Featured Image Credit: By Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA – Aaron Rodgers, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=73005619
Folks, another football season has almost come and gone which means that it’s time to evaluate and pick apart every little thing. The most fun thing as a sports fan who can throw the ball a maximum of 40 yards in the air on a good day to do is to evaluate the play of the NFL’s best and worst quarterbacks.
Some guys took some huge steps forward this year and other guys took some massive steps back. Some guys made me eat my words from when I did this list over the summer(Ryan Tannehill) and other guys proved me incredibly correct (Jimmy Garoppolo & unranked Cam Newton). You can check out my full preseason list here.
I will break my list down in tiers and have rankings within those tiers. The following tiers will be used to rank quarterbacks: Elite, 2nd Tier Elite, Solid Franchise Quarterback, The Gas Tank is on E, Purgatory, Game Managers, Too Soon to Tell, and Journeymen/Backups.
This list will be based off of guys who I would want heading into next season. This is not a historical list by any means. Let’s get this party started.
The best of the best! These five quarterbacks are franchise carriers.
- Patrick Mahomes- He’s still the best in the game and he should win MVP this season.
- Aaron Rodgers- He’s got a strong case for MVP and looks incredible this season. Jordan Love who?
- Russell Wilson- Based on how Russ has played this season, I feel this is an appropriate ranking. He’s never received an MVP vote and I don’t think he deserves it this year. That being said, he’s easily one of the best three quarterbacks in the league.
- Josh Allen- He did it. He really did it. Josh Allen proved the haters and losers wrong of which there were many. To be fair, he was in my “young quarterbacks I like” category from my summer’s rankings. He made the next step this season and is a legitimate MVP candidate. The sky is literally the limit for him and I hope he hits his incredibly high ceiling and maintains this level of play.
- DeShaun Watson- I get that the Texans suck, but this man is going to finish this season with well over 30 total touchdowns and roughly 5000 total yards of offense. He’s still elite. It’s not his fault that he was drafted by one of the worst franchises in professional football. Imagine if he was drafted by a good team with good weapons at receiver and an elite defense like say, the Bears?!?
2nd Tier Elite
This category features the guys who are championship contending quarterbacks but aren’t the best of the best.
6. Ryan Tannehill- I never thought I’d see the day where I would be making a list and Ryan Tannehill is a top 6 quarterback. That being said, numbers don’t lie and 2019 wasn’t a fluke. He’s incredibly efficient and over the past two seasons has easily been one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He doesn’t make mistakes and he utilizes his weapons properly. The Titans can very easily win a championship with this man at quarterback.
7. Kyler Murray- He may be short but he plays a big game. He’s on pace for over 40 total touchdowns this season and he should get close to 5,000 total yards. He’s also got an incredible arm and is a great passer. I truly believe that Murray can win a Super Bowl in short order with the Cardinals if they improve their defense and become more consistent.
8. Lamar Jackson- Lamar Jackson definitely regressed this season but as I wrote preseason, that was expected. His touchdown percentage was at 9% last season which was completely unsustainable. It’s dropped down to 6.4% at the time of this writing (before Week 17). He will likely have around 1000 rushing yards this season but his ability as a passer isn’t elite by any means. I think this is a fair ranking.
9. Matt Ryan- It’s pretty much business as usual in terms of career numbers for Matt Ryan this season. Unfortunately for him, the Falcons franchise is cursed. He’s still a top ten quarterback.
10. Matthew Stafford- Here’s what I wrote this summer when I ranked Matthew Stafford as the sixth best quarterback in the NFL:
“Many people will say that this is too high but Matthew Stafford is literally the only reason why the Lions have been remotely relevant over the past decade. If you take out his best season in which he played 16 games (2011) and worst season in which he played 16 games (2018) he averages (in the other six seasons where he played all 16 games) 26 touchdowns per game, 4484 yards, and 13.5 interceptions per year. That’s absolutely incredible and if he was on a team that wasn’t run as poorly as the Lions he’d have won an MVP by now.“
He’s on pace for the following statline this season if you don’t count the last Bucs game where he barely played: 4313 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He’s consistently a top 10 quarterback and in a league where so much changes every year teams would kill for a guy like Stafford. Unfortunately for him, the Lions are just as consistent at losing as Stafford is at being a top 10 quarterback. I hope he gets out of town and goes to a contender.
