Cam Newton tops list of best five quarterbacks of 2015
With our Top 101 players of 2015 list fully revealed, we now take a closer look at the best quarterbacks of last season, including how the postseason altered our final rankings.
1. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (No. 8 in Top 101)
While Cam Newton finished as runner-up to Carson Palmer in PFF’s regular-season MVP award, the Panther’s performance in the playoffs, along with unusually poor displays from both Palmer and Tom Brady, helped him move into the No. 1 spot for the year.
Despite coming out on the losing end of Super Bowl 50, Newton recorded three solid outings in the postseason, with positive grades in each game, and a +5.5 overall grade in the NFC Championship game (remember that 0.0 is considered average), which ended up being the highest-single-graded game for a quarterback in the 2015 season playoffs. Newton’s added ability as a dual-threat quarterback is something few can match in the NFL, as his +18.5 cumulative run grade was easily the best at the position. Not only can he extend passing plays with scrambles, but he can perform designed quarterback runs that effectively give the offense an additional blocker.
2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots (No. 14 in Top 101)
Brady put forth his best season in recent years, despite missing Julian Edelman for a good portion of the season and playing behind a porous offensive line that featured below-average pass-blocking grades from all 11 offensive lineman with at least double-digit snaps. In the regular season, he made turnover-worthy throws on just 1.11 percent of his attempts (league-best) and threw more touchdowns under pressure than any other quarterback in the past nine seasons (14).
However, his performance against Denver in the AFC Championship game was not only sub-par, it was one of the worst performances we’ve seen from Brady in the PFF era (since 2007). His passing grade ranked as his second-worst single-game grade over that span, and edged out two other games for his worst playoff performance since 2007.
3. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals (No. 15 in Top 101)
Palmer won our regular season MVP award and was our highest-graded quarterback heading into the playoffs. He had the highest percentage of positively-graded throws in the league, and graded positively in all 16 regular season games. Unfortunately for Arizona, Palmer performed like a completely different player in the postseason. He followed up a below-average game against Green Bay with the lowest single-game overall grade for a quarterback in the playoffs over the past nine years, and the third-worst game overall during that span. So while he had one of the better regular-season quarterback performances in recent years, his abysmal play when it mattered most was enough to drop him below Newton and Brady in our Top 101.
4. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 24 in Top 101)
If Roethlisberger had been healthy for the entire season, he very well may have been higher on the list, but missing one-quarter of the regular season ultimately prevented him from having a greater impact. When healthy, though, Roethlisberger had some of the highest single-game grades among quarterbacks last season, and was every bit as good as Palmer on downfield throws, even if he wasn’t quite as consistent week-to-week.
5. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (No. 32 in Top 101)
Wilson started the season slow, but was still easily above-average in 2015. He excelled over the latter half of the year, and finished the season with just one below-average game. His ability to extend plays and scramble was a huge asset, considering he was pressured on 42.4 of dropbacks, second-most in the league. Wilson was also one of the best at taking care of the ball, yet still took chances, as evidenced by his league-leading 15 touchdowns on deep passes.