For some people, the offseason is a time to soak up the sun and work on their short game. But in my office, it's a time to pore over the previous season's film.
Since the Seattle Seahawks steamrolled the Denver Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII, I've gone over every throw from every quarterback in the NFL to properly evaluate the best 32 on my QB Big Board.
Despite a bad performance in that Super Bowl, Peyton Manning remains No. 1 on my board. But there is a lot of movement elsewhere.
Here's my preseason look at the top 32 quarterbacks in the NFL:
Note: There are no rookies on this list, as none have won starting jobs yet. The previous ranking referred to in each entry is from last season's final ranks in December. This list will update throughout the season, or before if starting jobs change.
1. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
People are going to question Manning's performance in Super Bowl XLVIII, but the Seattle defense muddied the pocket, took away his quick throws and hit him repeatedly. That defense can make any quarterback look average. As my colleague Jeff Legwold detailed last week, Manning has watched the film meticulously and made adjustments. If Denver plays Seattle again, he'll be ready.
But singling out that game loses sight of the bigger picture for two reasons: Manning had the greatest season for a quarterback in NFL history in 2013, and he's fundamentally changed the way that quarterback is played in the NFL.
I played quarterback in the NFL for 17 years and have been a commentator for 24, and after my film study, I couldn't even figure out some of the pre-snap checks he was making. Everyone is chasing Peyton right now.
2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
The argument between Manning and Brady will go on well after each has finished his Hall of Fame career. I still believe that Joe Montana is the greatest quarterback ever, but that could change if Brady or Manning win a couple more titles in the coming years. Brady is amazing in the clutch, and his winning persona really spreads to the whole team. He's terrific in the pre-snap phase, identifying what a defense is doing, he can move people with his eyes, and his mechanics and accuracy are second to none.
3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Rodgers may get the ball out of his hands quicker than any quarterback in the league right now. He is probably the best off-platform thrower in the NFL and doesn't need functional space to make a downfield throw. Rodgers understands coverages and can torch defenses with his legs, both running the ball and eluding rushers in the pocket. He has elite arm strength and, like Brady, pinpoint accuracy. There really aren't any holes in his game right now.
4. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
What impresses me most about Brees is the way he practices -- with game-day intensity. He's also brilliant in the pre-snap phase of the game. I love the marriage of Sean Payton as a playcaller and Brees behind center. They think the same way in terms of exploiting defenses and creating mismatches in space. Brees has everything you want in a quarterback except the size, but he's mastered his ability to find passing lanes, pick his chin up and throw on his toes.
5. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Luck cracks the top five for the first time on my Big Board, and I expect him to keep rising. One of the supposed questions for him was his arm strength, but let me tell you: I have zero concerns with his arm strength. Luck has a great touch and throws the ball only as hard as he needs to. With only 35 starts in the NFL, he's already an elite quarterback and a refined progression reader. At 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, he's big enough to run people over and fast enough to extend plays and get to the edge. He showed off all those attributes and his leadership in that improbable 45-44 wild-card comeback win against the Chiefs. The sky is the limit for this kid.
6. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh's 8-8 record may not be what fans expect from the Steelers, but after reviewing the tape, I thought Big Ben had one of his best seasons in 2013. We all know he has a unique skill set, with the ability to be a pocket passer but also extend the play when it's necessary. He's a little like a dancing bear with how light he is on his feet. Ultimately, there are two sets of numbers that stand out to me for Roethlisberger. The first is that he has 156 career starts and has won 67 percent of them. That's astonishing. The second is that veteran quarterbacks understand the necessity of coming away with touchdowns and not field goals in the red zone. In the last two seasons, Roethlisberger has 27 TDs and zero INTs inside the 20-yard line.