After watching games and breaking down film, Scouts Inc., in conjunction with ESPN.com's Matt Williamson, has evaluated and graded more than 2,500 NFL players heading into the 2012 season. Below is how the top quarterbacks stacked up.
Note: No rookies were included in this exercise, and age refers to a player's age on Sept. 5, the start of the 2012 season.
When it comes to making position lists, this is the position that obviously gets the most attention and the most responses from NFL fans across the country.
Having an outstanding quarterback is vital to a consistently successful team. Great quarterbacks can mask a suspect offensive line. Great quarterbacks can force an opponent to take defenders away from the line of scrimmage and allow average running games to thrive. Great quarterbacks can dictate a game and make everyone around them better. The QB may have the greatest impact of any position in any sport.
And when it comes to great quarterbacking, Aaron Rodgers was an easy selection as top dog in today's NFL. But the greatness of Tom Brady and Drew Brees is astonishing as well. And all these guys are coming off amazing 2011 seasons.
The most difficult player in the entire league to put on a list right now is Peyton Manning, who, unlike the greats listed around him, didn't play a snap in 2011. How good of a player is the all-time great right now? I don't think any of us really know, but doubting Manning in any way can be a mistake.
It could be argued now that Manning isn't even the best quarterback in his family, as younger brother Eli defined the phrase "making those around you better" during the New York Giants' Super Bowl run. Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers are also in their primes and could end up in the Hall of Fame someday. And the future is bright, with Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton fully capable of quickly ranking among the finest players in all of football.
But for now, the list belongs to the Packers' Rodgers.
Rodgers has good size with excellent arm strength and athleticism. His vision, instincts and anticipation are tops in the league.
He has a quick release and can fit the ball into tight spots. He has excellent accuracy and rarely throws into coverage. He can avoid and improvise to make plays downfield. Rodgers has become an outstanding leader and is considered one of the best signal-callers in the NFL.
Brady's anticipation, accuracy and timing in the passing game are outstanding. He continues to work best from the pocket and rarely makes plays with his legs to move the chains.
His vision and ability to process information are second to none. He can pick apart defenses when given time to scan the field. He has great poise, intelligence, instincts and leadership qualities that make him one of the best QBs of his generation.
Brees is a dynamic playmaker with everything you want in a quarterback except height. He has an excellent understanding of the passing game and gets involved in game-planning.
He is quick to read coverages and go through his progressions, and he rarely forces the ball. He is very accurate both from the pocket and when scrambling to extend a play. He may lack a cannon for an arm but the ball jumps off his hand with good velocity and a high rate of rotation. He shows poise in the pocket and is a leader on and off the field.