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The Evolution of the NFL

Hello Smash Fans and welcome to this week’s installment. Today I want to talk about the evolution of talent in the NFL over the past 10 years, especially in the quarterback position. Without further ado, let’s get into it.


The quarterback on the top in any era could always dominate in any other era. There’s no denying that Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady are all time talents no matter what era they would play. With this being said, the elite quarterbacks in the top tier are no longer as exclusive as they used to be. You used to be able to pick out a clear top three to top five quarterbacks. In 2012, the pretty universal list was that Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers were all on one level and then there was a gap. Now we have 9 quarterbacks worth a top 4 spot in the NFL. We have Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar, Brady, Rodgers, Dak, Kyler, Russell Wilson, and Deshaun Watson all playing at an all pro level.


Additionally, the depth behind those players is insane. You have players like Mac Jones, Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence, Matthew Stafford, Justin Herbert, and Derek Carr that all have either pro bowl potential or are playing at a pro bowl level right now. According to ESPN, Josh Freeman was the 16th best quarterback in the NFL in 2012. In 2021, Kirk Cousins is ranked 17th. In the 2012 season, Josh Freeman started all 16 games, threw for 4065 yards, 27 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, completed 54 percent of his passes, and earned a passer rating of 81. Kirk Cousins last year threw for 4265 yards, 35 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, had a completion percentage of 67, and had a passer rating of 105. Across the board, Kirk Cousins is the better quarterback.

Even the bottom of the NFL is better than the bottom of the NFL 10 years ago. Taylor Heinicke is ranked 30th in the NFL by ESPN. If this was a 16 game NFL regular season, he is projected to throw for 3650 yards, 20 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, a completion percentage of 65.7, and a passer rating of 87.4. The 30th best quarterback according to ESPN in 2012 was a rookie named Ryan Tannehill who threw for 3284 yards, 12 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, had a completion percentage of 58.3, and a passer rating of 76.1. In fact, in 2012, pro bowl Eli Manning compared to Taylor Heinicke only threw for 300 more yards, had the same amount of interceptions, 6 more touchdowns, had the same passer rating, and a completion percentage of 59.9. Now I’m not saying Heinicke is better than Manning or even on the same level. However, if a player is a pro bowler they’re most likely a top 10 quarterback, and to have the 30th best quarterback a decade later have comparable stats shows the growth of the league


In 2012, Adrian Peterson rushed for over 2000 yards and won MVP. Derrick Henry achieved the same feat last year and was not even in the top 3 candidates. The growth of talent in the past ten years of professional football is astonishing. Players who were living at their houses and living normal lives have come off the streets and given great performances when given the opportunity. We are living in the golden age of NFL talent, and we should appreciate it while it’s here.

Thank you Smash Fans for sticking with me until the end. If you want to talk about this topic or any other topic sports-related, please email me or text me using the information on the contact page. If you want to support me even more, please consider following my Spotify as well as subscribing to my youtube channel and blog for weekly podcasts and articles. Until next time, PD Smash signing off.

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