NFL QB Rankings: Updated after Super Bowl LV
Previously, I took a crack at ranking the top 20 NFL starting quarterbacks based on their 2020 regular season performances. Now that the offseason is here, we can reinsert injured players such as Dak Prescott and Joe Burrow.
There are several great quarterbacks already in the league, some of which we have yet to see hit their ceiling. This past season, we saw rookies such as Burrow and Justin Herbert become franchise quarterbacks in the matter of one year. With a new class of rookies incoming via the 2021 NFL Draft, it may not take long for a few more young QBs to be added to this list.
Players such as Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Alex Smith, and Tua Tagovailoa just missed the cut. If Jameis Winston gets handed the job alongside Sean Payton in New Orleans, he could rejuvenate his career trajectory. For now, here is one writer’s opinion on who the top 20 quarterbacks in the NFL are today.
2021 Offseason NFL QB Rankings
20. Jared Goff, Detroit Lions
A fresh start in Detroit likely won’t be favorable for Jared Goff given the state of the Lions’ roster, but at this point, it can’t be worse than whatever he was in for in Los Angeles. He may see competition in the form of a top draft pick, which might actually bring out the best in him. Compiling a 42-27 regular season record with the Rams, Goff had two great seasons in 2017 and 2018 but has since fallen off a cliff. Only Daniel Jones has committed more turnovers than Goff since 2019.
19. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
The expectation at this point is that Drew Brees will retire, but as of now, he is still a Saint. Brees just restructured his contract and other rumors are suggesting he’ll return for another chance at his second Super Bowl ring. Now 42, Brees has lost a lot of arm strength, yet he’s still among the league’s most accurate passers, leading the NFL in completion percentage in three of his past four seasons.
18. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s crazy to think that after Week 12, the Steelers were 11-0 and Ben Roethlisberger was in the MVP conversation. Since then, Big Ben went gone 1-4 in games he started. After missing all but two games of the 2019 season, Roethlisberger threw 33 touchdowns and turned the ball over just 11 times in a strong comeback year. Credit to Roethlisberger for suggesting he’s willing to reduce his salary in 2021.
17. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
It has been a quick and ugly fall from grace for Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons since being up 28-3 in the Super Bowl just four years ago. Of course, it can’t all be blamed on Ryan. However, his arm was never among the strongest in the NFL, and entering what will be his age-36 season, how much football life he has left remains to be seen. For now, Matty Ice’s immediate future in the NFL is looking shallow.
16. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield had a huge bounce-back season in his first year paired with coach Kevin Stefanski. Mayfield committed a career-low 12 turnovers and led the Cleveland Browns to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Even once they got to the post-season, massive obstacles such as several players and coaches missing time due to COVID protocols attempted to prevent the Browns from getting their first playoff victory since 1995. As we all know now, it didn’t work. The Browns became a team the entire world could root for after largely being a laughingstock for as long as I can remember. 2020 was a big win for Mayfield and Browns fans everywhere.
15. Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders
Completing his third year of Jon Gruden’s system, Derek Carr has steadily improved his yards, touchdowns, and wins each season. Carr’s yards per attempt and yards per completion have risen as well. Despite never playing a playoff game, Carr has managed to stay afloat as the starter despite a weak supporting cast. What the Raiders are severely lacking is a No. 1 wideout. The growth of Darren Waller has been astounding, but they need more than one option to take the next step toward contention.
14. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
Entering the 2021 season, Kirk Cousins will have to adjust to a new offensive coordinator for his fourth consecutive year as a Viking. This time around, it should be a smoother transition with Gary Kubiak’s son, Klint, taking over as OC after previously serving as the QB coach. If Cousins can build off the rapport he developed with stud rookie Justin Jefferson in 2020, the Vikings should be able to go further in 2021. A tough salary cap situation will make things difficult, but if the interior offensive line improves, Cousins should be able to cut down on the 18 turnovers he committed in 2020 after being responsible for just nine in 2019.
13. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
After how his career ended in Miami, few would have ever guessed that Ryan Tannehill would become an important catalyst for a playoff team just a year later. In 26 regular season starts with the Titans, Tannehill has gone 18-8, solidifying his placement as a top-15 quarterback in the NFL. His raw arm talent may not be among the best in the league, but everything Tannehill brings to the table amounts to a winning quarterback who makes sound decisions with the football.
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12. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
If it weren’t for Justin Herbert and even Justin Jefferson’s rookie year, the NFL would have been going nuts for Joe Burrow. Rightfully so, before his injury, Burrow gave Bengals fans more hope than they have had in decades. Despite many in the NFL world suggesting Burrow should do everything in his power to refuse to play for the Bengals, he’s embraced his situation and has helped instantly alter the longheld negative narrative surrounding Cincinnati’s football team.
11. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
There is no question, Lamar Jackson is the best running quarterback the game has ever seen. Jackson is the first QB to have back-to-back years gaining over 1,000 yards on the ground in NFL history. Coming back down to Earth after his 2019 MVP season, defenses had much more success containing Baltimore’s offense in 2020. For the first time in his pro career, Jackson and the Ravens failed to score at least 20 points in a regular season game, coming in Week 10 against the Patriots. The Ravens need to figure out how to get back to operating the nearly unstoppable offense they displayed during their 2019 season in which they went 14-2 to overcome what is now a very tough AFC North division from top to bottom.
