10 Weeks Until NFL Kickoff: Power ranking of all 32 starting quarterbacks
The NFL offseason supplies us with a nearly nonstop stream of football content, ranging from logical breakdowns and predictions to the dreaded barrage of hot takes and incendiary banter.
But we’re nearing the end of our trek through the football-barren desert of the offseason (no disrespect intended to the USFL), with today marking 70 days, 10 weeks, until the regular season kicks off with the Bills facing the Super Bowl-champion Rams on Sept. 8.
In honor of this arbitrary yet exciting benchmark, we will be counting down the weeks until kickoff with a different offseason recap or season preview piece every Thursday. We’ll start with a tried and true offseason classic, power ranking all 32 starting NFL quarterbacks. This is an objective rankings, combining past production and future projections.
This is about having fun and building hype for the return of America’s true pastime. Now, let’s talk quarterbacks.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
I had to flip Nos. 1 and 2 multiple times before finally settling on the two-time reigning MVP as our top-ranked passer. That qualifier seems like more than enough reason to position Rodgers atop the ladder, but you do have to consider the fact that he’s yet another year older and that he’ll be playing with one of the weakest receiving corps he’s ever had. All that said, he’s in his late 30s and is playing arguably the best football of his life right now. Since coach Matt LaFleur showed up, Rodgers has hit a performance level few quarterbacks have ever touched. Bet against the future hall of famer at your own peril.
2. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Do you remember when Aaron Rodgers quipped to The Pat McAfee Show that his down years were the career years for most other quarterbacks? That same (correct) idea also applies to Mahomes, who threw for 4,839 yards and 37 touchdowns last year with 13 interceptions. The turnover total was suboptimal, but those numbers are hardly enough to spin a narrative about decline or whatever the Football Industrial Complex is pushing this offseason. Don’t forget, even with his haunting AFC Championship Game second half effort in mind, what the now sixth-year pro has and can accomplish at his best. His top wide receiver is gone, but with Travis Kelce still in the fold and the potential for more creative offensive designs with a new squad of pass catchers in the mix, look for Mahomes to be as good as ever in 2022.
3. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
If you want to bump Allen up to second, maybe even first, there’s absolutely a reasonable argument to make. The stats are there, the eye test is there and more and more the big moments are there, too. If you think the hype machine is running full steam ahead now, just imagine if the Bills had actually beaten the Chiefs in that divisional round thriller a year ago. Buffalo should have one of the best offenses and be one of the best teams in football this year overall (it’s currently the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl), and with the weapons he has it his disposal Allen should be at the forefront of the MVP conversation.
4. Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
Let’s get the obvious knock on Herbert out of the way: The Chargers haven’t won anything of consequence in the two seasons he’s been their starting quarterback. No division titles, no playoff appearances. There’s context for that and #QBWINZ aren’t a stat, but it’s also undeniable that we grade quarterbacks with heavy weighting on their team success. Outside of that, though, what is there not to like about the burgeoning star? Stellar arm talent, an enchanting mix of flash and grit, numerous factors that contribute to him being a darling of the football world even without any major wins to this point in his brief career. He’s heading into Year 2 with Joe Lombardi as his offensive coordinator, and that consistency should propel Herbert to even greater heights.
5. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It didn’t quite feel like we saw the usual Tom Brady in 2021. If you look at his numbers and the Buccaneers’ record you may think that sounds ludicrous, considering he led the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns (albeit also on a league-high number of attempts), but something about the Brady aura (and accuracy) didn’t feel right. Call it being a hater, call it anecdotal evidence, but we know we won’t have Brady around much longer regardless. Hell, he’s said as much this offseason. But even with all that said, there’s really no debating he belongs in the top 5 of any quarterback ranking, and he’s a key factor why the Bucs are favorites to win the NFC this season.
6. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow is awesome. His brand on the field is thrilling to watch while his brand off the field is as cool as can be. His hype has also gotten a little unwieldy this offseason in the wake of the Bengals’ Super Bowl run. No, he’s not better than Patrick Mahomes, but he’s ascending on a similar trajectory to his draft classmate Herbert. Cincinnati, like Buffalo, has also done a remarkable job of putting young talent around its young stud quarterback, and now that he’s got a real offensive line in front of him there’s no ceiling on what kind of success Burrow can have.
7. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
You can’t deny that there are concerns about Jackson’s passing, especially when it comes to balls outside the numbers. Those worries are also overblown, in this writer’s opinion, and while he may not have the arm talent of a Rodgers or Mahomes it’s not as if he’s a mix of Taylor Heinicke’s arm strength and Cam Newton’s accuracy, either. Solid-to-strong throwing ability and the most dynamic running skills we’ve ever seen from a quarterback will continue to make Jackson a force, even as he goes through a dramatic contract negotiation.
8. Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos
Steven Ruiz of The Ringer did a great job explaining the “Russell Wilson Offense” and how Wilson’s game and ability transcends most (if not all) offensive schemes. Look for that to be the case in Denver, where the scrambling long-ball maestro will have a bevy of options to connect with. Wilson’s stock took a hit last year when he played injured, but there’s still plenty left in the tank if his finger is healed. Can you imagine a Wilson moon ball in that Denver altitude?
9. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
Super Bowl 56 was a tough one for Matthew Stafford haters. After toiling away in Detroit for over a decade, Stafford helped propel the Rams to a championship in his first season, thriving in the game’s most effective offense even while still displaying some of the shortcomings that often plagued him with the Lions. Some baffling decisions will always keep Stafford toward the bottom of the top 10, but he’s primed to succeed as long as he’s paired with Sean McVay.
10. Matt Ryan, Indianapolis Colts
I am a Matt Ryan believer. He’s not in his prime any longer, but a lot of his struggles in the past couple years in Atlanta were either overblown or exacerbated by an increasingly worse roster. Ryan also isn’t as immobile as he’s made out to be (within reason), and the talent around him in Indianapolis is “pretty good” at worst. There are worse options out there than handing off to Jonathan Taylor or throwing to Michael Pittman Jr. The Colts should run away with the AFC South and it would be a shock to see that coincide with Ryan looking rejuvenated.
11. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Prescott does many things well without being great at anything in particular. It sounds insulting to call him Kirk Cousins with legs, but sometimes he really does feel like Kirk Cousins with legs. He doesn’t turn the ball over too much, puts up nice numbers and leads the Cowboys to plenty of wins, but he also feels like the line for whether or not you actually trust your quarterback to propel you to a Super Bowl or not.
12. Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders
The people who love Derek Carr really, really love Derek Carr, while those who dislike him appear to believe that he’s among the worst passers in the league. You don’t need to be his homer brother to think Carr is a good quarterback, but there’s also more than enough film indicating that he’s on the outside looking in on the league’s best quarterbacks. The Raiders’ offensive line isn’t any good, but adding his best friend Davante Adams to the mix could help elevate Carr to another level (although there’s a clear ceiling on what he can accomplish).
13. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
There might not be a less inspiring quarterback in the NFL than Kirk Cousins. He makes enough safe passes to inflate his CPOE and usually does enough to make the Vikings a contender in a majority of their games, but he’s never been one of the best quarterbacks in the league or even close in a given season. His teams have never made much noise in the playoffs. His physical gifts top out at “fine.” Cousins’ floor is fairly high but his ceiling is undoubtedly low, and even Justin Jefferson can’t elevate Cousins enough to make you feel as though the Vikings are out of purgatory.
14. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
If we were ranking quarterbacks based on how fun they are, Murray would be next to Lamar Jackson near the top of the list. Unfortunately for Arizona’s quarterback, we’re not. There are moments when it looks like Murray is one of the game’s elite, and his physical talent (though not stature) is in a premium tier compared to most of the NFL. But the constant injuries and regular meltdowns in the back half of the schedule are concerning for Kyler and the Cardinals.
15. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
Tannehill is coming off a dismal playoff exit last season, he no longer has his best receiver and the offensive line in front of him is problematic. Not a great spot to be in for the soon-to-be 34 year old. Derrick Henry returning at full strength will help, but there’s a lot of tread on Tractorcito’s tires. Tennessee likely took a step back from last season, and it feels like its contending window is closing. For them to contend again, Tannehill must have a bounce-back season, otherwise the Malik Willis era is likely on the horizon.
16. Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
Your writer, dear reader, is a member of Tuanon. Yes, a believer that the former fifth-overall pick and the namesake of “Tank for Tua” can and will be a good NFL quarterback. Tagovailoa’s arm isn’t great but he does have good accuracy (although not to the level of Patrick Mahomes), and the Dolphins have done plenty to build around him. With an offensive “genius” of a coach in Mike McDaniel to the additions of Tyreek Hill and Cedrick Wilson, plus some running back depth, the pieces are there for Tua to succeed. However, with a short leash and a shaky offensive line, this year is critical.
17. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
Admittedly, this one feels wrong, but it also feels like the NFL’s quarterback quality takes a sharp fall at the midway point. Hurts’ athleticism is a major plus, as is his intelligence, but I don’t think he’s the kind of passer who is destined for long-term success. What’s working in his favor, though, is the roster Philadelphia has built around him. Hurts hasn’t been a professional for long, but this already feels like a make-it-or-break-it kind of year.
18. Mac Jones, New England Patriots
Jones put together a nice rookie season that has been largely inflated due to the fact he plays for the Patriots. A sophomore jump is entirely possible thanks to familiarity with his weapons, although changing offensive play callers is always difficult for young passers. Jones has a bright future, sure, but when you look back on his first campaign, remember this: there’s a reason Bill Belichick only wanted to throw the ball three times in the snow against the Bills, and it wasn’t just because of the weather.
19. Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints
Winston had a nice start to 2021 before tearing his ACL, and it made sense for the Saints to re-sign the former No. 1 pick as they still look for a quarterback of the future. Sean Payton isn’t there any longer, though, and while offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael has been in New Orleans for a long time, he’s not Sean Payton. Can he find a way to maximize Winston’s talent, or will we see a return to Winston’s chaotic Tampa Bay days?
20. Davis Mills, Houston Texans
Mills Mafia has picked up plenty of steam this offseason, which is shocking but not entirely unwarranted. In a year in which rookie quarterbacks largely failed, Mills showed enough for a horrible Houston team than indicates he could have some staying power. And frankly, he’s got the tools at his disposal to take another step in ’22. Brandin Cooks is a decent No. 1 receiver, the Texan drafted Garrett Wilson in the first round, the offensive line isn’t exactly “good” but it’s not awful either and Pep Hamilton is a wizard at coaching up young quarterbacks.
21. Jared Goff, Detroit Lions
If you’re a believer that the Lions can be a dark horse playoff team this season, you nee Jared Goff to recreate some of his prime performances from his Los Angeles days. He’s a finished product at this point and isn’t going to carry the Lions anywhere on his own, although the emergence of Amon-Ra St. Brown and the eventual debut of Jameson Williams could bright out his best (or at least better than what we’ve seen the last couple years).
22. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
The bright side for Lawrence is that if you really grind his game tape from last year you can see bursts of why he was such a highly touted prospect. The dark side is that, in general, he was very bad as a rookie. I actually like his trajectory a lot more now with Doug Pederson as his coach and with a group of real receivers, as opposed to Urban Meyer and a bunch of nobodies, respectively. It wouldn’t be a surprise for Lawrence to shoot up this board a year from now.
