A few weeks ago, ESPN released their top 10 QB rankings as polled by league insiders. I read through it and naturally, I had disagreements. I’ve never been a fan of “anonymous exec” analysis. (In fact, a few days ago, Mike Sando released his annual QB tier list, the crown jewel of anonymous exec analysis. I read through it every year and almost always disagree, but I haven’t read through it yet as I don’t want it to influence my already planned analysis here.) That’s not to say I don’t respect expert analysis. I just feel the people quoted in these types of pieces almost always speak in cliche and are often incorrect in doing so. So I decided to go ahead and give my own list a try.
The last time I did a full QB rankings (I am only doing the top ten here) was in 2014. Safe to say, a lot has changed since then. With most of the old guard retired, it’s sort of a weird time for QBs. There’s a very clear elite class of young guns in the AFC, some middling veterans, and then a lot of young guys that we really don’t have enough information about yet.
As ESPN did in their list, I decided to focus on the state of QBs right now to make things a little easier. While it’s almost impossible not to include historical analysis, I tried to mainly keep the focus on where these guys stand coming off of last year as we head into the season. I also decided to discount guys with lingering injury questions, such as Matthew Stafford and Jimmy Garoppolo.
This was a fun exercise for me, not just in coming up with the rankings, but in really looking at individuals as players, how they’ve developed, and what they have to offer.
Obviously, you won’t agree with my list, because it’s practically impossible to make a QB list that everyone agrees with. But I hope you’ll appreciate my reasoning. Remember, the analysis is just as important as the ranking, if not more! And if you really don’t think I know what I’m talking about, then I hope I will at least give you something to talk about on social media, if only to disagree.
This stuff is constantly changing, as I’m sure it will as soon as the season gets going. But for now, let’s jump right in and see what I came up with!
The Top 10 Quarterbacks In The NFL Right Now
Given all the difficulty, subjectivity, and inherent controversy involved in coming up with a QB rankings list, how about we start with an easy one? That’s Patrick Mahomes, who comes in as the number 1 QB in the league on my list, and an easy and non-controversial one at that.
We all know about Mahomes’s incredibly long list of accomplishments. His numbers, both volume and efficiency, regular season and playoffs, standard and advanced, are all out of this world. He just won his second Super Bowl ring, his second regular season MVP award, and his first Super Bowl MVP, all in the first five years of his career as a starter.
But the amazing thing about Mahomes is that you don’t even really need his numbers to justify how good he is. You can see it all simply by watching him play.
Mahomes is a generational player at his position that can truly make any throw. But just as important, if not more, is that he knows when to make them. He’ll make the “wow” throws, no doubt about it, but he’s not going to force it deep just to show off his arm strength. And he’s a really good decision-maker; he simply does not make a lot of mistakes. The guy can throw it short, intermediate, deep, throw from the pocket, throw from the run, or pick up yards on the ground. There’s just so much to defend when you’re facing him.
Mahomes plays with a ton of creativity and with phenomenal vision. He can see the whole field. It’s like the game moves in slow motion for him. He’s never reacting or panicking; he’s always in control. And even if you call the perfect defense, Mahomes can still beat you. He throws the ball with power, accuracy, and touch, and can put the ball pretty much anywhere.
Mahomes can play any game that you need him to play. Early in his career, he was a bombs-away QB that made a living chucking it deep downfield to Tyreek Hill. Now that Hill has gone and defenses are playing more two-deep, the Chiefs offense evolved into more of a sustaining offense involving running backs and tight ends. And Mahomes barely missed a beat. Remember when people would say how Mahomes was only good because of Tyreek? So much for that take. As talented and good as Mahomes has been from the start, he’s still growing and getting smarter. With him, the sky truly is the limit.
At the end of the day, Mahomes is a generational player whose dominance is really unlike anything we’ve ever seen before in this league. He’s essentially like if prime Peyton Manning (think 2004-2006) could run and throw off-platform.
The question with Mahomes is not if he’s the best QB in the league. It’s if he’ll finish his career as the best QB to ever play. Whether or not that’s going to happen, it’s way too early to say for sure. But that’s the path he’s currently on.
