The NFC East is one of the few divisions this offseason where there shouldn’t be any changes at the quarterback position, except for maybe the backup in Dallas.
It is also a division where the quarterbacks moving into next season may not qualify as elite but are damn good moving forward and the competition is extremely close.
Then there is the 4th-round QB who clawed his way into a starting role over the 2nd overall pick that was taken in the same draft in 2012. Kirk Cousins has put up some amazing numbers in his two seasons as a full-time starter and yet the Redskins are still unwilling to commit long term. If Dan Snyder is still unsure about a proposal, it’s probably a marriage that is doomed to fail.
Lastly, you have two rookies with a ton of upside.
Carson Wentz excited early in Philly before coming back down to earth and playing more like a rookie. Still, his ceiling is high and Eagles fans should be excited about the best thing to happen to them since Mark Wahlberg went from bartender to bedtime hero in the movie Invincible.
Dak Prescott had one of the best rookie seasons that we have seen at the quarterback position, possibly ever. I kept waiting for him to come crashing down and to play like, well, a rookie. That really never happened. Even in the Cowboys early playoff exit against the Packers, Dak looked seasoned and appeared up to the challenge for his first time on the big stage.
So how do they stack up against each other? With much difficulty, here are my 2017 NFC East quarterback rankings.
1. Kirk Cousins – Washington Redskins (6-3, 214 pounds, 28 years old)
It seems like everyone is always nervous to call Kirk Cousins one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL today. Granted he’s no Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, probably not even Andrew Luck or Ben Roethlisberger, but you’re telling me that you wouldn’t take him over Joe Flacco, Alex Smith, Carson Palmer, Ryan Tannehill, Jay Cutler…shall I continue?
In his two seasons as a full-time starter, he has thrown for over 4,000 yards, over 25 touchdowns, and had a completion percentage above 67% (69.8% in 2015). He finished third in passing yards last season.
Cousins did all of this while the team finished 21st in rushing. Even in Peyton Manning‘s record-breaking season in 2013, the Broncos finished in the top 15 in rushing. In Tom Brady’s career year in 2007, the Patriots also finished top 15. My point being, the play of the quarterback can be extremely enhanced when there is a complimentary running game. Cousins had a bottom 10 rushing attack, with a consistently different starter, and still, put up Pro Bowl numbers.
In addition to his weak rushing attack, aside from Jordan Reed, Cousins had, in my opinion, one of the weaker receiving corps in the NFL. DeShaun Jackson is a great deep threat, but that’s about all he is. Just ask any Jackson fantasy owners, feast or famine.
Pierre Garcon is a very nice receiver, but on most teams, he would be the second or third option. Over his career, he has averaged 70 receptions and 880.63 yards with no Pro Bowls. Again, nice numbers, but Cousins would only be that much better if he got a true number one guy, say Brandon Marshall or Alshon Jeffery?
Josh Doctson is a guy that the Skins are high on after drafting him in the first round last season, but he missed pretty much the entire season due to injury so we have no idea what kind of NFL player he will turn out to be.
Cousins will be a franchise quarterback in 2018, but due to Washington’s commitment issues, it will probably be with another suitor. Enjoy 2017 Redskins’ fans, but keep that Ben & Jerry’s and a bottle of bourbon handy for 2018.
2. Dak Prescott – Dallas Cowboys (6-2, 226 pounds, 23 years old)
Prescott may have been the biggest surprise at QB since Tom Brady back in 2001. He carried his team to a 13-2 record (only played a few drives in the season finale) and looked like a grizzled vet under center.
He finished the year with a 67.8 completion percentage, 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns, and only 4 interceptions. These numbers were good enough to get him selected to the Pro Bowl and become the recipient of Offensive Rookie of the Year. Both are extremely impressive for a 4th-round draft pick, and 1st-year rookie starter. And doing this whilst the shadow of Cowboys’ great Tony Romo loomed over him.
He seemed to have the quality traits and leadership intangibles that you don’t usually see in a 23-year-old kid. The veterans respected him, and the young guys played for him. Even Tony Romo knew that it was Dak’s team and he had to bite the bullet and take a back seat.
So after all this praise why do I have Prescott behind Cousins? Two simple reasons.
