1. Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks
Coming off a superbowl victory, Russell Wilson will come back to the NFL a changed man. No longer just a young gun who makes plays, Russell Wilson is now climbing the ladder to an elite status. Wilson has been wildly consistent in his first two seasons as an NFL quarterback. In his rookie and sophomore year, he posted 252/257 completions, 64.1%/63.1% completion percentage, 26/26 touchdowns, and 10/9 interceptions, respectively. I would expect vast improvements in his numbers this upcoming season. Despite losing the oft used Golden Tate and the sparsely used Sidney Rice, Wilson brings back the most important part of the quarterback position. Confidence. Wilson is at the top of the food chain right now for opposing quarterbacks and target number one for opposing defenses. The Wisconsin product is by far the most hyped quarterback for next season and will definitely prove himself worthy of it.
2. Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck has been outstanding in his first two seasons; perhaps as much as Russell Wilson – save the playoff success. Wilson came into the NFL on a much better team than Luck did, but they both have changed the culture of their respective squads. Luck has thrown 46 touchdowns in two seasons in a Colts uniform to players like Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, and Coby Fleener. Adding Hakeem Nicks and getting Dwayne Allen back in the mix at receiver should have Luck drooling. His receiving core is elite and now it’s his turn. I expect Luck to lead his Colts to their best season since their Super Bowl run in 2011. Luck is ready to take the steps to completely fill Peyton Manning’s shoes in the Colts offense. If he does in fact replicate Manning’s playoff success, Luck can put the Colts fan’s memories of number 18 behind them and make number 12 fill their minds.
3. Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning’s record year last season should not be overlooked. His 55 touchdowns compared to 10 picks was an unimaginable feat, and his 5,477 yards were not too shabby. The only reason Manning doesn’t completely dominate the top overall spot on this list is because of his health. Manning’s career depended on a medical exam on his neck this offseason and luckily, for the NFL, the Broncos, and every football fan, he was cleared to continue playing. He comes back to a different team entirely. The additions of Emannuel Sanders and DeMarcus Ware succeed in making up for the losses of Eric Decker and Champ Bailey, and signing Aquib Talib and T.J. Ward doesn’t hurt either. If Manning can reach his numbers of last year again, he may go down as the top quarterback of all time. But for this scenario, he goes in at number three because his health and age are working against him.
4. Nick Foles – Philadelphia Eagles
Nick Foles has slowly come into his own as an NFL quarterback. Despite his on and off start, Foles finally secured the starting job in Philly. With Michael Vick running the show in New York, Foles can finally be the piece that the Eagles organization starts to build around. With a great foundation in place with LeSean “Shady” McCoy and Chip Kelly holding the clipboard, I expect the Eagles to prosper this season. They are more than qualified as the playoff representative of the NFC East (yes the division is awful but still…) and Foles will most likely be a huge part of their success. Foles is a great option for the Eagles, but he also remains the only one. Who’s going to replace him if he fails? Mark Sanchez? I don’t think so.
5. Colin Kaepernick – San Francisco 49ers
Kaepernick may be struggling with some off-field issues right now, but I doubt that has a huge effect on his game next season. Coming off of a heartbreaking loss in the conference championship to the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, Kaepernick and the niners have a lot to prove next year. Kaepernick brings in a few new toys to play with, also, such as Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde and Buffalo Bills star Stevie Johnson. Stevie Johnson is a huge addition to an already star studded receiving core. His days in Buffalo were filled with individual success despite poor win-loss records. Putting him alongside Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree will give Kaepernick options downfield at all times. Kap was a bit of a disappointment last season. He kind of drowned in the hype surrounding him and failed to show up a lot of a games. His performance this season will depend on how much he wants it and will determine if he can truly be considered elite.
6. Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton watched his receivers wash away this offseason in a tide of hungry teams biting and poor management decisions. Left without Steve Smith and the rest of his receiving bunch, Newton may struggle to catch up to his production of last season. But, before we count the receiver’s absence as the end of Cam, let’s not forget the names brought in to fill the voids. Kelvin Benjamin – Carolina’s first round pick. Jason Avant – signed for cheap and a very good receiver. Jerricho Cotchery – also signed for cheap and caught 10 touchdowns last season from BEN ROETHLISBERGER. Tiquan Underwood – a speed demon with a lot of potential and really cool hair. Now, with those guys, Cam can make something happen. I do think the Panthers will struggle early and won’t be able to replicate their success of last season, but Cam is a top 7 quarterback in this league and he will for sure make plays for the kitty cats down the stretch.
7. Tom Brady – New England Patriots
Oh, Tom Brady, what would we do without you? plenty, but what would New England do without you? Despite a lack of weapons and the Pats already drafting his replacement, Brady will get it done next year. In perhaps the weakest division in football (excluding the AFC North), Brady has yet another chance to put his name higher in the NFL stat books and closer and closer to a first ballot HOFer. Brady enters this season with a healthy Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Josh Boyce, Kenbrell Thompkins, Brandon LaFell, Aaron Dobson, and a few no-names unlikely to make the regular season roster. That is much better than last season. Brady will probably lead the Patriots to another easy 12-4 / 13-3 season and lose in the playoffs to Peyton Manning. Doesn’t sound original? That’s because it’s not, but just what Tom Brady is about.
8. Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees is not only one of the top quarterbacks in football, but also one of the most genuinely good guys in the league. He comes back to New Orleans to a team without former weapons Lance Moore, Robert Meachem, and most importantly Darren Sproles. Only one thing can perhaps save the Saints from being cut off from that much prior offense. Brandin Cooks. The WR – RB – Return man trifecta can play any threat position on offense and is sure to be one of Brees’ favorite targets. If Cooks, Kenny Stills, and longtime target Marques Colston can provide Brees with what he needs out of a receiving core, then the Saints are a force to be reckoned with.
9. Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
The former Super Bowl champion and MVP would be a lot higher on this list if it was not for one thing. His favorite touchdown catcher, James Jones, is gone. The only two receivers worthy of A-Rod 2.o throwing to him are Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. While these two are some of the best at their position, it won’t be enough to save Rodgers from countless scrambles and hits in his efforts to find the open man. They just don’t have enough weapons. Still, Rodgers will punish defenses with what he has and still be one of the top QBs in the league this upcoming season. But their playoff chances still remain slightly slim.
10. Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions
Matt Stafford makes this list solely because the amount of effort it would take for him to fail this year would be more than it would take to succeed. He is surrounded by weapons and the offseason only added to his amount of targets wearing Lions jerseys. He has the top receiver in the league in Calvin Johnson, a super bowl winning dynamo in Golden Tate, a young star in Ryan Broyles, and a tight end with huge potential that they took in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, Eric Ebron. Not to mention halfback Reggie Bush. Stafford has been one of the most utilized quarterbacks the past few seasons, as the Lions love to throw to Megatron and company. Stafford could finally take the next step and go from stat stuffer to elite quarterback this year.
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