2) Josh Allen
Josh Allen will forever be known as the rare 3rd-year breakout QB. As a prospect coming out of college, he had serious accuracy issues. That remained the case early in his career, as he simply wasn’t very good the first few years of his career. He’d make the occasional splash play, but he was mostly a sloppy QB that was carried by his defense and running game.
But in 2020, that totally switched. He took the type of leap that you don’t usually see from QBs, certainly at that point in their career. His completion percentage jumped over ten points. He threw for almost 1,500 more yards and 17 more touchdowns. I won’t bore you with the rest of his numbers, but you saw similar abnormally large leaps. Overall, Allen went from being carried by his team to carrying the team, and that remains the case today.
Allen is probably the most physically gifted QB in the NFL. He’s a huge (6’5”, 237), power thrower with an easy release. He can also run: He clocked in a 4.76 40 at the combine, and with that frame, he’ll finish runs. He always was talented, but with the improved accuracy, touch, and decision-making, he’s truly dangerous.
Josh Allen is a bit of a gunslinger. He can, at times, be a bit erratic and inconsistent. But there’s no one that can take over a game quite like Allen–just like he did in the KC playoff loss in 2020. (That was the game where the Bills took the lead with 13 seconds left and then proceeded to lose.) It was one of the best playoff performances from a QB you’ll see, certainly in a losing effort. The team starts and ends with him, and because of that, he earns my number 2 spot.
Allen always had the highest ceiling in the NFL. It was just a question of raising his floor. Now that he’s done that, he’s a true force to be reckoned with.
Congratulations to Justin Herbert, who just got a big-time extension and pay raise! Clearly, the Chargers feel similarly about him as I do.
Like Mahomes and Allen, Herbert was a talented but inconsistent college QB who put it all together and became a top QB in the NFL. But unlike those two, Herbert was great from day one (Mahomes sat behind Alex Smith for a year before starting).
Don’t pay attention to the criticisms about the lack of winning or playoff success for Herbert. Winning is a team effort, and Herbert consistently elevates the Chargers and gives them chances to win despite the inconsistent defense, coaching, and special teams–among other things. The Chargers didn’t overnight turn into a competent organization just because they drafted Herbert.
Herbert is incredibly physically gifted. He stands tall at 6’6” and has an incredibly crisp, over-the-top delivery. He throws a beautiful ball and has a very strong arm. As some have said before, if you could build a perfect QB in a lab, Herbert is probably what they would end up looking like.
Like the two QBs above him on this list, Herbert is a transcendent player. He’s a true franchise QB who can play in any system. He’s smart, accurate, mobile, and a good decision-maker.
Herbert was significantly limited last year in a Joe Lombardi system that tried to turn him into a check-down QB (not to mention injuries to the WR position). It was a poor scheme fit. He should be much better under new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.
Of course, Herbert is not perfect. He’ll have a few bad games or bad INTs here and there. But overall, he’s shown more than enough to earn this spot on my rankings. He’s a joy to watch, and he’s not the problem with the Chargers.
4) Joe Burrow
Anyone who watched Burrow’s record-setting college season in 2019 knew that he would be a star in the NFL. And sure enough, a star is what he has become.
Burrow lacks the elite physical traits of the top 3 QBs on my list, but he makes up for it by being a master of the subtleties of the position. He excels with accuracy, timing, poise, and sneaky good mobility. And of course, he plays with confidence and swagger. Burrow has already had some elite peaks, throwing for over 500 yards and 5 total touchdowns in a win against the Ravens in 2021. He also threw for over 400 yards and 4 touchdowns in a win against the Chiefs that year.
Burrow took the Bengals to the Super Bowl in 2021 by consistently connecting with Jamarr Chase down the field. But he took too many sacks during that run, and he has at times struggled with defenses playing more 2 deep since then. Like Mahomes did, he will have to adjust to checking it down more when defenses take away the big play.
I don’t know if Burrow and the Bengals will get back to the Super Bowl. But I do know that, barring any significant injury, he’ll be in this league and with the Bengals for a long time.
