Now that we are six weeks into the NFL season, I thought it was time to rank all 32 starting quarterbacks as of right now. For this exercise, I’m trying to evaluate these guys regardless of the team they are on, while I will bring up the offense they are in and how they function in it, but try to judge them based on talent and the level of play. So I’m not going to hand out extra credit for hitting lay-ups and screens, and at the same time players will get credit for making things work despite bad O-line play and a lack of dynamic play-makers around them. To do so, I created separate tiers to tell how I feel about them and while I try to always put them into context, I will stats to back up my case.
Make sure to also check out my in-depth breakdown of every game from the NFL’s week six.
The elite three:
1. Patrick Mahomes
I get that the next few guys have been phenomenal so far and right now I would put the #2 guy on this list as my favorite for league MVP, but if you made me choose, Mahomes would still be the pick for one game and one season. I have said it many times – he can make plays that others wouldn’t even attempt. The amount of uncommon platforms, the arm angles and the releases are so unique. Mahomes has improved so much at recognizing the blitz and finding the right answer at the snap, which was on full display in their big Monday Night matchup in Baltimore, when he completely took them apart. The one thing he has struggled with is when people flood different areas of the field with their zone coverages and force him to pull it down, but he has really started to take advantage of the space he is given to pick up yardage with his legs. When you look at the stats, Mahomes is completing 65.8 percent of his passes for 1700 yards and 15 TDs with only one pick, first down on 90 of 144 attempts. He is actually is only middle of the pack in completed air yards and Kansas City leads the league with 876 yards after the catch, making up for more than half his total, but a lot of that has to do with opposing team playing more deep coverage against him and him having to throw it underneath because of it. At times it feels like it doesn’t matter what the Chiefs do on first and second down, because that guy wearing number 15 finds some crazy way to convert on the money down, as they are second in the league as a team with a third-down percentage of 53.8%.
2. Russell Wilson
When you look at the numbers he has put up and the level he has been asked to play at, in order for his team to win, nobody has quite achieved what Russell Wilson has done. The Seahawks had a psychological shift this offseason, following the fans’ outcry to “let Russ cook” and putting the ball in the hands of number three on early downs, as well as letting him take more shots down the field, with Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf getting behind the defense of course, which the latter is starting to become uncoverable in combination with the ball-placement he gets served from his QB. Wilson is completing a career-high 72.8 percent of his passes for just over 300 yards per game and still leads the league with 19 passing touchdowns (only five games), while being on pace to break the NFL season record for passer rating of 129.8 and blowing away the all-time mark for TD percentage at 11.2%. To go along with that, he is averaging just over 30 rushing yards per game and almost half of the time he takes off, it results in a new first down. As impressive as all those numbers are, he is doing it in service of a 5-0 team, as the Seahawks scored a season-low 27 points versus Minnesota the last time out and Russ led one of his two game-winning drives on the year, going 92 yards in under two minutes. Nobody has been able to stop this guy and he is doing it while his defense has allowed the most yards on a weekly basis of any team in the league.
3. Aaron Rodgers
This offseason there was so much talk about how Rodgers has declined these last few years and with the team trading up in the first round to select Utah State QB Jordan Love, there was a lot of speculation about how long he will still be in Green Bay. With the level number 12 is playing at right now, I’m not sure if anybody could move on from him. This last game against the Bucs was by far his worst showing of 2020 and it ruined Rodgers’ stats, as he was completing over 70 percent of his passes for 13 TDs and no picks coming into Sunday. At Tampa, he threw two INTs, including a pick-six, and was sacked four times – more than doubling their season total. Still, I won’t let that take away from the body of work he has put together already. Rodgers is playing as well as I have seen from him since I thought he was the best player in the league for about a six-year stretch and until facing what I believe is one of the elite defenses in the league this past Sunday, he was on pace to set new personal highs in completion percentage and touchdowns. That is crazy to me, because he didn’t even have by far his best receiver in Davante Adams for half the year and with Allen Lazard out these last couple of weeks as well, he barely has any other dependable receivers. Rodgers himself looks so much more elusive to extend plays and he is throwing absolute dimes down the field, at times fading away or releasing off the wrong foot. He has been spectacular and don’t worry – he has kept all those receipts from the offseason.
4. Josh Allen
There was never a question about the arm talent of this guy and we saw flashes of that from the very start, but the steps he has taken from his rookie campaign to year two and especially coming into this season have been incredible. A lot of Allen’s accuracy problems had stemmed from the fact that his footwork varied too much and to get a little more into the mechanics – the way he locked his front-foot. This year he has become so much better at rotating through all the way to his target and that has taken his consistency to a whole new level. The addition of Stefon Diggs has also done wonders for his ability to hit on downfield throws, where he is now on the same level as the three guys in front of him, with 23 passes of 20+ yards – tied for fifth-most in the league. Despite connecting on less than half his passes in their Monday matchup against the Chiefs – in part due to the wet conditions, Allen is still completing over 67 percent of his throws, as he has improved his percentage by 6 and now 8.3% respectively from years one to three. And he is second to only Russell Wilson with 16 passing TDs compared to four INTs. And Allen hasn’t received a ton of help, as his receivers are tied for the third-most drops in the league with 14 and if you take away the quarterback’s production as a runner, whether it’s as a dangerous scrambler or even running QB sweeps, the Bills would be averaging just 68.3 rushing yards per game – which would clearly be last league-wide. I know people want to knock his down because of losing these last two games, but the Titans and Chiefs have one combined loss, Buffalo had put up 27+ points in every game through four weeks and Allen is still number one in QBR (87.0), just edging out the guy who just beat him in Mahomes. And no team is converting on third downs at a higher rate than the Bills (56.2%).
