With the landscape of quarterbacks in the NFL pretty unclear right now, I tried to do my best in ranking all 32 starters as of how I think of them right now, going into week six. I made up my own categories to list these guys among, but I didn’t define the difference between each of them. It’s more about which profile they fit and at which stage of their career I believe they are.
1. Aaron Rodgers
Did you ever have any doubt the Packers would win in Dallas on Sunday? As soon as Dak Prescott ran into the end-zone and I saw there was more than a minute on the clock, I just knew Rodgers would lead them down to the field to for the winning score. That sort of confidence tells me he’s the best in the game. He can do things nobody else (maybe ever) can do.
2. Tom Brady
Speaking of confidence, here’s a guy nobody ever rules out because his resume surpasses everybody who has ever played football. The Patriots defense has struggled mightily so far this season, but somehow Brady has made up for that unit, leading the number one passing offense in the NFL and willing his team to wins. I don’t know the severity of his shoulder injury, but until he lets me see that he’s not himself on the field, he will remain here.
3. Drew Brees
The Saints to me are one of the hardest team to judge. They layed an egg in the first two weeks, losing in Minnesota and to the Patriots at home by double-digits respectively. Since then, they have outscored their opponents 54-13. While I’m not sure if I can trust their defense yet, I know I can always count on Brees, who has completed 69 percent of his passes, with eight touchdowns and no picks so far. I can’t remember the last time he didn’t lead one of the highest-scoring offenses in the league.
The second tier:
4. Matthew Stafford
A lot of people went nuts over Stafford’s new contract, which made him the richest man in the NFL, but I didn’t understand their fury, as I said that QB is the only reason they are winning games and they were a playoff team a year ago despite that. By now, with Darius Slay back from injury and overall a much healthier, energized defense, I think this is a much more complete team, but Stafford’s ability to make plays off script constantly and lead game-winning drives are second only to Aaron Rodgers
5. Alex Smith
After five weeks, leading his team to the only perfect record in the NFL so far, Alex Smith has a pretty good case for league MVP. He leads all quarterbacks with a quarterback rating of 125.8 and has completed a ridiculous 76.6 percent of his passes for 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. Smith has always been a really smart player with underrated mobility, but this year he has pushed the ball downfield more than ever before and has simply made it look easy.
6. Matt Ryan
The reigning Most Valuable Player hasn’t looked nearly the same he did last season. Of course the loss of Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan has hurt, as the run game isn’t as effective as it was when he was still calling plays and therefore Ryan hasn’t had those deep shots off play-action. With the same number of touchdowns as INTs, Ryan hasn’t really blown anybody away, but his team is 3-1 coming out of the bye and averaging the fourth-most yards per game.
7. Derek Carr
Carr twisting his back is really unfortunate, especially since his team is 2-3 right now after a game without him and won’t have an easy path to the playoffs with an incredibly tough schedule still ahead. That was the reason I didn’t have the Raiders in the playoffs in the first place, before changing my mind at the very end and giving them one additional win against the Chiefs. Either way, if they want to have a shot, Carr has to perform at a MVP-like level once again after carrying his team to a 12-3 record before getting hurt last year.
8. Kirk Cousins
In his second year under the franchise-tag, Cousins once again is playing for a big contract and so far he has looked like he deserves one. The Redskins QB has been really effective despite the losses of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. Coming into the season, I thought Terrell Pryor and Jamison Crowder would break out and with a first-round pick from last year’s draft (Josh Doctson), they looked loaded. Yet, those three guys have combined for only 371 yards, which tells you Cousins is spreading the ball around extremely well and his team should be 3-1, had Doctson hung on to that catch in the end-zone at Kansas City.
9. Russell Wilson
If you put Tom Brady or Drew Brees behind this Seahawks offensive line, they would either be booed by the fans or on the sideline with injuries. That unit has given up the second-most QB hits in the league despite being ranked in the middle of the pack in percentage of pass plays. Wilson is a magician and the reason they are 3-2 instead of 0-5, because he has made plays despite the heat he has been under. He has also rushed for 30 yards a game to keep drives moving.
10. Cam Newton
A couple of weeks ago, I would definitely not have had Cam in his tier. Over the first three weeks his surgically repaired shoulder just didn’t look right and so did his attitude. After throwing two TDs and four INTs during that stretch, he has been outstanding, recording over 300 yards and three scores in each of the last two games, while completing a whopping 77.5 percent of his passes. Being the run threat that he is, it’s kind of scary seeing him kill defenses from the pocket as well. Let’s see if he can keep this upright and move up in these rankings.
