The class of 2014 quarterbacks had a clear alpha dog after last season. Teddy Bridgewater was the consensus answer to the question: If you could re-draft the class now, who would you take at quarterback?
Halfway through the 2015 season, the answers would be much different. Bridgewater heads to Oakland on Sunday with a 6-2 record, but Derek Carr has created separation among his young quarterback brethren. Blake Bortles is a weekly thrill ride, but not for the faint of heart. Johnny Manziel remains undercooked. Bridgewater puts together solid outings each week, but he's failed to build on his big finish to last season. (Thankfully Bridgewater is recovering well and expected to play this week after suffering a concussion against St. Louis.)
A downturn feels inevitable at some point because Carr is a second-year player, but he only gets better every week. He reliably connects on third-and-long, yet avoids mistakes. He's ranked in the top-five in lowest sack percentage and interception percentage since entering the league. Carr calmly finds secondary receivers like Andre Holmes and Seth Roberts. Michael Crabtree makes more money every week he plays with Carr.
The situation around Carr is excellent from the underrated offensive line to the true No. 1 receiver (Amari Cooper) to an offensive system that gets receivers open. But Carr, like any franchise quarterback, makes the entire enterprise go. Everything changes when an organization finds The Guy. Carr is going to make a lot of co-workers a lot of money in the coming years, even his general manager.
*This is the Quarterback Index. The rankings are based on 2015 alone. *
Alone at the top
The entire debate about Cam Newton as an MVP candidate seems strange because this isn't the NBA. You can't make a ballot of your top-five choices. It's a one-vote-for-one-player system, and Brady would possibly win the award unanimously if it was held today. Perhaps there will be a race in the second half if the Patriots offensive line doesn't recover. Three starters remained out of practice this week, and the team is down to their No. 4 and No. 5 tackles. Dion Lewiswill not by easy to replace at running back.
Aaron Rodgers not seeing Randall Cobb on the key fourth-down play against the Panthers was typical of what's wrong with this Packers offense. Rodgers has too often been hesitant and not confident in what he's seeing. He missed far more throws than usual against Carolina. He's often not on the same page as his receivers.
"I should have been more decisive. I got off it and I should have gone to Davante (Adams). That's why it's so frustrating. I let the indecision slow me down a little bit," Rodgers said of his fatal interception.
This hesitation is not a new development. Rodgers has been holding the ball longer than usual for a month. His last truly consistent game from start-to-finish was Week 3. His ranking should rise down the stretch, but this has not been one of Rodgers' better years after his scalding hot start.
Monday night's game was a great example of how quarterbacks can only impact so much. There is no way to pin the Chargers' 2-7 record on Philip Rivers. I can't think of a quarterback with this bad a record that has received this little blame for a season. And he shouldn't! Rivers is the same guy he's been the last few years, if not better. It's like the Football Gods are punishing the entire organization for threatening to leave town. ... I'm very curious to see how Russell Wilson plays against the attacking Cardinals defense. His performance against Dallas before the bye was quietly disappointing with a few key misses and bad decisions.
Middle of the pack
Jay Cutler is another player that is the same as he ever was. The narratives change depending on the circumstances around him and the agendas involved, but he hasn't changed much as a player since 2006. Now we get to hear months of praise of Adam Gase because the coordinator is media friendly. Cutler is capable of gutsy drives and big throws; that has never changed. He's a midlevel quarterback, which has plenty of value in the NFL.
Fitzpatrick impresses more each week. He is so comfortable in Chan Gailey's offense and trusts his arm even more than he should. That confidence to test tight windows has paid off with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker in his life. This is the best Jets offense since the Brett Favre year. ... It's outstanding to have Tyrod Taylor back. He's the best runner in the league and throws a beautiful deep ball 55 yards with ease.
Bridgewater has not been terribly accurate this season, which should be a prerequisite for his conservative playing style. The Vikings have been careful not to throw too aggressively. Bridgewater is steady without any sizzle, which is not a bad thing for a 23-year-old quarterback. ... Bortles is the anti-Bridgewater. His game against the Jets was all peaks and valleys, with an outrageous array of big throws before getting hit, great runs and explosive drives to go along with fumbles, dropped interceptions and occasional panicked decisions against pressure. It's exhausting to watch and he fills up the notebook.
Tannehill's game against Buffalo typified his season. There was nothing terribly wrong with it, but he couldn't finish drives and he lacked difference-making throws in crucial moments of the game. ... Bradford is getting better each week and looks ready to go on a run. ... Luck's injury is so disappointing because it came during his best performance of the season by far. ... The Rams ran the ball on third-and-10 with 1:55 left against Minnesota instead of trying to advance closer for a field goal or actually trying to score a touchdown. Fisherball!