5. Lamar Jackson
Coming off a season where he was named unanimous league MVP and broke all kinds of records, it was expected that Lamar would take a step back. Through the first two weeks, I thought he actually improved as a true pocket passer, with the ability to quickly process information and throw his receivers open with tremendous ball-placement. In that big Monday Night matchup with Kansas City, the perception of fans completely shifted, as he was held to under 100 passing yards and the Ravens were never really in that game. And he is still growing in his recognition of defenses and finding solutions on the fly, while in that game in particular he got too much into hero ball mode and bailed on the pocket, but Iet’s not forget this guy is still only 23 years old and he has taken leaps and bounds from when we first saw Baltimore’s coaches manage him as a rookie being thrown into the fire mid-season. I expect him to continue to grow as a deep ball thrower, he absolutely drills guys over the middle to convert on third downs and he is the most dangerous runner of the ball in all of football. The Ravens organization made a conscious decision to build an offense around this young man when they drafted him and the results have been phenomenal when he hasn’t faced Kansas City. Against everybody else, they are 24-1 in the regular season. So far this season, only two quarterbacks, who have started three full games, are averaging less than Lamar’s 189.2 passing yards per game (Baker Mayfield & Jimmy Garoppolo) and completing his completion percentage (63%) and yards per attempt (7.0) have gone, but 10 TDs versus 2 INTs as a passer is still great and he is on par with last year as a runner, averaging 6.9 yards per carry and reaching the end-zone twice.
6. Deshaun Watson
After a slow start against three elite teams in the Chiefs, Ravens and Steelers, Deshaun has really picked things up, throwing for just under 1000 yards and nine TDs over these last three weeks, with two picks in the Jaguars game, that both could have easily been caught by his receiver. I know Brandin Cooks stepped up these last two weeks and Will Fuller has looked good outside of the one game he was injured for, but you can tell that Deshaun is missing DeAndre Hopkins to some degree. The Texans would absolutely have one more win, if it was Nuk high-point the ball in the end-zone versus Minnesota at the end of that one and they were a two-point conversion away to also seal this past game against the Titans. Only Carson Wentz & Joe Burrow have been sacked more than Watson so far (19 times), the offensive scheme hasn’t created a lot of open receivers for the Texans QB either and hasn’t gotten much help from the run game either, as the rest of the team has combined for just over 400 yards on the ground on more than 100 attempts. Maybe more so than any other quarterback, the offense goes as far as Deshaun takes them. He is the most elusive quarterback in the league right now. He might not be as strong as a Josh Allen or as fast as a Lamar Jackson, but in terms of having guys slip off him and finding a way to escape the rush in order to create something off script, this is the guy. Deshaun is tied with Russell Wilson in yards per attempt (8.9), second in air yards per completion (8.1) and his 27 completions of 20+ yards are the most league-wide. Unfortunately it has only led to win so far, largely because the defense is giving up 30 points a week. I mean his passer rating 138.9 last Sunday in Tennessee was the highest ever for a losing team.
7. Kyler Murray
We might not get the MVP talk for Kyler anymore that I heard after the first couple of weeks, but this guy is a superstar already. His passing numbers are still pretty up and down on a weekly basis and he threw three of his six picks in that Lions game, but he has completed at least 65 percent of his passes in every game until this past Monday Night, when it only took a couple of big completions to easily win at Dallas. Kyler actually is only 20th in the league with 7.3 yards per attempt despite being second with five completions of 40+ yards, with a lot of underneath stuff in that offense, and he easily leads the league with 380 passing yards off RPOs. With a guy his size, you don’t think of it that way, but the Cardinals QB has an absolute cannon. The one thing we have seen defenses give Kyler some trouble with zone defenses, where he is forced to hold onto the ball so the rush can get home. However, he has contributed more than any other QB as a runner. Kyler has such quick feet and he is gaining ground with those short strides faster than you can imagine. That touchdown run against the Lions still sticks in my mind, when he hit the “doopsy doo” against the defender and that guy still doesn’t know what happened to him. Right now, he is on pace for about 1000 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground and averages an NFL-best 7.3 yards per rush (among players with 40+ carries). So far he has been responsible for 16 touchdowns overall, which is less than only three other guys in the league.