11. Justin Herbert- Guess what? It’s not too early to put Justin Herbert in the second tier elite category. He’s going to finish this season with well over 30 total touchdowns and well over 4000 total yards in 15 games. He can make literally every single throw and he’s got a ton of mauxy. He’s unflappable. Unfortunately for him, he just plays on a bottom feeder franchise. If anyone can change that, it’s him.
Solid Franchise Quarterbacks
12. Joe Burrow- Joey Burreaux would have made a push to be in the second tier elite category if he didn’t have the worst offensive line in football that caused him to cause significant damage to his knee. The injury looked bad and I wouldn’t be surprised if it causes him to miss some time next season. So for now I’ll put him as a solid franchise quarterback. We know what he is and we know he’s gonna be great as long as the Bengals don’t completely ruin him.
13. Dak Prescott- Like Burrow, Dak would have been in the second tier elite category easily if he didn’t have one of the most gruesome injuries I’ve ever seen. Hopefully for his sake he makes a full recovery and gets back to the level he was playing at before his injury. I’ve always been a harsh critic on Dak but he’s clearly a good quarterback. If he played on any other team I’d probably like the guy.
14. Tom Brady- The old man is showing no signs of slowing down. He’s going to be pushing 40 total touchdowns this season and should go well over 4000 yards passing. Is it always pretty? Nope. But he still has a ton of gas in the tank and can easily play a few more seasons if he can keep this up.
15. Jared Goff- You’re never going to get MVP level numbers from Jared Goff but he’s always going to be a quarterback who gives you the chance to get the job done. He’s an above-average quarterback who will rarely cause your team to lose and will occasionally pull a rabbit out of the hat to win a game.
16. Kirk Cousins- This has been a tough season for Kirk Cousins stans like myself. His numbers are pretty good but he just doesn’t pass the eye test this season. Cousins will likely throw for more than 13 interceptions in a season for the first time in his career this year and his touchdown rate of 6.7% is a career high for him as a sixteen game starter which shows that his 32 touchdown passes through 15 games is a bit inflated. It hasn’t been great this year and as a Kirk stan I know he’s capable of more.
17. Philip Rivers- His throwing motion looks terrible right now but the man can still play football. He may hate QB sneaking. He may not always look the part. But numbers don’t lie and the numbers say he’s been solid this year for the Colts. I really think you can squeeze one more season out of Rivers as a quality NFL quarterback before it all goes down hill.
18. Derek Carr- This 18th spot was a toss up between Derek Carr and Baker Mayfield and I gave an extremely slight edge to Derek Carr here. I feel that Carr has made the guys around him better this season and he’s pulled off some impressive wins against the Saints and the Chiefs. He can shine through in the best moments but he doesn’t do it consistently enough.
19. Baker Mayfield- His statline through 14 games (3367 yards/25 touchdowns/8 interceptions) won’t blow you away but he’s a big part of the reason why the Browns are 10-5 so far this year simply because he’s reliable. I also think Baker is cocky enough (in a good way) to not realize that he’s a fringe game manager and that sometimes causes him to make throws and plays that he isn’t capable of making on a consistent basis.
