Where Tom Brady ranks among NFL QBs right now
Where do I currently rank Tom Brady among all NFL quarterbacks? The simple answer is third.
Of course, it’s far more complicated than that, especially when you consider that in our PFF rating system, which measures how good every NFL player is right now based on his production, Brady ranks sixth. But while this might seem unusual for the founder of a football data company to say, Brady’s value is tied up in more than just his measurable production.
Let me explain. When middle linebacker Antonio Pierce was coming to the end of his career with the Giants, he was a shell of his former self when it came to on-field production. In his last full season (2008), he graded out as the worst middle linebacker in the league — and his team still brought him back. Why? Because he was the only person who could get the defense lined up properly.
No, I’m not saying Tom Brady is Antonio Pierce. (I can already see the exasperated comments of those who skim through this.) I’m saying he means more to the Patriots than his measurable on-field production
In those pure production terms, he is our sixth-rated QB in the NFL. His ability in the short passing game is still unmatched, but he now struggles with inside pressure more than most quarterbacks, and his deep arm is now in the bottom-third among starting QBs (29th of 38 ranked players on throws over 20 yards).
But Brady’s leadership and intangibles are close to unmatched throughout the league, and that combined with his still-effective skill set makes him the third-best quarterback in the NFL, in my opinion.
So, who is above Brady? I only have two players:
1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers: It’s early, but if I extrapolate out what we’ve already witnessed — we’ve only ranked him outside the top five once in the last five years (when he was injured), he has been No. 1 overall during that timespan — he will certainly go down as the best quarterback I’ve ever seen. He simply has no significant weakness.
2. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: He is the only player in the NFL who regularly plays better when pressured (QB rating of 112.2) than when given a clean pocket (98.4). To be clear, as that 98.4 rating shows, he’s still very good when given time to throw, but his ability to evade defenders and make big plays is unparalleled in the NFL.
Those just below Brady:
4. Drew Brees, Saints: While his overall production is truly excellent, his recent penchant for making awful decisions at bad times (his interception when leading by six with 3:20 left in the Lions game last year springs immediately to mind) counts against him.
5. Philip Rivers, Chargers: He’s another guy whose production is special, but, in his case is let down by poor patches that sometimes stretch to a full season (as in 2012). Last year it was from Weeks 9 through 15, with a hiatus against the Ravens in Week 13.
6. Peyton Manning, Broncos: His decline from Week 8 last year was far too steep to ignore. Many point to an injury against the Chargers in Week 15, but it started many weeks before that.