32. EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills
Short answer: He has not played a single meaningful game yet so we can’t really rank him. I did like what I saw out of his first preseason game, played within himself, took what was there, and lead a great two-minute drill. This ranking is not an indictment of the player I think Manuel is, simply an acknowledgment of what we haven’t yet seen.
31. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
You can tell me anything you want about the “lack of weapons” and make virtually any excuse you want, but in the end Mark Sanchez just does not have “it” to be a capable NFL starter. If he did, he quite simply would. Sanchez plays behind a pretty good offensive line and has simply been unable to elevate the play of his teammates.
30. Matt Flynn, Oakland Raiders
We have extremely limited tape on Flynn in the NFL, and what we do have, shows a guy with superior talent around him beating up on inferior defenses. Flynn has not outright won a quarterbacking competition since high school, and if the word around Raiders camp is to be believed, the quarterback competition with Terrelle Pryor is closer than many believe.
29. Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
Ponder has really struggled since the last Bursa Sac injury in college. He lacks the ability to consistently drive the ball down the field, and was really carried by his running back, Adrian Peterson. As of Week 14 last season, Ponder was averaging less yards per attempt than Peterson was per carry.
28. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
Locker has been plagued by inconsistency. Inconsistent in his ability to read defenses, inconsistent in his accuracy, inconsistent in his health. He’s really done nothing to prove his eighth-overall selection. This will be his last year to prove he has what it takes to start at the NFL level.
27. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars.
Gabbert has been bad, really bad, but it has not entirely been his fault. Offensive line, and run game issues have hindered his development, still he’s had his chances. Much like Locker, this will likely be Gabbert’s last chance to start in the NFL.
26. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
Weeden was not awful in his debut season last year, but he was not what you’d call “good” either. In fairness the Pat Shurmer offense he was playing in was probably the offense he’s worst suited for, short of someone bringing the triple option to the NFL. Weeden should be much better suited for new offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s offense, but he still lacks the ability to move outside the pocket, a liability to most quarterbacks in the modern NFL.
25. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
Palmer steps out of the frying pan and into the fire. Games last year showed him to be rusty, and often ineffective even with his vaunted deep ball. He leaves behind an Oakland team that for all its holes at least had a competent weapon in the backfield, when healthy, in Darren McFadden. Arizona’s offensive line, and lack of run game are certainly drawbacks, but Palmer will be in a levels concept offense more suited to his talents, and a have a receiver in Larry Fitzgerald whose level of talent he’s not yet played with.
24. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Josh Freeman has been one of the most maddeningly inconsistent quarterbacks in the NFL. One minute you’re getting a highlight reel throw, the next he’s missing open receivers or taking a sack he shouldn’t. Freeman is getting what many consider an “extra” year to try and prove his worth. The Bucs drafted Mike Glennon in the third round, and while he may not be the heir apparent in Tampa, he was drafted to at least push Freeman, who is entering his contract year.
23. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
Bradford is another quarterback who has suffered through coordinator changes and a dearth of talent around him. This year gives him the chance to prove he has overcome that. The Rams have put a lot of talent around him, and he’ll be in his second year under the same offensive coordinator. Bradford is another quarterback who is likely “on the bubble.”
22. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Tannehill started the season looking very much like the rookie he was, but he showed definite improvement each game. The Dolphins made a strong commitment to Tannehill, drafting skill position players to put around him, and adding free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace. I have high hopes for Tannehill in his second year, and look forward to seeing if he can take that next step.
21. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles. Once the electric dual threat quarterback who was going to revolutionize the game, Vick is still a more than serviceable starter with juice left in those legs. Vick will be playing under Chip Kelly’s offense, which seems tailor made for his skill set, but it remains to be seen if the gains in the passing game Vick made under quarterback-guru Andy Reid, will be kept, maintained, or possible improved on under Kelly.
20. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Dalton has weapons around him that would make most quarterbacks in the league envious. He plays in an offensive system under Jay Gruden designed to cater to his strengths and mask his deficiencies, and yet like another more gifted quarterback further up the list, struggles to put it all together, especially down the stretch. Dalton is probably the highest ranked quarterback on this list playing for his job. If he does not put it together this year, the Bengals will likely move on. Marvin Lewis is the second-most tenured head coach in the NFL, and likely can’t afford another Dalton implosion in the playoffs.