A year ago I engaged in one of the ultimate exercises in futility, trying to loosely rank the 32 likely NFL starting quarterbacks into tiers. I sought to find natural points of delineation between clusters of passers.

One spring later, I’m going to double down on the matter and take a look back at last year’s list and adjust it accordingly. I’ll be grading myself, more or less, and taking stock of which QBs are rising and which have taken a tumble, perhaps for good. As a reminder from a year ago, this isn’t a 1-32 ranking, per se, but more of me trying to find seven firm categories that apply across the board, and then seeing which quarterbacks make the most sense within them.

I opted to limit it to 32 quarterbacks again this season. There are five additions to the list from a year ago -- Dak Prescott, Jimmy Garoppolo, Mike Glennon, Josh McCown and Brian Hoyer -- and six departures: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Blaine Gabbert Robert Griffin III, Teddy BridgewaterBrock Osweiler and Jay Cutler. I opted to leave Tony Romo within the top 32, because I still believe he is a starting quarterback in 2017, somewhere. And by somewhere, I mean you, Houston, which explains the absence of Tom Savage or, gulp, Brandon Weeden from this list.

I also don’t have any of the Browns’ current quarterbacks on the list -- sorry, Osweiler -- because I am holding that spot open for Garoppolo. Frankly, I’m very comfortable with Jimmy G on this list rather than any number of stop-gap backups like Matt Schaub, Chase Daniel, Case Keenum, etc.

If you currently are without a contract -- Cutler, Fitzpatrick, Colin Kaepernick -- at this stage of the offseason, you aren’t on the list. I went back and forth on adding Trevor Siemian to the ledger, but in the end I stuck with Paxton Lynch, who represented the Broncos here a year ago. All things being equal, I expect Lynch to win that job eventually this year, although, for the record, I would put Siemian in Tier 5 (guys, veterans and place holders) if he were included.

Some of the biggest risers include Matt Ryan, who bounced back in 2017 with an MVP campaign after one of the worst seasons of his career. Matthew Stafford, Ryan Tannehill and Tyrod Taylor showed me enough to get a nice bump up a few tiers as well. As I wrote a year ago, I agonized over putting Taylor in at least Tier 4 a year ago. On the other end of the spectrum, Joe Flacco and Carson Palmer took a tumble, and while I was only lukewarm on Blake Bortles to begin with (he didn’t crack my rising stars category), he plummeted, too.

By and large I feel pretty good about my maiden voyage with this list a year ago and mostly there are cosmetic changes, like shipping out a journeyman at the bottom of the list in place of another journeyman who has now secured that starting job. I think I’d give myself a solid B, overall, for the 2016 effort. Below I break down the tiers again and show where I differ from a year ago:

Tier 1: Bona fide franchise quarterbacks

2016: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton
2017: Brady, Rodgers, Roethlisberger, Wilson, Newton, Drew Brees

I struggled with where to put Brees a year ago and after much hand wringing I barely slotted him in Tier 2, with concerns about Father Time catching up to him and how much the Saints had to throw the ball from behind and what that might mean for his health moving forward. But he should’ve been in this group all along and he showed it again in 2016. I’m giving Newton a mulligan because he had no offensive line and other teams were allowed to assault him, beginning with the opener in Denver a year ago.

If one of these two is your starting QB, you’re set.  USATSI

Tier 2: Top pros, proven winners

2016: Brees, Tony Romo, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer
2017: Matt Ryan, Manning, Rivers, Derek Carr, Matthew Stafford, Romo

I’ve long been bullish on Carr, and his MVP-like campaign hastened his ascent from Tier 3 (rising stars) to this list. It won’t be long before he is in the top tier. Stafford’s game has improved since joining up with coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and cutting down on some mistakes. I still believe Romo can be a very high-end starter if given the chance, though this obviously could be his last stand. Will Ryan drop off some after losing coordinator Kyle Shanahan to the 49ers and losing the Super Bowl in dramatic fashion? Regardless, barring a total flop he belongs in this tier.

Carr is well on his way to becoming a franchise QB. USATSI

Tier 3: Rising stars

2016: Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Andrew Luck, Derek Carr
2017: Mariota, Winston, Luck, Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz, Jimmy Garoppolo

Luck’s serious injury turn the last two seasons has to give you pause. He’s going to miss this entire offseason and who knows how much of the preseason recovering from shoulder surgery and his ascent has stalled some the past two years. Mariota and Winston could end up in Tier 1 before all is said and done. I also refuse to believe that the Pats squat on Garoppolo for multiple years and I would love to see what he can do starting every Sunday. Prescott’s 2016 season was historic and took the league by storm after Romo got hurt again in the preseason. We’ll see if there is any sophomore slump with expectations now sky high. Wentz is also on the right trajectory in Philly.

Can Prescott take the next step in 2017? USATSI

Tier 4: You can win with them

2016: Andy Dalton, Blake Bortles, Kirk Cousins, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Teddy Bridgewater
2017: Cousins, Dalton, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Tannehill

I went back and forth with putting Cousins in the second tier after a second-straight franchise record season with the Redskins. If he does it again this season after losing top targets DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in free agency, he’ll be there soon enough. Taylor continues to make great decisions with the football and develop. Hopefully some stability in Buffalo will only help him. Tannehill blossomed under quarterback guru Adam Gase and took major strides, though him missing offseason work recovering from a knee injury is hardly ideal.

Cousins faces another big contract year in 2017. USATSI

Tier 5: Guys, veterans and place holders

2016: Alex Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler
2017: Smith, Flacco, Palmer, Josh McCown, Brian Hoyer, Mike Glennon, Sam Bradford

Flacco needs a bounce-back season after going through expected rough patches in his return from ACL surgery a year ago. He still has no weapons and Baltimore’s defense has fallen off significantly from its stint as a perennial Super Bowl threat and pressure is mounting for Flacco to get back to top form. He’s thrown 17 interceptions in the last two seasons (26 games), which has to stop. This is Palmer’s last stand, after seriously contemplating retirement a year ago. I have tempered expectations, at best, for Glennon in Chicago, and Bradford takes a small step up from a year ago after staying healthy and managing the game with the Vikings.

Flacco faces a big season after struggling in 2016. USATSI

Tier 6: Good luck

2016: Taylor, RG III, Brock Osweiler, Tannehill, Bradford, Blaine Gabbert
2017: Bortles

Well, I certainly had the Osweiler thing tagged. What. A. Disaster. I suspect we’ve seen the last of RG3 or Gabbert starting an NFL game for quite some time, if not forever. Bortles may be on his last legs in Jacksonville -- anything close to his 2016 play and Tom Coughlin will be moving on from him.

Tier 7: The verdict is out

2016: Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch
2017: Goff, Lynch

Nothing has changed much here, other than the fact that these two are very raw was amplified in their limited debuts as rookies. Former Rams coach Jeff Fisher held off on playing Goff longer than anyone else on the planet thought possible -- he always seemed to have trepidation about how ready the kid was -- and Lynch got a few chances to play and flashed a bit but largely looked like someone learning to think and play like a pro quarterback for the first time. There is still plenty of potential for both, but it’s fair to say the verdict remains out. And soon enough we might say the same for Mitch Trubisky, Pat Mahomes and the four or five kids taken in the first round at the end of the month, though I suspect only one to two, at most, get the chance to play regularly in 2017.

The Broncos expect big things from Lynch in 2017. USATSI