Twenty-six NFL coaches and personnel evaluators almost unanimously placed Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees in the top tier of starting quarterbacks for our recently published QB Tiers project. Most thought Andrew Luck was in the process of joining them (he cracked Tier 1 as the No. 5 QB in the rankings), and that veterans Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger weren't far behind.
Another question lingered. What about some of the other potential Tier 1 candidates? Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton are four ascending young players who generated enough discussion during the QB Tiers project to address in some detail here. What would they have to do to reach Tier 1 status? Coaches and personnel people weren't short on opinions.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
What he has already: All the physical ability required, and then some.
Biggest question areas: Mechanics and decision-making mindset.
Stafford was the player mentioned first most regularly when I asked coaches and personnel people which QB outside the top tier was best equipped to reach that top status. But one GM said he thought Calvin Johnson, not Stafford, was the biggest difference-maker for the Lions.