Here are my current rankings, one through 32, of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL. There are no guarantees that these guys will be starters come 2011's season start in some cases, but I wanted to rank them to establish a hierarchy going into the draft. I've also included where their team will pick in the first round of this years draft, which will give us some insight into how realistic taking a quarterback with that pick may be.
2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots - (17th and 28th picks) - Brady is still putting up ridiculous numbers and he's able to continually put his team in the playoffs with or without Randy Moss. The Patriots got a bit unlucky in the playoffs but they still boast one of the best of all time which keeps them relevant in Super Bowl contention.
3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints - (24th pick) - Brees had a down year last year, but I still think he proved he can carry the offense on his shoulder, like Rodgers, leading his team to the playoffs despite a worse rash of injuries at running back than the Packers endured. No passer is more accurate.
4. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts - (22nd pick) - I think he's dropped off a little bit. He's still unquestionably one of the best, but that awful spell of interceptions makes me wonder if he's on a decline. I don't think we'd heard the end of Manning in terms of big time performances, but the clock is ticking.
5. Phillip Rivers, San Diego Chargers - (18th pick) - He's always put up huge numbers and last year was even more pronounced. Still, he hasn't been able to get his team to the big game yet. He needs to prove he can win on the big stage. I also think his demeanor turns people off, including his teammates, which can be a subtle detriment to success.
6. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers - (31st pick) - You can't discount his results but he's always been the beneficiary of premiere defense. He's still an excellent quarterback, but I don't think you can put him ahead of any of the guys I've listed above.
7. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons - (27th pick) - He could easily be in the top 5 by the end of 2011. He's scary good and only getting better. He's got terrific command of his offense and he's got a knack for playing his best when the game is on the line.
8. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles - (23rd pick) - I struggled even putting him this high, but there's no denying the ridiculously amazing season he put together. Still, I question if he can duplicate that based on durability and sometimes questionable decision making. All that said you can't deny how dangerous he is.
9. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys - (9th pick) - Too bad he got hurt last year because I felt like the Cowboys were capable of making a run with him. I believe he'll bounce back and have a big year in 2011.
10. Eli Manning, New York Giants - (19th pick) - He still has that Super Bowl win under his belt, but he stays extremely hot for too short of spurts to be considered a top 5 quarterback. That's always been the case with him. When he's at his best, no doubt, he's elite.
11. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans - (11th pick) - He got off to a fast start in 2010 after a monster year in 2009, but then we saw a decline. He's still young enough that the Texans can hope he'll continue to get better, but last year was the first time I wondered if his peak has come and gone.
13. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens - (26th pick) - He's the perfect quarterback for that team because he manages the game well. The team is starting to trust him to make more plays and he's doing it. Still, he's a ways away from being a top 10 quarterback and he'll need to show he can take over a game when his defense is playing poorly.
14. Jay Culter, Chicago Bears - (29th pick) - There is no question his arm strength and ability makes him high on potential, but he just makes too many questionable decisions. He is prone to egregious errors that cause back breaking turnovers. Too bad, because like Eli Manning he's a top 5 quality QB when he's on his game.
15. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - (20th pick) - He had an amazing season in 2010 and no one expected it. Still, I believe we'll see a slight decline from Freeman in 2011. There's no way he can keep this level of play up. The Bucs will trust him more, which will lead to some growing pains. Still, he's much more put together than any of us ever thought he'd be.
16. David Garrard, Jacksonville Jaguars - (16th pick) - He's one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the league, but he's not getting any younger or better. At what point do the Jaguars get younger at this position? Garrard can hold down the fort for another few years if necessary but it's hard to imagine the Jags going deep into the playoffs with him.
17. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals - (4th pick) - He's asked for a trade and wants out. We'll he even be on the roster in 2011? He had moments of glory in 2010 but was plagued by horrific defense and crucial mistakes late in games. Palmer is declining steadily and while he'll likely start for someone in 2011 he's no longer the hot prospect many people believe in. A QB at 4 makes a lot of sense.
18. Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos - (2nd pick) - How long before Tim Tebow takes over full time? Could it be this season? Orton is still a serviceable quarterback, but certainly not the answer in the future.
19. Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks - (25th pick) - He had a huge performance against the Saints in the playoffs, no doubt, but he's always injured and he's aging quickly. He's still capable of big games based on what he's been able to accomplish over the course of his career, but he's close to done. Seattle has to be considering a QB at 25.
20. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets - (30th pick) - My personal opinion on Sanchez is that he's highly overrated. He's got a team around him that's elite from top to bottom. Literally, the Jets are upper echelon at just about every single position on the football field... except quarterback. I think he is holding them back from being a perennial powerhouse. The Jets seem to love him, though.
22. Donovan McNabb, Washington Redskins - (10th pick) - Is he even going to start for them next year? I guess maybe with that ridiculous contract extension they gave him. McNabb is wasted goods at this point... he just doesn't have it anymore, and he can't stay healthy. They may draft a quarterback because there seems to be division at the top on how the team feels about him as their quarterback.
23. Matt Stafford, Detroit Lions - (13th pick) - His throwing shoulder keeps getting hurt, which is really scary. I hope he doesn't suffer a Chad Pennington like career, but he seems well on his way to that. Too bad because he started to look like he was turning a corner before that injury last year.
27. Colt McCoy, Cleveland Browns - (6th pick) - I don't think he's going to become a successful NFL quarterback but he's the guy they're committed to for now. Jake Delhomme may get some reps as McCoy gets seasoning, too.
28. Kerry Collins, Tennessee Titans - (8th pick) - Vince Young is a goner. They have to get someone in there to start anew. Whether it's a veteran (Kevin Kolb or Carson Palmer type), or a rookie - there's no way the Titans can go into 2011 with the Collins routine again.
32. Jimmy Clausen, Carolina Panthers - (1st pick) - It doesn't seem like the Panthers will pick a quarterback first overall in the draft, which means Matt Moore and Clausen will battle it out to be their quarterback. God help them.