Who takes over after Brady?

I hate to break it to you Patriots fans, but Tom Brady can’t play forever. The legendary New England quarterback is in his 16th year in the league, and while he hasn’t shown signs of slowing down, at age 39, you have to think he will be looking to hang up those cleats in the next 2-3 years.

Tom_Brady
Brady surpassed Peyton Manning’s record of 200 career wins this season. (Wikimedia Commons)

With Brady being the undisputed (or as close as you can ever get to undisputed in sports) best quarterback in the league, his eventual retirement will open the door for someone else to take that crown.

Brady represents the end of a very dominant era, where he and Peyton Manning rewrote the record books practically every year. They squared off in some of the most memorable games of the last decade and consistently drew in viewers whenever the two matched up. Manning is already gone and with Brady set to follow in the near future, who exactly will step up to fill the void.

It is kind of hard to say. The iconic 2004 draft class of quarterbacks featuring Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers likely still have a few more years in them. However, Rivers turned 35 today, Roethlisberger will be 35 in March and Eli Manning turns 36 in January. That group likely won’t be around for a whole lot longer to constitute an era or start an awe-inspiring rivalry. Most of their time in the league will be remembered as part of the legendary Brady-Peyton era.

Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers has an MVP award and a Super Bowl ring to his name since taking over for Brett Favre in Green Bay. (Wikimedia Commons)

You next look to Aaron Rodgers, who joined the league in 2005. Rodgers just turned 33 last week, so he might be able to hang around a little longer than the three I just mentioned. However, he might have already started showing signs of slowing down with his rocky start to 2016. I could see Rodgers having a three-year run as the unquestioned top signal-caller. He might be the best-suited to succeed Brady in the short term. Keep in mind that even though this is his 12th NFL season, Rodgers did not start his first three years in the league, so he might have a bit more left in the tank than we think.

After Rodgers, well I’m kind of stuck. Drew Brees is a Hall of Famer, but approaching 38, I’m not expecting him to take over. Carson Palmer is on his way out as well. As will Alex Smith.

There is an interesting crop of three quarterbacks that offer some intrigue. Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Cam Newton all bring a lot to the table. All three of them are 28 years old or younger, all three are rather mobile and all three have the ability to take over a football game.

The major knocks against Newton are his ball security and his completion percentage. For his career, Newton sits at around 59 percent through almost 6 seasons. While he may be a huge asset with his legs, he is prone to fumbling and trying to do too much with the ball, often leading to mistakes. Another big red flag is that despite tossing 35 touchdowns in 2015, it is the only season he has thrown more than 25 scores. This year, he has just 14 through 12 games. Those numbers don’t exactly scream elite.

Luck was named the heir apparent to the NFL quarterback throne around his junior year of college. He started with two solid campaigns, followed by an outstanding 2014, only to fall into a weird funk for the last year and a half. 2015 was a lost season for Luck as he only played 7 games and likely played all of them hurt. The big knock against him has to be his lackluster completion percentage, which is only fractionally better than Newton’s. He also has a tendency for interceptions, with 63 picks in 66 career games. Part of that is due to the amount of pressure he faces. Luck is the most sacked quarterback in the league despite missing a game already this year. Luck is actually trending up after the last few weeks we’ve seen him play. Even though he has a poor supporting cast, Luck has failed to live up to Manning-sized expectations laid on him back in 2012.

Russell_Wilson_with_Lombardi_Trophy
Wilson has already played in two Super Bowls, winning one. (Wikimedia Commons)

Then there is Wilson. He already has a Super Bowl ring. Point all you want to a great run game and defense, but that’s a good chunk of why Brady got his first three rings. Of these three, he seems the most poised to take the throne. Wilson has only 39 interceptions in 72 career games. He is closing in on his second consecutive 4,000-yard season and his career completion percentage is around 65 percent. However, when Wilson is off, he is really off. In Seattle’s three losses this year, he has thrown zero touchdowns, three picks and has a yards per attempt average under 6.5. If I had to pick someone long term when it comes to taking up the quarterback mantel, it would be Wilson. He already has that championship background and I could see him getting more.

And he might just have a West Coast rival to deal with as well. There are a number of intriguing young quaterbacks in the league right now in Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott. Long term, we might see a really fun rivalry between Prescott and Wentz, both being in the NFC East. However, there is one young quarterback that stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Derek Carr
Carr was the fourth quarterback in the 2014 draft, but looks to be the best one selected that year. (Wikimedia Commons)

Derek Carr is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season. At only 25 years old, Carr has been lighting up NFL defenses all year long. He launched 32 touchdown passes a year ago, in just his second NFL season and threw for just shy of 4,000 yards. This year though, Carr is set to break that 4,000-yard mark and throw for close to 32 touchdowns again. What is more impressive though is the increased completion percentage and absence of turnovers. The young Raiders quarterback has only thrown five interceptions this year and raised his completion percentage four plus points to a healthy 65.5 percent. This is just one year for Carr, but based on the jump he has made in each of his first two seasons, I am beginning to think that this kid is for real.

