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The Top 40 Quarterbacks Heading Into the 2021 NFL Season

Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Folks, training camp is about to open up which means it’s time to start pumping out NFL prediction content to debate about and roast until football kicks off and our souls are returned to normal. I’ll be kicking off my predictions/debate series with the Top 40 Quarterbacks heading into the 2021 NFL season.

These rankings are based on my projections heading into the 2021 NFL season. In other words, this is how I think the players stack up right now heading into the season. This isn’t based on the past as much as it is based on their current situation.

This will also only count for players who are set to play in the 2021 NFL season. For example, there’s close to a zero percent chance that Deshaun Watson is going to end up playing this season due to his complicated legal situation. So he’s not on my list.

Let’s get to the rankings!

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Elite Tier

These guys are the five best quarterbacks in the game. Nobody else is on their level.

1. Patrick Mahomes- You can expect to see Patrick Mahomes on top of this list for a long time, at least until Arch Manning is drafted by my Giants.

2. Aaron Rodgers- Speaking of future Giants quarterbacks ;)…..Aaron Rodgers comes in at number two on this list. I sincerely hope he is able to get out of Green Bay. That franchise has left him out to dry time and time again. Drafting Jordan Love was a huge mistake and I hope he makes them pay for it by forcing his way out of town.

3. Russell Wilson- Mr. Unlimited had 40 touchdowns last season. But what if I told you that just 14 of them came Week 8 and beyond? The Seahawks offense really slowed down the second half of the season. Their division will be much tougher this year. Russell Wilson will really need to be at his best if they’re going to make the playoffs in 2021.

4. Josh Allen- How can you not love Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills? When he’s on his game, Allen is one of the most fun quarterbacks in the league to watch. He’s also one of the best. A 4544 yard, 37 touchdown, 10 interception season will solidify you as one of the best in the league. He also tacked on 421 rushing yards and 8 rushing touchdowns. So that’s 4965 total yards and 45 total touchdowns for those keeping track at home. Insane stuff.

5. Tom Brady- I mistakenly ranked Tom Brady as the 14th best quarterback in the league at the end of last regular season. I will never do that again. Tom Brady is elite until he’s no longer elite. He may only have a couple of seasons left but until we actually see a massive decline from him then it’s not right to take him off the top of this list.

2nd Tier Elite

This category features the guys who are championship contending quarterbacks but aren’t the best of the best.

6. Matthew Stafford- There’s definitely a chance that when it’s all said and done that Matthew Stafford ends up being in the elite category by the end of this season. That’s how confident I am in his ability combined with the fact that he’s going into the best situation of his life with Sean McVay as his coach. I’m really excited to see what Stafford does this coming season.

7. Justin Herbert- Yes, he’s that good. Herbert had the best statistical rookie season of all time. The Chargers lost games that were way out of his control due to them simply being the Chargers. I expect that to happen far less this season. On top of that, their offensive line rebuild got a massive boost when Rashawn Slater, a top ten player in the draft, fell to them at number 13.

8. Kyler Murray- Murray is a dual threat quarterback so you can’t just look at him through the lens of his throwing stats, which were pretty damn good last season as he had 3971 yards, 26 touchdowns, and just 12 interceptions. Last year he also showed he could get the job done on the ground when he ran for 819 yards and 11 touchdowns. So his season totals were 4790 total yards and 37 total touchdowns accounted for. You take that all day long. You can make an argument that Murray can hit another gear this season, too.

9. Lamar Jackson- Lamar Jackson had a predictable statistical decline last season but it wasn’t substantial enough to bring him out of the top 10. He still threw for 26 touchdowns and just 9 interceptions. He also rushed for over 1000 yards again and tacked on 7 rushing touchdowns. He’s got a great weapon coming into Baltimore this season in Rashod Bateman as well.

10. Ryan Tannehill- In 26 games with the Titans, Ryan Tannell has thrown for 56 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions. He’s also thrown for 234 yards per game. I get that he’s got a great supporting cast but he’s putting up incredible numbers and making the best of it with them.

11. Dak Prescott- I spend way too much time as a Giants fan defending Dak Prescott. It honestly makes me sick. But the reality is that over the past two seasons, Dak Prescott has been an extremely good quarterback who has taken the next step. Let’s look at the numbers:

Average Stats from 2016-2018: 3625 yards, 22.3 touchdowns, 8.3 interceptions

Average Stats from 2019-2020: 5,149 yards, 30 touchdowns, 11 interceptions

He’s clearly taken the next step. On top of that, we all saw how hilariously bad the Dallas Cowboys were without him last season. As much as it pains me to say it, Dak is the real deal.

12. Matt Ryan- Let’s do my favorite exercise when looking at the long term success of a quarterback: Take out their worst season and take out their best season and see what their average stats are when you do that. For Matt Ryan, I am going to take out 2009 as his worst season and his MVP season of 2016 as his best season.