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10. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
While his season was slowed by injuries, the second-year leap that Kyler Murray took should be celebrated. Leading a team that earned the No. 1 pick in 2019 to win five games as a rookie, Murray had the Cardinals in playoff contention entering the final stretch of the regular season in 2020. As one of two starting quarterbacks in the NFL listed below six feet, Murray is every bit as capable as any other QB in the history of the NFL. Murray represents the rare dual-threat QB who can obliterate the defense with his little, speedy legs, or by making incredible passes, using his baseball background to release the ball using various throwing angles. Look for K1 and the Cardinals to get even better in 2021.
9. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
Matthew Stafford established himself as a great quarterback in the NFL long ago. Unfortunately, he was stuck on a badly-run Detroit Lions franchise that went to the playoffs just three times in Stafford’s 12-year career. The Rams have clinched a playoff berth in three of the four years since Sean McVay came to LA in 2017. With a fresh start, paired with a top defense, Stafford should be able to prove he’s capable of competing for a Super Bowl for the first time in his life. Rumors suggest he’s already recruiting free agents to join him on his quest.
8. Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
No one could have predicted the level of dominance displayed by Justin Herbert in his first season. As one of the best draft picks in recent memory, Herbert had arguably the best rookie year for a quarterback of all-time. He set several records for a first-year QB such as most passing touchdowns, 300-yard games, and most completions. The Chargers hit a grand slam by drafting Herbert No. 6 overall, he earned the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year and became a top 10 quarterback in just 15 starts. Adding a young, top-notch QB is the type of move that can propel franchises to become a perennial lock for the playoffs for years to come.
7. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Before his gruesome injury, Dak Prescott was improving his value with every game he played. Despite falling to the 4th round in the 2016 NFL Draft, Prescott proved his status as a superstar quarterback, averaging 371.2 yards per game in 2020. Prescott’s value won’t be deflated at all, even with the season-ending ankle surgery. He likely remains with the Cowboys in 2021, in doing so, he remains a surefire MVP candidate going forward.
6. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
After leading the Seahawks to a 5-0 start with 19 touchdowns and just three interceptions, it was assumed that Wilson would finally receive the first MVP votes of his nine-year career. As the season went on, the “Let Russ Cook” campaign fizzled out and so did the Seahawks. Scoring 30 or more in seven out of their first eight games, Seattle topped 30 just once in their next nine matchups. Wilson is an incredible leader who gets the most out of his supporting cast, but there’s no excuse for their offensive drop-off with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett to throw to. At least they appear to have found their scapegoat, firing Brian Schottenheimer and moving to new OC Shane Waldron.
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5. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
While their season didn’t end on a high note, Josh Allen took a massive leap in his development in 2020. As a rookie in 2018, Allen finished with the worst completion percentage among NFL starting QBs at 52.8%. This past season, Allen improved his completion rate to 69.2%, it’s the largest improvement in the span of two years in NFL history. He went from being an inconsistent cannon arm with erratic accuracy to being an MVP candidate capable of leading his team to the Conference Championship with one incredible season.
4. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
There’s a reason why 2/3 of the league has inquired about acquiring Deshaun Watson. As one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, Watson is a true superstar stranded on an island of dysfunction. Despite a crumbling atmosphere, Watson established his place as one of the top five QBs in 2020, leading all passers in yards and setting new career-highs in completion % and touchdowns. Wherever Watson ends up, he will likely be on the shortlist of early MVP candidates and could help lead his new team to the playoffs in their first season together.
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3. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What else can Tom Brady accomplish in his illustrious career? Haters said it couldn’t be done, not without Bill Belichick. But the fact is, TB12 just switched conferences and led his team to a Super Bowl victory during his first season in an entirely new atmosphere despite a shortened offseason. Even early on after some growing pains, skeptics questioned whether the 43-year old GOAT still had his fastball, Brady instead showed he’s still one of the best QBs in the game. TB12 may actually play until he’s 45, if not longer.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers was the best quarterback in 2020 and he has another MVP trophy to show for it. However, it still didn’t lead to another trip to the Super Bowl. Having been there just once, winning in 2010, his lack of playoff dominance is really the only thing standing in his way of being considered one of the top five quarterbacks to ever play the game. At 37 years old, Rodgers is coming off the best season of his 16-year career. Another frustrating end to his season has led to crazy rumors, but the Packers can make all that go away by adding some more talented receivers and extending his contract a couple more years.
1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
There’s a small part of me that says it’s insane not to have the NFL’s MVP, Aaron Rodgers, in first place. Small part. The thing is, Patrick Mahomes can do things that nobody else can, at least not as well. Mahomes takes the cake for having the best arm the game has ever seen. He can launch footballs out of the stadium. Mahomes makes ridiculous throws on the run, he has a million different throwing angles and isn’t scared to throw a no-look pass. There is a reason why Mahomes has led his team to two consecutive Super Bowl berths. Sure, Mahomes has a great coach and some of the best skill-position players in the league at his disposal, but Mahomes is still the one making all the incredible plays only he seems capable of pulling off.