With NFL season 2016/17 just 2 months away I rank what I believe are the Top 10 Quarterbacks in the game heading into season 2016/17. The NFL has always been a quarterback driven league, however never more so than today. An injury at QB can often mean the death knell for your team’s chances. Teams heading into the season without a dominant QB have little chance of challenging for a Super Bowl in my opinion.
1. Tom Brady (New England Patriots)
I still can't go past the evergreen Tom Brady as the Number 1 quarter back entering 2016. Whilst Brady is 38, and will more than likely start the season with a 4 game suspension over the deflate-gate saga, Brady remains a force to be reckoned with. With 4 Super Bowl titles to his name, Brady played some of the best football of his career in 2015. Another stellar season was ended in heartbreak for Brady and New England as he was blitzed and beaten by the ferocious Denver defence in the AFC Championship game. Brady still dictates his offence like few NFL quarter backs can, and I expect him to have 1-2 years left at his best as he has never relied heavily on speed or mobility.
2. Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)
Aaron Rodgers lost his swagger somewhat in 2015/16 in an underwhelming campaign. Whilst some of the weapons around him were down graded, he seemed to lose faith in some of the bits and pieces that made up his receiving core. At his best though Rodgers is both a pretty passer and a gunslinger. His arm strength, and ability to role outside the pocket make him a nightmare to defend against. Rodgers went nearly 3 years, 586 passes, and 49 touchdowns without throwing an interception at his fortress Lambeau Field, before that streak was ended against the St Louis Rams. Rodgers, at 32, should be in his prime and nothing less than a Championship Game appearance in 2016/17 should be the target in Green Bay.
3. Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers)
Cam Newton had a breakout season in 2015/16, carrying his Carolina Panthers all the way to the Super Bowl and with it taking the NFL MVP award. As a former Number 1 pick in the Draft, expectations have always been high for Newton. However in previous years he had struggled for consistency and often looked out of love with his team the Panthers. His electric mix of speed, size, power, athleticism finally all came together in a memorable campaign. Newton unlike other top ranking QBs can shred a defence with his running game. To go with his arm strength this is a potent mix. Whilst the crushing loss for Carolina as favourites in the Super Bowl against Denver will test his resolve, I expect Newton to power his team easily into another playoff series in 2016/17.
4. Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)
Plenty of question marks applied when Russell Wilson entered the league. As a smaller quarter back with questionable decision-making, many experts wrote Wilson off as a force to be reckoned with. Indeed it was a surprise that the Seahawks gave him the start after the Seahawks recruited experienced back up Matt Flynn from Green Bay. Wilson accompanied by a hellacious defence led his team to the Super Bowl in season 2013/14, just his second in the league. Whilst he was given credit, plenty still wanted to say he was nothing more than a game manager, as he failed to rack up the big numbers of some of the leagues powerhouse QBs. That myth was debunked the next 2 seasons as Wilson expanded his game and became one of the premier all round QBs in the league. Possessed with lightning speed there is no bigger running threat from the QB position in the NFL. However Wilson also now has a dynamic passing game and often threw for over 300 yards in victories in 2015/16. Wilson is a highly respected leader and as tough as they come, and his durability makes him even more remarkable.
5. Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Big Ben and his Steelers have been one of the dominant teams of the past decade. With two Super Bowl rings to his name Ben has been a cherished figure in Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger at his best is a great all round QB and leader, capable of making a wide range of throws and ability to scamper and make yards with his legs. While at 34 question marks over his body and the battering it has taken remain, Big Ben still has a couple of good seasons left in him. Roethlisberger looks every bit a scrapper, and his performances in clutch moments over the years have been up there with the very best. Whilst he takes risks and holds on to the ball longer than most QBs he remains one of the game’s elite.
6. Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)
Drew Brees remains a top ranking QB in this league despite his team’s recent struggles. New Orleans fans have had to put up with a terrible defence the past few years given up record scores across the board. This has forced Brees to try and do the impossible and often needing 35+ points just to win a game. Brees remains one of the most accurate passers in the game and remains one of the most dominant commanders of an offence you are likely to see. At 37 there could be a case made that Drew is slowing down and losing some of his powers, however I still expect him to have a very strong 2016/17 season despite his team’s struggles.
7. Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts)
Andrew Luck came into the NFL with a lot of hype having beaten off Robert Griffin for the number 1 draft pick. Indianapolis went a step further by trading favourite son Payton Manning so they could draft Luck with the number 1 pick. Described by many as the next Payton, Luck has had his ups and downs over his short career. Luck has had some memorable games where he has carried his team, however on the flip side he has been wildly inconsistent and last season became a turn over machine. Whilst the hope remains that Luck will turn into the first ballot hall of famer some were predicting when he first started, Indianapolis will need to surround him with a better all round team in 2016/17.Luck will have to curb some of his wild decision making often trying to make impossible plays that are simply not on. I expect Luck to rebound from a nightmare 2015/16 this year with much more balanced play.
8. Derek Carr (Oakland Raiders)
The Raiders have got a steal in Derek Carr when they drafted him 3 years ago. He is a QB with unquestionable dedication and leadership for such a young player. Whilst his play has often been solid rather then spectacular, it is a vast upgrade for Oakland on some of the busts they have had at QB over the past decade of misery. Carr expanded his game last season, and showed he has the potential to become one of the games elite QBs in the next few years. Oakland are quietly starting to put together a pretty scary roster, with Carr having some real weapons to throw to. I expect this team and Carr to make a real run at the playoffs in 2016/17 and put together the first winning season in Oakland since their last Super Bowl appearance back in 2002/03.
9. Andy Dalton (Cincinnati Bengals)
The Bengals have been a model of consistency under Dalton. They have made the last 4 straight playoff appearances which is remarkable for a franchise that was characterised as one of the NFL strugglers for much of the past 2 decades. Dalton's ability to manage a game, combined with some weapons around him has made the Bengals a balanced and dangerous team. Dalton at his best is an accurate passer capable of picking a defence apart. However the fact remains he has often saved his worst for the clutch, with the Bengals bowing out of the playoffs in the first round the last 4 years straight. Every year that record continues doubts will creep in Dalton's head and until he conquers the pressure cooker of the NFL playoffs he cannot he considered an elite QB in the NFL.
10. Phillip Rivers (San Diego Chargers)
I just couldn't leave the firebrand that is Phillip Rivers out of the Top 10. Whilst he is well and truly at veteran status at 34, Rivers remains one of the NFL's great competitors. Not too afraid to get under people’s skin at his best, Rivers was a clutch performer under pressure for many years in San Diego. Whilst some may argue he has under achieved for his ability in not being able to get to a Super Bowl, the Chargers have had some serious years because of Rivers’ dynamic play. Rivers heads into this season after a poor campaign personally and for his team in 2015/16 as the Chargers dropped at last place in the tough AFC West.