You don’t need a top-five quarterback to win a Super Bowl. But it helps.
Jimmy Garoppolo came about as close as you can to winning a ring. Nick Foles won Super Bowl MVP and he’s not even guaranteed to start over Mitchell Trubisky this season. Peyton Manning in 2015 was Manning in name only when the Denver Broncos won a title.
Yet, everyone wants a Patrick Mahomes. It makes every other decision in the organization easier. We all know how valuable the position is. That’s why we’re going to rank all 32 starters.
A few rules: This ranking is for this season only. Situation matters some, because it always matters at quarterback. Even if I like Sam Darnold’s talent, the New York Jets haven’t done much to help him. This is also a list of the projected Week 1 starters, so we had to make a couple decisions on competitions.
Here are the power rankings for the 32 quarterbacks, with their respective team previews linked next to their names:
Taylor wasn’t a bad quarterback with the Buffalo Bills. But he wasn’t great and is the least likely name on this list. With all the quarterback talent in the league, it is surprising the 31-year-old Taylor is getting a shot for a team that otherwise has an intriguing roster. Taylor is holding the spot for rookie Justin Herbert, and he’ll play OK. He’s just not an exciting option.
If Nick Foles starts, maybe he’d be ranked a bit higher, but not too much given his inconsistency. If it’s Trubisky, we know how 2019 exposed his weaknesses. It seemed he was developing fine in his second season, but accuracy issues might keep him from ever reaching that level again.
Maybe Alex Smith wins this job. But from a big-picture organizational standpoint, I’m not sure why you’d choose Smith over Haskins. Washington needs to figure out what it has with the 2019 first-round pick. Haskins did play fairly well late last season in a difficult situation. He doesn’t have much talent around him, but this is still a big year for him.
Minshew played pretty well last season. He throws a nice deep ball. And he’s a fun character. The Jaguars are doing the smart thing letting him start. Either they found a steal in the sixth round of last year’s draft or they will be terrible in 2020 and can draft their quarterback of the future.
Fitzpatrick is fun and can go on hot streaks, but inconsistency is a problem. At some point soon, Tua Tagovailoa will take over, but until then Fitzpatrick will give us some entertaining moments.
Lock is a shining example of judging a quarterback by “his record.” The Broncos went 4-1 in his starts late last season and that led some to give Lock credit for going 4-1. Lock was fine. He wasn’t great, and he wasn’t solely responsible for any of those wins. He still has plenty to work on. The good news is the Broncos have put an explosive offense together around him.
I like Bridgewater and his comeback story, but don’t think he’s a top option at quarterback. A 5-0 record last season will be cited, but quarterback wins is a dumb stat and the Saints played exceptional football around him.
Carr isn’t as bad as most folks say. But he also doesn’t have the ceiling he showed earlier in his career, when he had one season as a viable MVP candidate. Every time Carr struggles, there will be calls for Marcus Mariota, which is strange and probably unfair, but it seems the Raiders are antsy to try something else.
Jones is an intriguing player. He might end up being ranked much too low here. He played great in the preseason as a rookie and had some sparkling games. He also had some down games, but that happens for a rookie on a bad team. Jones’ peak might have been a hint at how high his ceiling is.
23. Sam Darnold, New York Jets
I want to like Darnold, a great prospect at USC who has some impressive plays. But the Jets aren’t set up for him to succeed. They have a questionable coach and haven’t given him much skill-position talent to work with. Every quarterback needs to find a situation that helps him succeed. Darnold got unlucky with his landing spot.
22. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
When you can put up 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns playing in the SEC, you’re good. The top pick of the draft is one of the most accurate college quarterbacks we’ve seen, and he actually has some good pass catchers around him. Even with a strange offseason and no preseason, Burrow should be pretty good right away.
21. Philip Rivers, Indianapolis Colts
Rivers looked like he was in serious decline last season. The question becomes, does a different setting with a great offensive line and what should be a productive running game reverse that trend? Frank Reich and the Colts believe, giving Rivers a one-year, $25 million deal. Rivers has had a great career, but it’s a little scary to bank on a full rebound as he gets set to turn 39 years old.
20. Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
Imagine if the 49ers’ defense had gotten another key stop in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. Garoppolo would be hailed as a hero, not the guy who overthrew Emmanuel Sanders in the final minutes. Garoppolo is a good, solid quarterback who is asked to get the ball out to his playmakers and let them get yards after the catch. He just might never be the future superstar some thought he was when he was backing up Tom Brady.
19. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
Goff got a massive contract and then looked like an average quarterback in 2019. His numbers will be better due to some expected positive regression, but the hope that he’s a true franchise-changing player probably needs to be reeled in a bit. Even if he’s paid as one of the NFL’s best.
18. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
Basically, who knows? Mayfield showed incredible promise as a rookie and was downright awful in his second season. A better coach, improved offensive line and a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. should help. But entering Year 3, it’s impossible to equivocally state what Mayfield is as an NFL quarterback.
