The rankings continue!
11. Matt Schaub: Matt Schaub is an unlucky bastard. For years he toiled in obscurity to anyone who didn't play fantasy football, putting up great numbers for a Texans team that couldn't keep San Jose State from dropping 30 points. This year, the Texans defense made one of the great turnarounds in history and they were playoff bound when Schaub went down. He was deprived of that first playoff start and potentially much more.
Sadly, that's been Matt's issue his whole career: he's fragile. Since coming to the Texans in 2007, Schaub's missed at least 5 starts in all but two campaigns. This year the Texans are one of the preseason favorites in the AFC and Schaub himself is bidding for an extension. We'll see if he can pull it off.
12. Matthew Stafford: 5,000 yards and 41 TDs just don't buy you what they used to. Stafford is undeniably talented and certainly had an impressive season for a guy who spent most of the previous two seasons at home nursing his various shoulder injuries. That said, can anyone shake the feeling that Stafford, without Calvin Johnson, would be lucky to be Joe Flacco? Stafford struggled in games against Green Bay, New Orleans, and Chicago when Johnson averaged just 66 yards and scored just 1 TD. Add that into his 1-6 record (including playoffs) against playoff teams this last season (and that 1 playoff opponent they beat was f*&king Tebow) and you have some questions as to how good Matthew Stafford can be when Calvin Johnson can't just run roughshod over non-contending secondaries. That said, Megatron or no, one more season of that kind of production and Stafford belongs well into the top ten. Also, I did say he'd be better than Mark Sanchez, Iggins! champion of the 2009 NFL draft, so, Ha.
13. Matt Ryan: I've been a frequent critic of Matt Ryan, even though I'm fond of the guy. He has definite limitations. Before last year, he was overly conservative, struggled to go deep with any consistency, and had watching his YPA decline every year of his career. The addition of Julio Jones helped greatly, as the Falcons finally opened up the playbook and Ryan responded with a 4,000 yard campaign and a greatly improved 7.5 YPA. Unfortunately, all of that good will went out the door when he failed to muster a single offensive point in his third one-and-done playoff appearance. I hate to say Ryan can never be More than just a very good game-manager, because others have made the leap, but at this point it's safe to say that he should get comfortable in this tier of QBs.
14. Joe Flacco: Flacco and Ryan. Forever linked by their excellent shared rookie campaigns and their never-ending playoff frustrations since. Here's the thing about rookie quarterbacks: not that long ago, and still in some cases, it used to be that rookie QBs were expected to struggle until they broke through in years two and three. If a guy like Dan Marino or Peyton Manning had an outstanding rookie year, well, he was clearly destined for greatness. Nowadays high schools are installing pro style offenses with passing camps and colleges have more preparation then ever. Players enter the NFL better-prepared than ever before. What this has done in the case of guys like Flacco and Ryan (and I'm guessing Andy Dalton) is that it's inflated people's sense of their potential. Ryan and Flacco played so well as rookies that clearly the sky was the limit! Unless, maybe, they were just really NFL-ready and were never actually going to progress that far past said rookie seasons. Flacco, especially, seems to have peaked and hasn't made much measurable progress since his second campaign. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since he's a perfectly acceptable starting QB in the NFL, especially for a defensively minded team like the Ravens, but it leads to undue pressure on a guy who may never really be That guy.
15. Michael Vick: If you look at his numbers since the Vikings upset the Eagles in 2010 by using Antoine Winfield to nickel-blitz the shit out of Vick and gave him one of his many rib injures, Vick's supposed transformation into an elite passer was really just modest improvement into an acceptable one: he has 59% completion % and an 83.6 rating in his last 15 games. Paired with his running ability, that makes him a dangerous player. Unfortunately, that running ability has led to his frequent injures, which limits his value and has him now reducing his rushing attempts (and consequently the value added by his rushing ability). What this means is Vick is now an average passer who can sometimes run and is often injured. Sounds good for #15.
16. Andy Dalton: Damn, has it really been long enough for us to designate someone as "the next Matt Ryan?" Because that's Dalton.
17. Ryan Fitzpatrick: Fitzpatrick is a perfectly adequate passer when he's healthy and his protection holds up. In Buffalo that's worth $59 million. Woof.
18. Andrew Luck: Yeah, I'm doing it. You look at the guys that are coming up and tell my you really think I'm stiffing any of them. Luck may not even have the 18th best passing stats in the NFL this year, but I'd rather have him than anyone left on this list.
19. RGIII: Okay. Maybe I'd rather have him. His rushing ability should make him more of an immediate threat than Luck, and he throws a majestic deep ball. Hopefully the Redskins won't ruin him.
20. Alex Smith: Congratulations, Alex Smith! Top 20! The 49ers will tell you they think he'll take the next step with a geriatric Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, and AJ Jenkins (I'm sorry, I'm an Illini fan who loves AJ Jenkins, but, c'mon). I think a guy who has been in the NFL for nearly a decade now has taken all of his steps, and should just continue to avoid mistakes and hope his defense will carry his ass.
That's it for now. Part 3 to come!