8. Ryan Tannehill
I know this might be the least exciting name on this list so far, but Ryan Tannehill has played excellent football ever since replacing Marcus Mariota under center in the middle of last year. Over that stretch, the Titans have a 14-4 record (including postseason) and I just saw a graphic earlier this week that his numbers are right there with Patrick Mahomes. Obviously I won’t put him in that same category, but the numbers have been outstanding once again this season – completing 70 percent of his passes for a career-high 273.6 yards per game and 13 touchdowns compared to two picks. And he has led a game-winning drive in four of Tennessee’s five games, with the other one being a blowout against the then-undefeated Bills. Right now, he is third in quarterback rating and QBR, and even more impressive – he has done most of his damage without A.J. Brown in the lineup, who in his first game back against Buffalo gave Josh Norman the business and then scored twice on the Texans this past Sunday. Tannehill has such a compact release and as much as I don’t like the term – he throws a really catchable ball, with pin-point accuracy on many occasions. The Titans won’t to run the offense throw Derrick Henry, but their quarterback has turned into one of the premiere deep ball throwers in the game (tied for second in the league with five completions of 40+ yards), and those chunk plays combined with the steady rushing attack and the turnover differential is what has the Titans at 5-0. And while he doesn’t run it a whole lot, we have seen that Tannehill is dangerous off bootlegs if you don’t keep contain on him or when he pulls the ball on zone reads (seven first downs + one TD on 15 attempts).
9. Tom Brady
I’m still going to give this 43-year old legend his respect, but there are guys other nipping at the heels of Brady. The marriage between Brady and Bruce Arians’ offense has been quite smooth I would say, because he has produced some big plays off max-protect play-action, but also been able to go into shotgun and target his backs & tight-ends more than you would usually in that type of system. The new-look Bucs had a rather shaky debut on offense and Brady threw two picks to go with his touchdowns in the season-opener in New Orleans, but since then the GOAT has tossed 12 TDs compared to two INTs in these last five games (64.1 completion percentage overall). The reason those numbers haven’t been even better has been the health of his pass-catchers, as Chris Godwin has basically played one-and-a-half games, Mike Evans has been banged up all year and O.J. Howard was knocked out for the season in week four. Physically speaking, Brady still has a live arm, but he can’t drive the ball across the field like any of these other guys in front of him can (maybe outside of Tannehill), yet I like what I have seen from having around in the pocket and extending a few plays. As much as he wants to yell at teammates on the sidelines, number 12 has not been perfect either, with two pick-sixes already and a really bad moment in a nationally broadcasted game on Thursday Night two weeks ago, when he thought he still had another down. While I’m not sure how much difference that made, I’m annoyed that he wouldn’t own up to it. Still, no other team has dropped more passes than the Bucs (16) and Brady leads the NFL in what Pro Football Focus calls “big-time throws” (20).
10. Ben Roethlisberger
I know Alex Smith actually getting back onto an NFL field is a Hollywood-like story, but in seriousness the Comeback Player of the Year award – taking actual play into account – should come down to Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers offense hasn’t been super impressive so far, but Roethlisberger is really starting to build a connection with his young group of pass-catchers. He is definitely on the decline physically, but Big Ben still can attack all areas of the field and extend plays at times. The Steelers are still a perfect 5-0 with their long-time QB back from injury and they haven’t needed any of those blow-up games from Big Ben, but he is quietly completing a career-high 69.1 percent of his passes for an efficient 236 yards per game and 11 touchdowns compared to only one interception, with at this rate has him on pace for a personal best passer rating of 109.1. Pittsburgh as a team right now is 9th in rushing yards per game, but a lot of those have come in order to close out games – they did so pretty much the entire second half against the Browns last week for example, when Ben only threw one pass in the fourth quarter – and it hasn’t helped Roethlisberger a whole lot in the play-action game, where he has less than 100 passing yards off it. Ben has been getting the ball out of his hands as any quarterback in the league (2.2 seconds on average), but once or twice a game when needed he can still shrug off a defender and we saw what a load he is last week against Cleveland, when he gained about three yards on a simple QB sneak to convert fourth down.
11. Matthew Stafford
I have been a Stafford supporter for a long time and when people have talked about his winning percentage against teams that were above-.500 and whatever it may be, I have always pointed at the talent around him, which for many years was pretty underwhelming. However, that’s why I thought the Lions would go 8-8 this year, because they have the pieces to run Matt Patricia’s defense and offensively they might be as good all-around as they have ever been in the Stafford era. Unfortunately, Kenny Golladay wasn’t available for the most part and their best back until this past Sunday has been 35-year old Adrian Peterson. Still, now with Golladay back in the lineup, Stafford has been much more aggressive with giving his 50-50 ball specialist chances downfield and he is finding ways to extend drives. He has been careless on a few occasions, throwing the ball up for grabs or trying to fit it into some tight windows, but with his defense once again not being able to stop anybody in the big moments and not taking the ball away in two of their losses, he has had to force some stuff. The completion percentage (60.8%) doesn’t look great for Stafford and over these last ten years, he has only averaged less yards per game once (248.0), but this guy is playing winning football. The Lions have a more dependable run game than they have had in several years, which leads to six of their 15 touchdowns coming on the ground, but 60 percent of Stafford’s completions have resulted in first downs and he has thrown nine touchdowns in five games, without a multiple-INT showing. And no other quarterback has had a higher percentage of his passes dropped than Stafford (8.5%).