Here are his career averages per season when you do that: 4355 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions

You take that all day long from your quarterback. With that being said, Ryan is clearly on the back nine and I personally feel as if the Falcons should have drafted Justin Fields with their fourth overall pick instead of taking Kyle Pitts. It’s hard for me to think that Ryan’s best days are ahead of him when he’s 36 and the Falcons are clearly going through a rebuild. It’s eerily similar to Eli Manning’s last few seasons with the Giants to me.

13. Joe Burrow- The biggest issue that Joe Burrow had in his rookie season was that his offensive line was determined to get him murdered. They succeeded in their mission and he had to have major knee surgery which is obviously not ideal for someone so early in their career. With that being said, his rookie season was nice through the ten starts he was able to make as he posted 2688 yards, 13 touchdowns, and just 5 interceptions. He will have more weapons at his disposal this season with college teammate Ja’Marr Chase and an offensive line that will be slightly improved.

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Solid Franchise Quarterbacks/Win With Quarterbacks

These are guys that will not regularly will their teams to victory but if the team is good enough, you can win with them.

14. Kirk Cousins- Kirk Cousins is the only QB in the NFL to throw for 25+ touchdowns in each season since 2015. He doesn’t get the love he deserves. I’ve always been a Kirk Cousins stan, but at the end of the day his teams don’t win because of him. If that were the case, he would have proven it by now. You can win with him, but you’re not going to win because of him.

15. Baker Mayfield- Ahhh good ole Baker Mayfield comes in at number 15 on this list. This will most definitely be a point of contention in our 366 Sports group chat as 90% of what we talk about in the chat these days is Baker Mayfield. It’s safe to say that Baker is the most polarizing quarterback in the NFL today. People, like Chuck from Browns 366, really love Baker. Then there’s the people like Colin Cowherd or Matt from 366 Sports who despise his existence.

I’m more in the middle with Baker. I think he’s a fine quarterback. He had an incredible supporting cast last season and didn’t mess it up. He threw for the lowest yardage total of his career with just 3563 yards but he also threw just 8 interceptions in 2020 which was 13 less than he threw in 2019.

So what does that tell me? He’s a guy you can win with. He’s not going to will his team to victory week in and week out like some of the other quarterbacks on this list but he’s also not going to shoot his team in the foot. That alone is likely worthy of a statue in Cleveland. Only time will tell if we get more of the same in year four or if he’s able to find that other gear this coming season.

16. Carson Wentz- I’m taking a chance putting Wentz this high and hoping for his sake that a change in scenery will help him because last season was atrocious. His play on the field was terrible and his head clearly wasn’t in the game with Jalen Hurts eventually taking his job. If he doesn’t get it together in Indianapolis this season then his time is up.

17. Derek Carr- Carr has had two nice seasons in a row where he’s taken care of the ball and been efficient. It’s not his fault that his defense is atrocious and his offensive line is abysmal. The Raiders are a bad franchise and Derek Carr is not a strong enough quarterback to will them to victory. With that being said, if they can ever get it together and every single star aligns, maybe they can win a couple of playoff games.

18. Jameis Winston- The haters will say that Jameis Winston is ranked too high on this list. In reality, he could be too low. Maybe I’ve spent too much time listening to Jameis1of1 but when you look at Winston, the talent is there. It’s not his fault that the inept Buccaneers organization didn’t get his eyes checked. Plus, look at these dimes he’s tossing to TreQuan Smith in practice that will definitely (*wink wink*) be an indicator of how he will look on the field.

Jameis Winston to the moon. If Sean Payton starts Taysom Hill then he should be launched into the sun.

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Game Managers/Rookies Who Will Start Right Away

I put these two categories together because if a prized rookie quarterback performs how they are expected to perform then they will generally be in this category as a rookie before ascending.

19. Trevor Lawrence- Lawrence was the best draft prospect to come out since Andrew Luck. There’s no denying that. It wouldn’t shock me if when I do this list again at the end of the 2021 season he’s in the top 10 because that’s how good I think he can be. With that being said, his situation in Jacksonville isn’t going to be extremely ideal this season and I want it noted that I think Urban Meyer is an idiot who is going to fail as a head coach at the NFL level before faking an illness and retiring again.

20. Jared Goff- We are about to find out how good Jared Goff really is this season as he’s playing on a Lions team that Vegas has projected to win just 5 games this coming season. He’s also losing Sean McVay who was a large reason behind Goff’s success considering that Goff came out of college and couldn’t even run a huddle.

After showing out his first two seasons under Sean McVay averaging 4383 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions per sixteen games, Goff really slowed down to game manager status the last two seasons. He averaged slightly more yards per sixteen games with 4464 yards (likely due to nearly 70 more attempts per sixteen games), but averaged just 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

His situation in Detroit will be less ideal and he’s likely just a bridge quarterback until they find someone better to replace him with. On a side note, a lot of people are bashing on Detroit and the great state of Michigan saying that Goff is losing out massively by having to move there. Those people couldn’t be more wrong. Actually go to Michigan and see for yourselves how lovely it is before judging the entire state on Detroit.

21. Ryan Fitzpatrick- The journeyman quarterback is playing on his ninth team in his long and illustrious NFL career. Fitzpatrick, who has more passing yards than Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Kurt Warner, and Steve Young, will be a massive upgrade over the likes of Alex Smith and Dwayne Haskins for the Washington DC NFL Franchise this coming season.