11. Carson Wentz
Man, I’m just riding this Carson Wentz train. This guy is a gunslinger with Houdini-like skills to avoid the rush. So far, his completion-percentage hasn’t improved from his rookie campaign, but he’s just airing it out way more, with an increase of 1.5 yards per attempt. I don’t see him dissecting opposing defenses with timing yet, but his athleticism is off the charts, he has the arm to make all the throws, he’s tough as nails and his team’s only losses came in a tight contest to the undefeated Chiefs. With playmakers around him and a much-improved run-game, he has shown he’s a special player and right now the best on third down statistically.
12. Dak Prescott
Last year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year wasn’t nearly as impressive as last year for the first quarter of the season, but he showed up big-time once again in a toe-for-toe battle with Aaron Rodgers. I’m not necessarily high on the Packers defense, but Dak almost played a perfect game outside of that pick-six that went off the hands of his receiver, throwing the ball away from the defender on that play. No doubt he is a much better performer when the Cowboys offense leans on Zeke and that O-line, but neither one of them really shined until Sunday either.
13. Marcus Mariota
According to head coach Mike Mularkey, Mariota is day-to-day and it seems like he has a good chance of starting again this week. The Titans certainly need him. For as much as they lean on their heavy run-game, for it to work, they need that exotic ingredient. Nobody in the league runs the option as well as Mariota does and no matter what, the defense always has to keep a man on the back-side in case the Titans QB pulls the ball. Just that threat alone opens up everybody else and when he drops back to pass, he can shred defenses.
14. Jared Goff
After losing his first seven starts as a rookie and looking like a bust, Goff has turned things around in his sophomore campaign. With the offensive-minded Sean McVay as his head coach, a completely restocked receiving corp, much-improved O-line play and a beast in Todd Gurley with him in the backfield, he has shown why the Rams picked number one overall a year ago. He has displayed excellent command of this unit, pin-point accuracy and even in his worst statistical game versus the Seahawks on Sunday, I was impressed.
15. DeShaun Watson
It seems crazy to put a guy, who only started four career games so far, ahead of some of those veterans below already, but this rookie is special. I had Watson as my clear-cut number one quarterback in the 2017 class, largely based off his intangibles. I looked beyond his struggles with consistent accuracy and pocket-presence – which are still there – because I just felt that he had that it-factor, which is showing up right now. Even though Bill O’Brien adjusted his offense to the rookie’s strengths, I’m fascinated by how quickly he has picked up the details of being an NFL quarterback.
The old guys:
16. Ben Roethlisberger
Big Ben is one of those guys, who is underrated in most of the big quarterback rankings and if you asked me before the start of this season where I’d rank him, I would have had him just outside my top five. So far this season, I haven’t seen anything from him that would make me put him anywhere near that. He hasn’t really shined in any game yet and we’re entering week five. And now he tells reporters that he might have lost it. Ben’s comments have always been misleading throughout his career and he said it in a sarcastic way, but at this point, I have to seriously question his desire to play football.
17. Philip Rivers
The Chargers finally picked up their first W the year, but at 1-4 their chances of turning their season around and end up in the playoffs are slim in a loaded AFC West. With this team it’s more about their inability to pull out games late, but Rivers hasn’t been as good as advertised either. Right now, the 14-year vet is on pace for his worst completion-percentage and second-worst passer rating as a starter in his career. The commitment to the ground game under former RB coach Anthony Lynn as the new head-man hasn’t really worked out because the Bolts have found themselves down in most contests, which has led to Rivers’ 39 pass attempts per game.
18. Trevor Siemian
For all the talk about who would start at quarterback for the Broncos in 2017, Siemian has erased all doubts. Outside of their trip to Buffalo, facing the number one ranked defense, the second-year starter has thrown seven touchdowns compared to only two picks and his average QB rating is above 100. In that contest versus the Bills, Denver’s RBs handled the ball a total of 20 times compared to Siemian’s 40 pass attempts. That’s no recipe for success. The offense is at its best when leaning on the run game and letting Siemian take shots, with both of whom not really exist a year ago. Something I like about the young signal-caller is the improved mobility he’s shown.
