NFL Quarterback Power Rankings

Two summers ago, I got into an argument with a Facebook friend about Russell Wilson being a top-three NFL quarterback. That, plus Ron Jaworski’s awful quarterback list got me thinking about making a power ranking for signal-callers. I figured it would be nice to have this as a yearly feature during the summer. So, here it is. If you disagree with anything on here, leave a comment below. Note that I’m grading the starters of each team only, so don’t be confused if a talented backup is left off the list (i.e. Jimmy Garoppolo would be above several players.)

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32. Christian Hackenberg, Jets. 2016 Ranking: –. 2015 Ranking: –.
The Jets have been happy with the work Christian Hackenberg has done behind the scenes, which is the reason why they didn’t select a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft. Hackenberg has great physical tools, so it’s not shocking at all that he has done great work in practice. Whether that’ll translate to real-live game action remains to be seen, however, and I am definitely skeptical. The good news is that the Jets appear to be on the fast track to obtaining Sam Darnold in the 2018 NFL Draft (see my 2018 NFL Mock Draft here.)

31. DeShone Kizer, Browns. 2016 Ranking: –. 2015 Ranking: –.
Brock Osweiler thinks he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, according to the supposed film he told everyone to look at, yet he was benched for Tom Savage. Cody Kessler was benched because he couldn’t complete routine passes along the sideline. That leaves DeShone Kizer, who struggled with Notre Dame last year.

30. Jared Goff, Rams. 2016 Ranking: 29. 2015 Ranking: –.
Our league contacts were puzzled when it became evident that the Rams moved up for Jared Goff. The Cal product was seen as a product of a goofy offense who could be at risk for sustaining injuries like another former Rams quarterback because of his size. Goff also was a bit sketchy in team interviews, while Carson Wentz shined in that regard. It’s difficult to rate rookie quarterbacks, but Goff almost has to be one of the worst players at his position.

That was written last year, so it was no surprise that Jared Goof struggled as a rookie. He had a major deer-in-the-headlights look, and while he didn’t have much of a chance behind his atrocious offensive line, he was beyond abysmal according to metrics. Not only did Goof fail to win a single game, he didn’t even cover one point spread despite being a double-digit underdog on numerous occasions! We’ve heard some positive things about Goof’s work ethic this offseason, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

29. Paxton Lynch, Broncos. 2016 Ranking: –. 2015 Ranking: –.
It’s unclear who will win the quarterback competition in Denver, but if it’s close, the coaching staff will give the job to Paxton Lynch. The Memphis product looked completely lost when on the field last year, going just 12-of-24 for 104 yards in his second start at Jacksonville. Lynch has great talent, but happens to be very raw. Still, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if he makes great strides in his sophomore campaign.

28. Mike Glennon, Bears. 2016 Ranking: –. 2015 Ranking: –.
No team was willing to pay Mike Glennon anything close to what the Bears offered him this offseason. What’s crazy is that Chicago could’ve kept Brian Hoyer, a superior quarterback, for less money. Glennon has posted a nice touchdown-to-interception ratio in his career (30:15), but he’s an inaccurate passer. Glennon has a nice arm and works hard, but it doesn’t seem like he’ll ever be anything more than a sub-par starting quarterback.

27. Blake Bortles, Jaguars. 2016 Ranking: 24. 2015 Ranking: 25.
When a quarterback fails to improve in his early years, and even regresses, it’s a clear sign that he doesn’t put much effort into film study and the mental aspect of the game. And that’s precisely Blake Bortles’ problem. Bortles enjoys partying and taking advantage of what being an NFL quarterback has to offer, but he doesn’t have a passion for football. Bortles will never be successful as a result, unless you count compiling meaningless yardage when trailing by double digits to be successful. Bortles has major talent, but it’s a shame that he’ll never live up to it.

