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Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Rodgers can't hurdle conventional wisdom

By Kevin Seifert

You might have forgotten amid the NFL's labor chaos, but on a much quieter day last week I asked you for some help in this week's installment of the ESPN.com offseason positional Power Rankings. Namely: Where should I rank quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who solidified his status as an elite quarterback last season during the Green Bay Packers' run to Super Bowl XLV.

Your 791 comments were all over the map, but in the end I saw nothing to dissuade me from my original intent. I ranked Rodgers No. 2 behind Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. As it turns out, however, I was the only voter among our eight-man committee to do so. As we suspected he might, Rodgers finished fourth after Brady, Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints.

(NFC West colleague Mike Sando and Paul Kuharsky of the AFC South both ranked Rodgers No. 3.)

There is no doubt that Manning and Brees have produced success over a longer period of time than Rodgers. But their histories shouldn't be held against Rodgers in a ranking based on the present. Who would you want as your quarterback right now? When you peel away the weight of their longer careers, Rodgers compares favorably to both Manning and Brees.

Take a look at the chart accompanying this post. Rodgers has a higher career passer rating than either Manning or Brees. He's averaged more yards per attempt, a key and historic measurement of downfield success, has thrown about the same amount of touchdowns per attempt as Manning and has thrown fewer interceptions per attempt than either Manning or Brady.

Manning by far has a better regular-season winning percentage, but ultimately all three quarterbacks have one Super Bowl championship under their belt. (And only Rodgers has The Belt.)

Look, rankings of elite players are fun and silly but ultimately irrelevant offseason talk. If you gave me one quarterback to build my 2011 team around, I wouldn't complain about Brady, Rodgers, Manning or Brees. But if we have to choose, and in this case I did, there is substantial quantitative support for Rodgers to stand just behind Brady.

For the record, here is how I voted:
  1. Tom Brady
  2. Aaron Rodgers
  3. Peyton Manning
  4. Drew Brees
  5. Philip Rivers
  6. Ben Roethlisberger
  7. Michael Vick
  8. Matt Ryan
  9. Matt Schaub
  10. Josh Freeman