12. Derek Carr
One of the biggest risers this season has been Derek Carr. Back in 2016, the Raiders QB was an MVP front-runner with his team in position to earn the AFC’s number one seed, until he broke his leg and his team exited in the first round. The stats haven’t been bad since then for Carr, but the unwillingness to push the ball down the field and the amount of passes thrown behind the first-down marker was highly frustrating for me. In 2019, he was in the bottom three league-wide in intended air yards and yards to the sticks. I know the Jon Gruden offense is built on a combination of a downhill run game and quick passes to draw the defense closer, but then you have to have those downfield shots to take advantage of it and we didn’t see that. This year when rookie speedster Henry Ruggs has been available, Carr has been much more aggressive with taking advantage of defenses putting that extra safety in the box, as he is averaging a career-high 8.2 yards per attempt and is still tied for second with five passes of 40+ yards (five games). And despite that, he is still on pace to set new personal highs, with 73.1% completion percentage and 11 touchdowns through five games, while being one of only three QBs with at least three starts to get picked off just once and being second to only Russell Wilson with a QB rating of 115.9. Buffalo and Kansas City are also the only two other teams converting more than half their third-down attempts (52.3% for Las Vegas).
13. Cam Newton
Like I already mentioned, one of the front-runners for Comeback Player of the Year right now, Cam Newton has transformed the Patriots offense and we saw his impact the one game he wasn’t available for due to being infected, when New England hung with Kansas City through the quarters, but the guys under center for them gave the game away. The Patriots are only 0.15 percent away from being one of three teams in the NFL right now to run the ball more than they throw it and their quarterback has been a huge factor in that, either running QB power and read option himself or just opening up room for his backs thanks to the threat he presents, while averaging a ridiculous 15.7 yards per scramble. Cam is completing a career-high 68.1 percent of his passes and even though he has a TD-to-INT ratio of 2-to-4 as a passer, he has added five more scores on the ground and is averaging 56.3 rushing yards per game on five yards a clip. In three of his four starts, Cam has recorded between only 155 and 162 passing yards, to go with almost 400 in that shootout against Russell Wilson. But we have seen him go out there and take over a game with his arm when needed and his only two losses came at Seattle, when they were inches away from beating what is still an undefeated team, and this past Sunday against the Broncos, when they were in position to win that game late, but Cam himself didn’t look totally right and Denver’s defenses deserves some credit to beating up that Patriots O-line, that was shuffling guys around all game long. One stat that is a little worrisome is that despite towering over some D-linemen even, Cam has had ten passes batted down at the line, which is tied for the most in the league, and that tells about how he locks in on some throws and that has also led to his receivers taking some hospital shots.
14. Jared Goff
By his standards, Goff had a pretty bad 2019 season, when the team could not run the ball and once they were down in games, they almost exclusively went to 11 personnel and completely bailed on the run, illustrated by the highest pass-percentage in negative game-script situations. With Sean McVay using more motion at the snap and a complementary grouping of plays, where he keeps defenses off balance, Goff has looked much more comfortable this year. He has completed at least 70 percent of his passes in four of six games and thrown ten touchdowns compared to four picks, for a passer rating just North of 100. Goff has delivered on big-time throws – 25 passes of 20+ yards – while according to PFF, he has only had three turnover-worthy plays on the season. However, we have seen what happens when the Rams have faced a big defensive line that can clog up lanes in the run game and Goff is forced to back to be a drop-back passer. That includes a game against the Giants, who outside of James Bradberry still have a rather questionable secondary, and little success against the 49ers this past Sunday Night. Goff leads the NFL with 744 yards off play-action, making up for 47.4 percent of his yardage total, and until this past game, where he had to push it down the field to catch up with San Francisco, he was dead-last in intended air yards. I would say he is very dependent on the environment he is in, but he has thrived when McVay has put him in good positions.
15. Matt Ryan
Let’s not sugarcoat this – the Falcons have had an awful season up until this point. Their defense is giving up 29 points per game, the offense has sputtered in some big moments, not being able to run the ball late in games, and they already have two losses on their resume, when they were up by at least 15 points in the second half. Even though numbers can fool you and Ryan didn’t play his best in the second halves, when the Falcons needed it most to avoid some of their collapses, Ryan is completing 65.2 of his passes, with over 307 yards per game (second only to Dak Prescott, who still has the most total yards with almost six quarters less) and 11 TDs compared to 3 INTs. Atlanta’s 94 first downs through the air also lead the league. Those stats are incredibly driven by two performances of four touchdowns and zero picks respectively against a couple of bottom-five pass defenses in the Cowboys and Vikings. However, while Calvin Ridley has become a star for them, Julio Jones was only healthy for two of their games – and he dominated in those – and offseason addition Hayden Hurst has been rather disappointing, after I expected him to take on most of the role Austin Hooper had last year in this TE-friendly offense. Matty Ice has put up respectable numbers and if the Falcons just had an average defense, they would probably be at .500 now, but he has not delivered in big moments on several occasions and with his lack of mobility, he hasn’t been able to do much when the pass-rush crashed in on him.