19. Tyrod Taylor
Let’s be real here – Tyrod Taylor will probably never be treated like a true franchise quarterback. Yet, he has done an outstanding job at what the coaching staff has asked him to do. The Bills want to let their league-best defense carry them and support it with a strong run-game and Taylor keeping drives moving by taking off. The seventh-year man has a 6:2 touchdown-to-INT ratio with a QBR above 90 despite the Bills averaging a mere 3.4 yards a carry on the ground and maybe having one wide receiver, who has ever been more than a number three option, in Jordan Matthews. There’s seven players on the Bills offense with five+ catches already.
20. Jameis Winston
I’ll start like this – I like it when quarterbacks have supreme confidence and show that in their play. What I don’t like is when that guy just stops his feet and thinks he can still spread the ball around three or four seconds into the play and the ball is placed off the mark. The Bucs came out of the gate smoking hot with a 29-7 demolition of the Bears, in which Jameis wasn’t asked to do a lot, before travelling to Minnesota, where turnovers killed them. In that game, their young QB completed 70 percent of his passes, but three balls landed in the arms of opposing defenders. This guy is a tremendous talent with unbelievable fire, but until he takes better care of the football I can’t move him up on this list. Against the league-worst Patriots defense he looked completely out of rhythm, but I believe if Tampa Bay can feature Doug Martin heavily once again, the entire offense will click better.
21. Andy Dalton
This guy’s stat-line of seven touchdowns and six picks doesn’t look very good. The reality is he had a horrific season-opener against a smothering Ravens defense and on Sunday both of his INTs came off the fingertips of his receivers. In weeks three and four, Dalton is 6-0 while almost pulling the upset at Lambeau and destroying the Browns at their house. On one hand you can say with a trio of nice running backs and a stud wideout in A.J. Green you’d expect more, on the other hand you could argue he hasn’t had top ten pick John Ross to stretch defenses vertically and the Bengals duo of tackles might be the worst in the entire league. Your call. I think he’s right where he belongs – so far.
22. Case Keenum
This guy deserves some credit. He was the bad guy for the Rams a year ago after tossing 11 picks in nine starts last year, with four of those coming in a London game versus the Giants. What nobody said about them, was the fact that two of them came off the hands of his receivers and on another one his receiver ran the wrong route. So far as a fill-in for Sam Bradford in his Vikings career, Keenum has been outstanding I may bring up. He’s completing just under 65 percent of his passes with a QBR close to 100. Of course he benefits strongly from the receiving duo of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, but he has clearly been the best offseason quarterback addition as a back-up. What I’ve always liked about him in limited action is the way he can dance around and avoid the rush to create big plays.
23. Jacoby Brissett
People weren’t really excited about the trade for Brissett at the beginning of the year, but I’m telling – this guy can play. While relying heavily on his mobility early on in his career, Brissett has gotten better at working through his reads and making the right play. His arm is amazing, he has shown off some crazy scrambling ability and to me he is clearly a starting-calibre quarterback in the NFL. The reason he’s not seen as one yet and nobody really cares, is the fact he’s in a really bad situation on one of the worst rosters in the entire league. I love the total package he brings, including being the fiery competitor he is.
Living off their names:
24. Carson Palmer
Palmer has kind of had an up-and-down season so far and so have the Cardinals in general. The quarterback hasn’t gotten much support though, as he leads the NFL in dropbacks with more than 70 percent(!) and Arizona’s rushing attack is a joke at this point. They average 23 yards less than the second-worst team in that category with an abysmal 2.6 yards per carry. Moreover, the protection has been equally as bad, allowing ten hits on their QB per contest. Either way, we can only judge what we see him do and like I said – it’s so-so. He still has the arm to fire deep balls to J.J. Nelson and the two Browns, as well as feeding Larry Fitzgerald from the slot, but he and the coaching staff have to find a way to incorporate more of an intermediate passing attack to make up for the O-line deficiencies.
25. Eli Manning
The Giants have been a catastrophy. There’s just no other way to put it. Right now, it seems like the Big Blue will be without three or four of their top wide receivers going forward. The offense has played much better in recent weeks and the running game has at least been existent. That should bode well for the two-time Super Bowl MVP, but he just hasn’t gotten into rhythm this year. His statistics are okay, but when Odell Beckham Jr. wasn’t healthy and his receivers struggled to find separation you saw Eli hesitating to pull the trigger and eventually go down. Before Odell scored on a wide-open sluggo against the Chargers in the fourth quarter, Manning had recorded 127 yards on his twenty attempts of 20+ yards. No bueno.
