21. Josh Freeman: Oh, what a precipitous fall. It turns out people should have looked at how many potential interceptions Freeman had dropped in 2010 (according to Pro Football Focus, at least 10), and how incredibly weak the Buccaneers schedule that year was. Freeman got into the "elite" category on many lists last year because of his inflated 25:6 ratio that year, since the rest of his stats (61.4%, 3451 yds, 215 YPG, 7.3 YPA) ranged from average to slightly-above average. Last year Freeman had the season he probably should have had the year before, making incremental improvements with his accuracy and total yardage while still turning the ball over a ton (16:22 ratio). While the luster has come off, I still wouldn't give up on Freeman. He's still an impressive player, talent-wise, and he was a project coming out of Kansas State to begin with. His aberration of a 2010 season led us to assume he was a year ahead of schedule, but he could still get there.
22. Carson Palmer: This may be overrating Carson Palmer a bit. Do you have ANY IDEA how much it hurts me to say that it's generous to claim Carson Palmer as the 22nd best passer in the NFL? It's painful. Goddamn, I loved Carson Palmer. Remember this, young athletes, at any given moment Kim Von Oelhoefen or a torn rotator cuff can drop you from the top of the world to the Oakland Raiders real quick. Be grateful for your beautiful armcocks while they're still spitting hot fire before your biggest fans refuse to watch your games because it's too damn depressing to see yet another deep ball die hopelessly in midair like a Russian airliner, when you used to do it with such ease.
23. Matt Cassel: Okay, Matt Cassel fans. Do any of you still exist? Is there anyone out there who is still willing to use his Jamaal Charles induced, red-zone TD inflated, weak schedule-boosted 27:7 TD-INT ratio in 2010 to argue that he's anything more than this generation's Scott Mitchell? No? Okay. Carry on then.
24. Mark Sanchez: Oh, how I wanted to rank Mirerez lower. I have hopes that some of the plebeian passers below him on this list will leapfrog him this year. For now, however, Sanchez's 3474 yards and 26 TD passes last year, however hollow, give him a better resume than anyone below him on the list. That said, if there's anyone left who thinks that a guy who has a weak arm, who has never been accurate enough in college or through three seasons in the NFL to compensate for that weak arm, who turns the ball over at an incredibly alarming rate, and who is nothing more than the product of two massive hype machines (USC, the NYC media) will somehow magically transform into a Pro Bowler on a team with less offensive talent than he's had around him in the past, I'd like to meet you so I can punch you in the face.
25. Sam Bradford: I thought Sam Bradford was an average player coming out of college. I railed against those like Ross Tucker who thought his "good" rookie year justified crowning him as a top 15 quarterback last year. His "good" rookie year was actually just a media overreaction to an 18:15 TD:INT ratio and the usual crap about poise and intangibles. Bradford actually just threw an ungodly amount of short passes and didn't turn the ball over that much (for a rookie). Last year was an unmitigated disaster that can't be entirely blamed on Bradford, but a guy who threw for 6 TD passes in ten starts in his second year doesn't inspire much confidence. That was actually the fewest number of TD passes for any QB with 350 or more attempts in a season since Trent Dilfer threw 4 in his second season. That's not good company, Sam.
26. Jake Locker: Iggins! and I spent some time trying to project Jake Locker's stat line for the season and decided that something around 55-57% completions, 3300 yds, 22 TDs, and 15-17 INTs would make sense. I love Jake Locker's talent, but it's always hard for me to accept that an inaccurate college passer will become a consistent NFL thrower. I'm guessing his ceiling is somewhere around Joe Flacco while his floor is Rex Grossman with speed. A likely middle ground would be Derek Anderson circa 2007.
27. Christian Ponder: Christian Ponder has the skill set of Chad Pennington without the incredible accuracy and with far more turnovers. That's....well. That's not going to end well. I wouldn't worry, though. He's got all the trademarks of a guy destined to have a long NFL career. With a clipboard.
28. Brandon Weeden: This is probably not justifiable either. The idea that a rookie starter for the goddamn Browns could put up better numbers than four other quarterbacks in the NFL is probably not tenable, but I like Weeden's talent and think he's a better pocket passer than Tannehill and maybe even RGIII. It may have been stupid to invest the franchise in a 29 year old, but that doesn't diminish his on field value. I think he might surprise.
29. John Skelton/Kevin Kolb: If Kolb wins the job, he'll probably be game manger-ish enough to move up a few spots on the ranking. I have no doubt that Skelton is just Derek Anderson all over again. He's the classic case of "fan favorite who got lucky in meaningless games" and will no doubt shit all over that goodwill when he gets an extended chance to start. Skelton hasn't even been Average in a single statistical category in 14 career starts. Besides, their line is atrocious and is going to get both of them killed anyway.
30. Russell Wilson: The list of rookie quarterbacks who were first or second round quarterbacks and had immediate success is short. The list of rookie quarterbacks who came from later rounds and had immediate success is much, much shorter. I've been a huge fan of Wilson since his first year at NC State, and I think it's a sad failure of the NFL scouting system that a guy fell so far simply because he's 5'11'' and not 6'', but to expect anything other than typical rookie struggles from the guy is absurd.
31. Ryan Tannehill: Last year an NFL team took a mediocre Big 12 quarterback solely due to his measurables. Most seasoned experts said he needed to sit a year before he started because his glaring flaws needed time for correction and the team around him lacked the talent to do anything but destroy his confidence. The Jaguars started Gabbert anyway and the result was a crime against the very profession of quarterbacking. This year it's the Dolphins who are pissing into the face of conventional wisdom, and they'll get the reward of watching turnover-prone, happy-footed Tannehill throw to what may be the worst receiver corps in the NFL (thanks for trading Brandon Marshall and taking the Bears out of that conversation, guys!) while his "star" runningback stands idly by following his annual week four injury. Sorry, Tannehill. We barely knew ye.
32. Blaine Gabbert: Oh, and here's Blaine Gabbert. Hell, I'm just going to quote directly from the Football Outsiders almanac:
"Watch Blaine Gabbert's tape last year and you will see a boy playing with men. There were a few minor signs of improvement, and a few nice throws down the stretch, but nothing that would lead you to suggest that he had turned a corner. This is a quarterback that made the vast majority of his throws within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. This is a quarterback that showed signs of panic even when his pocket was relatively clean—though he did get a bit better at this as the season wore on. What was most galling about watching him was his footwork. He correctly stepped into maybe one of every nine throws, and that absolutely killed his accuracy."
That's pretty much exactly what the book was on Gabbert coming out of college. The guy failed to get 7.0 YPA in a fucking spread offense in the Big 12, where Jim Abbott could throw for 200 yards a game with his Other arm. He has a great arm but no ability to throw a consistent deep ball. He can run, but doesn't do it effectively. He scrambles when he has a pocket and stands frozen when everything goes to Hell around him. The Jaguars have rightly tried to load up on wide receiver talent (although the whole Not Paying MJD thing is kind of unintentionally ratcheting up the pressure on Gabbert), but few of Gabbert's issues had anything to do with his targets. He's. not. good.
That's everyone. I counted only the starting QBs, but if Tebow takes over for Sanchez you can probably slot him somewhere around Weeden. He's easily the worst passer, but his ability to run at least makes him more of a threat than Blaine Fucking Gabbert. Matt Flynn, meanwhile, would probably belong in Matt Cassel territory even though, long-term, Wilson probably is a better option.
Phew. That was long. I hope at least one of you made it to the end of all three of these.