Has there been a stronger set of 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL in recent memory? Typically in a given season we’d be forced to sit through and handful of Blake Bortles and Mike Glennon type characters leading their teams to seven yards of passing offense by half-time, but the league’s collective quarterback room looks a little healthier this time around.
A host of young, exciting additions coupled with old heads refusing to bow to Father Time means there are just one or two teams you could say genuinely in need of a new signal caller. The rest appear to have their franchise guy. Great news for the league, great news for the fans, great news for me not having to write about Nathan Peterman week after week.
This list is a ranking of every team’s starting quarterback as they stand today, and heading into the near future – meaning players with mid to long-term injuries are omitted. Gardner Minshew is included for the Jaguars over Nick Foles, for example. It takes into account their play this season, but also their pedigree as an NFL starting quarterback. Here’s how we look…
Why the Jacksonville Jaguars decided to go into the season with nothing but a sixth-round rookie behind their injury prone starter is a question for another day, but Minshew actually did very well after coming in for Nick Foles, completing a tidy 22 of his 25 passes for 275 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. A good marker to lay down in his battle with new acquisition Josh Dobbs for the starting job in Foles’ absence.
Fitzmagic did not set the league alight on Sunday as it did at the start of the 2018 season in Tampa Bay. Fitzpatrick is a brilliant character and an asset to the league, but at 36 is not someone you want to be rolling out week after week if you want to consistently win games. Thankfully that doesn’t seem to be the Dolphins’ objective…
Murray’s first two and a half quarters as a pro quarterback were, it’s fair to say, about as pretty as an anglerfish. Four tipped passes only served to heighten concerns about whether Murray is tall enough to succeed in this league, and his interception to Tracy Walker practically screamed “rookie mistake!” as it whistled into the Lions cornerback’s hands. However, his fourth quarter comeback shows Murray is a fighter, and a man capable of carrying a team on his back. Those are two vital traits for an NFL QB, and I’m sure he’ll be much further up this list the next time we see each other.
29. Jacoby Brissett (Indianapolis Colts)
We still have a lot to learn about Brissett, and if the Colts have the player they believe they do he too will be far higher up these rankings come season’s end. The early signs were good on Sunday, Brissett moved the ball very well against a good Chargers defense, finishing with a 120.7 passer rating, and would have had a win were it not for Adam Vinatieri’s boot turning to jelly. Plenty to work with.
28. Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills)
Allen’s week one performance was pretty typical of what we’ve come to expect from him in the early stages of his career: fun to watch, with a dangerous deep ball and always a threat with his legs, but prone to interceptions and inconsistent with his accuracy. Deserves credit for leading the Bills to a fourth quarter comeback when they’d looked out of the game for the majority of the afternoon.
27. Case Keenum (Washington Redskins)
Keenum was the best version of himself – the one who balled out in Minnesota a couple of years back – as he made mincemeat of the Eagles’ defense in week one. Whether he can be relied upon to do that on a regular basis is a very different matter, but the better Keenum plays, the more time Dwayne Haskins has to develop behind him, which can only be a good think for the first round pick.
26. Eli Manning (New York Giants)
Manning was not the reason the Giants lost at the weekend. He actually had one of his better games in a while, completing 30 of 44 for 306 yards and a touchdown, but after Daniel Jones’ impressive pre-season fans are itching to see the rookie in action – a move that will probably see poor old Eli sent to the farm. Whatever happens he rides off into the sunset with two Super Bowl titles, and no one can take them away from him.
25. Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Will Jameis Winston be a different quarterback now Bruce Arians is coaching the Buccaneers? That was the big question in Tampa Bay going into the season. Three interceptions in the season opener against the 49ers and I think we might already have our answer…
24. Sam Darnold (New York Jets)
If Darnold isn’t significantly higher up this list in a few weeks’ time something has gone badly wrong for the Jets. This is an offense which should be a lot of fun to watch in time, but against the Bills Darnold averaged a league-worst 4.3 yards per pass, and only really found a connection with slot receiver Jamison Crowder. We know Darnold can play, so there’s no cause for concern right now.
23. Mitchell Trubisky (Chicago Bears)
Trubisky was little better than shocking as the Bears kicked off the 100th NFL season with a disappointing home defeat to the Packers. He consistently missed on key throws and Allen Robinson, who had 102 yards from seven receptions, could easily have doubled that had Trubisky been more accurate on his targets. We knows Trubisky is capable of great games, but whether he’s ever capable of becoming a great quarterback is very questionable right now.
