ESPN's Mike Sando frequently puts together polls of various NFL coaches and personnel gurus in an attempt to figure out perceptions across the league. On Tuesday, he released his QB Tier Rankings for 2015. The rankings involve 35 "league insiders" (front office and coaches) placing each starting quarterback in one of five tiers. Sando then averaged the tier rankings for each quarterback to produce a 1-32 ranking across the tiers.
As always, there is plenty of subjectivity to the rankings. Sando detailed how the insiders typically categorized the five categories, but acknowledged it was far from rigid. No starting QB received enough Tier 5 votes to fall into that category, so it was not included. Here is how the four tiers split up:
• Tier 1 quarterbacks can carry their teams week after week and contend for championships without as much help.
• Tier 2 QBs are less consistent and need more help, but good enough to figure prominently into a championship equation.
• Tier 3 are quarterbacks who are good enough to start but need lots of support, making it tougher to contend at the highest level.
• Tier 4 is typically reserved for unproven starters or those who might not be expected to last in the lineup all season. Voters used the fifth tier sparingly.
Colin Kaepernick finished up in the third tier, ranked No. 18 overall, tied with Andy Dalton. For comparison's sake, a year ago he was ranked No. 14, the second to last in Tier 2 (ranked by 26 insiders). Quarterbacks that moved past him from last year's ranking to this year's include Ryan Tannehill (23 to 17), Alex Smith (18 to 16), Carson Palmer (t-21 to 15) and Cam Newton (16 to 14).
In discussing Kap a year ago, the insiders stated they wanted to see more from him in reading defenses and playing within the pocket. It is no surprise then that he would drop on the list following an ugly 2014 season. Kap did some things well, but he struggled in some areas. And if the insiders were looking for more from him in reading defenses and playing in the pocket, 2014 was not going to provide them the kind of satisfaction they required.
In today's rankings, they looked back on some of those issues:
"[Jim] Harbaugh allowed him to get exposed a little by trying to have him win, to be the centerpiece of the offense instead of what he does naturally -- running," a personnel director said. "He showed his arm strength, but also his inaccuracy as a thrower. That is not going to get better. He cannot be a 2 by being a drop-back QB."
It's really hard to fully assess Kap heading into 2015 given the potential offensive scheme changes, and of course Kap's offseason work with the Arizona quarterback coaches and Kurt Warner. Maybe nothing comes of it, maybe it's the key change we have been waiting for. Who knows.
For now, anonymous personnel evaluators and coaches are not particularly high on him. Sando described their opinions as "they see the football equivalent of a pitcher with a little variety beyond a fastball." Whether he develops into more of a traditional pocket quarterback or not, if we are considering the total package, I'm not sure even with his struggles that I would say he's a pitcher with only a fastball. He's got a lot of areas where he needs to improve, but the arm and the legs give him a leg up on quite a few quarterbacks. Whether or not he can put it into a more consistent package will be the big question to answer in 2015.