I would be remiss not to mention Matt Ryan in this conversation. Ryan is in the midst of a career year at age 31. He is on pace to set career highs in completion percentage, passing touchdowns and yards per attempt as well as set a personal best for fewest interceptions thrown. If Carr is considered an MVP candidate, Ryan certainly has to be in the mix. He currently sits second in passing yards and passer rating, third in touchdowns, fourth in completion percentage and leads the league in yards per attempt. Given that he has a host of offensive weapons and a young offensive line, Ryan is set to play at a high level for the next several years. The tough thing is figuring out if 2016 is an anomaly based on his normal level of play or a sign of things to come. Also, if Brady hangs on for three more years, Ryan will already be 34 himself and running out of time to capture the league’s attention.

The world without Brady is kind of hazy and there is no telling if we will ever see the type of rivalry we saw between he and Manning. The league seems to be running out of elite quarterbacks, but we will have to wait and see who steps up to the plate in the next few years.

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2012 NFL Redraft

Colts logoIndianapolis- Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford
The top pick in the draft stays the same four years later. Luck had an injury riddled 2015 season, but the Colts would be average at best without him.

Washington made up logoWashington- Russell Wilson, Quarterback, Wisconsin
Washington still elects to take a mobile quarterback at number two, just a different one. Odds are Wilson would not have had the same amount of success as he did in Seattle, but Washington would have the quarterback position solved for the next ten years.

Browns logoCleveland- Luke Keuchley, Middle Linebacker, Boston College
Cleveland ignores all of the talk about Keuchley not being athletic enough and take him at three instead of Trent Richardson. The Browns’ defense instantly gets better and gives Head Coach Pat Schumur a great piece to pair with D’Qwell Jackson.

Vikings logoMinnesota- Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle, USC
Like Indy, Minnesota replicates its 2012 pick. Kalil hasn’t been always consistent but he has been great at times for the Vikings and continues to start for them today.

Jaguars logoJacksonville- Alshon Jeffrey, Wide Receiver, South Carolina
Instead of wasting a top five pick on a receiver with off the field issues, Jacksonville picks a slam dunk wide out instead in Jeffrey. Blaine Gabbert looks a whole lot better throwing to this big target, but still gets replaced in 2014.

Cowboys logoDallas- Josh Norman, Cornerback, Coastal Carolina
Jerry Jones originally picked Morris Claiborne here, but after several seasons of failing to take hold, Dallas moves on. Instead, Norman comes in and develops nicely into a shutdown corner for the Cowboys.

Buccaneers logoTampa Bay- Harrison Smith, Safety, Notre Dame
Mark Barron was a decent player for the Buccaneers, but Harrison Smith would have been even better. Smith might not put up huge interception numbers, but he is one of the most reliable safeties in the league.

Dolphins logoMiami- Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback, Texas A&M
There are some who would say Miami should have made a different selection. However, Tannehill has been solid and plays better than anyone else the Dolphins had on their roster in 2012. And we know they aren’t taking RG3 in the top ten.

Panthers logoCarolina- T.Y. Hilton, Wide Receiver, Florida International
With Keuchley off the board, Carolina has to improvise. They take the speedy Hilton to give second-year quarterback another weapon alongside Steve Smith.

Bills logoBuffalo- Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback, South Carolina
With the defensive line already set, Buffalo addresses corner again. Gilmore has been a solid starter for the Bills over the last four years. No need to change that.

Chiefs LogoKansas City- Dontari Poe, Defensive Tackle, Memphis
The run of repeat picks continues here with Kansas City plugging up the middle of their defense with Poe.

Eagles LogoPhiladelphia- Fletcher Cox, Defensive Tackle, Mississippi State
He has started every game over the past three season and registered 9.5 sacks last year. The Eagles would be smart to pick Cox again.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)Arizona- Bobby Wagner, Middle Linebacker, Utah State
Wagner does a little bit of everything. He is good in pass coverage, defends well against the run and even rushes the passer on occasion. Plugging him in to replace the aging Paris Lenon prepares this Cardinals defense for the future.

Rams logoSt. Louis- Michael Brockers, Defensive Tackle, LSU
He might not be fast or put up great numbers, but Brockers is a handful for offensive lineman to deal with. His ability to eat up blocks makes the Rams defense click and gives guys like Chris Long and Robert Quinn an opportunity to get to the quarterback.

