By Robert Woolf

Just a few years ago, the NFL was ruled by veteran quarterbacks such as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. But since then, the game has dramatically changed with many younger QB’s, showing the veterans whose in charge. With 48 quarterbacks being selected in the draft since 2009, it was difficult to make a list of the 10 best. Here is my list of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League, who are 25 or under.

 

10. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Age: 24

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In the 2012 draft, the Dolphins took a chance with Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill at the 8th pick. They hoped Tannehill would become the franchise quarterback that they had been searching for, ever since Hall of Famer Dan Marino left in 1999. Although Tannehill definitely did not have a great season,  he had a good season with what he had. He had a mediocre receiving core, led by Davone Bess, Tannehill managed to finish with over 3000 yards and 12 touchdowns. With the free agent signings of wide receiver Mike Wallace and tight end Dustin Keller, along with the re-signing of underrated receiver Brian Hartline, Tannehill now has the weapons he needs to succeed in his second year.

 

9. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Age: 25

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In the 2009 Draft, the Jets traded up to the 5th overall pick to select USC quarterback Mark Sanchez. The pick they originally had went to Cleveland who traded that pick to Tampa Bay. With that 17th pick, the Bucs selected QB Josh Freeman out of Kansas State. After starting only 10 games in his rookie season, Freeman started all 16 games in 2010, becoming the first Buccaneer to do so since Brad Johnson in 2003. He put up 3451 yards and 25 touchdowns. The next year, his yards slightly increased while his touchdown margin dropped to 15. Last season, after adding key pieces such as Dallas Clark, Vincent Jackson, and Carl Nicks, Freeman had a career year. He set Bucs franchise record for most yards (4065) and touchdowns (27) in a season. Even with the Bucs selecting Mike Glennon in the draft, Freeman will have a chance to prove why he was a first round pick.

 

8. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Age: 25

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The Bengals selected Dalton 35th overall in the 2011 draft, and they have most certainly not been disappointed with his performance. Along with receiver A.J. Green, Dalton has led the Bengals to back-to-back playoff appearances, both loses to the Houston Texans. In his rookie season, Dalton threw for 3398 yards and 20 touchdowns. Dalton’s rookie season was special for a few reasons. First, he became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history not drafted in the first round to start all 16 games. Second, he was one of only five rookie quarterbacks to go for over 3000 yards and 20 touchdowns. He is in good company, with the others being Cam Newton, Peyton Manning, Charlie Conerly, and Dan Marino. Finally, he was named to the Pro Bowl at the end of the season. The next year, with no big additions in the passing game, his numbers increased. Now in his third year with more experience, one of the best receivers in the game, and a new tight end in Tyler Eifert, there is no reason his numbers can’t increase even more.

 

7. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
Age: 25

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Last season when Alex Smith went down with a concussion vs. the Rams, every single 49ers fan held their breath. Then Colin Kaepernick came in and they exhaled with relief. Starting in only seven regular season games, Kaepernick ended the regular season with 2229 total yards and 16 total touchdowns. He led San Francisco to a 5-2 record in the games he started, helping them clinch the #2 seed in the NFC. After a first round bye, the 49ers took on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Kaepernick proceeded to rush for 181 yards and two touchdowns, setting both the NFL single-game record for rushing yards by a quarterback and the 49ers postseason record for rushing for any position. The next round pitted them against the #1 seeded Atlanta Falcons. In one of the toughest places to play in NFL, Kaepernick threw for 233 yards and had a QBR of 92.6, as San Francisco knocked off Atlanta 28-24, earning a spot in Super Bowl XLVII. Even though they lost to Baltimore, Kaepernick still threw for over 300 yards and had 2 total touchdowns. This season they added more weapons, such as Anquan Boldin and Quinton Patton, hoping that Kaepernick will become even more dangerous.

 

6. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
Age: 25

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In the 2009 season, the Rams were clearly the worst team, going 1-15. In the 2010 draft, they needed a QB and Heisman winner Sam Bradford was a no-brainer. Although Bradford hasn’t quite lived up to the hype of becoming a number one pick, he has still drastically improved the Rams, making them a contender in the NFC West. In his first season in the NFL, Bradford threw for 3512 yards and also set the record for most completions by a rookie in NFL history, helping earn him the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award. He led them to a 7-9 record, losing the division to Seattle in the last week of the season. The next year, he experienced his sophomore slump. He only started 10 games, as a high ankle sprain kept him sidelined for 6 weeks. He threw for under 3000 yards and only 1 victory. St. Louis finished 2-14, with the 2nd pick in the draft. They traded the second pick for four different picks, as the Redskins stepped in to take Robert Griffin III. Last year, his production increased from 2011, as he threw for 3702 yards and 21 touchdowns. With the release of Steven Jackson and the drafting of Tavon Austin at 8th overall, there will be a lot of room for Bradford to succeed this year.

 

5. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Age: 25

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After probably the worst season the NFL has ever seen in 2008, the Lions had the number one pick in 2009. With that pick, they took QB Matthew Stafford out of Georgia. Since then, Stafford has been everything, if not more than what they asked for. In his first year, Stafford eclipsed 2000 yards while only playing in 10 games. The next year, Stafford only started 3 games because of a right shoulder injury. The next year he came back better than ever. In one of the best statistical seasons by a QB in a while, Stafford, along with Drew Brees and Tom Brady, threw for over 5000 yards. There has only been four players ever to carry out that feat. Even though Stafford did have the best receiver in the league with Calvin Johnson, Stafford would have had about 4000 yards that season, if Johnson was not there. For his remarkable season after coming off a big injury, Stafford was named 2011 Pro Football Weekly Comeback Player of the Year, AP Comeback Player of the Year and NFL Alumni Quarterback of the Year. He also led them to a playoff appearance, Detroit’s first since 1999. Last season, Stafford had just as good of a season, coming 33 yards short of another 5000 yard season. Stafford holds 8 NFL records and 19 Detroit Lions franchise records. With a new, good receiving running back and the best receiver in football, Stafford has to be looking to improve on a 4-12 record from last season.

