Five weeks into the season with my first power rankings coming out last week, I decided to rank all the starting quarterbacks in the NFL as of right now. My evaluations are based on what we have seen so far, but they are not simply a ranking of their performances or where they stack up statistically. I have to take into account the full body of work with the focus being on how what they have shown up to this point compares to what I have seen from them in prior years. Some quarterbacks have developed into better players, while others have stayed steady or regressed in terms of their physical ability. Here is how it all shakes out for me.
All by himself:
1. Patrick Mahomes
This guy can make plays nobody else in the league can make or would even attempt. A banged up KC offensive line really let Mahomes down against the Colts and he was held to a career-low 13 points. That was half as many as his previous low-point. Some people might say he has struggled a bit these last two weeks, but he still leads the league in passing yards, is one touchdown short of the top mark and has yet to throw a pick. All that without Tyreek Hill, his starting left tackle and running back for the most part. Nothing is scarier to opponents than this gunslinger combined with guys who can run.
2. Russell Wilson
3. Aaron Rodgers
4. Deshaun Watson
5. Carson Wentz
This group includes guys who can make things happen with their physical ability and influence the outcome of games pretty much all by themselves. I don’t think any of them can quite do what Mahomes does, but they are in that tier right below him.
Right now I thought it would have been okay to put Russ in a separate category as well, because he is clearly the second-best QB in the league right now. The Seahawks offense is built on running the ball and their quarterback creating magic on third downs. He has a way of escaping the rush and either find somebody downfield late or pick up first downs with his feet that is uncanny. He leads all signal-callers in completion percentage, touchdowns and passer rating, while not having thrown a pick yet.
At number three we have the guy, who was the original Mahomes and is still one of the league’s best. Rodgers has lost some of that glitter he had a couple of years ago, when he stood alone at the top and pulled rabbits out of his hat every week, but he can still make some plays that make your jaw drop and his ability to work around the rush is elite. He has his team at 4-1 with the best support around him since winning his lone Super Bowl.
We have seen some outstanding quarterback performances already this year, but nobody had a more explosive day than Watson just did against the Falcons. He completed 28 of 33 passes for over 400 yards and five touchdowns to go with almost 50 rushing yards and a perfect passer rating. He was also magical versus the Saints and Chargers, making incredible throws down the field and scrambling around to make things happen.
And rounding off my top five is the guy I thought would be up here for most of his career after seeing him on that MVP run a couple of years ago. Wentz was fighting through injuries last year and people starting even questioning if he should be the Eagles’ starting QB because Nick Foles almost took them on another run in the playoffs. While he is only completing around 60 percent of his passes overall, he is third among all passers on third down and his team could easily be 5-0 without two drops.
The next group:
6. Tom Brady
7. Matthew Stafford
8. Philip Rivers
9. Lamar Jackson
10. Jared Goff
For this next tier, the talent is not quite at the level of the guys in the previous group and they need a system around them to really succeed, but they are more than capable of putting up the best quarterback performance any week and lead their team to big wins.
I already know some people won’t be happy with me after putting Brady outside the elite tier, but I just don’t see him in that mold anymore. Yes, the numbers look pretty good, but he has played the Steelers, Dolphins, Jets and Redskins, who have one combined game so far. The only real team he faced was the Bills and they absolutely suffocated him. New England’s running backs have touched the ball twice as much as the rest of the offensive players and this defense has been historically great, even if Brady was still the guy to go with in the big game.
You could have probably gone a few different ways at number seven, but to me Stafford presents a guy who has proven he can take games over and rally his team late in games. Unlike he did for most of his career, the Lions is not about having their gunslinger in the shotgun 40 times a game and asking him to create, but instead they are built on running the ball and having a QB, who can manage the games with a few big-time throws. Stafford has been excellent in that new role and his only loss came late against the number one guy on my list.
Up next, there’s another long-time veteran, who is still playing at a pretty high level but has regressed physically. Rivers had an excellent 2018 season, in which he led his team to a 12-4 record, but when they travelled to Foxborough for the Divisional Round game, the Chargers QB could not make the Patriots pay for forcing him to beat them outside the numbers. This season he has taken a step back with bad performances versus the Lions and Broncos, where turnovers cost his team those games.