26. Joe Flacco
If you had to hand out an award for the worst quarterback performance of 2017 at this point, I’d give it to Flacco’s 8/18, 28 yard and two INT outing versus the Jaguars in London. But even outside of that, he has struggled in a big way. The Ravens run the ball the third-most times percentage-wise and their QB still didn’t make plays for them. He continuously has dumped the ball off short to his running-backs and has failed to involve their deep-threats Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman. Last Sunday in Oakland, he finally showed a spark, converting 73 percent of his passes and pushing the ball downfield. That’s what Baltimore needs with a run-oriented approach.
27. Jay Cutler
Everybody who said Cutler would have another great season, reunited with his former offensive coordinator and now head coach Adam Gase, feels pretty dumb right now. Sports shows talked about his preseason debut when he completed three passes a little over 20 yards. Really? This dude is the same old Jay Cutler, who doesn’t give a lot about winning. That clip of him in the wildcat formation with hands on hips looking, instead of at least shielding his defender is a pretty good caption of that. Yes, he had a pretty good season-opener, which he should have lost in the end if the Chargers had any clue of how to finish a football game, as their kicker missed an easy field-goal, but that’s it. Jay Ajayi hasn’t gotten going fully yet due to an underperforming O-line, which until just now was coached by a coke-snorting guy, but with all that talent in their receiving corp, Cutler has to be better.
28. Josh McCown
In his 15th season as a journeyman in the league, McCown is maybe having his best year yet. I probably wouldn’t put it above the season he jumped in for the injured Jay Cutler for almost half the year, but I’ve been pretty impressed so far. He is completing more than 70 percent of his passes and most importantly, the New York Jets are 3-2. Yes, the Jets. Who everybody believed would tank this season to grab one of those high-profiled QBs in next year’s class. Why don’t I have him any higher? Gang Green is averaging 4.5 yards per rush, the targets in the passing game have really stepped up and man, I just can’t trust a guy who has never started a full season (and only two with 10+ starts).
29. Blake Bortles
Yeah, Bortles had to be the starter for the Jags. Chad Henne might make two or three other rosters in the league. His seven touchdowns compared to four interceptions look pretty good, but this coaching staff is just trying to keep the ball out of Bortles’ hands. Four of those touchdowns came in a blowout against the Ravens, where they had to sell out for the run-game and Bortles simply lobbed the ball over the top to Marcedes Lewis, who caught three of them. Outside of that game, he is averaging under 150 yards passing. Jacksonville has the league’s leading rushing attack with Leonard Fournette plowing into defenders on the second level. There’s just too many guys around the league who could do his job.
30. Brian Hoyer
Contrary to that, Hoyer has been asked to throw the ball just under 40 times a game. That’s not his game and while the story of him being back with Kyle Shanahan sounded nice, he just hasn’t been able to make the game-winning plays when his team has needed him to. Last Sunday in Indianapolis, he had his best outing yet, with two late touchdown-drives in the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime, but even with an interception in the end-zone by one of the 49er linebackers and the offense set up at the thirty, he couldn’t lead them down the field to kick the game-winner. Hoyer has kept San Francisco in games by avoiding too many critical mistakes, but it just hasn’t shown up in the win-column.
31. Mitchell Trubisky
I only have one start in an NFL game to base my evaluations off, but it’s not been long since studying his tape for the draft and I watched all of his preseason games. Neither one of those two truly compare to a regular season game, but I have a pretty good picture of the number two overall pick and that didn’t really change Monday night. Trubisky has supreme athleticism for the quarterback position and has one heck of an arm. The Bears realized he would just give them a better shot at winning, simply based off his skill-set compared to the one of Mike Glennon. While the free-agent signee is a true pocket passer, the rookie is great at using his legs on bootlegs and throwing the ball down the field on the run. While his debut was a bit shaky with that interception to basically seal the game for Minnesota, he made some throws people from Chicago haven’t seen in years by one of their QBs and they should have hope.
32. DeShone Kizer
I never thought Kizer was ready for the NFL as a rookie and would have let him ride the bench for a year. And I was right. After looking amazing in the preseason, the former Notre Dame QB came down to earth with seven INTs in his first five starts, which all ended up being losses. Kizer just doesn’t take good enough care of the football in the pro game and the fact he didn’t even do so for his college team should have been an indicator. Even that fumble on the pitch to his running back on the goal-line last Sunday was sloppy. The traits are all there. He’s big, he has a cannon of an arm, he has good athleticism and is really competitive. Hue Jackson just needs to mold him to be a player at this level.