23. Carson Wentz, Washington Commanders
Wentz defenders will holler at you about his 27:7 TD:INT ratio from a year ago until they’re blue in the face. That’s solid, no doubt, but did you watch any of his other plays? He’s not as bad as he’s sometimes made out to be, but his proclivity for hero ball and boneheaded decision making limits any optimism you can have for the former MVP candidate.
24. Zach Wilson, New York Jets
After a gruesome start to 2021, Wilson actually started to put things together a little bit despite getting sidelined temporarily with an injury, and even had a stretch of five straight games without an interception to close the year. Unfortunately, he also only had three touchdown passes and averaged just 159 yards per game in that stretch. Consistency is Wilson’s friend, as he will benefit from having the same scheme and play caller for the second year in a row, something few of the 2021 rookies will get heading into 2022.
25. Daniel Jones, New York Giants
Danny Dimes has one last chance. Coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka is the best new coaching situation a sinking former first-round pick could ask for, and if they can’t get something productive out of Jones then it’s a safe assumption no one will. There just hasn’t been much of anything over the best several seasons to indicate he can be a successful quarterback.
26. Jacoby Brissett, Cleveland Browns
The initial draft of this power ranking (written weeks ago) had the Browns’ starting quarterback ranked in the top 10. However, with it seemingly increasingly more likely that Deshaun Watson could face a year-long suspension (or at least numerous games), Brissett will see the lion’s share of snaps this season. If the relationship between Cleveland and Baker Mayfield were anything other than radioactive the former No. 1 pick would be closer to the middle of this list. Instead, a journeyman with uninspiring tape and stats lands in the bottom seven.
27. Marcus Mariota, Atlanta Falcons
I like Marcus Mariota, but there’s also a reason he hasn’t gotten a starting job since being benched for Ryan Tannehill in Tennessee. The Falcons’ roster is a barren wasteland, and it’s clear that the former Heisman Trophy winner is a stopgap option, whether for one of next year’s top quarterback prospects or for this year’s third-round pick, Desmond Ridder.
28. Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers
Projecting Lance’s future is a fascinating exercise. If he pans out, he has legitimate superstar potential and could be one of the most exciting players in the league given his physical gifts. If he doesn’t, it will be an all-time trade nightmare for the 49ers. There’s a lot of variance in his game, but while he struggled a great deal in limited action last year the sample size was far too small to write him off.
29. Justin Fields, Chicago Bears
Let’s recap the Justin Fields experience so far: Has to sit behind Andy Dalton, enraging fans. Finally gets in, gets roughed up constantly, plays poorly (fourth-worst EPA+CPOE composite in the NFL) with bad coaching. His offensive line is going to be awful again. Instead of getting him legitimate help for maybe the worst wide receivers room in the league, the Bears drafted a 25-year-old kick returner. He will have a new coaching staff and offensive system to learn in Year 2. Chicago’s defense is also in decline, which we know strains offenses. Best of luck, Justin.
30. Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers
Even the most ardent Darnold supporter likely sees the writing on the walls at this point. In 24 games over the last two seasons, Darnold has thrown 18 touchdowns and 24 interception, including a 9:13 split with the Panthers last season. Carolina’s well-known connection to Baker Mayfield rumors is all you need to know about how that franchise views its incumbent quarterback.
31. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers
This isn’t necessarily intended to put down a player who’s never seen a professional snap before, but we have no idea what Pickett can do at the next level, and it’s not like he was an otherworldly prospect. In fact, he was one with questionable arm strength and a single year of standout college tape. If Mitchell Trubisky started for the Steelers instead of Pickett he would be maybe three spots higher. Maybe.
32. Drew Lock, Seattle Seahawks
Does Seattle truly believe in Drew Lock or does general manager John Schneider just really hate idea of adding Baker Mayfield? Lock will have some really nice weapons to throw to, including D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Noah Fant, who he also played with in Denver. Unfortunately, he also had solid pass catchers and a quality running game in Denver, where he was genuinely dreadful over the past three years. The immediate post-Russell Wilson era looks bleak in Seattle’s quarterbacks room.