Can his one year of excellence be sustained? I’m not saying that last year was an anomaly but is one season enough to rank him as the best QB in the NFC East? Cousin’s had 1,300 more yards and two more touchdowns, and he has sustained that success over two seasons as a starter.
Prescott looks like he has the tools and football I.Q. to be successful moving forward but one year just isn’t enough to grade him that high.
I know people won’t like hearing this, but it is a valid argument, most NFL starting quarterbacks would have been successful in Dallas last year.
What are the two most important factors for not just a rookie quarterback but any quarterback to be successful? A good offensive line, and a good rushing attack. Dallas finished with the number two ranked offensive line, according to Pro Football Focus, and the number two overall running attack, with fellow rookie, Ezekiel Elliott, finishing first in the NFL in rushing yards.
Who is to say that Jared Goff or Carson Wentz wouldn’t have had a much more successful season had they played for Dallas as opposed to their respective teams. That being said, I do think that Goff was over drafted and is way behind the curve for the first overall pick, but the Rams were a dumpster fire from the top down that no quarterback would have been successful playing for. The sun itself, not just Goff, didn’t know where it was rising or setting in Los Angeles in 2016.
Let me put it this way. If Goff and Prescott had switched places, Goff in Dallas and Prescott LA, I truly believe that Goff would have had a better season than Prescott.
I loved Dak last season and definitely think he can produce moving forward, but those two reasons are why I have him slotted number two.
3. Eli Manning – New York Giants (6-4, 218 pounds, 36 years old)
Along with Tony Romo, Eli Manning has been the model of quarterback play, not just in the NFC East, but in the NFL as a whole.
Throughout his entire career, his biggest folly has been the number of interceptions that he throws. Almost every year he is among the league leaders in this category, something that is extremely frustrating for Giants fans. Last year was no different as he threw 16 negative throws.
With all of the interceptions, however, you get something with Eli that all quarterbacks dream of having. The ability to show up and play his best on the biggest stage. As stated earlier, he is the only quarterback to beat Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, and he did it twice.
As Eli now descends upon the end-all age of 40 (36), this big game output seems to be fleeting, as was evident in the trouncing that he and the Giants took in Green Bay last postseason (he was, however, the only quarterback to beat Dak Prescott during the regular season…I see a theme here).
One of the biggest red flags was that with all of the talent that the Giants’ had on offense last year, they finished 17th in passing. The Bears watched Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer, and Matt Barkley all start under center throughout 2016, and they finished ahead of the Giants in passing.
Eli will still consistently throw for 4,000+ yards a season until he retires, but he is no longer the top QB in the NFC East.
4. Carson Wentz – Philadelphia Eagles (6-5, 237 pounds, 24 years old)
Because of what Dak did in Dallas, the casual fan might think that Wentz had a bad rookie season. Au contraire my friend.
Out of the gates, he was miraculous, before coming back down to rookie earth. His athletic ability and arm strength demonstrated that he probably should have been the first quarterback taken, but Eagles fans should be ecstatic that the Rams took Goff.
Wentz finished 2016 with 3,782 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. This will be a big offseason for him if he wants to mature into a top-tier quarterback in the NFL.
As I already stated, his athletic ability is extremely impressive at the QB position, and his arm strength is evident, but he forced a lot of throws last year that would have been touchdowns at North Dakota State but made him look very foolish in the NFL.
These are things that he will have to polish up. Nothing against North Dakota State, but the NFL is so much faster than NCAA FBS, let alone the FCS. It will just take a little bit of time for him to catch up to the speed, but the talent is there for him to do so.
What will help Wentz immensely is if Philadelphia goes after some top receiver and running back talent. Ryan Matthews was the team’s leading rusher finishing 25th with 661 yards. The Jets had two running backs (Forte 813, and Powell 722) finish with more rushing yards than Matthews. We all know how bad the Jets were last season.
The Eagles leading receiver was their tight end, Zach Ertz, who finished 46th in receiving yards with 816. I think it’s safe to say Wentz could use a top receiver with some playmaking ability, and there are some big names out there with free agency officially starting on the 9th.
I think Wentz has the ability to be the best quarterback in his class, but he definitely is going to need some help around him to get out of the bottom of the NFC East.
What do you think of our rankings? Let us know below or reach out on Twitter @Sports_Al_Dente.
— Sports Al Dente (@Sports_Al_Dente) March 6, 2017