 

4. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Age: 24

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Last season was the year of the rookie quarterback. After 5 quarterbacks were off the board, the Seahawks gambled and took Russell Wilson from Wisconsin with the 75th overall pick. Wilson was a good college QB, leading the Badgers to back-to-back Rose Bowls, but NFL scouts were cautious about his height. Jon Gruden said “The only issue with Russell Wilson is his height. That might be the reason he’s not picked in the first couple rounds.” The Seahawks had just signed Matt Flynn to go along with Tavaris Jackson. Wilson was named the starter on August 26th, becoming the first rookie QB to start for the Seahawks since Rick Mirer in 1993. Wilson started all 16 games last year, throwing for 3118 yards and 26 touchdowns, to go along with his 489 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns. Under Wilson, Seattle achieved a 11-5 record and a wild-card birth. They defeated the NFC East champion Redskins in the first round, after Robert Griffin III went out with an injury. In the next round, they faced the top seeded Falcons, but lost 30-28, despite having the lead with just 30 seconds left in the game. Now that Seattle has the versatile Percy Harvin to go along with Russell Wilson, they are a serious threat to knock off the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West.

 

3. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Age: 24

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Auburn had not won a national championship since 1957 with college football Hall of Fame coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan. All that changed when Cam Newton transferred from Blinn College in Texas. Everyone knew he was special when he led the Tigers to an SEC and eventually a national championship. Over Stanford QB Andrew Luck and Oregon RB LaMichael James, Newton won the Heisman trophy. In his one year at Auburn, he threw for 2854 yards and 30 touchdowns. Combine that with the fact that he ran 4.56 40 yard dash, Newton was the best prospect in the 2011 draft. The Panthers went 2-14 in the previous season, and, with no real star at QB since Jake Delhomme left, selected Newton first overall. In his first NFL game, Newton set an NFL record throwing for 422 yards. Newton finished the season with 4051 yards and 21 touchdowns. His great season earned him a slot on the Pro Bowl roster, as well as Rookie of the Year honors. The next year, his production decreased slightly, as he threw for 3869 yards and 19 touchdowns. In his short career, Newton has also rushed for almost 1500 yards and 22 touchdowns. He has set numerous NFL and Panthers records, and is looking to take the next step in trying to become an elite quarterback.

 

2. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
Age: 23

at FedExField on December 9, 2012 in Landover, Maryland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Griffin III is the most dangerous quarterback in the league. When healthy, he can beat you with his feet almost as well as he can with his arms. The Redskins were willing to give up 3 first round picks to get him last season, and he definitely did not disappoint in his rookie campaign. The Heisman winner from Baylor immediately started his season right, throwing for 320 yards and 2 touchdowns in a win over the New Orleans Saints. On November 18th against the Eagles, Griffin led the Redskins to a 31-6 victory to snap a 3 game losing streak. He went for 200 yards with 4 touchdowns, rushing for an additional 84 yards, and finishing with a perfect 158.3 passer rating. This made him the first rookie in NFL history to pass for 200 yards, 4 touchdowns and rush for more than 75 yards in a single game. He also became 35th QB with a perfect passer rating and the second rookie along with Drew Bledsoe. Griffin missed one game last season and was taken out of two more, but he still managed to throw for 3200 yards and 20 touchdowns. The Redskins gained their first NFC East division title since 1999. In the playoff game vs. Seattle, Griffin went down with a knee injury. Even with Kirk Cousins, the Redskins were eliminated in the first round. At the end of the season it was announced that Griffin had to have surgery on both his LCL and ACL. Griffin was stll named a Pro Bowler and Rookie of the Year. With a “superhuman” recovery, there is a chance that Griffin will play in Week 1 and continue his legend.

 

1. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Age: 23

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Andrew Luck has been called “the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning” and was even being compared to Stanford alum and Hall of Famer John Elway. The Dolphins looked to be the team who was going to get the first pick, but it ended up being the Colts, who won only 2 games without their star QB Peyton Manning. Luck’s first game was not great, as he completed 23 of 45 passes for 309 yards, 1 touchdown and three interceptions, as the Colts lost 41-21 to the Bears. The following week against the Vikings, Luck went for 200+ yards and 2 touchdowns. This was also his first comeback win, as he drove the Colts 45 yards in 23 seconds to set up Adam Vinatieri for a 53-yard field goal with 8 seconds left. This was the first of 7 comeback wins, a NFL record for a rookie. On November 4th, Luck set the record with the most passing yards in a single game by a rookie quarterback with 433 against the Miami Dolphins. Luck set rookie records for most 300+ yard passing games (6), most passing yards by a rookie in a single season (4,374), and the most wins by a #1 pick QB in his rookie season (11). Their 11-5 record was good enough for a wild-card birth, and the chance to face the Baltimore Ravens in the first round. At Ray Lewis’ last game in Baltimore, the Ravens defeated the Colts 24-9, knocking them out of the playoffs. This year, Luck is trying to not fall into the sophomore slump. With a new running back in Ahmad Bradshaw, along with a good receiving core in Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, and Darrius Heyward-Bey, Luck has a good shot of repeating his 4000+ yard performance and another Pro Bowl selection.

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