In the NFL, the quarterback position is the most pivotal due to him being the guy holding the ball at the start of the play. The job of the quarterback is to direct the offense and move the ball down the field towards the end zone while avoiding turning the ball over. Quarterbacks who are good at reading defenses and finding the soft spot in the zones or seeing advantageous matchups are the ones who lead high-scoring offenses and win football games. Perhaps no QB is better at that than Tom Brady, who will be in his 19th season as the starting QB of the Patriots and 20th season overall.
For this exercise, I will be leaving Brady out of this because there are plenty of other articles and forms of media that highlight his greatness on the field worth reading instead. Let’s get the list underway, please note I am ranking these QB by tiers and the order presented is not that important.
Tom Brady (NE): G.O.A.T., enough said.
Drew Brees (NO): Brees is the only QB who can match Brady in experience and ability to read the field. A 13-year starter, Brees has helped the Saints win a Super Bowl and has the Saints as a yearly playoff contender since joining them in 2006. Like Brady, his coaching situation has been very stable with only 1 head coach in his prolific career in Sean Payton. The Saints are a contender for the top seed in the NFC and look like the top contender to make the Super Bowl, although Philadelphia, Seattle, and Los Angeles might have something to say about that.
Patrick Mahomes (KC): Mahomes is a freak of nature QB with video game-like attributes in both his arm and mobility. He only has 1 year of starting experience, but has already taken the league by storm with an MVP season and saw his season end to Brady’s greatness. The Chiefs will remain the Patriots’ top AFC rival with a plethora of receiving weapons that is sure to put Kansas City in near historic territory for offensive output. The reason he ranks so high is despite the Patriots having the perfect plan for him, Mahomes was able to put up 31 point second halves in both games. When he is able to read defenses more clearly, then we may see him challenge Brady for the GOAT title some day. For now, he’s a superstar player with limitless potential.
Russell Wilson (SEA): Wilson is often overlooked given the Seahawks haven’t advanced past the divisional round since Malcom Butler’s interception, but the fact remains he’s taken even average teams into the playoffs. Wilson has a habit of making defenses paying for mistakes such as not containing him in the pocket or getting beat deep on the scramble drill. The combination of running ability plus touch on deep passes makes Wilson a tough QB to game plan against for 60 minutes.
Very Good Tier
Aaron Rodgers (GB): Rodgers is overrated by the media based on things he did 5+ years ago. The Packers have not been that great a football team since an improbable NFCCG run in 2016, with Rodgers missing time in the past two seasons. Rodgers will need to have a bounceback season in which he’s healthy and able to lead the Packers to a division title in order to get back into the elite tier of QBs.
Matt Ryan (ATL): The Falcons haven’t let their failure to seal away Super Bowl LI get to them yet, although at least not in Ryan’s case. Ryan will have two solid receivers in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley to get the ball to along with a solid amount of skill players on offense and defense. The question becomes can the Falcons adequately challenge the Saints for the division and if not that, at least the top wild card spot.
Ben Roethlisberger (PIT): With Bell and Brown out of Pittsburgh, the pressure is on Big Ben to deliver for the Steelers. His season starts with a road game in New England, but the division is wide open with the Steelers being prohibitive favorites in my opinion. Roethlisberger is the best QB in the division by far
Philip Rivers (LAC): Rivers continues to get it done despite a shotput throwing motion thanks to being able to read the field very well. Lack of postseason success has Rivers lower on this list compared to other QBs, although he’s a tough guy to beat if the defense is lax. The one weakness in that Chargers offense is a suspect OL that got exposed by the Patriots and their stunts in the divisional round.
Deshaun Watson (HOU): In just 2 years, Watson has proven he has the ability to be a good QB although a shoddy OL has subjected him to injuries over that time.
Cam Newton (CAR): Newton is a solid deep ball passer with the occasional accuracy and maturity issues. His size makes him a tough runner to tackle in the open field, so teams need to make him throw from the pocket to beat them.
Matthew Stafford (DET): Stafford is good, but not great. He’ll have his moments of brilliance, but otherwise isn’t a game-changing QB who can elevate the talent around him.
Carson Wentz (PHI): Wentz has a chance to jump a tier, but he’ll have to prove he can stay healthy over the course of an NFL season. His last two seasons ended with knee and back problems respectively and now he’s paid. The pressure is on Wentz to prove he is more capable of leading the Eagles than Nick Foles did.