Rodgers is one of the last remaining QBs from the last era. Brady, the Mannings, Brees, Big Ben, and Rivers all retired. Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, and Matthew Stafford are either done or close to done. And then there’s Rodgers.
Rodgers has had an interesting career path, especially of late. The start of his career was Mahomes-esque. Peak Rodgers, from 2009-2014, won a ring, won MVP in 2011 with one of the best seasons ever, and then had another peak MVP season in 2014.
But from 2015-2019, he went through a prolonged slump, largely driven by an unwillingness to play on schedule and an over-reliance on improvisational plays. He went through stretches where his old self would show up–like in early 2015 and late 2016–but it’s hard to win consistently with that play style, especially against elite defenses.
The Packers went through a coaching change and the new staff, much to Rodgers’ chagrin, traded up to draft Rodgers’ replacement in Jordan Love. But then, Rodgers returned to form and started playing on time again, perhaps in part due to a decrease in speed. He won back-to-back MVPs in 2020 and 2021, bringing his total to 4, one short of Peyton Manning. But he was still unable to return to the Super Bowl. The 2020 NFC Championship loss wasn’t his fault, but the last two years have seen diminishing returns.
Rodgers also started to become increasingly vocal and unlikable off the field, as well as a bit of a drama queen. And he increasingly expressed his dissatisfaction with the Packers organization.
Now after years of will they or won’t they, the Packers finally cut the cord and decided to move forward with Jordan Love. Rodgers now follows the path of his predecessor and heads to New York to try to win that elusive second ring.
Rodgers was definitely off last year, but receivers and drops were part of the issue. He’s still an incredibly talented thrower, and when he’s on, he makes the impossible look easy.
But he’s closer to the end than the beginning, and his mobility has declined. Now he goes to a Jets team that has pieces and seems ready to compete but is in need of a QB. In theory, he has what he wants, and he should be happy.
Can he make one last run before retirement? I honestly don’t know. But one thing I do know is that whatever does happen, I’m sure he’ll have something to say about it.
6) Jalen Hurts
Hurts is a tough one to rank. You can’t give in too much to recency bias and team success, but you have to give credit where credit is due.
Ultimately, this seems like the right spot. Hurts is clearly not at the level of passer as those above him, but not giving him a significant bump after last year seems wrong.
There’s no question that the Eagles were a good team last year. Whether it was coaching, personnel, offensive line, running game, wide receivers (hello AJ Brown and Devonta Smith), or special teams, the Eagles were talented and well-rounded. But Hurts was a part of that and a big part of their formula.
Leadership and improvement has defined Jalen Hurts throughout his career. As a starter at Bama, he was a very raw passer. The offense was almost entirely built around his legs with very simple one-read throws built in. After being benched for Tua Tagovailoa, Hurts showed improvement as a passer when he led Bama to a 4th quarter comeback win in the SEC Championship in relief of an injured Tua the following year. He again showed improvement after transferring to Oklahoma and finishing the year as a Heisman Trophy candidate. As a rookie in the NFL, he outplayed incumbent starter Carson Wentz in Doug Pederson’s system. And then again, after coming into this year with his long-term starting prospects on the Eagles in doubt, Hurts had an excellent season and led the Eagles to the Super Bowl. He also landed a nice fat check along the way.
Hurts’s role on the Eagles last year reminded me a bit of Cam Newton on the Panthers in 2015. This offense was truly built around the QB as the starting point, in the gun, as a dual-threat passer and runner. It utilized a run game with lots of different looks and action in the backfield, causing defenses to have to account for both Hurts and the halfback as runners. Off of that, the Eagles mixed in the quick RPO game with one on one deep shots to the outside. On those deep balls, Hurts gives his guys a chance and throws a catchable ball.
Hurts was an MVP candidate last year, and his passing numbers were actually solid and better than you’d expect. He threw for 8 yards per attempt, was 4th in the league in QBR, and had an approximate value of 20. (I don’t know exactly how high the scale goes for AV, but 20 is very good. For what it’s worth, Tom Brady in 2007 and Aaron Rodgers in 2011–two of the best seasons ever–both had AVs of 23.) Not to mention, Hurts had an excellent performance in the Super Bowl. That loss was not on him.
