Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have been the faces of the NFL for the last decade. But both players are now in their mid-30s and it may be time to start thinking about passing the baton to the next generation of NFL quarterbacks.Right behind Manning and Brees among NFL quarterbacks are Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, and Ben Roethlisberger. However, those players, while still in their prime are either over 30 or not far away.
NFL quarterbacks are getting younger. So as we look ahead, there is an entire generation of NFL quarterbacks under the age of 27 that are ready to become the new faces of the NFL.
Sanchez is not the most talented quarterback in the world. But he is only 24 and has already been to two AFC championships games. Certainly a lot of that has to do with the talent around him, but in a league where mistakes can kill a team, Sanchez doesn't make many.
Sam Bradford, 23, is a little bit like Mark Sanchez. There are more talented quarterbacks, but if given enough talent around him, he will win games. He was 12th in the NFL with more than 3,500 yards passing last year. If he can improve his touchdown-to-interception ratio (18-to-15 in 2010), he will be a very good quarterback for years to come.
These days it is difficult to play on the west coast and be a star in college football. And for Matt Barkley it is even more difficult playing in the shadow of Andrew Luck, Stanford's quarterback. But make no mistake, Barkley is a big time college quarterback and almost certainly will be a top 10 pick in next year's NFL draft. So far this season, he has completed 70.7 per cent of his 1,587 yards and 14 touchdown passes are both fifth in college football.
Matt Ryan is 26 and had a monster 2010 season, throwing for more than 3,700 yards (9th in NFL). He was also one of only four quarterbacks in the NFL last season to throw at least 25 touchdown passes (28) and fewer than 10 interceptions (9). This year, he is on pace to throw for more than 4,500 yards. And while he is on pace for 24 touchdowns, his interceptions are up this season, with four already in the first four games.
Colt McCoy, 25, has a little Doug Flutie in him. Not the biggest quarterback and not the strongest arm. But he is a good athlete that has a knack for making plays. At times it seems like everybody, including the Cleveland Browns is looking for a reason for McCoy to not be a starting quarterback, and yet here we are one-quarter of the way into his second season, and McCoy has already started 12 games.
It is easy to overlook Joe Flacco as the Ravens are more known for their defence. And early in his career, Flacco was asked to just not lose games. But at age 26, Flacco is already in his fourth season as a starting quarterback and he is not being asked to make plays. Each year his yards and touchdowns have gone up, and last year he threw 25 touchdowns with just 10 interceptions.
Winning in the NFL is a simple formula if a team can find the right parts. You need a top head coach and you need a top quarterback. The rest is just details. The Bucs are sitting pretty in both departments with a 23-year old quarterback in Josh Freeman that just had one of the best seasons ever for a young quarterback. And they have a young head coach in Raheem Morris that has taken one of the youngest (and cheapest) teams in the NFL and are 12-6 in their 18 games.
Andrew Luck fits the mould of the new prototype of NFL quarterback. He is big, with a rocket arm. But while he is not a scrambling quarterback, he is also athletic enough to run and escape trouble when needed. He is also the likable kid that any team would want to be the face of their franchise for the next 15 years. Oh yeah, and he can also make incredible one-handed catches. He will also be the top pick of the draft next year and is considered by some to be the best prospect since Peyton Manning.
Nobody has questioned Matthew Stafford's talent. The only knock has been his ability to stay on the field. But that has always seemed like a silly criticism for a young player. And this year, the 23-year old has the Lions off to their first 4-0 start since 1980. He is on pace to throw for nearly 5,000 yards and 45 touchdowns. This kid is the real deal, and he will have the Lions in the playoffs for years to come. You know, if he can stay healthy.
Here is the scary thing. Cam Newton has 18 starts since high school. And he was handed the Panthers job with a shortened off-season. And yet he is on pace to throw for more than 5,500 yards. So far though, he has only thrown for five touchdowns and the Panthers have just one win. The yards will come back down to earth, but Newton is going to get better, and so will the Panthers.
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