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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Your 2012 SKO Quarterback Rankings 11-20

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!

College Previewkakke: B1G Legends Division


And here we find ourselves on the final leg of our NCAA Preview journey. The B1G Legends division (Jesus that’s grating to type) will be the most entertaining division to watch this season behind the SEC West. Three teams have a legitimate shot at winning the division, two could contend or turn into a dumpster fire, and Minnesota, like every year, has a fanbase that thinks they’ll finally turn it around this season.

Remember when the ACC intentionally put FSU and Miami in different divisions because they were expected to play for the ACC Championship every year and draw huge ratings? No? Maybe that’s because it still hasn’t happened. Remember when the B1G put OSU and Michigan in different divisions, then had a huge debate over whether they were going to move the protected OSU-Michigan game away from the last game of the season because they didn’t want them playing two weeks in a row? No?

Probably because neither OSU or Michigan made it to the inaugural game, and it doesn’t look like either will this year, again (yes, OSU is on probation, but they wouldn’t have made it last year anyway, and I would wager they won’t have a better record than Wiscy this year either). Once again, the Legends division favorite is Sparty, which leads me all the way back to the B1G Leaders division preview. Here we sit, in what is supposedly a “changing” B1G, and the two teams who may play for the B1G Championship two years in a row both run pro style offenses. Certainly, we can have a lengthy discussion about whether we should change the definition of “pro-style”, but we know what it means. Hard running, good blocking, 4-3 defense, acceptable game-managing QB.

It may not be as exciting as the AIR RAID, and it may not be different or new, like a zone read. But there is something comforting in having the pro-style formation live on and win titles in the B1G. So with that, who wins this year? Here are my 100% accurate predictions:

Your SKO 2012 NFL Quarterback Rankings 1-10

Every year various writers and organizations throughout the NFL rank the various starting QBs. You can watch Ron Jaworski doing it all offseason long on ESPN. These lists are done for one reason: to troll your ass. The only thing that gets people as irritated or perhaps more so than meaningless team rankings are QB rankings. In a power poll you look for wherever your team is listed and then ignore the rest, outside of maybe a cursory glance at the top ten or whichever of your rivals is listed ahead of your team. In a QB ranking? Somehow everyone has an opinion on that and it is clearly the greatest affront to humanity to consider ranking Joe Flacco somewhere above Matt Ryan. You bastards!

I say all of this from experience, because I get noticeably irritated when people like Ross Tucker do stupid shit and rank Jay Cutler as the TWENTIETH best quarterback in the NFL. How'd that work out for Ross, by the way? Does anyone acknowledge him as a football sage for proclaiming that luminaries like Matt Cassel, Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford, Josh Freeman, and Kyle Orton were better quarterbacks than Jay?

My point is that even though I know these lists are a cheap way to fill up space and generate discussion and troll my ass hard, I still read them. I'm betting you will too! So here's my own completely biased, hate-filled rankings that will no doubt look absurd a year from now after Cam Newton has the worst sophomore slump in history or something.:

1. Aaron Rodgers: Every now and then I run into a Bears fan who tries to say something like "Rodgers is so overrated, any QB with those receivers...." just stop. Aaron Rodgers, if he retired today, would have the highest QB rating in NFL history. Granted, that's a flawed stat and it's trended upward on average as the league has become more passer friendly, but it's just a tiny sampling of how fucking good this guy is. He may not be the best passer in the league at the moment, as I'd give that edge to Breesus, but Bears fans especially know how fucking annoying it is those few times when he has no passing options and simply gallops for 20 yards through open space. Anywho, I get that it's cool to hate on the Packers QB and it's frustrating that he's so good, but don't make yourself sound like a moron for the purposes of the rivalry. He's good. Let's be mature and just hope his offensive line gets him killed.

2. Drew Brees: Drew Brees is one of my favorite players ever and has been since his days at Purdue. I remember listening to draftniks as they tore apart his measurables (which were always underrated because he was short. His arm strength was never bad) and hoping against hope he would fall to the Bears in the second round. He did not, and the rest is history. For all of the credit that Peyton Manning got for being the Colts offensive coordinator, Drew Brees deserves just as much. He is in complete and total control of the football field. It's hard to imagine anyone having better anticipation or accuracy, or better touch on the deep and intermediate routes that are the Saints bread and butter. I don't think any QB has gotten as much done downfield with just average NFL arm strength as Drew Brees has. Oh, and he just had the greatest passing season ever. Should probably tack that on there somewhere.