Nick Foles (JAC): Foles has led the Eagles to two playoff runs including a Super Bowl LII MVP performance. Now he has a team of his own, the question becomes was he a product of the talent around him in Philadelphia or if he’s a legitimate QB in his own right.
Jared Goff (LAR): Goff is coming off an embarrassing performance against the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII in which the Patriots exposed the major flaws in the Rams offense. I presume they will take more of the training wheels off for Goff so he can make adjustments in the game instead of waiting for McVay to make them. The Rams still have a lot of offensive talent, so I expect Goff to put up Pro Bowl numbers.
Dak Prescott (DAL): The Cowboys have made the playoffs 2 of the 3 seasons Prescott has been their starter, although you can argue it’s because of the team around him moreso than his own performance. He’s good at avoiding turnovers overall, although he’s not the type of player who will elevate the play around him. With Ezekiel Elliott also getting paid, the question will become what happens to the team when there are too many big contracts all around at once.
Kirk Cousins (MIN): The story on Cousins is he can’t win against good teams, with a 4-25 record against winning teams in his career. He’ll have to shed that label in order to lead the Vikings to the playoffs and beyond after signing a 3-year, big money contract.
Derek Carr (OAK): The Raiders passing offense should be better with Antonio Brown being their top receiver, although I’m curious to see if his antics gets in the way like it did in Pittsburgh. The biggest problem for Carr is the Raiders as an organization are a dumpster fire with no signs of potential improvement.
Andy Dalton (CIN): Dalton once led the Bengals to 6-straight postseason births, but the team has been mediocre to terrible as of late due to horrible drafting and losing key FAs. AJ Green is starting to get old and the Bengals don’t have a plethora of weapons on offense
To Be Determined (i.e. QBs who haven’t had enough time to prove they’re good or they suck)
Baker Mayfield (CLE): Solid rookie campaign once Cleveland dumped Hue Jackson. Can he build on that?
Jimmy Garoppolo (SF): After a 5-0 finish to the 2017 season, Jimmy G played 3 games before tearing his ACL on a scramble. He’ll need to be healthy and prove his good play in 2016-17 was not a product of the Patriots coaching.
Jacoby Brissett (IND): With Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement, the spotlight is thrust on the former Patriot backup.
Lamar Jackson (BAL): Jackson took over for Flacco midway through the season and helped the Ravens claim the #6 seed. However, his flaws were exposed by the Chargers in the postseason.
Mitch Trubisky (CHI): Trubisky has accuracy and mobility, which will get him some nice plays on the move, but his ability to read the field is still not there yet.
Sam Darnold (NYJ): Darnold has an offensive-minded HC who was Peyton Manning’s former offensive coordinator in Denver. With the upgrade in coaching and a once elite RB in Le’Veon Bell in the fold, will Darnold take the next step and prove he belongs?
Josh Allen (BUF): Allen is one of those players who looks better in shorts than in pads, as accuracy issues that plagued him in college continued in the NFL. However he is a dynamic athlete when he can make plays outside the pocket and as a runner.
Kyler Murray (ARI): Murray has a lot of questions about size at a diminutive 5’9” height and playing in an awful situation in Arizona in which the team doesn’t have a great offensive line. I believe he is being set up to fail in Arizona, who should have fired their GM along with their coach in the offseason.
Proven to be Awful
Joe Flacco (DEN): Flacco was a placeholder for Drew Lock, a 2nd round pick who will spend his rookie season on IR. So now Flacco is basically a lame duck QB.
Eli Manning (NYG): Manning is in a similar situation in New York, with Daniel Jones right behind him for the starting job. Any stretch of poor play could result in a switch to the QB of the future in the Big Apple.
Case Keenum (WAS): Keenum is keeping the starting QB chair warm for first round rookie Dwayne Haskins.
Marcus Mariota (TEN): A solid roster of ex-Patriots and others has carried Mariota, who’s been ineffective and injury-prone in his brief NFL career. The Titans ceiling with him is 9 wins.
Jameis Winston (TB): Winston was a can’t miss prospect coming out of college, yet the Buccaneers missed out on developing that talent. Accuracy and maturity issues have prevented Winston from building on any NFL success despite having a Top 5 receiver in Mike Evans as his go-to-guy.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (MIA): The Dolphins are tanking for Trevor Lawrence and Ryan Fitzpatrick is part of that plan.