Seahawks logoSeattle- Chandler Jones, Defensive End, Syracuse
Pete Carroll misses out on stealing Russell Wilson, but Jones would be a nice upgrade over Bruce Irvin. Let’s see how the Legion of Boom does with him rushing the passer.

Jets logoJets- Damon Harrison, Defensive Tackle, William Penn
Quinton Coples was a bust in New York, so the Jets take a defensive tackle instead to bolster their line. Harrison turns out to be a huge steal or the Jets after they sign him as an undrafted free agent.

Bengals LogoCincinnati- Vontaze Burfict, Middle Linebacker, Arizona State
Another undrafted rookie ends up going in the first round and to the team that later signed him. Burfict lead Cincy in tackles as a rookie and hasn’t looked back.

Chargers logoSan Diego- Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End, Illinois
The Chargers needed defenisve help and they get it here in the form of Mercilus. He has been the other half of the Houston wrecking crew, opposite J.J. Watt. San Diego could use a little bit of that.

Bears logoChicago- Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame
The Bears needed to give quarterback Jay Cutler a new target and Floyd becomes exactly that. He fits in nicely opposite Brandon Marshall, giving Chicago a solid tandem at receiver.

Titans logoTennessee- David DeCastro, Offensive Guard, Stanford
DeCastro goes one pick sooner in the redraft, as Tennessee decide to pass on Kendall Wright. Instead, they bolster the offensive line while Chris Johnson and second-year quarterback Jake Locker try to jumpstart the offense.

Pittsburgh_Steelers logoPittsburgh- Kevin Zietler, Offensive Guard, Wisconsin
As a result of DeCastro going, Pittsburgh takes the next best guard available. The Steelers desperately needed line help to protect Ben Roethlisberger and Zietler has been a solid piece of the division rival Bengals’ line since he was drafted.

Patriots LogoNew England- Dont’a Hightower, Outside Linebacker, Alabama
With Chandler Jones off the board, New England settles for the guy they took later in this round. Hightower has been a rock for the Patriots defense since he entered the league.

Browns logoCleveland- Kirk Cousins, Quarterback, Michigan State
I really thought about making this RG3, but Cousins has shown signs of being the better option over the last four years. He finally hit his stride in year four, throwing for over 4,000 yards.

Lions LogoDetroit- Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle, Iowa
He certainly hasn’t been perfect, but the Lions need someone to protect Matt Stafford’s blindside. Reiff has started since day one in Detroit. No reason to change this pick.

Patriots LogoNew England- Doug Martin, Running Back, Boise State
This time around, Martin is the first running back off the board. New England always loves drafting versatile running backs. After a year or two though, Martin would likely take over the lead role in this backfield.

Texans logoHouston- Lavonte David, Outside Linebacker, Nebraska
The Texans went defense initially in 2012, but with Mercilus off the board already, they nab the former Cornhusker David. He might not be the pass rusher Mercilus was for Houston, but he is a tackling machine.

Bengals LogoCincinnati- Janoris Jenkins, Cornerback, North Alabama
Originally, the Bengals selected Dre Kirkpatrick with the 17th pick, but with Jenkins emerging as a solid number one corner, Cincinnati would much rather take him. Jenkins soon takes over the starting role for the aging Terrance Newman.

Packers logoGreen Bay- Lamar Miller, Running Back, Miami
You are probably thinking, well what about Eddie Lacy? Lacy was still in college and the Packers needed help in the backfield. Miller ends what had been a carosel of running backs starting the year before.

Vikings logoMinnesota- Tashaun Gipson, Safety, Wyoming
Harrison Smith got taken much earlier this time around, but Minnesota still needs help in the secondary. Gipson has turned into a very good safety in his time with both Cleveland and Denver.

49ers LogoSan Francisco- Olivier Vernon, Defensive End, Miami
A.J. Jenkins was a bust. Justin Smith turned 33 in 2012. The 49ers create a contingency plan for when he leaves and look to find receiver help later in the draft.

Buccaneers logoTampa Bay- Alfred Morris, Running Back, Florida Atlantic
With Doug Martin off the board, Tampa takes the next best running back they can get in Alfred Morris. He completely fell off with Washington this year, but he has a couple of great seasons already under his belt.

Giants LogoGiants- Mychal Kendricks, Middle Linebacker, California
New York has needed to address the need at linebacker for years now. Chase Blackburn and Michael Boley were serviceable at best. Kendricks can come in a make a big difference in the pass coverage right away and provides a boost to the run defense.

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