Hurts may never be or look like the most natural thrower of the football, but at some point, it doesn’t matter. Whether or not he can repeat the kind of success he had last year is something we’ll have to wait and see. But if he’s shown us one thing throughout his career, it’s to never underestimate him.
Like Hurts, Lamar Jackson is another dual-threat quarterback whose offense is built around him as a runner–really to a degree we’ve never seen before. Jackson has always had insane wheels going back to his college days, and his legs aren’t just a compliment or a gimmick in the Ravens offense. They are built into it structurally year in and year out. Jackson has never had less than 764 yards rushing in seasons where he entered the year as the starter. (In 2018, when he took over for Joe Flacco midway through the season, he had 695 yards rushing.)
He had over 1,000 yards rushing in both 2019 and 2020. Jackson is first, fourth, and fifth when it comes to most single-season rushing attempts by a QB. Hurts is second and Fields is third–both last year–but it’s hard to see either of those two approaches being implemented if it weren’t for Jackson showing it was not only possible but effective.
With Jackson, it’s very easy to get caught up in the questions about what he can’t do. Can he win consistently if you take away the running game–his included? Can he win in the playoffs? Can he elevate the play of his outside wide receivers?
We don’t really yet know the answers to those questions. They may be no. But focusing on them too much makes it easy to overlook how electric and impressive he has been up to this point, something that a lot of people seem to take for granted.
Lamar Jackson’s 2019 MVP season was excellent. He was explosive as a runner (over 1,200 yards rushing and 6.9 yards per carry) and insanely efficient as a passer. He had a touchdown percentage of 9%, a QBR of 83 (out of 100), and an approximate value of 25. (This makes it clear that AV overvalues rushing to some extent, but it’s still impressive.) His numbers haven’t been quite as good since then, as defenses in 2019 were not yet used to the kind of novel offense the Ravens were running. Still, Jackson’s been solid, and we’ve seen him grow as a passer.
We know that Jackson is an explosive runner, but outside of that, his running ability helps keep the Ravens offense on schedule, something Ben Solak of the Ringer has talked about in the past. Always having to account for Jackson on handoffs gives the Ravens offense a schematic advantage. Let’s say the Ravens offense takes a negative play on first down and gets behind the sticks. For most offenses, that would now be a passing down. With the Ravens, Jackson can keep it for six yards on an option play and get you back in a manageable third down.
I’ve never been the biggest fan of Jackson’s arm strength, even though it has improved since his rookie year. But one thing he absolutely does have is arm talent. Jackson can throw with touch, can throw on and off schedule, and can make throws from different platforms and arm angles. That creativity and versatility is another asset that Jackson brings to the Ravens offense.
The Ravens bringing in Todd Monken from Georgia to run their offense in place of Greg Roman is fascinating to me. Roman has essentially become the “run QB” OC in the NFL, having schemed up college-style pistol/option offenses for Colin Kaepernick, Tyrod Taylor, and Lamar Jackson. This was incredibly valuable for getting Jackson acclimated to the NFL and allowing him to succeed at what he’s good at. But despite that, Roman has never run that diverse of a passing game, and it’s clear that the Ravens passing game has been in need of a reset and boost.
Todd Monken, on the other hand, did a phenomenal job crafting a highly schemed and difficult-to-defend spread passing attack for the back-to-back national champion Georgia Bulldogs and their savvy but limited QB Stetson Bennett. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s going to really revamp and expand the passing game for Baltimore into more of a spread and potentially pass-heavy attack. At the very least, he will include more complex and diverse passing concepts. How well Jackson does under this scheme change should tell us all we need to know about what his ceiling as a passer is.
8) Dak Prescott
Like his longtime predecessor in Tony Romo, Dak Prescott is a very underrated QB that gets a lot of undeserved criticism because of the expectations and media spotlight that come with playing for the Cowboys. We know that in Dallas, anything short of a Super Bowl is considered a failure.
