter with dangerous weapons in LaDainian Tomlinson and Antoinio Gates, but the wide receiving core isn't as deep. Rivers can easily perform just as well as Brees has the past couple of years, as long as he doesn't completely flop.

4. Aaron Brooks - Oakland Raiders - Would anyone care to explain why Brooks will be any better than Kerry Collins last year? The issue with Collins was that he was too inconsistent, and throughout Brooks' career, his downfall has been his consistency. Randy Moss is obviously a talented receiver, but with Jerry Porter on the verge of being moved to a different team, there's no telling what's in store for this offense.

That's it for the AFC's preseason quarterback rankings. The NFC rankings will be out tomorrow, so stay tuned to PFCritics.com for the latest.


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