22. Andy Dalton (Cincinnati Bengals)
The Bengals asked Dalton to throw the ball 51 times against the Seahawks and in very nearly resulted in a surprise victory. Dalton completed 35 of those 51 passes for 418 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, though a big chunk of that yardage came on screen passes which worked well against the Seattle defense. He will always be the definition of a functional franchise quarterback – no more, no less.
21. Joe Flacco (Denver Broncos)
Joe Flacco is not going to be anything special in Denver, but he should be good enough to make them competitive if their defense, now led by new head coach Vic Fangio, fulfills its potential. Sadly that was far from the case against the Raiders on Monday, and Flacco (21 of 31 for 268 yards and a touchdown) couldn’t do enough to give Fangio his maiden win.
20. Jimmy Garoppolo (San Francisco 49ers)
At this point, the good things we’ve seen from Garoppolo only just outweigh the not-so-good. We still only have a very small sample size, which is a strange thing to say about a 27-year-old QB, but Jimmy G has something to prove this year before we place him among the top tier quarterbacks the Niners assumed him to be when they signed him to that $27.5million contract.
19. Derek Carr (Oakland Raiders)
The season couldn’t have started that much better for Derek Carr, as he remained sack-free against what most expected to be a lethal Broncos front seven, on the way to 22 of 26 passes for 259 yards, a touchdown, and most importantly: a win. All that without Antonio Brown too – what was all that fuss about, eh?
18. Kirk Cousins (Minnesota Vikings)
Cousins is perhaps the most unexciting aspect of a Vikings team which has to tools to go far this season. He probably isn’t going to lose them many games – especially of they only have him pass 10 times, as he did against the Falcons on Sunday – but I can’t see him winning them that many either. Cousins will surely upgrade on those measly pass attempts in the coming weeks, but this is still going to be a run-heavy offense. I don’t think that is the worst idea at all.
17. Marcus Mariota (Tennessee Titans)
I recognise a lot of people would have Mariota far lower than this, but I think he’s a quarterback who’s been hampered by external factors – not lest the chopping and changing of coordinators in Tennessee – for a long time, and has not been given what he needs to thrive. That may finally change this year. Delanie Walker’s return from injury, Adam Hunphies’ addition and the early emergence of rookie wideout AJ Brown mean this could finally be Mariota’s time to shine. In a contract year it has to be.
16. Jared Goff (Los Angeles Rams)
We know what Goff is capable of – take that incredible 54-51 win over the Chiefs last season as an example – but we also know he’s capable of laying rather uninspiring eggs, as he did in the Super Bowl, and as he did again here against the Panthers in week one. The Rams still won the game, but it wasn’t through virtue of Goff and the air game. Goff has a big boy NFL contract now, it’s time for him to earn it.
15. Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens)
Well how about that. Jackson was absolute dynamite against the Dolphins, completing 17 of his 20 passes for 324 yards, a whopping five touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. That’s one way to silence your doubters, who sadly haven’t been silenced at all, merely reduced to screaming “BUT IT WAS THE DOLPHINS!!!” in the face of anyone who will listen. Yes, it was the Dolphins, but that doesn’t take away from the touch and beauty of some of Jackson’s throws on Sunday. Combine that with what he know he can do with his legs and we could be watching the emergence of one of the NFL’s next bona fide stars.
14. Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns)
Not one of Mayfield’s best games on Sunday, as punctuated by three interceptions in four game-killing drives. Still, he is the sort of character who can bounce back from adversity and thrives when surrounded by criticism. The narrative turning back against the Browns after their heavy defeat to the Titans may just bring out the best in Mayfield. The Jets better watch their backs.
13. Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions)
Stafford is a very good quarterback, but the egg timer is running low on sand if he ever wants to become a great one. He has an excellent cast of receivers at his disposal and finally a genuinely strong and reliable running game thanks to Kerryon Johnson. There can’t be any more excuses. He was unlucky to miss out on the win against Arizona after throwing for 385 yards and three touchdowns, but was given the opportunity to seize it himself in overtime and couldn’t gran it with both hands.
12. Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons)
Ryan and the Falcons offense were completely shut out for three quarters against the Vikings, but if you remember back to last season they struggled out of the gate then as well. He’ll go on to put up big numbers in an offense-first team which boasts perhaps the best trio of receivers in the league in Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu.
11. Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers)
On his day Newton is unstoppable, and one of the most exhilarating players to watch in the NFL. When he’s off kilter it can look a little ugly. Newton displayed both of these sides in week one against the Rams, and his reticence to throw the deep ball has raised more questions over his shoulder, but Newton has claimed this was purely because the passes weren’t there. The truth? We’ll find out over the coming weeks – Newton is the lifeblood of these Panthers, and he has nowhere to hide.
10. Dak Prescott (Dallas Cowboys)
Not a bad time to produce your best ever game as an NFL starter… Dak Prescott, chasing a monster new contract, was hot as lava against the Giants, torching them for 405 yards and four touchdowns on the way to a perfect 158.3 passer rating. Prescott is one of the league’s most underrated quarterbacks, but could change that very rapidly if he strings together performances like this on a more consistent basis.
9. Carson Wentz (Philadelphia Eagles)
Wentz had a bit off an off year last season, and once again wasn’t able to take the field in the playoffs after going down with an injury, but he’s back now, and he’s started out hot. The Eagles QB struck up an immediate rapport with DeSean Jackson as he led his team back from 20-7 down at the half, finishing 28 of 29 for 313 yards and three touchdowns in what was one of the best quarterback performances of the week.
8. Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Big Ben was not good in the opener against the Patriots, and he said as much in his post-match press conference. Not every team will be able to shut down JuJu Smith-Schuster in the way New England’s elite secondary did, and the Steelers will improve dramatically as a team as the season goes on. This was a blip, not a sign of things to come.
7. Philip Rivers (Los Angeles Chargers)
Now into his 16th season as an NFL quarterback Philip Rivers doesn’t surprise us anymore. He is a known entity. Thankfully for the Chargers that entity remains one of the very best signal callers in existence and a man it takes no effort for team-mate to rally behind. He’ll be dangerous as ever this year with Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler catching passes.
6. Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans)
How’s this for a stat: In 2017 at New England, in 2017 again at Seattle, in 2018 at Philadelphia and now in 2019 at New Orleans Deshaun Watson has engineered the Houston Texans into a lead with one minute or less left on the clock. In each of those games, the Texans have lost. Watson did everything right as he tore through the heart of the Saints’ defense in two devastating swoops to seemingly give his team a thrilling opening day victory, only to be let down by those around him. A true star who has a right to feel hard done by.
5. Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)
I have no idea why Russell Wilson is so frequently overlooked in the conversations around the league’s truly elite quarterbacks. Put him in a position where he has a sniff of winning you a game in the fourth quarter and more often than not he’ll pull it off. Wilson did just that against the Bengals on Sunday, despite the continuation of his reduced role from last season. I have no problem with teams trying to run the ball down people’s throats, just not to the detriment of one of the NFL’s best QBs. Balance is key.
4. Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)
It was hard to argue against Rodgers being the most naturally talented QB in the NFL until Patrick Mahomes came along. Fourth instinctively feels too low for him, but could you really put him above any of these top three guys as things stand. Down a touchdown in the fourth quarter you probably wouldn’t want to put the ball in anyone else’s hands, but Rodgers’ comeback credentials were not required to overcome a limp Chicago offense. A solid but unspectacular start to the season.
3. Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)
If Brees is going to lose some of his zip now he’s into his 40s he showed no signs of showing it against the Texans on Monday night. He was clinical in slicing up Houston’s defense in the dying seconds, allowing kicker Will Lutz to snatch an unlikely victory from the jaws of defeat, and outside of one unsightly interception looked every bit like the Brees of great seasons past. Could one final run at the elusive MVP award be on the cards?
2. Tom Brady (New England Patriots)
Tom Brady is never going to stop playing quarterback for the New England Patriots. Tom Brady is never going to stop winning Super Bowls. Tom Brady is never going to die. His deep ball looked as good as ever in carving up the Steelers on Monday Night Football, and now they’re throwing Antonio Brown into the mix as well? Sweet baby Jesus please help us all.
1. Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs)
What else is there to say about Patrick Mahomes? We thought he couldn’t possibly improve on his earth-bending, league-arresting display in 2018, only for him to go out and throw for 313 yards in the first half against the Jaguars. Mahomes lost his No 1 receiver Tyreek Hill early in the game but it didn’t even slow him down, with the third-year phenom turning Sammy Watkins into a megastar seemingly on a whim. Anyone who wants a sniff at the MVP award is going to have to go through Mahomes first – not just this year, but for a decade to come.