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ESPN's Quarterback Ranking System And Results Revealed

Mike Sando at ESPN worked with a number of NFL executives to come up with a countdown list of the quarterbacks in the league. Where the Bengals' signal caller was ranked was interesting.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The never-ending debate surrounding Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton continues. On Wednesday, ESPN writer Mike Sando posted a piece in which he worked with a small handful of General Managers and a glut of other NFL personnel men. The goal? To create a definitive countdown list ranking the quarterbacks in the NFL (ESPN In$ider account required).

Using votes and a point system, execs came up with four tiers to separate signal-callers around the league, based on talent and past achievements. Aaron Rodgers was ranked as the best in the league along with Tom Brady and the rest was sorted out from there. Three others joined those two in tier one, ten more were in tier two, nine in tier three and the rest were in tier four.

I asked 26 league insiders to grade every projected starting quarterback on a 1-5 scale, with "one" reserved for the best and "five" for the worst. Eight general managers, two former GMs, four pro personnel evaluators, seven coordinators, two head coaches, two position coaches and a top executive participated, attacking the project with gusto almost across the board.

The result of the polling is a composite ranking of all 32 NFL starting quarterbacks, and an understanding of how some of the league's most important evaluators separate the best from the rest at the position. With their input, we were able to compile an average rating of each QB, to rank them in a 1-32 pecking order, and to divide the starters into general tiers. I've passed along insights from voters when applicable.

Some notables include two of the AFC North quarterbacks in Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco. "Big Ben" came in at No.7 and Flacco at No.12--both in tier two. It's where the other established divisional quarterback landed that may stir a bit of a debate. The Queen City's own Andy Dalton came in tied at No.19 with Washington's Robert Griffin III.

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?"

There are only two things that will quell this debate--one being a deep postseason run. The other will be a new contract establishing him as the team's franchise guy, whether fans like it or not. Perhaps it's both. Regardless, let the debate continue.

(Jason Marcum contributed to this report.)