The start of the 2016 NFL season is going to see a changing of the guard at the Quarterback position. The season will be the first season since the 1997 season to start without both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. After winning Super Bowl 50, Manning decided to retire from the NFL as a Super Bowl Champion. In contrast, Tom Brady will start the season serving a four game suspension due to his role in the infamous “deflategate.” With arguably two of the best Quarterbacks in NFL history not playing in week one, the Quarterback position is set to be quite different this season. Who are the best? Without including Tom Brady, here are my top ten NFL quarterbacks for this upcoming season.
10. Derek Carr (Oakland Raiders)
Carr is definitely a quarterback that is on the rise in 2016. In his second season, Carr improved on his stellar rookie season. He threw 32 touchdown passes, which was tied for 7th in the league. He also had a 91.1 passer rating and came within 13 yards of throwing for 4000 yards in the season. After two seasons, Carr has 53 career touchdown passes, the second most by a quarterback in his first two seasons, behind Dan Marino’s 68. With another year to gain chemistry with former Alabama Wide Receiver Amari Cooper, Carr is expected to take a significant leap up the Quarterback ranks this season. His peers felt the same as they voted Carr the 100th best player in the annual Top 100 list. In addition to that, the backfield of Lashon Murray and Roy Helu will open things up for Carr in the passing game and give him reliable receiving options coming out of the backfield.
9. Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Although he played most of last season injured, Roethlisberger is still one of the best Quarterbacks in the NFL. He has a receiving core that consists of multiple deep threats including arguably the best Wide Out in football, Antonio Brown. He will also have a healthy Le’veon Bell and Deangelo Williams in the backfield this season, a luxury that he did not have for most of last season. With Bell, Williams, and Brown at Roethlisberger’s’ disposal, it looks like the 34 year old is set to have a bounce back effort in 2016.
8. Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts)
The richest man in the NFL did not have a season to remember last season. He injured his shoulder in week 9, which forced him to miss the remainder of the season. But even in the games that he did play, Luck failed to get in rhythm with his receivers. In just seven games, Luck threw 15 touchdown passes and had 12 interceptions. At the time of his injury, his 12 interceptions were the most in the NFL. Even though he took a major step back in his fourth season, the Colts still decided to re-sign Luck to a 6 year, $140 Million contract extension. I believe this new found wealth will light a fire in Luck, which will lead to him having a more improved 2016 season.
7. Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)
At the age of 37, Drew Brees is the oldest Quarterback on this list. Even though he has had seasons that saw him win a Super Bowl and an Offensive player of the year, an argument could be made that his 2015 season was his best season to date. With a make shift receiving and running back core, Brees still managed to throw 32 touchdown passes and lead the NFL in passing yards with 4,870. He also posted an impressive 101.0 passer rating, which ranked 6th in the NFL. His peers also showed him some respect by voting him the 30th best player in the Top 100 list. With that said, it is hard to see how Brees’ play can drop off in 2016.
6. Andy Dalton (Cincinnati Bengals)
After an unimpressive 2014 season, Andy Dalton came back strong in 2015. In the first 12 games of the season, Dalton led the Bengals to an impressive 10-2 record. He also threw for 25 touchdown passes and just 7 interceptions. Unfortunately, Dalton was not able to finish the season as he broke his thumb in a December game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Even with his season cut short, Dalton’s 106.3 QBR was still second in the NFL. His 2015 season also led to him being ranked 34th on the Top 100 list. With Dalton healthy, the Bengals have a better chance of repeating as AFC North Champions, which will hopefully lead to them ending their 25 year playoff win drought.
5. Eli Manning (New York Giants)
This may be a surprise to most people. This is due to the fact that Eli Manning has had the tendency to be inconsistent throughout his career. Although he is a two time Super Bowl champion, he has also led the league in interceptions on three separate occasions (2007, 2010, and 2013). However, Manning is coming off of the best statistical season of his career. In 2015, he ranked second in the NFL in touchdowns (35), 6th in yards (4,436), and his 387 completions ranked 6th in the league as well. With a revamped receiving core that consists of All Pro Odell Beckham Jr., rookie Sterling Shepard, and a healthy Victor Cruz, it is easy to believe that Manning’s numbers will only improve in the 2016 season.
4. Carson Palmer (Arizona Cardinals)
Few players had a better year than Carson Palmer. Returning from a torn ACL, the former Heisman Trophy Winner put up big numbers for the Arizona Cardinals in 2015. He threw for 4,671 yards and 35 touchdowns, both of which ranked 2nd in the NFL. He also posted an impressive 104.6 passer rating, by far the best of his career. As a result of his play, the Cardinals offense became one of the best in the NFL, which helped the team win the NFC West and make it all the way to the NFC Championship Game. Although Palmer and the Cardinals had a forgettable performance in the Championship game, Palmer is still primed to continue the success he had last season this year. This is largely due to the fact that the Cardinals are bringing back offensive weapons David Johnson, Chris Johnson, and Larry Fitzgerald.
3. Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)
Since succeeding Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers has been able to carve out his own legacy in Green Bay. His 104.7 career passer rating is the best all time. In addition to that, his 101 passer rating in the postseason is the 3rd best all time. But Rodgers did see his numbers decrease in 2015. After averaging more than 4,000 passing yards per year his first seven seasons, Rodgers fell close to 200 yards short of the milestone in 2015. In relation, Rodgers’ 92.7 passer rating was the lowest of his career. But 31 touchdowns and 8 interceptions is still nothing to sneeze at. Plus, Rodgers will have a healthy Jordy Nelson at his disposal which will certainly help inflate his numbers in 2016.
2. Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)
No one can call Russell Wilson a “Game Manager” anymore. After receiving a 4 year, $87 Million contract extension in the off-season, the 26 year old QB solidified his place as one of the games’ best. In 2015, he posted career highs in touchdowns (34), yards (4,024), and he even had an NFL best 110.1 Passer Rating. He once again led the Seahawks to the postseason for the fourth straight year, becoming only the 2nd Quarterback in league history to lead his team to the playoffs in his first four seasons. Even without Jimmy Graham and Marshawn Lynch for most of the year, Wilson still managed to put up great numbers, which garnered him numerous MVP considerations. With Lynch retired and Graham healthy, Wilson is expected to throw the ball more often in 2016, which is only going to elevate his play.
1. Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers)
This should not be a surprise to anyone. Cam Newton is coming off of a magical season in 2015 that saw him revolutionize the Quarterback position. He threw for 3,837 yards, 35 touchdowns, and just 10 interceptions. He also added 10 rushing touchdowns, making his touchdown total 45 for the season. This was the most touchdowns scored by a player since the 2013 season. At season’s end, Newton was named the NFL MVP and the Offensive Player of the Year by numerous sports magazines. His play propelled the Panthers to a 15-1 season and a birth in Super Bowl 50 vs. the Denver Broncos. Unfortunately, due in large part to the Panthers being without a No. 1 wide receiver, the Broncos were able to put pressure on Newton and dominate the line of scrimmage, leading to a 24-10 victory for the Broncos. As a result of this, it is easy to believe that Newton will come back looking for revenge in 2016. He will also have a healthy Kelvin Benjamin to throw the ball to, a weapon Newton certainly missed during Super Bowl 50.
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