3. Tom Brady: No surprises to this point. Any list that doesn't start off with these three in some order is immediately more irrelevant than the rest of all of the totally irrelevant lists. You don't need me to recap Tom Brady's resume. Early in his career he was the perfect archetype of the game manager, as he did just enough to ride the Pats stellar defense to three Superbowls, where he transformed into the second coming of Joe Montana every time. Then a combination of Brady's experience and their declining defense led them to set him free, and now he's the perfect architect of the NFL's first truly successful spread offense. The only questions are how long he can keep playing and if he'll be able to overcome their awful defense to get his fourth ring.

4. Eli Manning: I know what you're thinking. This feels...wrong. Before the 2007 postseason Eli was a below average quarterback. Just two years ago he threw 25 picks. However, he's averaged 4300 yards and 29 TDs over the last three years and just picked up his second Superbowl ring. With Peyton's return from NeckAIDs clouding his future, Eli has become the better Manning (for now) and makes his way into the top five.

5. Peyton Manning: This spot in the rankings is either too low or too high depending on his return, but it seems like a crime to keep Peyton Manning out of the top five until I see with my own eyes that it's not true anymore. I mean, shit, he's Peyton f*&king Manning. That said, even in 2010 there were some minor signs (17 interceptions, a YPA for the season below 7.0 for the first time since his rookie year) that Peyton was slowing down. I don't expect him to be better than that in a Broncos uniform, but even 85% of Peyton Manning is probably a top ten NFL passer.

6. Ben Roethlisberger: There's really no good place in a QB ranking to put Ben Roethlisberger. Your stomach churns if he's in the top 5, but there's no way to justify putting him below 6, unless you're Iggins! and others who have a raging hate boner for the guy based on the perception that he's still the dude from his first two years who throws it 15 times a game and benefits from a great team. Since his third year Roethlisberger's averaged over 400 attempts a year in every non-suspended campaign and has averaged 245 yards per game, completed nearly 63%, averaged almost 8.0 YPA, and has a QB rating over 90. He's also been to two Superbowls and won one in that time. He's good, even if there are totally valid complaints about him holding the ball too long (statistically the Steelers allow more "long" sacks, or sacks over 2.0 seconds, than any team in the NFL) and him forcing himself on women. Not to make light of rape allegations, but unfortunately you can only rank the guy as a football player. Not a human being.

7. Philip Rivers: If Philip Rivers didn't seem like such a colossal asshole I'd feel bad for him. A player of his ability deserves a front office that doesn't let all of the offensive talent around him disappear year after year. Have you seen their offensive line lately? Fuck, Vincent Jackson was chronically overrated and is still ten times better than the flotsam they've replaced him with. Despite the near constant erosion of star power around him, Rivers has gotten better nearly every year. Last year desperation and a possible injury forced him into plenty of turnovers early on, but it's hard to knock a guy who throws for 4600 yards in a "bad" year. Even if he is a jag.

8. Cam Newton: I fear ranking a one year wonder in the top ten because of the potential for implosion (see, Freeman, Josh), and this is maybe too high for Cam anyway, but I fear this monstrosity and you should too. He had a better rookie season throwing the ball than Peyton Manning and he ran for, I don't know, something like fourteen touchdowns. FOURTEEN. Why do the Bears have to play him this year?

9. Jay Cutler: Statistically, this is probably indefensible unless you're a person willing to look at the stories behind the statistics at times, especially at a position with so many variables. You've all seen what Jay Cutler does, what he's had to deal with, and what the team looked like without him. Sure, 2009 was a disaster, but over time Jay's learn to manage his risk-taking. He's learned to compensate for a god awful offensive line by scrambling around and firing darts that few QBs in this league could even attempt. He's had to eat sacks because his line is a sieve and his wide receivers, until now, couldn't get open in press coverage against a double amputee.

This year we will find out what Jay can really do, assuming the protection is at least average. He'll have real receivers, a scheme designed to match his talents and those of his teammates, and a chance to erase many of the "yeah, but..."'s on his resume. If he falls short I'll have to accept that maybe he's just never going to be anything more than "just" good. But I don't think he will.

10. Tony Romo: I don't know or care what he does in often imaginary "clutch" situations. If I told you a guy had a 96.9 QB rating, averages almost 270 yards passing per game, and has a career YPA of 8.0, you'd think he was a Hall of Famer if he was anybody Other than Tony Romo. I'd feel truly terrible for all of the undeserved shit he got if he wasn't a fucking Dallas Cowboy. This is payback for forty years of having "America's Team" shoved down our throats, Tony. You want to play for the self-titled Gods of the NFL? You'd better expect an entire nation to be laughing at your every fuck up.

That's it for now because I would assume that no one is even still reading at this point because, as usual, I'm extremely long winded.

Most of these rankings count backwards, to build anticipation or something,  but I trust you'll keep reading as I go down the list because isn't bile towards shitty players more of your thing, anyway? You know you want to hear what I have to say about Blaine Gabbert and Rico Mirerez.