The Tank is on E
Listen, people are going to freak out when they see these two beloved franchise icons ranked lower than the likes of rookie quarterbacks and guys like Derek Carr and Baker Mayfield but I stand by this: Both of these guys NEED to retire next season. It’s not even their stats, it’s that they both look like they’re deteriorating out there. It’s better to get rid of these guys one year too early than one year too late because they both play on good teams. Staying any longer will damage their legacies because they simply cannot play at a high level any longer. Here’s how I’d rank them:
20. Drew Brees- The stats aren’t terrible but man his arm is. He’s become a checkdown king who benefits from having a great scheme that gets guys like Alvin Kamara open and his receivers open on short routes. He also broke half of his ribs this season which sounds painful. Will he get the chance to ride off into the sunset and win one final Super Bowl before retiring? The road will be tough and likely go through Green Bay and Kansas City but never say never.
21. Ben Roethlisberger- Over the course of the Steelers four game losing streak, Big Ben has really started to look his age. I know this may surprise some of you but Ben Roethlisberger isn’t exactly the most well conditioned athlete on the planet. Playing sixteen games per season at his age is looking to be too much. The worst part about this for the Steelers? Ben’s cap hit is $41M next season with a dead cap number of $22M. He’s going to be their quarterback next season and he’s going to hold them back again. The Steelers have to address this position via draft, trade, or free agency to have a succession plan ready ASAP.
This is a new category that I created specifically for two guys who have shown in some seasons that they have the potential to be franchise quarterbacks but due to unique situations or in some cases, poor they’ve been benched. These are two guys that I personally do like as players but they both could need a change of scenery to rejuvenate their careers.
22. Carson Wentz- What a fall from grace it’s been for the once MVP candidate of the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s had a completely terrible year and I can’t blame the Eagles for benching him. I still think that he has the potential to be a franchise quarterback but he may not get that chance again in Philadelphia again. His contract situation is incredibly tricky as his $128M extension doesn’t even kick in until next season. Wentz may be in purgatory but the Eagles are in hell with that contract.
23. Jameis Winston- Poor Jameis Winston. Sean Payton’s obsession with Taysom Hill caused Jameis to not have the chance to prove himself as a legitimate starting quarterback this season when Drew Brees went down. I won’t pin that on Jameis because Sean Payton clearly has a Taysom Hill problem. As a noted Jameis stan, I wish Sean Payton would seek help for his Taysom Hill obsession. It’s not healthy at all and the league deserves a shot to see Jameis Winston as a starting quarterback every Sunday.
This list will consist of your game manager quarterbacks. These are guys who need everything around them to be perfect and they can not carry a franchise.
24. Ryan Fitzpatrick- Critics will say that Ryan Fitzpatrick turns the ball over too much to be considered a game manager but I can confidently say that he’s evolved into someone who can manage the game if he’s on a good team. The thing is that throughout his entire career he’s maybe played on two total good teams, including this one. At this point, he’s a better quarterback than Tua Tagovailoa but Tua’s ceiling is obviously much higher. You can do much worse than Fitzmagic at quarterback and if he gets a chance to go to a situation where he can manage a game then he will be just fine.
25. Jimmy Garoppolo- HA! This guy sucks. I’m being generous by leaving him in this game manager category because he’s been hurt all year but this man will never have the potential to carry a franchise. Never in a million years. He reached his ceiling in 2019. The 49ers need to draft a new quarterback this year if they’re given the opportunity.
Too Soon To Tell
26. Tua Tagovailoa- I like Tua but I just haven’t seen enough to say that he’s a for sure thing like the other two members of his draft class that went in the top 10.
27. Jalen Hurts- Hurts has an “it” factor that you just can’t teach. This man is a born winner and has looked good so far. It will be interesting to see if he’s the starter in Philadelphia moving forward.
28. Taysom Hill- It’s tough for me to write Taysom Hill on this list because I don’t believe that he’s going to be a franchise quarterback. That being said, Sean Payton is obsessed with him and I truly believe that Hill will be given every chance to be the Saints quarterback next year so it’s technically too soon to tell.