17. Cam Newton, New England Patriots
Newton is a mystery. He won an MVP in 2015 and was playing close to that level in 2018 before hurting his shoulder. Since then, he had shoulder surgery and missed almost all of last season with a foot injury. Can he still be the same kind of dual threat talent at this point in his career? If so, the Patriots got a steal in free agency.
16. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
Cousins had a fantastic 2019 season, even if he didn’t get too much recognition for it. Of course, losing receiver Stefon Diggs and offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski does not help, and Cousins has never been a regular in the elite tier. He’ll probably take a step back.
15. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
Most people will dismiss Tannehill. He never really worked out in Miami and it’s hard to buy into a little more than a half-season of success with the Titans. But Tannehill’s 2019 was fantastic. Regression is coming in certain areas, but even with some regression, Tannehill can be a good quarterback.
14. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Allen has his flaws. Inaccurate college quarterbacks rarely get more accurate in the NFL. But Allen has been pretty good, and his running ability has been an unexpected plus. He did improve across the board his second year, and he has the physical ability to improve again this season. He’s one of the hardest quarterbacks to rank because he has plenty of vocal defenders and just as many vocal critics.
13. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
A healthy Roethlisberger can be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. But at 38 years old, coming off major elbow surgery, there is some trepidation. All accounts have been positive, but we’ll see what happens in live games. If he looks like 2018 Roethlisberger, he will go way up the rankings.
12. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
Murray had some rookie issues. He had some rough games. His intermediate accuracy has to improve. But the 2019 top overall pick clearly belongs in the NFL. He is a great fit in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense and might take a huge second-year leap, especially with DeAndre Hopkins to throw to.
11. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
New Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell got Stafford back to his strength, which is throwing downfield. In half a season, Stafford was on a 4,998-yard, 38-touchdown pace. Then, he suffered an injury. Stafford has long shook the injury-prone tag, and if he gets in a full season, he could post the best year of his career.
10. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Rodgers isn’t bad. Far from it. But the days of him being the most dominant player in the NFL are likely over. It’s hard to say how much of that is due to the Packers, who haven’t done anything to help him lately and seem intent on becoming a grind-it-out running offense. Rodgers still has plenty of moments that recall his glory days as the league’s best quarterback, but his MVP days probably aren’t coming back.
9. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Ryan might end up leading the NFL in passing yards. That’s because he might end up leading the NFL in passing attempts. Ryan is a good quarterback who might have a Hall of Fame argument had that infamous Super Bowl loss not gotten away. The Falcons have some issues, but Ryan isn’t one of them.
8. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If this was a career achievement ranking, Brady would rank first. It’s hard to bet against him having even more success, but this is a different challenge. He’s 43, an age in which no quarterback has ever had success. He’s changing teams and playing in a new offense, and did not have a normal offseason to get acclimated. Brady is great, but there will be a point in which he shows his age.
7. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Prescott is set up to have a fantastic season. He has three fine receivers, a potential breakthrough tight end in Blake Jarwin and teams will always have to respect Ezekiel Elliott in the run game. Prescott threw for 4,902 yards last season and is in a better situation this year. He’s going to have a huge season.
6. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
I believe fully in Wentz’s talent. Had the Eagles not whiffed on multiple draft picks at receiver — JJ Arcega-Whiteside over D.K. Metcalf, really? — he’d be putting up better numbers. He still did OK with virtually nothing left at receiver late last season. I’m unsure if the Eagles have helped him enough this past offseason, but I do think he’s one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL.
5. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Brees finished last season strong, winning NFC offensive player of the month in December. That should put to rest most concerns about his age. Brees might be the most accurate quarterback ever, and he should be viewed as a top-five all-time quarterback when he retires. Another Super Bowl would ensure that, and it’s possible with a great team around him.
4. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
Watson’s greatness will be put to the test without DeAndre Hopkins. There shouldn’t be much worry. Watson is tough, creative and understands how to play the position. If Houston can put the right talent around him, Watson will win an MVP before he retires.
3. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Hopefully, everyone realizes how good Wilson is. He’s a phenomenal talent, a Hall of Fame quarterback who has been held down a bit by a coaching staff that wants to feature the running game instead of letting Wilson take over a game. Wilson still puts up big numbers. He’s one of the few players of this generation who can take any scheme or teammates and make it better.
2. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
You’ll hear a lot about teams trying to find the next Jackson coming out of college, but that doesn’t take into account that Jackson is an unbelievable talent. He put questions about his passing ability to rest last season, and he is the already best runner at the position we’ve ever seen. Enjoy how fun and unique Jackson is.
1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
He’s so good that talk about whether he’s already a Hall of Famer isn’t so crazy after just two seasons as a starter. It would be hard to find any serious football fan who isn’t sold on Mahomes’ obvious greatness. He’s the gold standard at the position, and he’s just 24 years old.