But just because the Cowboys insist on continually living in the 90s doesn’t mean the rest of us should. Nor does it mean the QB is to blame for continual organizational failures. The reality is that, like Romo, Prescott is a talented QB that manages to keep his Cowboys teams afloat in spite of poor coaching and management.
Like Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott went from being overlooked in the draft to being an instant star. Prescott wasn’t drafted until the fourth round. But he took over the starting QB job after Romo got hurt in the preseason and never looked back. Prescott had a phenomenal rookie year, leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 record and coming within one Rodgers miracle throw of overtime and a potential NFC Championship game. He finished the year with a QBR of 77.6, threw for 8 yards per attempt, and won Rookie of the Year.
Prescott, like any QB, has had his ups and downs, but generally, he has continued to improve as the years have gone by, ultimately relying less and less on the running game as the line has aged and Ezekiel Elliott began to decline. He’s generally had good numbers, never having a QBR lower than 55 (50 is average) and only once having his yards per attempt dip below 7. Remember when Wentz vs Prescott was a thing? I think it’s safe to say that one has been settled.
Prescott is not quite the runner he used to be. What he is is a ball distributor who is poised, accurate, patient, can read the field, and can throw with velocity and touch. Prescott has an overall good feel for the game. And while he may not have one elite trait, he generally does most things really well. He probably needs somewhat of a running game to play his best, but that could be said for 99% of QBs.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Cowboys aren’t really as good as people think, especially when it comes to their weapons on the outside. They haven’t really had a true number-one receiver since they let Amari Cooper go, and even he struggled with consistency. CeeDee Lamb is a good player but he’s not an x, and Gallup hasn’t quite developed like they would have hoped and has also struggled with consistency. The same can be said of tight end post-Witten. And we all know about Zeke’s regression. Prescott pretty much has had to carry the load for these guys.
It is true that Prescott is coming off a rough year by his standards. He threw 15 interceptions and had a bad game in the playoffs against the 49ers. He’ll need to rebound.
But I still have trouble not putting most of the blame on their coaching, Mike McCarthy in particular. Unlike a lot of people, I do believe McCarthy was once a good coach. But that time has clearly come and gone. As Jason Garrett did with Romo, McCarthy seems to have some situational or time management brain fart just about every few games. Lest I remind you that a few years ago–in a playoff game nonetheless–McCarthy thought it was a good idea to run a QB draw with 14 seconds left and no timeouts while needing a touchdown and already in hail-mary range. The Cowboys didn’t let the refs set the ball and instead tried to do so themselves–which is illegal–and time ran out before they could spike it. Yet Dak is the reason they lose playoff games?
On top of that, it’s worth mentioning that Kellen Moore’s arrival to the Cowboys as offensive coordinator led to a massive leap in performance for Dak Prescott and was a breath of fresh air from Jason Garrett’s vanilla offense. And although McCarthy retained Moore after he was hired, it’d be silly not to believe that McCarthy has had his handprints on the offense. As a result, the offense has gradually declined, and Moore was let go after last year. He’ll go to the Chargers, whereas McCarthy himself will now call plays for the Cowboys. Who do you think is going to win that change-up?
At the end of the day, Dak Prescott may never get the respect he deserves, but he’s a damn good QB. It’s not easy playing quarterback for the Cowboys.
Lawrence is already starting to become a bit overrated in public perception. He’s a great example of a QB getting too much blame when the team loses and too much credit when they win. As a rookie, Lawrence showed good tenacity in a pretty much impossible situation while being coached by the absurdly incompetent Urban Meyer. Yet he threw a lot of interceptions and didn’t win a lot of games, so people started to peg him as a potential bust. Last year, Lawrence showed solid improvement under a much better coaching staff. The team snuck into the playoffs and even won a playoff game in wild fashion, and that was enough for many to dub Lawrence a star. As always, the truth is somewhere in between the two extremes.
