After watching games and breaking down film, Scouts Inc. has evaluated and graded more than 2,500 NFL players heading into the 2011 season. Here's how the top quarterbacks stacked up.
First, a nugget that will take you past the top five and the inevitable street fight between the Brady Backers and the Manning Madmen: Based on our scouting, there are just six elite quarterbacks in the NFL. That's it; just six, and the drop-off after that is clear. So if you don't see your guy among that top six, take it to the comment board -- but the fact is, we simply don't have him graded as elite.
As for the scouting process, here's a primer: It's our belief that quarterback is the most difficult position to play not merely in football but in all of sports, and quarterbacks rule the NFL, as they should. They have to be able to throw the football extremely well, and the mental acumen, sense of timing, toughness and agility needed to succeed are remarkable. The bottom line is you can't win in this league without a quality player at the position.
When your quarterback has limitations physically or mentally, the coaches constantly have to massage the game plan and flow of the game to keep him on pace and moving the chains. Meanwhile, the great ones control the game plan and flow of the game. And they make everyone around them better. We count six who are elite. Any arguments?
Brady has an excellent combination of size, intelligence, instincts and arm strength. He is just an above-average athlete but shows enough foot quickness and agility to slide in the pocket and deliver the ball effectively downfield. His poise enables him to find his second and third options.
Brady has excellent vision and reads coverages and pressure packages as well as anyone. He can power the ball into tight spots or use touch on delicate throws. He can improvise and deliver the ball from different angles, but isn't an outstanding creator when plays break down. He is excellent at getting rid of the ball to avoid the sack.
Manning is primarily a pocket passer and has just enough agility and quickness to step up or to side-step the pass rush. He is not going to extend the pocket with speed or agility very often.
He has a very strong arm and has shown the ability to throw from various angles and launch points while still maintaining his accuracy. Manning understands the offensive scheme and is given a lot of freedom to change plays at the line of scrimmage. He is an elite quarterback and still playing at a very high level.
It will be interesting to see what impact offseason neck surgery has on his performance this season.
Rodgers has size, strength and athleticism. He makes good decisions and puts the Packers in position to win almost every game. He shows good vision and the ability to read defenses.
Rodgers can power the ball into tight windows with his arm, and he can improvise when plays break down. He is effective in the pocket or off play-action, and while he doesn't have great speed he can pull the ball down and move the chains with his legs.
Brees has missed just one game in the past five seasons and is consistently one of the leading passers when it comes to completions, completion percentage and quarterback rating. He can make plays from the pocket and has the foot quickness and speed to extend the pocket and make plays from the perimeter.
Brees has a great working knowledge of the passing game and excels when it comes to reading coverages and adjusting on the move. He knows how to game plan and sees possibilities as they develop. Brees brings a great combination of a physical skill set as well as the mental skills to attack a defense.
Roethlisberger is a big, strong-armed quarterback with above average athleticism. He has quick feet for his size and can slide and improvise to make effective throws downfield.
Roethlisberger is the toughest quarterback in the league to get on the ground with great instincts to avoid pressure and natural body strength to break tackles. He has great vision and patience to find his second and third options but can be a bit of a gambler.