Ranking 32 NFL QBs by tier

Even with a winning record, Smith doesn't receive high marks from evaluators. "There is nothing about him runningwise or arm-talentwise that makes you say, 'Shoot, we have to take this away,'" one GM said. "But he is better than an Andy Dalton because he protects the ball. Dalton does not protect the ball. There are just too many games he gives it to the other team."

T-19. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals (3.00 average rating)

The people who like Dalton like him more as a person than as a talent. They love his approach to the game, his professionalism and his demeanor. They think the Bengals can win with him if they're strong enough in other areas. But most don't see him climbing out of the third tier, where 20 of 26 evaluators placed Dalton without much hesitation.

One person familiar with Dalton questioned how he'd fit under his new offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson.  He described Dalton as a "sweetheart" and Jackson as a "badass who would punch you out" -- and as someone who wouldn't be afraid to give Jason Campbell a chance.

"The ceiling for Dalton is a three," one GM said. "There is not enough about him. With a Colin Kaepernick, does he read coverages well? No, but if things are clicking for him, he can throw fastballs. Dalton cannot do that."

A former GM called Dalton a "poor man's Russell Wilson" for his dedication to the job and the respect that dedication earns throughout a building. "With Dalton, if he is your quarterback for 10 years, you'll go to the playoffs five times and say he's a good QB," the former GM said. "But is he physically gifted enough to win it if you have to throw it?"

T-19. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins (3.00 average rating)

Only five of the evaluators who cast ballots for Griffin placed him in the second tier. Fifteen placed him in the third tier. Five put him in the fourth. And when I spoke with a mix of players -- four defensive backs, two linebackers and two QBs -- they gave him a 4.1 grade on average. I decided against including the players' grades in the overall results because they tended to be exceedingly low. One GM put Griffin in the second tier despite some reservations about Griffin's personality. The veteran QBs I consulted separately crushed Griffin in that area. "He does not take any blame," one of them said. A head coach placed Griffin in the fourth tier and said, "I just don't think he can play in the pocket."

Health and durability are key variables. "Pre-injury and with [Mike] Shanahan and all the things they did [in 2012], I would put him in that two category with Wilson and Kaepernick," a defensive coordinator said. "If he is healthy, he adds a scary dimension because the kid can run and he is accurate enough, but post-injury, I don't know."

T-21. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals (3.12 average rating)

Palmer is an interesting study because his production went from being pretty brutal through eight games last season (10 TDs, 14 INTs, 35.1 QBR score) to ranking among the NFL's best from that point forward (14 TDs, 8 INTs, 68.9 QBR).

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