I would have certainly felt better about my number nine selection before Sunday, but I still think Lamar is one of the brightest young stars, who is putting his stamp on the league. After completely tearing up the Dolphins for five touchdowns in the season-opener, the former Heisman trophy winner looked like a different guy in year two. These last two games he has seemed to regress to some degree, but I have rarely seen somebody as unlucky with interceptions. Of those five picks, there was really only one on him trying to fit a ball towards the sideline versus cover-two. One came on a tipped ball by a D-linemen, two should have been called back for P.I. and then there was one against the Steelers, where the refs clearly so Devin Bush losing control of the ball as he hit the ground, but somehow didn’t overturn the ruling.
To finish up my top ten, I went with another young signal-caller who has been falsely blamed these last two weeks and had some interceptions put on his account. Jared Goff has never been one of my favorite quarterbacks in the league, because he doesn’t have that elite arm talent and has looked frazzled against the league’s top defenses. However, the run game has not nearly been the same and he has been asked to just sling it all over the field with some beautiful balls, while most of the turnovers have been forced by defensive linemen, who have been in his face routinely.
The middle pack:
11. Matt Ryan
12. Dak Prescott
13. Jacoby Brissett
14. Jimmy Garoppolo
15. Baker Mayfield
This next group is about guys who are often referred to as franchise quarterbacks, meaning they can be the highest player on a team and win games with a good supporting cast around them. These are the signal-callers who can take over games and put their teams on their backs in crucial situations, but need the weapons around them or the appropriate play-calling to have sustained success.
Leading that group is a guy, who I have defended a lot in recent years. I thought him being outside the top ten among quarterbacks and at 69 overall in the NFL Top 100 was crazy, because he was coming off an outstanding season, but right that’s exactly where I have him myself. The completion percentage and yardage total look pretty good, but he turned the ball over six times through the first three games and did not score until down by 20+ points in two of them. They were held to ten points at home against the Titans and Ryan threw the game-sealing pick-six in Houston.
Watching the first three games for the Cowboys, Dak was a completely different guy than he has been these last two weeks. Of course a lot of that had to do with playing the Giants, Dolphins and Redskins early on, but he seemed really comfortable in this more wide-open Kellen Moore offense. At New Orleans the Cowboys were held to ten points and it took them 40 minutes to get on the board versus the Packers last Sunday, when Green Bay was already up 24-0. Dak’s three picks certainly played a big part in that loss, but to defend him here a little – one of those passes came right of Amari Cooper’s hands and later on Kevin King blatantly yanked his receiver around.
Colts fans have to be very happy right now after having Andrew Luck surprisingly retiring shortly before the season, to see their new starting QB among the top half of signal-callers in the league. The formula for success for this team is relying on the league’s best offensive line and run the ball 40+ times. That’s how they just kept Patrick Mahomes on the sideline and didn’t allow the Chiefs to turn that game into a shootout. However, until that matchup Brissett was the only player with multiple touchdown passes in every game. He is big and sturdy inside the pocket and can pick up a first down with his legs when needed.
Next up there’s the only signal-caller for an undefeated team in the NFL not named Tom Brady. And as fate would have it, he is Brady’s former backup in New England. Garoppolo got a huge contract from the Niners after going 5-0 in mop-up duty for that team two years ago. He was off to a rather slow start last year before tearing his ACL and has not been great so far, but good enough to land in this category. Jimmy G is getting more and more comfortable in this Kyle Shanahan offense, but for me to move him up, I need to him clean up some of that footwork and throwing off his back-foot.
At number 15 we have maybe the most scrutinized quarterback in the league. Mayfield had an outstanding rookie season, but has really struggled for most of year two. However, a lot of that I think has to do with the offensive play-calling and the protection he has been provided with. When the Browns have stuck with the run-game and not been in 11 personnel all the time, Baker has looked pretty good. But once they are forced to drop back constantly, you see that the O-line can’t really hold up and Baker has made some bad decisions so far.
The first-year starters:
16. Gardner Minshew
17. Kyler Murray
18. Daniel Jones
19. Kyle Allen
While this category should be self-explanatory, I want to be point out that it is remarkable how well these rookies and that one second-year guy have played up to this point. Only one of them started the season-opener and they all took over for teams with a losing record, but have turned things around since stepping into the lineup.