16. Carson Wentz
I know this might even be too high for a lot of people, but I can’t quite put Wentz in the below-average category. The Eagles quarterback leads the league with 14 turnovers (nine INTs) and his team has yet to score 30 points, despite NFL scoring being at an all-time high, with only one win on his resume. Wentz is completing less than 60 percent of his passes for the first time in his career and his eight touchdowns are one less than his interception total. I get that his accuracy has been a little off – and I still believe there is something wrong with lower body – but his receivers have not made things easier on him with drops (tied for most in the league with 16), inconsistent play and a variety of injuries once again. The Eagles’ rushing numbers have inflated by two 70+ yard TD runs from Miles Sanders, when they caught the Steelers and Ravens in perfect positions. If you took away those two plays and Wentz’s own rushing production, Philly would average less than 70 yards per game and only 3.7 yards per carry. The Eagles have almost exclusively operated from the shotgun and dropped back for large stretches of games, putting a lot of pressure on their QB without much creativity in the route patterns and play-calling overall. Wentz has been sacked a league-high 25 times and he is now getting back to creating more on his own and is picking up crucial first downs with his legs (15 first downs and four TDs on 28 attempts). So you can not fault him for not battling, since he has been getting banged around like crazy, and just this past Sunday, he showed so much against the Ravens, to almost pull off a crazy comeback.
17. Justin Herbert
I’m the first one to admit that I was wrong on Herbert. I had him as a late first-round prospect, because even though the talent jumped off the screen, his inability to process information post-snap as a four-year starter and the simplicity of the offense around him had me concerned. That has been the most surprising thing for me so far – he has been outstanding at reacting to what defenses are doing and taking advantage of chances for big plays when they present themselves. You watch him throw strikes down the field versus Tampa Bay and New Orleans, whether he has to escape outside and throw it on the money off a full sprint or launch a 60+ yard bomb off his back-foot, and you come away amazed. He has gone toe-to-toe with (and you can argue outplayed) Mahomes – an overtime thriller where he was informed that he was going to start five minutes before kickoff, Brady – a game they should have won if not for a bad fumble just before halftime and the defense getting shredded after that, and Brees – another game that was decided by inches in OT. Herbert has gotten better every single week, and while there are one of two bad rookie decisions in all those games, he is the biggest reason they are even in position to win late. So far he is completing 68.8 percent of his passes for just under 300 yards a game and nine TDs compared to three INTs, while his O-line has allowed defenses to pressure the rookie on an NFL-high 31 percent of his drop-backs and he still is behind only Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson in yards per attempt (8.5).
18. Joe Burrow
I know the Bengals have actually only won one game so far, but outside of the Baltimore game, they haven’t lost by more than one score and the biggest reason they were even in those games is their rookie quarterback. While I did expect the Bengals to be in the four- to six-win range, they did have the first overall pick in the draft for a reason and there are still major issues with that roster. Their defense is the only one outside of Jacksonville’s to rank in the bottom-eight in both passing and yards allowed, and while the offense does have skill-position talent, the O-line predictably has been a mess. The only quarterback that has been sacked more (25 compared to 24 times for Burrow) is Carson Wentz and only the Eagles QB has been hit more. And to go with the punishment Burrow has taken, he hasn’t gotten much help from the run game either. Outside of a Joe Mixon explosion in week four against Jacksonville’s lackluster defense, the Bengals have averaged just 81.2 yards on the ground and Burrow himself has been responsible for almost 100 of those on some crucial scrambles. No rookie should ever lead the NFL in pass attempts, but that is exactly what is happening with the Bengals, with a whopping 41(!) attempts per week, and on a lot of those he has had to create something on his own and somehow make it work. Burrow has had two very tough matchups these last couple of weeks in Baltimore and Indianapolis, but while the entire team was overwhelmed by the Ravens, he picked apart the Colts through the first half and once again that Cincy defense was most responsible for that collapse.
19. Drew Brees
It’s funny how a lot people would have probably told me this would still be too high for Brees a couple of weeks ago and I already know somebody will say that this is disrespectful for a quarterback of his caliber. Brees still has great command of that Saints offense, his ability to manage time and get his offense in the right spots is off the charts and he will take advantage of defenses messing up, but the arm talent simply isn’t there anymore for me put him in that category with the guys I have ahead of him. When you look at your standard numbers, the Saints QB seems to be doing pretty well – completes over 70 percent of his passes, passer rating above 100, TD-to-INT ratio of nine to three – but only Kyle Allen averages a lower number of intended air yards (6.1) and Brees has only produced 12 plays of 20+ yards through the air, of which Alvin Kamara has been responsible for half of them. He does not push the ball down the field anymore and Kamara being fourth in the entire league in receptions per game (7.6) tells you a whole lot, whether it’s about the amounts of screens they throw or how often the 41-yard old decides to check it down – even when Sean Payton draws up shot plays off play-action. Brees has been pressured on a league-low 13.6 percent of his drop-backs and he basically doesn’t offer anything off script (one scramble for one yard). The Saints are a run-first team with an all-time great play-caller and as long as Brees can manage the game and deliver on third downs – which should only improve with Michael Thomas back (and he has missed dearly) – I expect them to a player in the NFC, but don’t think Brees is among the game’s best anymore.
