The most important position in all of sports is Quarterback. There is no arguing it. Without a good quarterback at the helm, it is nearly impossible for an NFL team to be successful.
Just take a look at the past 10 Super Bowl winners:[table id=15 /]
Other than maybe Joe Flacco, every other quarterback will have a bust in the Hall of Fame one day. A good, if not great, quarterback is a must for a team to be successful.
Over the next few weeks, Sports Al Dente will be releasing our rankings of each quarterback in each division heading into the offseason.
Once free agency hits, along with the NFL Draft in April, a lot of teams’ starting quarterbacks may move around and change. However, these rankings are based upon current roster projections, although, we won’t hesitate to sprinkle in some of our own suggestions for many NFL GMs.
The AFC West is one of the strongest and deepest divisions in all of football. While the top five QBs in the league may not reside in this division, all four starters are very worthy of getting the job done. The question remains if any of them can bring the Lombardi Trophy back to their respective cities.
1. Philip Rivers – Los Angeles Chargers (6-5, 222 pounds, 35 years old)
Rivers has been the model of consistency in the NFL for a long time and has put together a Hall of Fame career during his tenure with the Chargers. He owns pretty much every franchise passing record, passing Hall of Famer Dan Fouts in passing yards and passing touchdowns.
2016 was a bit of a struggle for Rivers as he led the league in interceptions (21) and finished with one of his lowest completion percentages (60.4). He did, however, finish with 4,386 yards and 33 touchdowns.
Since becoming the full-time starter in 2006, Rivers has played in all 16 games every single season demonstrating his durability, which is so important in a quarterback driven league.
While his ability to throw multiple interceptions can drive fans crazy, his passion and intensity give his team the best chance of winning everytime he is on the field. With a new head coach, and starting 2017 in a new city (Los Angeles), Rivers is the seasoned vet that will keep his team grounded and give them great opportunity to succeed.
If Keenan Allen can stay healthy, Travis Benjamin becomes more of a deep threat, Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry continue to be a lethal dual attack at tight end, and Melvin Gordan sustains the success that he garnered last season, there is no reason why Rivers cannot have a monster 2017 and finish as a top five QB.
Throwing motion be damned, it will be fun to watch him awkwardly sling the rock around the minuscule StubHub Center.
2. Derek Carr – Oakland Raiders (6-2, 214 pounds, 25 years old)
Carr has already cemented himself as one of the elite QBs in this league and still has a ton of room to grow. He is a natural born leader, as was clearly evident throughout the 2016 season when he consistently won games in the clutch, high-pressure situations.
I have no doubt in my mind, if Carr didn’t break his leg in week 16, the Raiders would have made it past the first round of the playoffs. Bad losses to the Broncos in week 17 and the Texans on Wild-Card Weekend prove Carr’s immense importance.
In his three-year career, he has already been selected to the Pro Bowl two times. He finished last season (before injury) with a 12-3 record, 3,937 yards, 28 touchdowns, and only six interceptions. The most INTs he has thrown in a season is 13, which is arguably his best stat as he is highly regarded in taking care of the football.
What makes Carr elite, in my opinion, are the intangibles that he brings to the field. No moment is too big for him. He is passionate and gets fired up, but is also poised and doesn’t let his emotions get the better of him.
He is a leader of men.
No moment was more evident of this than week 12 against the Carolina Panthers. Carr led the Raiders to a great start and an early lead before exiting with a dislocated pinky finger. During his absence, the Raiders lost their commanding lead and fell behind the Panthers. Carr returned, put the Raiders back in front and led his team to victory.
Leadership. Poise. Passion. Huge upside.
The Raiders are a young team that will continue to improve, but for a successful run in the playoffs it all comes down to number 4.
Speedy recovery Derek.
3. Alex Smith – Kansas City Chiefs (6-4, 212 pounds, 32 years old)
Here is a quarterback that I really struggle with. There is no denying that he is a very applicable NFL quarterback, and a deserved starter, but he has proven time and time again that he is just that, average.
Kansas City faithful like Ryan Drown and Tim Schwan try to convince themselves that Smith can take them to the promise land but to put it bluntly, it will never happen.
In the divisional round of the playoffs, the Chiefs defense held the potent Pittsburgh offense to six field goals. Ben, Bell, and Brown did not enter the end zone at Arrowhead ONE time, and yet Smith couldn’t get the job done and propel the Chiefs into the AFC Championship game.
Smith has only played all 16 games in a season three times in his career. In 2016 he finished with 3,502 yards (most of his career) and a poultry 15 touchdowns to go with 8 interceptions. His 15 touchdowns were less than or equal to Brock Osweiler, Carson Wentz, and Colin Kaepernick. LaGarrette Blount had more touchdowns on the ground.
But I digress.
Smith has been famously called a game-manager. Aside from Trent Dilfer, very few game managers have won Super Bowls.
Nothing against Alex Smith, but if the Chiefs ever want to raise the trophy that was named after their owner (Lamar Hunt), then it is time to move on from game management and get a quarterback that can be a game changer. Do they go after Tony Romo if he becomes a free agent? Why not. Should they trade for Jimmy Garoppolo? Personally, I don’t think he gives you a ton more upside than Smith, but there just isn’t enough tape on him.
Either way, Andy Reid and the Chiefs organization need to make some kind of splash if they don’t want their season to end once again with an early exit from the playoffs.
Smith is still a viable NFL quarterback but I would take the other two AFC QBs any day of the week.
4. Trevor Siemian / Paxton Lynch – Denver Broncos
There is a lot of excitement in Denver about their two young quarterbacks, but they have to be ranked at the bottom strictly due to experience.
Siemian was a very pleasant surprise last season after being a 7th round draft pick in 2015 out of Northwestern. His playing style reminds me a lot of Kirk Cousins. Not overly mobile, but elusive in the pocket, smart with the ball (threw 10 interceptions in essentially his rookie season), and very accurate when he needs to be. He doesn’t have crazy arm strength but is far from having a “noodle” arm.
His 6-3 215-pound frame is fairly prototypical for an NFL QB, and he is still very young at 25 years of age.
Siemian finished the 2016 season with 3,401 yards and 18 touchdowns. Where he needs to improve most is his quick decision making with the ball and having his body more NFL ready. The offensive line in Denver needs and will be overhauled in 2017, but Siemian held onto the ball way too long in many instances and took to many sacks. Coinciding with this, Siemian missed two games due to injury, so he will need to do a better job taking care of his body so that he can stay on the field.
At this current time, Siemian is the favorite to be the starter in training camp, but new head coach Vance Joseph and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy have been very honest about an open quarterback competition and giving Siemian and Lynch every opportunity to win the job.
Lynch was a first-round draft pick last year (#26 overall) and has the size that coaches and GMs drool over. He stands at 6-7 and weighs 245 pounds.
Lynch was very raw coming out of college, and GM John Elway had stated that he could be a 2+ year project before he was ready to take over an NFL offense.
He looked rather timid in his first and only two starts last season, and took way too many sacks due to holding onto the ball too long.
The quarterback situation in Denver ranks at the bottom of the division currently, but the ceiling has the possibility of being very high.
What do you think of our AFC West QB rankings? Comment below or hit us up on Twitter @Sports_Al_Dente.
Stay tuned for our breakdown on the NFC West Quarterbacks.