Ranking the NFC South QBs

February, 1, 2012
2/01/12
5:24
PM ET
Check out this Insider post by Trent Dilfer. He ranks the NFL’s quarterbacks, starters and even some backups, although Jimmy Clausen didn’t quite make the list.

Dilfer breaks the quarterbacks down into seven categories and I don’t think anyone will be surprised to hear that he’s got Drew Brees in his “Hall of Fame’’ category. There’s little doubt Brees will be in the Hall of Fame someday, and there’s absolutely no doubt he’s one of the league’s top two or three quarterbacks these days.

I think even fans of other teams freely will admit Brees is the NFC South’s best quarterback. That brings us to the quarterbacks of the other NFC South teams and how they fared in Dilfer’s rankings.

Two categories down, Dilfer includes Atlanta’s Matt Ryan in his “A Ring Away’’ category. He has Ryan grouped with guys like Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco, Tony Romo and Matthew Stafford.

The next category down is “Mostly Good’’ and that’s where Dilfer has Carolina’s Cam Newton and Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman. They’re grouped with guys like Michael Vick, Andy Dalton and Carson Palmer.

Overall, I’ve got no issues with Dilfer’s list. I’m often asked in chats to rank the four NFC South quarterbacks. During last season, I tried to stay away from picking between Ryan and Newton as the No. 2 quarterback in the division. That’s mainly because Ryan and Newton are completely different quarterbacks. It also was because we were watching Newton evolve in his rookie season and there were changes in his level of play (usually for the better) just about every week.

But, since the season is over and since we’re on the topic, I’ll go ahead and reveal my rankings of the four NFC South quarterbacks. I’ll go in the same order Dilfer did.

We already addressed Brees and we’ll finish with Freeman. But why am I taking Ryan over Newton? First off, I’m only taking Ryan slightly over Newton. He’s been in the league for four years and has won each of those seasons. He hasn’t won big yet, but he may. Newton has way more upside than Ryan, but he’s not a finished product yet. A year from now, I might be sitting here writing that Newton is way better than Ryan. Heck, I might even be writing Newton is better than Brees.

He’s got that kind of upside. But he’s only played one season and only won six games. Let’s see a little more of Newton.

That brings us to Freeman. At the start of this past season, I thought Freeman had a chance to jump over Ryan into the No. 2 spot. That obviously didn’t happen and Freeman tumbled to No. 4 in the division. But Dilfer wrote that he still thinks Freeman can become elite. I agree totally.

Yes, Freeman had a bad 2011 season and some of the blame falls on him for that. But I put more blame on his coaching and supporting cast. I think the talent is there and Freeman can bounce back in 2012.

Anyway, those are my rankings at the moment. I know they’re open to debate. That’s what the comments section below is for.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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