The hype around Lawrence coming into the league certainly didn’t help him very much when it comes to public perception. Lawrence has been insanely hyped all the way going back to his days as a high school prospect. Coming into the NFL, he was viewed as “generational”, a John Elway type of talent. Those types of comparisons were always too much and never really realistic.
But just because Lawrence was overhyped coming into the league doesn’t mean he isn’t and can’t be a solid QB who can continually improve. Not every quarterback has to be either great or awful.
Lawrence is a good kid with solid tools at the position. He has a strong arm, functional mobility, and for those who put stock into the phrase, has been a “winner” throughout his career as a QB going back to high school and college. Lawrence showed improvement in his sophomore season, particularly after the bye week, where the Jaguars won six of their last seven games to get into the playoffs. Once there, Lawrence helped dig the Jags out of a 27-0 hole against the Chargers to win 31-30. Lawrence threw for 4 touchdowns but also 4 interceptions. Part of the comeback was him, whereas part of it was the Chargers collapsing. On the flip side, not all the early INTs were his fault. Overall, it’s a bit tough to draw too many conclusions from that game, but it certainly is a good sign. Lawrence finished the year 15th in QBR at 54.5. As I said, not too great, but not too bad either.
The problem for Lawrence is that at 6’6”, his stride length can be an issue. This is not uncommon for particularly tall QBs, as Brock Osweiler had a similar issue. A longer stride can make it tough to play on time and to move in the confined space of the pocket, especially when under pressure. The good news is that Lawrence has quickened his process under Doug Pederson. I think Pederson is a really good coach for Lawrence, and the two could definitely build something together moving forward.
Another thing Lawrence struggles with is his touch on short passes. He has a very strong arm and his natural throwing speed is a fastball. Part of that I think comes from his throwing motion. I don’t want to call it erratic or elongated, but it’s definitely aggressive and maybe a tad unnatural. Because of that, he needs to learn to take something off of the shorter passes. It’s nothing that can’t be fixed, but it’s another area he needs to clean up.
One last thing to mention about Lawrence is that he seems to have a naturally aggressive mindset as a passer. He doesn’t hesitate; he takes chances and throws the ball into coverage, particularly when he has a matchup he likes. As a QB in the NFL, that can be and often is a good thing, but you of course need to know where to draw the line.
So why am I ranking Lawrence this high? Part of it is the lack of established QBs in the NFL. But it’s also because we don’t what Lawrence is yet. Guys like Kirk Cousins, Jimmy G, Ryan Tannehill, and the like, we know are system QBs. We know they have a ceiling. Is Lawrence a system QB? He could be, or he could be more. There’s still potential for him to develop. And we know he has the talent to do so. He’s also on the up after the way he finished last season, and this list is focused on the present.
Overall, Trevor Lawrence is a young QB who appears to have a solid future ahead of him on what has been a historically struggling franchise. At the end of the day, that just may be good enough–even if he’s not the next John Elway.
10) Jared Goff
Jared Goff in the Top 10? Honestly, I was surprised too. But as crazy as it sounds, it’s time to put some respect on Goff’s name.
We know the end in LA wasn’t pretty for Goff. But it’s not easy to bounce back after your old coach runs you out of town and your replacement wins the Super Bowl right away. But Goff exceeded expectations in Detroit last year and was actually good. In fact, he had probably his best season since he took the Rams to the Super Bowl in 2018, and the numbers back that up.
Look, we all know about Goff’s limitations. He’s a system QB through and through. When he doesn’t have a consistent run and play-action game to rely on, is under pressure, or has to extend the play, things can get ugly. He’s a pure pocket passer that needs a team around him.
But in a well-schemed system and passing game with those pieces around him, Goff can more than effectively run your offense and look good while doing so. That’s what he did at Cal, that’s what he did in 2018 when he took the Rams to the Super Bowl, and that’s what he did last year with the Lions.
At the end of the day, Goff may not have been the one destined to lead the Rams to a Super Bowl win. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t belong in this league. Give the guy credit for turning things around and bouncing back on his new team. Coming into last season, Goff seemed like a weak link on the Lions. Clearly, that is no longer the case.