I have been so impressed with what I’ve seen from Gardner Minshew through his first four-and-a-half games. I watched a lot of him at Washington State and liked his play, but never did I see his game transfer so flawlessly into the pros. He is completing two thirds of his passes and has thrown nine touchdowns compared to one freakish interception by a defensive lineman in week one. Minshew has given the Jaguars a chance to win every week and he has made some magical plays off script to do so. Right now I don’t see how Nick Foles gets back his job.
After talking about an afterthought sixth-round pick, we now get to the first overall selection in this most recent draft. Kyler Murray finally got his first win of the season last Sunday at Cincinnati, but I think he has been playing well pretty much all season long. He seemed a bit rattled in the first half versus Detroit, but since then he has been as cool as it gets. Murray has made big-time throws down the field and his ability to take off has been a major weapon these last two weeks. Once the Cardinals surround him with a better O-line and skill position talent, he will be a nightmare to defend.
Then there’s the new prince of New York city. The young man they call Danny Dimes has gone from laughed at top ten pick to a savior-type player in a matter of weeks, even though he struggled against Vikings. His athleticism and arm talent are so much better than Eli Manning’s that the plays Pat Shurmur has been able to run with him are already a lot different. Jones has looked really poised, despite being without his superstar running back and with a banged up receiving corp, as the G-Men have converted 53.3 percent of third downs passing with him. However, his toughest test is coming up with a trip to Foxborough.
And then there’s the one second-year man among these four names. Allen was asked to take over for Cam Newton after he clearly didn’t look like himself through the first two weeks of the season. In his debut he tossed four touchdowns to give the Panthers their first win of the season at Arizona. Since then he has only thrown one touchdown, but he also has yet to throw an interception and the team is now 3-0 with him under center. Carolina should continue to rely on MVP candidate Christian McCaffrey, but Allen can make plays when they need him to, indicated by his 50 percent third down conversion percentage.
20. Sam Darnold
21. Jameis Winston
22. Derek Carr
23. Josh Allen
24. Kirk Cousins
25. Joe Flacco
26. Marcus Mariota
27. Andy Dalton
This group is filled with signal-callers, who I think can win games for you if they are put in the right situation with a lot of talent around them and when not being asked to carry their teams to victories. Two of the first three guys I had to put in this category, because they haven’t shown the ability to be more than that, even though I predicted them to be and still believe in.
It hurts me to put Darnold outside the top 20, because I would have certainly expected him to have worked his way into the top half of passers at this point, but after only one game he was put home with mono and has yet to see the field again. Since he will make his comeback this Sunday against Dallas, I put him on the list. He was my number on QB coming into last year’s draft and I still believe he will be a franchise guy soon rather than later, because of his competitiveness and ability.
And then there’s the guy I believe to be the most volatile quarterback in the entire league. When Jameis is on his game, he can kill defenses with downfield shots routinely, but at other times he is just too careless with the ball and makes game-altering turnovers. I like what I have seen from him for most of 2019, getting the ball to his premiere receiving duo and leading his team to almost 30 points per game, but until he stops giving the ball away for an extended period of time, he stays on the fringe to the below-average guys for me.
A guy I thought really high of a few years ago but struggle to rank at this point is Derek Carr. The Raiders QB has never been the same after making a run at MVP honors back in 2016 and as of now, I just don’t see him being more than a game-manager. When Oakland has been able to run the middle with Josh Jacobs and given Carr easy dumpoffs off play-action or created opportunities off creative play-design, he has been fine. However, I have also seen him really struggle with deep accuracy and in the two games they have struggled to run the ball, the Raiders have lost by 18 and 20 points respectively.
The second guy I feel bad for putting this low is Josh Allen. He has an absolute rocket arm and almost looks like Cam Newton when he takes off with the ball, but he is still such a bone-headed decision maker. Allen’s ability to push the ball deep and make things happen as a runner are great, but he has to protect the ball better, as he has turned it over nine times already. He can’t just force the ball into double-coverage and needs to understand when it’s time to throw the ball away. The most obvious game for this came against the Patriots, when he threw three interceptions, even though the Bills defense gave Brady fits all game long.