With that being said, don’t expect Fitzpatrick to lead this team to the Super Bowl. They very well could be in contention to win a bad NFC East division but anything beyond that will be gravy. Also expect him to pass Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly in passing yards this season.

22. Zach Wilson- Wilson is a tremendous prospect with an electric arm and great mobility. I’m excited to see what he does this season. The biggest downfall for him is that he’s on the Jets who are a miserable team and organization.

You’re Killing Your Legacy, Retire

23. Ben Roethlisberger- This has to be the end, right? Like it’s getting to the point where it’s becoming sad watching Big Ben struggle through games late in the season. The Steelers started 11-0 last season but finished just 12-4 and got bounced in the first round by the Cleveland Browns in the playoffs. Roethlisberger’s play was a big part of that. He simply looked exhausted.

The good news for Steelers fans is that after seventeen seasons, Big Ben finally cares about his health!

Your Seat is On Fire

All of these quarterbacks have something to play for. If they don’t play well, they very well could be looking for new jobs after this season.

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24. Sam Darnold- The former number 3 pick was traded to the Carolina Panthers this offseason and he will be the starting quarterback there in what will be his last chance to prove that he belongs in the NFL. If he’s worth anything, he will be able to do well in an offense led by Matt Rhule and Joe Brady with weapons like Christian McCaffrey, DJ Moore, and Robbie Anderson, and Terrace Marshall.

25. Jimmy Garoppolo- Italian Dalton is living on borrowed time at this point. Yes, he may start the season out as the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers but there’s no chance he finishes the season as the starter. Colin Cowherd’s son-in-law Trey Lance is taking his job and Jimmy G is essentially auditioning to be a starting quarterback elsewhere in the 2021 season.

26. Tua Tagovailoa- Tua’s rookie year wasn’t great. It was fine but it was nothing to write home about. I said all along that Justin Herbert was the superior quarterback to Tua and the Dolphins are going to regret taking Tua over him. That’s looking to be very true right about now. If Tua doesn’t have a good year this year then the Dolphins can use their arsenal of draft picks to move up and get someone else.

27. Jalen Hurts- 2021 is Jalen Hurts’ chance to prove that he’s the guy in Philly. If he’s not, they will use their three first round picks to move up and get the quarterback of their choice in the 2022 NFL Draft.

28. Daniel Jones- Guys, Daniel Jones stinks. He isn’t the guy that the Giants need and he never will be. He’s done nothing to alleviate the concerns that scouts had about him in college and if he doesn’t have a good year this year then the Giants will use their plethora of draft picks to move up in the draft and replace him. Jones was also the worst quarterback in the league in the red zone last season per Sharp Football Analysis which is surprising considering the one thing Jones does well is use his legs.

29. Taysom Hill- If Sean Payton prefers Taysom Hill over Jameis Winston then I’m gonna lose my mind. He’s not a real quarterback. He’s a guy who can be used in a sub package occasionally to catch the defense off guard. This experiment will end poorly if he’s given the keys to the offense full time.

30. Drew Lock- Last of this group and certainly least is Drew Lock. The only thing Drew Lock loves more than being inaccurate and turning the ball over is wasting another year of the Denver Broncos time. The Broncos roster is good but he’s going to hold them back this season in a big way.

Rookies Who Won’t Play Right Away

I want it noted that I ranked my quarterbacks like this heading into the 2021 NFL Draft: Lawrence, Wilson, Lance, Fields, Jones. I really believe in the top four guys and I don’t believe in Mac Jones.

31. Trey Lance- Lance may need a year to be seasoned but he’s going to be really good when he finally plays.

32. Justin Fields- Fields has some processing issues but if he can get those together then he’s going to be the steal of the 2021 NFL Draft.

33. Mac Jones- Jones has limited mobility and is a statue. Belichick is one of the only coaches who could make that work in today’s league.

Journeymen/Backups

34. Teddy Bridgewater- While the Teddy Bridgewater hype train is dead, I guarantee he starts at least a few games this season in place of Drew Lock, who is terrible.

35. Andy Dalton- QB1 QB35

36. Gardner Minshew- Gardner Minshew is a trade away from becoming the next Ryan Fitzpatrick. His career so far has actually been pretty good. He’s averaged 240 yards per game with 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 23 starts. You can do a lot worse than Gardner Minshew as your quarterback. He’s so low on this list because his ceiling for this coming season is capped.

37. Mitchell Trubisky- This guy is a backup and that’s where he belongs. Total bust of a pick at number 2.

38. Cam Newton- How the mighty have fallen. In his last 17 starts he’s had just 8 passing touchdowns and 11 interceptions. While he did tack on 12 rushing scores last season, you simply can’t win in the NFL if your quarterback can’t throw anymore and Cam can’t.

39. Tyrod Taylor- Taylor is likely to be the starting quarterback in Houston this year while Deshaun Watson gets his legal situation sorted out.

40. Jacoby Brissett- Brissett is one of my favorite backups in the league. He’s also my favorite QB sneak specialist.

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