We continue our series on ranking positions in the AFC East.
On Wednesday, our focus is on the important position of quarterback.
Analysis: There is really no debate. Brady is head and shoulders above the quarterback competition in the AFC East. In fact, he's arguably the best quarterback of this generation. Perhaps Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos is his only rival. But Brady is the primary reason New England has been able to rule the division for so long. He’s led the Patriots to five Super Bowl appearances and three championships in 12 seasons. How much longer will Brady play? He is seeing the field as well as ever but he is turning 35 in August. Brady cannot take the physical pounding forever.
Analysis: Here is where things get interesting. In this ranking, I'm deferring to last season's "Sanchez-Fitz-Moore Watch" for at least one year. I held an open competition in 2011 to determine the No. 2 quarterback in the AFC East, and Moore came out on top fair and square. Moore was the most consistent quarterback. He made 12 starts and was solid throughout. Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets and Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Buffalo Bills were so up and down last season that you have to choose the player who is more consistent. But was Moore a one-year wonder? Is Moore even good enough to keep his job and win Miami's quarterback competition over David Garrard and first-round pick Ryan Tannehill in training camp? The No. 2 slot in this division might be a revolving door, but Moore has earned it for now.
No. 3: Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
Analysis: This will surely stir up some ire among Bills fans. I admit it's a close call between Sanchez and Fitzpatrick. But if I have to make a choice right now, I'm taking the guy who has led his team to the playoffs and made deep runs in both appearances. Sanchez is 4-2 in the postseason and helped get the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship Games. Critics will say New York's defense led the way, but Sanchez still had to make big throws in big moments. Until I see Fitzpatrick get Buffalo to the playoffs, I cannot put him ahead of Sanchez. Winning is too important for this position. I have seen the Jets win with Sanchez. I have not seen the Bills consistently win with Fitzpatrick, who is 18-33 as a starter and has yet to have a winning season.
No. 4: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills
Analysis: Fitzpatrick is one of the streakiest quarterbacks in the NFL. From week to week, you're not sure if he's going to throw for four touchdowns or four interceptions. The Bills believe in Fitzpatrick and gave him a $59 million contract extension last season. I said at the time it was a risky investment and things immediately went downhill after that signing. Fitzpatrick injured his ribs and lost eight of his last nine starts. He led the NFL with 23 interceptions last year. That needs to improve. Fitzpatrick has a Brett Favre-like gunslinger mentality but without Favre's arm strength or talent. I like Fitzpatrick's fearlessness, but it's a dangerous mix that at times gets him in trouble and hurts the team.
Of course, Brady's place among AFC East quarterbacks will stay the same. But the rest of the rankings are subject to change based on performance in 2012.
How would you currently rank the top-four quarterbacks in the division?