Recently I brought you my Bottom of the Barrel starting quarterbacks of the 2012 NFL Season. In part 2 of 4, I am going to bring you the Middle of the Pack players. They aren’t exactly the worst but they aren’t the best the game has to offer, either. Many of these guys have a good chance of boosting their position, though, by having a strong 2013 showing. Let’s begin!
24. Ryan Fitzpatrick – After the 2010 season I was very high on Fitzpatrick and his abilities to maybe drag the Bills out of the playoff drought they have been in since 1999. Over the ’11 and ’12 seasons, he turned the ball over a total of 47 times. 39 of his turnovers were interceptions and 8 were fumbles lost, though he’d fumbled a total of 15 times. When the pressure is on, Ryan seems to force bad throws and make the wrong split-second decisions. Never having the ability to force the ball down the field, I thought his Harvard mentality would pick up the NFL mental game, but he seems to have solidified his career as a glorified back-up; which he will do well in Tennessee.
23. Josh Freeman – Here falls another player who, after his 2010 season, I thought would start making a big impact for his team. Since that 25 touchdown, 6 interception, 95.9 quarterback rating season though, Freeman has taken a giant step backwards. Though he redeemed himself some last season, 2013 is going to be a make or break year for Josh. He has poor judgment skills and is extremely inconsistent in his overall play. He has a powerful arm and stands tall in the pocket, good traits for a starting quarterback, but he needs to return to his 2010 form and get away from the 39 interceptions he’s thrown over the past 2 seasons.
22. Ryan Tannehill – Unlike others, I wasn’t particularly blown away by Tannehill’s rookie season. A 58% completion percentage and more interceptions than touchdowns doesn’t blow my socks off, and marks him as the most susceptible quarterback of the rookie bunch to fall into a sophomore slump. His mobility, strong accuracy and mechanics are a few of his strengths, but poor decision-making and average pocket presence are what put him so low on this list. As the negative attributes get better and pair with what he does well, he’ll be a fairly good NFL quarterback. Miami fans should just pray that it happens sooner than later and he doesn’t fall into the same hole as Josh Freeman.
21. Cam Newton – When you choose a quarterback with the 1st overall pick, it’s because he’s able to make everyone around him better. That has not been the case with Cam Newton. With only 13 wins in 32 games, Cam has yet to prove that where he was chosen was the correct decision. He doesn’t seem to have the knack of leading men and living up to the “C” patch on his jersey due to his inability to be a positive influence on his teammates. He’s been impressive from a passing aspect, proving a lot of scouts wrong who pegged him as not being able to cut it in the NFL. Cam needs to build a better mental game and make the proper decisions and pre-snap reads. I believe that until he matures, he’ll have a hard time being able to progress in those departments.
20. Sam Bradford – Personally, I love Bradford and had a hard time placing him where I did. Sam has the elite arm and quick release you love to have in a starting quarterback. The team around him hurts his chances of living up to the hype that surrounded him early on. His poor mobility, lackluster offensive line and having no receiving threats, forces him to be conservative with the football. He only completed 59% of his passes in 2012 – his targets dropping numerous passes didn’t help in that category either. Bradford will be primed for a great 2013 showing with the moves the Rams made in the recent draft.
19. Jay Cutler – I’m sure when you saw where I placed him, you were a little taken back. Cutler has had plenty of time to show he is a great NFL quarterback and leader, but has not stepped up to the plate. We’ve all seen Jay yelling at his teammates, but that’s because that is Jay’s way of trying to inspire, which I don’t agree with. Cutler hasn’t eclipsed 4,000 yards passing or completed over 60% of his passes since he left the Denver Broncos. Those stats are hard for me to grasp, especially the yardage, because of how strong his arm really is. When Jay gets frustrated or angry during a game, he starts making a lot of poor reads, and forces the ball. The Bears can keep surrounding him with all the receiving talent in the world, but until his line gets a little better and he can get over his mental lapses, he is only to continue to be what we have seen over the past few years.
18. Christian Ponder – As a Florida State Seminoles fan, I really like Ponder. He can make all the NFL throws, he’s very mobile, and he’s a smart quarterback who should pick up the mental aspects of the game quickly. With Kyle Rudolph being his only consistent, non-injured threat though, NFL life has been a little hard on Christian the past few seasons. Luckily for him, he has had arguably the best running back in the NFL behind him in Adrian Peterson, or there would be a lot more grumbling around him. With addition of Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson, Ponder has a great chance to break out and put up some huge stats both fantasy and reality wise in 2013.
17. Andy Dalton – Dalton is playing exactly where his draft position ranked him. By that I mean he’s not achieving in all aspects of the game like a 1st round quarterback should. When he sees something open up late or is under pressure, he tends to throw off his back foot due to poor mechanics and footwork. With the help of superstar A.J. Green, life was pretty easy on Dalton in the 2012 season. His ability to push the ball down the field is complemented well by Green, marking them as a formidable tandem for years to come. This season will be a mirror image of last season for Andy with the recent additions of Tyler Eifert and Giovanni Bernard. If he can improve on his mechanics and his ability to see things better before they happen, he could solidify himself as a top 10 quarterback.
16. Matt Stafford – I have been watching Matt since he was pegged as the top quarterback prospect coming out of Highland Park High School. His arm strength is phenomenal and he can throw traditionally or untraditionally without losing any zip on the football. A lot of people labeled him injury prone after his first 2 seasons, but after starting the last 32 regular season games, most of that chatter has quieted down. Stafford has thrown for over 10,000 yards and 61 touchdowns in just the last 2 seasons alone. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been complemented with a good run game, so he is forced to pass a lot more than the typical quarterback. By adding another piece to their offensive line and a few running backs this offseason in Reggie Bush and Theo Riddick, I feel next season is going to be dangerous for the defenses scheduled to face him.
15. Colin Kaepernick – Though some think I am a hater of this particular quarterback, I personally need to see more from him before I can justify rating him as one of the best in the league. There has been more talk about his tattoos and running ability than the fact that he’s surrounded by a great deal of talent. That talent has been acquired as the 49ers have been picking high in the draft for some time. He definitely gives San Francisco a huge jolt offensively when he’s on the field. Starting 7 regular season games, he threw for 1,800 yards with a 62% completion rating, running for 415 yards as well. He scored 15 total touchdowns and even though he only lost 2, he fumbled a total of 9 times. Colin has great zip on the football and throws one of the tighter solid rope-type passes of any NFL quarterback. Next season is going to be huge for Colin, he must prove that he can make the people around him better as well as live up to the hype. Out of all the quarterbacks I have mentioned so far, he has the most pressure coming into the 2013 season.
I have made this list as unbiased as I possibly can to isolate a quarterback from his teammates. The fact remains, though, that the quarterback’s supporting cast and how well he utilizes that talent influence one’s judgment, and vice versa, how well the talent utilizes the quarterback! Be sure to check back for part 3 of 4, my “Almost There” article, ranking quarterbacks 14-6.