29. Daniel Jones- Vanilla Vick has had a brutal sophomore season. He has shown that he doesn’t have the ability to carry a franchise and at best he has a chance to crack into that third tier of quarterbacks. Jones consistently struggles to go through his reads and has less poise than almost any quarterback on this list. As a Giants fan, I’m incredibly concerned about how Daniel Jones has progressed and the future doesn’t look bright in regards to him being a franchise carrying quarterback.
30. Sam Darnold- Listen, it looks really bad right now. Maybe this is my own stubbornness unwilling to give up on my number one ranked quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft but I’m convinced that Adam Gase has ruined Sam Darnold. It’s impossible to judge a quarterback who plays in the worst offensive system that’s in the present day NFL. I’d like to see him get one more chance to prove himself whether that’s with the Jets or with another team since they blew their shot at getting Trevor Lawrence.
31. Teddy Bridgewater- Teddy Bridgewater has earned my respect as a person but I don’t see him as a starting quarterback in the NFL. He’s the type of quarterback where if everything is literally perfect he will not screw it up but he has no ability to elevate anyone on his team. He’s thrown for a career high 3500 yards and 15 touchdowns this season and looked okay while doing so, but those numbers aren’t going to clinch a playoff spot let alone win a championship. His 4-10 record so far this season as a starter proves that. I’d rank him as the best backup quarterback in this league.
32. Mitchell Trubisky- Don’t be fooled. Don’t let this mirage of a season from Mitchell Trubisky make you think that he’s anything more than just a quality backup quarterback. Trubisky has torn up some of the worst defenses in football in his eight starts this season. He’s played Detroit twice, the Giants, Atlanta, Houston, Minnesota, and Jacksonville. These are all teams that are likely destined to be in the top ten of the draft. The only quality team he’s started against this season is Green Bay and the Bears got annihilated against them.
33. Drew Lock- I know what you’re thinking, is it a little bit too early to put Drew Lock on this list instead of the “too soon to tell” portion of this list? My answer to that is a resounding no. We knew what Lock was as a prospect, an erratic quarterback who has an insane arm, and he’s proven to be just that. You can’t trust him. The Broncos need to look elsewhere for a quarterback immediately.
34. Alex Smith- What a story Alex Smith is! He nearly had his leg amputated after having complications from breaking his leg in 2018 and he’s now back out on the field with a chance to clinch a playoff spot in the NFC East. He’s not the player that he used to be but he can absolutely be a solid backup for any team.
35. Gardner Minshew- I feel like if we play our cards right here we can arrange things so that Gardner Minshew becomes the next Ryan Fitzpatrick. They have a similar style of play. They’re both gunslingers and they both are incredibly volatile. Now that the Jaguars are set to take Trevor Lawrence in the coming draft, Minshew isn’t going to be the guy in Jacksonville. That being said, there’s plenty of room for him to go to another team, light the world on fire for a couple of games here and there, and go onto the next town and do the same thing. Just like Ryan Fitzpatrick.
36. Andy Dalton- You could do much worse as a backup quarterback than Andy Dalton. He’s done well for the Cowboys this year in relief.
37. Cam Newton- It’s been a tough go for Cam this season in New England. While he’s rushed for twelve touchdowns, he’s only thrown five. That is incredibly alarming to me because if Newton loses his legs then that essentially makes him completely irrelevant as a passer. He’s clearly on the back nine and he may not have another chance as a starting quarterback. I hope we remember Cam for the good times because he paved the way for a lot of other strong armed, mobile quarterbacks like Josh Allen.
38. Nick Foles- When I was a kid my parents would always tell me about how Jeff Hostetler won a Super Bowl as a backup quarterback for the New York Giants in 1990. Hostetler went on to start for the Raiders for a couple of seasons but ultimately was never anything spectacular. Nick Foles is the modern day Jeff Hostetler.
39. Jacoby Brissett- I love how this guy comes in to do QB sneaks because Philip Rivers won’t. He’s a great teammate and a solid backup quarterback.
40. C.J. Beathard- He’s been much better than Nick Mullens this season. Good for him.