20. Teddy Bridgewater
It has been a while since Teddy found himself on a list that ranked all starting quarterbacks, due to his injury and sitting behind guys on the bench, but after going 5-0 as a starter with the Saints last season in place of the injured Drew Brees, he got the chance to lead a team again by Carolina. So far he has looked extremely comfortable in that Joe Brady offense and something I appreciate about his game is how well sees the entire field. So far, Teddy is completing over 70 percent of his passes for the first time in his career and easily throwing for a personal high 279.3 yards per game, with six touchdowns compared to five INTs. He is one of only five quarterbacks on this list, whose passes result in first downs more than 40 percent of the time, and the Panthers only just suffered their first loss since Christian McCaffrey went on IR four weeks ago (now 3-1 since then, after an 0-2 start). Just like last year, the reason I’m not higher on him is based on what he is asked to do – he is in the bottom-five in both averaged intended air yards and yards to the sticks, while over half his passing yardage has come after the catch. What I have liked seeing is that Bridgewater used his legs more last week than we have seen since his rookie year, with those 48 yards against the Bears last week making up for almost half his total on the season, and right now he is averaging 5.3 yards per carry.
21. Ryan Fitzpatrick
Since the start of the 2019 season, no quarterback has been more overlooked than this guy. Fitzpatrick arguably was the best quarterback in the AFC East last year, when Tom Brady and Josh Allen were there. Throughout his career, it has been about really good or really bad Fitzy, but since a tough season-opener against the Patriots – who still have one of the better defenses in the league – he has been on fire for the most part. The Dolphins just announced that Tua will take over as their starter following their bye week, but right now he would be on pace for career-highs in completion percentage (70.1) and passing touchdowns (ten through six games). And if you throw his 135 rushing yards into the mix, Fitzy has been responsible for 91 combined first downs and he added two TDs on quarterback draws. He doesn’t have the biggest arm in the world, but he is not afraid to fire the ball all over the field and can have a hot streak like almost nobody else. His biggest issue has always been that he is just too reckless, with seven interceptions this year (third-most in the league), despite not needing to force the issues in a few blowout games. Still, nobody is more fun to watch than Fitzy, when he running around like a mad man or throwing his body around as a blocker. And Miami scored at least 23 points every week since their opener at New England and in three of their last four games, they have blown out the position. So with how well he and the team had played, that makes me believe this decision to make the switch at the bye week was made much earlier. And if this was it for Fitzy, I’m glad to have watched him play(!) the game.
22. Baker Mayfield
When you talk about game-managers in the NFL, one of the first names that comes to my mind is Baker Mayfield. I know a first overall pick being labelled as that may not be satisfying to the organization or the player himself, but that’s the role he should take in order for his team to win. The Browns are league’s number one rushing offense under head coach Kevin Stefanski and everything they do comes off that. You can see the difference in the Colts game, when Baker had FOREVER back there off play-action and was often times completely unaccounted for, compared to the few times he simply dropped back. When you look at the numbers, Mayfield is averaging just 182.5 passing yards per game, which currently is 33rd among qualified players (at least three games), with 10 TDs compared to six INTs. Now, the difference between him and a guy like Drew Brees is that he delivers on those big-time throws, whether it’s hitting Odell Beckham Jr. on double-moves or getting the ball to those deep crossers, they are so successful with, but you don’t feel nearly as good about putting the ball in the hands of the Browns QB when you really need a drive. The positive sign is that he is cutting down on the turnovers (seven total so far), but he has given it to the opposite team five times in the last two games against top five defenses of the Colts and Steelers. Baker has had more time to throw (3.2 seconds) than other quarterback in the league, yet the Browns as a team somewhat surprisingly have the lowest yards after the catch (350), but a lot of that has to do with the amount of deep crossers and other play-action shots they take.
23. Kirk Cousins
And since we’re in this mold of game-managing type signal-callers from run-heavy teams, let’s talk about Kirk Cousins. His career has been overshadowed by the stigma of primetime games and the lack of high-end talent, but 2019 was his best year as a pro, thanks to Dalvin Cook carrying the load and him being able to work off it. While he certainly isn’t the most mobile quarterback or has the strongest arm, Minnesota loves going play-action with all the boots and waggles in Gary Kubiak’s offense. Unfortunately, while the big-play ability is there – Cousins leads the league in average yards (13.1) and air yards per completion (8.2) – he now leads the league with ten interceptions. Cousins had maybe his worst game as a pro against the Colts, when he completed just 42 percent of his passes with no touchdowns and three picks. If you take that game out of the equation, he is right there with what he has done in his three years with the Vikings – one of those three-INT showings. And if you take away meaningless touchdown passes in a couple of blowout losses, Cousins would have a negative TD-to-INT ratio, but as it stands, 11-to-10 doesn’t look great anyway. I would argue Kirk has been outplayed in every single game so far and the Vikings’ one win came in the only game he didn’t throw an interception. The reason he isn’t even lower is that he has delivered on plenty of big plays, with 22 completions of 20+ yards – tied for fifth league-wide.
