Who is the league’s best young QB?

Street Talk Who is the league’s best young QB?

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ProFootball24x7.com’s Tony Lombardi asked me to provide my take on the best young Quarterbacks in the NFL as a follow up to the poll asking the same question on the 24×7 network of sites. This is a fun question to answer for any football fan, and it is far from an exact science. As an evaluator, I picked five of the variables I often use in scouting/grading Quarterbacks for the purposes of this ranking: Accuracy, Decision-Making, Durability, Productivity, and Subjectives/Intangibles. What I came up with is a blend of objectivity and some serious opinion. What results below is a one-man draft of sorts, ranking the Quarterback from 1-5.

WHO I WOULD CHOOSE AND IN WHAT ORDER?

5.       Mark SanchezNew York

The Measurable

Sanchez has improved only incrementally in completion percentage since 2009, and still struggles with accuracy issues. Through Week 4 of the 2011 season, Sanchez has thrown more INTs than TDs as an NFL Quarterback (38:35). His career average of 6.6 yards per pass attempt is low, especially given the Jets ability to create throwing lanes with the threat of their run game.

The Subjective

Sanchez’s overall offensive output and value is debatable. His completion percentages are consistently in the mid-50% range, and it takes him a lot of attempts to generate the yardage that he does (career high of 3,291 in 2010). In leading a team that finished 4th in the NFL in yards per carry, Sanchez still threw 13 INTS, compared to only 17 TDs, in 2010.

The Rating

Sanchez ranks fifth of the five Quarterbacks analyzed on my list. Given the makeup and personality of his Jets team, Sanchez has the physical tools to achieve Flacco-type success, but has not yet done so.

4.       Matt Stafford – Detroit

The Measurable

Based on raw statistical analysis, Stafford has become a more accurate (62% completion rate vs. 53% as a rookie) and productive (7.5+ yards per attempt vs. 6.0 two years ago). Although the Lions defense has improved in 2011, Stafford’s early season success is made more impressive by the fact that Detroit’s rushing attack is ranked 31st in the NFL in yards per carry. .

The Subjective

Once Matt Stafford’s rookie year of 2009 was behind him, he made strides in most of the key areas for a Quarterback. During that first season, Stafford made too many of what I describe as “question mark throws”. This refers to those situations when a QB has not fully read defensive alignment or coverage in targeting a receiving target, and is therefore delivering a ball he knows is questionable. This was part of Stafford’s of day-to-day struggles in 2009. Fast forward to 2011 and Stafford’s profile with 25% of the regular season done is that of a Quarterback more confident of his decisions post-snap and pre-throw.

The Rating

Stafford has to get an ‘Incomplete’ of sorts, only because 2010 was such an abbreviated body of work. That said, he looks more comfortable and poised than I have ever seen him, and at season’s end may be worthy of a rating near the top of this list.

3.       Joe Flacco – Baltimore

The Measurable

Among Joe Flacco’s positives is his improved accuracy during his first three seasons in the league, reflected by both his reduced INTs and improved completion percentage each season. Negatively, Flacco takes too many sacks (40 in 2010) – many in situations in which the ball should be thrown away.

The Subjective

Flacco is a great fit for the Ravens’ offensive personality, given his combination of size, durability, and the velocity of his typical passes. Baltimore’s passing game often has limited route options for the Quarterback, given the Ravens’ use of run-heavy offensive formations that lend themselves well to seven and eight-man protection schemes. The result is a premium placed on a Quarterback that can deliver the football with velocity in tightly covered spaces, as well as one that has the physical stature and toughness to absorb sacks and knockdowns as a result of limited receiving options. Flacco fits that description very well.

The Rating

I can hear the snickering already with this rating. The problem with moving Joe Flacco to fourth or fifth on this list is that he just keeps on accomplishing things that average NFL Quarterbacks do not. He executes in the situations he is placed in at an above-average level, and has shown improvement by nearly every major measure during his 3+ seasons. He is not without faults, but I believe it is fair to say there are 6-8 NFL teams that would be better today if they acquired Joe Flacco.

2.       Sam Bradford – St. Louis

The Measurable

Bradford’s rookie season had some flashes of consistency and poise, and he finished 2010 having completed 60% of his passes. The burden placed on Bradford’s passing performance was reflected in some less than efficient productivity numbers (5.95 yards per pass attempt). But, the Rams ranked 29th in the NFL in yards per carry, and that translated to the rookie being asked to throw an amazing 36+ passes per game (compare that to Flacco’s rookie year number of 26 passes per game or Ryan’s 27).

The Subjective

Bradford has silenced some skeptics during his short time in the league. Coming off a severe injury at the end of his college playing days, the Rams Quarterback is already 600+ pass attempts into his NFL career and showing signs of above-average potential.

The Rating

The gamble with this rating is that it is based largely on potential. The way Bradford presents as he is studied on film, the potential his physical tools hold, and the magnitude of the early-career repetitions he is receiving all point to a longtime NFL starter. BUT, Bradford is toiling in St. Louis, where the Rams are a franchise headed nowhere at the moment and struggling with the worst offensive output in the league. In short – in a more stable environment, Bradford is capable of Pro Bowl-level play.

1.       Matt Ryan – Atlanta

The Measurable

Ryan has improved steadily since his debut in 2008. Although always capable of big throws to different areas of the field, Ryan’s greatest improvement has come in anticipating the right time to throw the ball in the myriad situations facing an NFL Quarterback. The result has been a pretty sharp drop in bad mistakes – see his 33% reduction in INTs in 2010, despite an increase of 120 pass attempts over 2009. Time on the job has been a great teacher for Ryan has well – he started 46 of 48 regular season games between 2008-2010.

The Subjective

From the moment of his arrival in the NFL, things seemed to click for Ryan. Michael Vick’s departure the previous season gave him an opportunity to start immediately, and he seemed to lead with the poise of a veteran. His accuracy was uncommon for a full-time rookie starter, and the Falcons finished 11-5. That early success has become routine for Ryan – with the one exception of a decrease in yards per attempt from his rookie season through 2010.

The Rating

Accurate; calm; sound decision-maker; athletic enough to move; durable; a winner. Matt Ryan will be a successful NFL Quarterback for a long time.

 

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Chris Johnston

About Chris Johnston

The Complete QB Team Clinics and Individual Coaching Sessions are provided by the Complete QB Founder and Director, Christopher Johnston. For over a decade, Coach Johnston has trained young men in the Quarterback position, including high school Quarterbacks who earned HCIAA Honors in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008. His success with Quarterbacks is due to Coach Johnston’s approach as a teacher of those playing the position.
Coach Johnston was previously the QB and DB Coach at Hudson Catholic Regional High School (2007 Group 3 State Semi-Finalist and 2008 Group 2 State Finalist) in Jersey City, New Jersey. Coach Johnston also served as the Defensive Coordinator, Assistant Head Coach, and Quarterbacks Coach at Xavier High School in New York, New York. Coach Johnston’s assessment and coaching skills have earned him a solid reputation for his ability to develop Quarterbacks among his coaching peers and thousands of athletes.
Since 2004, in addition to his on-field coaching experience, Coach Johnston’s expertise has afforded him multiple opportunities to appear regularly on a variety of Sports Talk Radio Shows regarding the NCAA and NFL Quarterback play. 

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