EXCLUSIVE: NFL analyst ranks Washington Redskins' Kirk Cousins 23rd among quarterbacks

Don't confuse the franchise tag with thinking Kirk Cousins is a franchise QB. "As an individual entity, Kirk Cousins is not an elite quarterback by any means."

We love lists, we do. The internet is loaded with clickbait rankings of all shapes and sizes for a reason. Many in these parts didn't adore one list last offseason that ranked Robert Griffin 31st among NFL starting quarterbacks, though others nodded approvingly. The author of that list, Sports Illustrated NFL writer Andy Benoit, thoughtfully pondered those 2015 rankings. With 2016 NFL training camps still six or more weeks away, any crystallized "him or him" thoughts are in the distance.

That doesn't mean Benoit isn't thinking about the starting quarterbacks. Anticipating an interview with BreakingBurgundy.com, he specifically pondered where Redskins starter Kirk Cousins ranks among his peers one season after leading Washington to the NFC East title.

"I actually did that one the other day," Benoit said during a recent interview, "and I had him come out 23rd in the NFL for me."

Before we go any further, some clarification from Benoit, a contributor to SI.com's Monday Morning Quarterback. He'll eventually put out a true list later this summer. He's not there yet. This current ranking is more casual, in the realm of "would I rather have this guy than Kirk Cousins."

"I just went through the quarterbacks. Is he better than this guy, is he better than that guy. There were seven, eight, nine guys I thought he was better than and the rest were a pretty clear no to me," said Benoit.

This specific ranking essentially strips away the team and just looks at the player. Is Cousins better than say Sam Bradford? Benoit says yes. Jay Cutler? Not so much.

"That doesn't mean he'll be the 23rd most effective quarterback. If we're just talking as a specimen, as an individual entity, I have Cousins at the bottom of the third quadrant, top of the fourth."

Benoit, who pre-training camp last year stated a mild preference for Colt McCoy among Washington's three quarterbacks, makes it clear he's no Cousins hater. He peppered the conversation with praise for what the first-year starter accomplished in coach Jay Gruden's offense, a scheme he admires.

Cousins led the NFL in completion percentage last season, set the Redskins franchise record for single-season passing yards and threw 23 touchdown passes to only three interceptions over the final 10 games while helping Washington to the NFC East title.

"I get why people are intrigued by him," Benoit said. "I think that's justifiable. If he plays the way he did in the second half of last year again, Washington will have no choice but to pay him top 10 quarterback money because that's how the market will play out and he'll have deserved it."

There was lots to like, which is among the reasons why the organization ensured he'd stick around by placing the franchise tag on Cousins. For now, no long-term deal is in place. Until he's locked up beyond 2016, it's uncertain exactly how much the decision-makers truly value Cousins. 

"Within that scheme though, within the context of what they ask him to do, [Cousins] can be much more effective than [23rd] and we saw that last season," Benoit said. "I don't want people to think, 'Oh Benoit thinks Cousins can't play, Redskins can't win with him. That's not what I'm saying.

"As an individual entity, Kirk Cousins is not an elite quarterback by any means. He's a bottom half quarterback. He's also extremely good and proficient in that offense. I think it's one of the very best designed offenses in the NFL."

Next: Where can Cousins improve and where he can't

Ben Standig is the Publisher of Breaking Burgundy and the Huddle Report's 2012 NFL Mock Draft champion. You can find him on Twitter @benstandig and on Google+

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