24. Gardner Minshew
We went into this season with the Jaguars being the odds-on favorite to “earn” the number one overall pick in the 2021 draft and the general feeling was they would select one of the big three quarterbacks. Jacksonville shocked everybody week one, when they upset the Colts, who were almost double-digit favorites, but they have not won another game since then and are looking more like a contender for a top five pick again. Still, their quarterback has played fairly well without a real stinker on the schedule. Minshew right now is completing seven percent more of his passes (67.5%) compared to last year, with the exact same yards per attempt (7.0), but he won’t reach that 21-to-6 ratio of TDs-to-INTs from a year ago, as he has already thrown five picks and to go along with four fumbles, compared to 11 touchdowns. Undrafted rookie running back James Robinson looked really good through the first five weeks, but unfortunately the defense has been a mess, outside of forcing a couple of turnovers in the season-opener, giving up 30+ points every week since then, and that hasn’t allowed them to stay balanced with their play-calling throughout games. Up to this point, nobody has thrown the ball on a higher percentage of plays than the Jaguars (67.2%) and Minshew leads the league with 162 completions. However, I think he is still probably going to be replaced if they are on the clock next April and they really like one of those QBs.
25. Nick Foles
Has there ever been a quarterback more inspiring as a back-up, but also that disappointing as a starter? After Mitch Trubisky orchestrated a big comeback against Detroit in the season-opener, the Bears coaches decided to switch to veteran Nick Foles in the second half of their week three game against Atlanta. Foles would throw three touchdowns – and it should have been five – in the fourth quarter and lead them to another comeback, taking over the starting gig permanently. He hasn’t looked great since, missing a few wide-open receivers and not producing those big plays we expected for the offense to open up once he was inserted. He was horrible through three quarters against the Colts and I still have no idea how they won that TNF game against the Bucs. Foles has thrown a pick in all four games and he has been held to one passing TD in each of these last three matchups, plus a rushing TD on a sneak from the one last Sunday at Carolina. Only Sam Darnold has a lower yards per attempt than Foles (5.8) and only half of his completions have actually turned into first downs. With all that being said and regardless of how they get there, Foles always seems to come through when the ball is in put in his hands at the end of the game. He has led game-winning drives in two of their three victories and like he said himself in the post-game interview, it’s better to win ugly than to lose pretty, as the Bears and their QB I’m sure feel highly disrespected despite their 5-1 record.
26. Drew Lock
I predicted the Broncos’ second-year quarterback to be one of my breakout candidates, because of the promising skill-set he displayed over final five weeks of 2019, the weapons they acquired around him in the offseason and the addition of offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. However, he has only played nine quarters so far this season, due to a sprained AC joint, and his numbers haven’t been great – completing just 53.2 percent of his passes 425 yards and one touchdowns compared to two interceptions for a quarterback rating outside of the top 32 (66.9). With that being said, I liked what I saw from him in the season-opener and on his two picks in New England, he wasn’t put in great positions, as Tim Patrick did not look for a back-shoulder throw despite the corner having him stacked and the OC calling four verticals on the very next play, without a check-down option, when the Broncos should have run down the clock. Lock blows everybody else out of water with an average of 12.9 intended air yards on his passes and throws it 4.4 yards across the sticks, which is 3.6 yards further than the next-closest current starter in Aaron Rodgers. I had to calculate this myself, but according to my numbers, only Denver’s QB3 Jeff Driskel has been blitzed on a higher percentage of drop-backs than Lock (53.2%). He will have to prove he can find solutions more quickly and we still have to see if that shoulder is totally right. But he has to get some help from the run game, because the Broncos have picked up a league-low 24 first downs on the ground and average only 3.7 yards per carry.
27. Philip Rivers
I was ready to bury Rivers with the bottom-tier guys before he showed me that he can still take over games this past Sunday in a 21-point comeback against the Bengals. Before that matchup, he stood at four touchdowns compared to five picks, but he really boosted his stats with that 371-yard and three TD performance. He made a great throw to Marcus Johnson that travelled almost 60 yards through the air – which is encouraging – but overall he doesn’t have the arm strength anymore to drive the ball across the field and he is way to careless with putting the ball up for grabs. I mean watching Rivers almost jump into some throws and jerking the ball out of there is not pretty. And he really doesn’t have any mobility to speak of, in order to avoid the rush. And while he doesn’t have the most dynamic group of pass-catchers, they have been very sure-handed, dropped just three of Rivers’ passes, resulting in a league-low drop percentage of 1.6%. Added to that, the 17-year veteran has been sacked on just every 40th drop-back and only Drew Brees has been pressured less than Rivers (15.2%). What he is still great at, it layering passes between zones and playing the ball to where his receivers can win late. Still, to me the Colts have to let the offense run through rookie Jonathan Taylor, who could have a big second half of the season. I really liked Indy coming into the year and I still think they can win the AFC South, but the quarterback position could cap how far they can go.
28. Jimmy Garoppolo
As part of about a hundred injuries for the 49ers in week two on that criticized MetLife Turf against the Jets, Garoppolo missed a couple of games. And after getting benched for the second half of their week five game against the Dolphins, due to his struggles which in part came due to that banged-up ankle, Jimmy G had a bounce-back performance this past Sunday Night versus the Rams, with three touchdowns and no picks. However, I give the majority of the credit to Kyle Shanahan’s game-plan, that didn’t ask the quarterback to throw the ball beyond the sticks and the “YAC Bros” putting in work with the ball in their hands. I have yet to be impressed by anything the Niners QB has done and when you break down those numbers, it is stunning. 68.8 percent of Garoppolo’s passing yards have come after the catch and the average of 8.0 yards after catch is 1.5 yards more than it is for any other quarterback in the league. His accuracy has been spotty at times, he hasn’t delivered on those big-play opportunities his HC has drawn up for him and there have been so many lay-ups for him with guys wide open in flats off play-action or running away from defenders on screen passes, where the yardage still goes on Garoppolo’s account. He has a matchup against one of the elite secondaries of the Patriots up next, before he should be able to feast on Seattle’s 32nd-ranked pass defense next week. So we should see both sides of the pendulum.
