Updated NFL QB rankings

RG3's astonishing debut, Sanchez's setbacks highlight a new list

Originally Published: October 4, 2012
By Ron Jaworski | ESPN Insider

Four games may not seem like much of a sample, but in the reality of the 16-game NFL, it is a key number. Not only does that represent the quarter pole for the season, but when teams break down film to prep for upcoming games, they scrutinize their opponents' previous four games. It's a rubric I've followed in my career and as an analyst, and I'm going to use it to help guide my QB Big Board.

This ranking is not an end-all-be-all, permanent evaluation. Guys will improve -- and regress -- and that movement will be represented on this ranking every four weeks. What this QB Big Board does is combine a quarterback's historical performance with how he is playing at a certain time of the season to form a ranking of the NFL's top quarterbacks at that moment.

There are a few changes to my previous list, including how I generated it. Last offseason, I watched every throw of every NFL quarterback from 2011 to generate my initial rankings. Due to time constraints, I can't make that same claim now. Rest assured, though, that this list is the product of regular film study from the NFL Films offices each week.

Previously I omitted all of the rookies from the preseason rankings, because you can't properly evaluate where they fit when they've never thrown a pass against an NFL defense. Now that we've seen a sample of their talents -- albeit a small one -- I've added them to the mix. And let's just say it's an impressive debut for Robert Griffin III.

RG3 makes his debut at No. 17, meaning he's just outside the top half of NFL quarterbacks. Honestly, I never thought I'd rank a rookie this high. The trouble is, Griffin has not played like a rookie. What separates him from his first-year peers is his consistency. Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill have made some great plays in their young careers, but they've also made some bad ones. I haven't seen that erratic play when it comes to Griffin, hence his extraordinary debut ranking.

Erratic play has plagued a couple of veterans, which is why Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Cassel and Jay Cutler are among the biggest drops on my board. Protecting the football is the most important thing you can do as a quarterback. If you lose the turnover battle by one or more, you lose the game 80 percent of the time. It's as simple as that. And it's one thing to make bad reads and bad decisions as a rookie. But at this point in their careers, those three have no excuse.

But there is better news for a few others. And even if Aaron Rodgers has not looked as dominant as he did during his fantastic 2011 campaign, he remains at the top of my rankings. Let's get into some details.


Jaws' QB Rankings

1. Aaron Rodgers
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Rodgers is still playing at a high level, but against the Seahawks he got beaten up pretty good and became a little frenetic in the pocket. His biggest problem has been his offensive line, which has failed to give him much protection. Add the injury to Greg Jennings, and Rodgers has been a little shorthanded early. The Packers need to tighten the line and get healthy. I also think they need to get more from TE Jermichael Finley, who has not yet played to his potential.


2 . Tom Brady
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Not surprisingly, Brady remains near the top of the list and even moves up a slot. I really like what the Pats are doing with the ball this season, committing to the run and bringing more balance to the offense. This emphasis will help reduce the hits on Brady and extend his longevity in the league. I think what we saw in Week 4 against Buffalo is a good indicator of what we'll see going forward. They'll accentuate the run, use more three tight-end sets, then take some shots using play-action or spread you out. And when you see a game in which two running backs and two receivers both top 100 yards, you know Brady is using all of his weapons.


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Ron Jaworski

NFL analyst / writer
Ron Jaworski is one of the most popular and knowledgeable analysts covering the NFL today. Since joining ESPN in 1990, the former standout NFL quarterback has covered the league from virtually every angle -- sideline reporter, game-site reporter, host and both studio and game analyst. From 2007-11, Jaworski occupied one of the most coveted positions in sports as a Monday Night Football analyst.