Four games may not seem like much of a sample, but in the reality of the 16-game NFL, it is a key number. Not only does that represent the quarter pole for the season, but when teams break down film to prep for upcoming games, they scrutinize their opponents' previous four games. It's a rubric I've followed in my career and as an analyst, and I'm going to use it to help guide my QB Big Board.
This ranking is not an end-all-be-all, permanent evaluation. Guys will improve -- and regress -- and that movement will be represented on this ranking every four weeks. What this QB Big Board does is combine a quarterback's historical performance with how he is playing at a certain time of the season to form a ranking of the NFL's top quarterbacks at that moment.
There are a few changes to my previous list, including how I generated it. Last offseason, I watched every throw of every NFL quarterback from 2011 to generate my initial rankings. Due to time constraints, I can't make that same claim now. Rest assured, though, that this list is the product of regular film study from the NFL Films offices each week.
Previously I omitted all of the rookies from the preseason rankings, because you can't properly evaluate where they fit when they've never thrown a pass against an NFL defense. Now that we've seen a sample of their talents -- albeit a small one -- I've added them to the mix. And let's just say it's an impressive debut for Robert Griffin III.
RG3 makes his debut at No. 17, meaning he's just outside the top half of NFL quarterbacks. Honestly, I never thought I'd rank a rookie this high. The trouble is, Griffin has not played like a rookie. What separates him from his first-year peers is his consistency. Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill have made some great plays in their young careers, but they've also made some bad ones. I haven't seen that erratic play when it comes to Griffin, hence his extraordinary debut ranking.
Erratic play has plagued a couple of veterans, which is why Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Cassel and Jay Cutler are among the biggest drops on my board. Protecting the football is the most important thing you can do as a quarterback. If you lose the turnover battle by one or more, you lose the game 80 percent of the time. It's as simple as that. And it's one thing to make bad reads and bad decisions as a rookie. But at this point in their careers, those three have no excuse.
But there is better news for a few others. And even if Aaron Rodgers has not looked as dominant as he did during his fantastic 2011 campaign, he remains at the top of my rankings. Let's get into some details.