29. Daniel Jones
One of the more disappointing teams and individual players of 2020 so far has been Danny Dimes. I expected the G-Men to take a little step forward as a team with reinforcements on the offensive line and a couple of nice signings on defense, but until facing the horrific Dallas defense, they had only scored three offensive touchdowns through four weeks and as much as I want to say how their QB has been under fire all year long and that he hasn’t gotten much help from the run game, some blame has to go to the guy running the show. I was really impressed with Jones as a rookie, when he threw for over 3000 yards and 24 touchdowns compared to 12 INTs. This season that two-to-one ratio has flipped the other way, with three TDs and six picks. He and fellow second-year receiver Darius Slayton have built a great connection, but if you take away the numbers they have put up together, Jones would easily be dead-last in yards per attempt at 5.2 and just over 30 percent of his passes would result in first downs. I still believe Jones’ ability to pick up yards on scrambles and in the designed run game is the best part of this offense, as he has contributed over 200 rushing yards and is averaging 7.6(!) yards per carry – that is even higher than the current leader among qualifiers in Kyler Murray (min. 40 attempts). And only one quarterback has been pressured more than Jones.
30. Sam Darnold
I don’t think any young quarterback has been thrown into a worse situation than Darnold in New York. Through three years, Jamison Crowder by far has been the best receiver Darnold has played with, Le’Veon Bell never had a 20+ yard run until he was released last week and Frank Gore has handled most of the work this year anyway, the offensive line has been one of the worst in the league over the first two years of his career and as much as Adam Gase was praised as a quarterback whisperer before coming over, he has barely given his quarterback any open receivers through scheme either. Darnold has not been great this season whatsoever, getting fooled at times by post-snap changes and being too aggressive at times, being just under the thresholds of 60% completion percentage and 200 passing yards a game, with three TD passes versus four. Right now he has the 32nd-best passer rating in the league (70.7) and is also at the very bottom of the league with 5.7 yards per attempt. With that being said, he has made at least one spectacular individual plays in every single game and he has once again not gotten a lot of help around him. Joe Flacco has started the last two weeks for the Jets and while I don’t know the medical report, going by the fact that staff also let an injured Mekhi Becton go on the field in the Denver game, I would think Darnold should not have gone back in the game with that banged up shoulder.
31. Andy Dalton
Having Dalton this low is more about not having seen more from him in a Cowboys uniform yet. For a long time, he was the definition of average in Cincinnati, with one really good year and a few below his standard at the end of his tenure with the Bengals. While he did have A.J. Green all those years in Cincy, he has never had this collection of skill-position players, which can be argued is as good as anybody’s this side of Kansas City. Dalton made two great throws late in the Giants game to Michael Gallup, when he replaced Dak Prescott in the second half, once he suffered that ankle injury, that set up a game-winning field goal. That was a promising sign, after Cowboys fans saw their franchise QB go down, but Dalton had a really disappointing showing against the Cardinals this past Monday Night. He completed 34 of 54 passes for just 266 yards (4.9 yards would be lowest in the league) and two picks, with another sure-fire one dropped by Jordan Hicks, before throwing a meaningless touchdown late in the game. The hope here (to some degree at least) is that last week was his first with any first-team reps and that Dalton has always been really bad in primetime, as much as I want to avoid that stigma. He does have a pretty good arm and the athleticism to escape pressure and make throws on the run when needed, but he really needs to step up now.
32. Kyle Allen
This is another guy we only have about five quarters of film on, as Allen was knocked out by Jalen Ramsey in his debut with Washington, which set the stage for Alex Smith’s miraculous comeback, which in ended up being a beatdown for him at the hands of that Rams D-line. Allen was off to a hot start in place of Cam Newton in Carolina last year, when the team won in his first four starts and he stood at seven touchdowns and no picks, but from that point on, they went 1-8 and Allen threw 16 INTs compared to only 10 TDs. So far in the nation’s capital, he is completing 72.7 percent of his passes, with two TDs and one INT, but he is averaging a league-low 5.3 air yards per pass attempt and he throws the ball short of the sticks by 3.7 yards, which is further away from that first-down marker than any other QB. He did have his team in position to win only their second game of the season this past Sunday in New York, but he also showed bad pocket presence when he was stripped for a fumble return touchdown and I still have no idea what he did on that two-point conversion attempt, when instead of going for the end-zone himself, he bailed out and threw the ball in the dirt. Him having that hit from Ramsey in the back of his mind is actually the only thing that I can imagine is what made him hesitant. Nobody wants to be at the bottom of the list, but Sam Darnold is the only other guy without a win on his resume and I don’t think those two are necessarily close in terms of their talent.