Ranking 32 NFL QBs by tier

"Rivers can't run, but he can throw and he's smart," a defensive coordinator said. "He is definitely a two to me -- a real good quarterback."

Another defensive coordinator put Rivers in his first tier with Brees, Brady, Rodgers and Peyton Manning. He also described what separated the top-tier QBs from the rest in his mind. "A one to me is a guy that -- he is going to get 300 on you every game and you kind of know it," that coordinator said. "He's a guy you are going to have to manage, you're going to have to try to disguise and do different things against because he has seen everything. Those guys see everything. The twos are guys you can get. Like Eli, you can get him on some things and can disguise some things on him. But [the twos] still run their offense, they have control of it."

7. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (1.85 average rating)

One of the offensive coaches placed Rivers and Roethlisberger in the top tier. He noted that Rivers wins with his mind while Roethlisberger wins with his physical abilities. Several GMs said they thought Roethlisberger had declined into the second tier over the past couple seasons. "If you were there in Pittsburgh, you saw him run the no-huddle, you saw the command, you saw him run and make plays," a coordinator said. "Other people will not think as much of him. He is a very good quarterback, able to get himself out of tough positions."

Said one GM: "Ben plays big-boy football -- and regardless of what you think, he knows how to win the game."

T-8. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (2.23 average rating)

I was surprised to see Ryan command zero Tier 1 votes and six Tier 3 votes. Nearly everyone said Ryan needed to prove himself in the playoffs. There was a feeling Ryan would never be able to carry his team the way the very best QBs have.

That's not a knock, either. "If you told me I'm getting a guy who can win 10 games and get you to the championship game and lose, I'd take it in a heartbeat," one former GM said.

The other former GM said it's become clear to him Ryan cannot carry a team. "I think he has potential, but I see a guy that is a little bit hesitant and cannot pull the trigger," this former GM said. "From afar, it looks like the more Matt Ryan has on his plate, the less productive he becomes."

One evaluator noted that Ryan has benefited from outstanding receiving weapons: Julio Jones can win jump balls; Roddy White, a former wrestler, knows how to fight for position; and the recently retired Tony Gonzalez was a master at using leverage to make life easier for quarterbacks.

One of the pro personnel evaluators called Ryan a "solid starter who will never be a top-five player" at the position. Another put it this way: "He's the most disappointing guy to me. He does not have a great line or run game, but other guys overcome that and are better than Ryan has been. You can throw stats away at some point and it's just a feel for the player."

T-8. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (2.23 average rating)

A few evaluators questioned whether Romo had the mind-set to play at the highest level consistently. It's a familiar refrain in league circles, a feeling that Romo is an undisciplined QB playing for an undisciplined organization with a poorly constructed roster.

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