A game against that Giants defense can really work wonders for a passing game that had been almost non-existent. With Adam Thielen kind of taking shots at his QB and Stefon Diggs reportedly looking to be traded, all eyes were on Kirk Cousins and he delivered, completing better than 80 percent of his passes for over 300 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Up until that game he had been averaging less than 200 yards per game and was coming off an ugly day against the Bears. Last year I defended Cousins a lot and I have to say that it’s not easy playing that way with an offense that heavily features the run game and then asks him to take over all of a sudden, but he has to play better.
The Broncos still definitely haven’t found their quarterback of the future, but I think they might have their best guy since that first year under Trevor Siemian and I think Flacco gives them some stability. If Denver is going to win games it will be with their two-headed monster at running back and a defense that can match up with most receiving corps. That’s how they just got their first W versus the Chargers. However, Flacco has been playing better than most people think. He is completing two thirds of his passes and led the team to two potential game-winning touchdowns that were overshadowed by walk-off field goals by the opposition.
Rarely do you see a guy with a passer rating North of 100 with seven touchdowns and no turnovers rank this low on any list, but it even more uncommon for a guy with those kind of stats to look like he can’t complete a pass for large stretches. Mariota looked really good early in his career, when he wasn’t asked to read the entire field and boosted the run game with his ability to pull the ball and gain yardage. Unfortunately he is still that same guy and kind of a one-read passer. Because of that, the Titans have rarely been able to run a true passing offense.
And then there’s the ever-lasting question – Can you be successful long-term with Andy Dalton as your quarterback. We have seen the Bengals win a lot of games and make playoff appearances with him at the helm, but they have never advanced in the postseason and is this roster has gotten older, they have gradually declined. Of course this is also a lot about a workshop offensive line these last few year’s, A.J. Green missing some time and some other factors, but when it comes down to it – Dalton has not been able to come through when they really needed him.
28. Teddy Bridgewater
29. Josh Rosen
30. Chase Daniel
31. Colt McCoy
32. Mason Rudolph
This final group consists of players, who started their year as backups and mostly are poised to stay in that role going forward. One guy in particular has been under the worst circumstances you can imagine through his first two years in the league, while another is really benefitting from the situation he is in to make people believe he should be a starter.
That second guy I was talking about is Teddy Bridgewater. He had an excellent game against the Bucs, who have now given up 30+ points in three straight games. However, before that he was not asked to really throw the ball past ten yards at all. You can read my full analysis on this in one of my latest articles, but he was basically limited to handing the ball off, throwing screen passes and taking advantage of excellent field position up until that point. With a great team like the Saints Teddy can definitely win some games, but I don’t think you want to the game in his hands in the long run.
Rosen on the other hand has had tremendously bad luck through his first one-and-a-half years in the league. He was thrown behind the worst O-line in the NFL with some of the worst skill talent out there and still battled through it. Then when the Cardinals decided to trade him once they selected Kyler Murray first overall, he arrived at South Beach to a team with no intention of winning and that got blown out 59-10 by the Ravens in the season-opener. I truly believe that he could be a .500 quarterback at least on an average team, but his career is at a very dark point.
Talking about a guy in his second year, at number 30 is an eleven-year veteran who has thrown for about half as many yards as Rosen through his entire career. Chase Daniel has been a backup since he became a pro for five different teams and while teammates have always spoken highly of him, there is a reason he has not gotten a chance to really take over a team. There is nothing special about him physically and while he can steady the ship for a while, he can not start if he begins to turn the ball over. The Bears offense might not be great, but they have to score to some degree no matter how great their defense is.
Second-to-last is another career backup in Colt McCoy. After showing some promise in Cleveland early on, he had a quick stint in San Francisco before joining Jay Gruden in Washington for the last six years. He has some escapibility and seems to be very-well liked as a backup, but he is more of a third-string guy, who can be thrown out there in emergency situations. With Gruden now fired I doubt McCoy will stick around for much longer – unless Dan Snyder has learned to like him as well.
I don’t want to keep harping on a guy, who we just saw lay on the turf unconscious for minutes, because I do wish him all the best and hope he will be back healthy soon. However, I think Rudolph hasn’t really done anything to make me put him any higher. Until that Ravens game his yardage almost exclusively came on touch sweeps and screen passes. The Steelers know he can’t make big plays in the passing consistently – at least yet – and that’s why they have tried to get the ball out of his hands quickly.