26. Brian Hoyer, 49ers. 2016 Ranking: –. 2015 Ranking: 29.
The 49ers are going from the Blaine Gabbert-Colin Kaepernick tandem to Brian Hoyer, but it’s an upgrade for sure. Gabbert plays with his eyes closed, while Kaepernick refuses to study film in order to improve the mental aspect of his game. Hoyer, meanwhile, was solid for the Bears in six games this past season, throwing six touchdowns and no interceptions. Hoyer, who has compiled 23 scores and only seven picks in the past two years, has proven that he can get a team to the playoffs. The problem is that he’s injury-prone, so I don’t expect him to last all 16 games in 2017.

25. Sam Bradford, Vikings. 2016 Ranking: 28. 2015 Ranking: 21.
Is there any record more fraudulent than Sam Bradford’s single-season completion percentage mark of 71.6 that he set in 2016? All Bradford did most of the time was dink and dunk. Third-and-8? Forget about it. Time for a 4-yard pass! Granted, Bradford played behind an atrocious offensive line, but so did Russell Wilson, and I hardly remember him checking down as a first instinct. Bradford is as pedestrian as it gets, and he also gets downgraded for his poor durability.

24. DeShaun Watson, Texans. 2016 Ranking: –. 2015 Ranking: –.
Some teams, including one with a franchise quarterback that drafts very well, had Deshaun Watson graded as a third-round prospect leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft. Thus, it was not surprising to hear that Watson struggled immensely in his first day at rookie mini-camp. However, Watson showed up the following day and was lights out. Watson has shown command of the offense, and teammates have flocked to him because they see him as a leader, which is very unusual for a rookie. I have a feeling Watson will prove many people wrong, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he somehow manages to get his team into the playoffs this year.

23. Alex Smith, Chiefs. 2016 Ranking: 23. 2015 Ranking: 24.
I still find it astonishing that Alex Smith went a whole year without throwing a touchdown pass to a receiver. Smith is a fine game manager, but that’s all he’ll ever be. He’s incapable of winning multiple games in the playoffs, so Andy Reid did the right thing by acquiring a quarterback who could end up being Kansas City’s franchise signal-caller. I predict Patrick Mahomes, one day, will be much higher on this list than Smith ever was.

22. Andy Dalton, Bengals. 2016 Ranking: 22. 2015 Ranking: 23.
You’re familiar with Andy Dalton’s story by now. He’s solid in the regular season, but simply cannot win in the playoffs because of his limitations. Dalton finally failed to reach the playoffs this past season because of the injuries to A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert. Now, Dalton will have a poor offensive line for the first time in his career. It could be very difficult for Cincinnati to reach the postseason again.

21. Carson Palmer, Cardinals. 2016 Ranking: 12. 2015 Ranking: 17.
I soured on the Cardinals very quickly last summer when I watched Carson Palmer in the preseason. His arm looked dead, as he struggled to complete routine passes. Surely enough, Palmer had a poor 2016 campaign, as Arizona failed to make the playoffs. Palmer is now 37, but there is some hope. Bruce Arians said that Palmer wore out his arm by throwing a lot last summer. It’s a viable explanation, but Palmer’s age is definitely a concern.

20. Eli Manning, Giants. 2016 Ranking: 9. 2015 Ranking: 13.
Eli Manning looked done at times last year, and the numbers showed it, as his YPA (6.7) was the worst it had been in a decade. Part of the problem is the poor blocking, but Manning is definitely regressing, and it doesn’t seem as though he has much time remaining in the pros.

19. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins. 2016 Ranking: 26. 2015 Ranking: 14.
Ryan Tannehill struggled to develop prior to 2016, but Adam Gase was a nice boon for his career. Tannehill set career-high marks in completion percentage (67.1) and YPA (7.7) last season. He should continue to progress under Gase’s great tutelage, though I doubt he’ll ever enter top-tier conversation.

18. Joe Flacco, Ravens. 2016 Ranking: 10. 2015 Ranking: 5.
I’m wondering why Joe Flacco was ranked fifth two years ago. I argued that he had a huge arm and often came up big in the clutch, but placing him so high was a derp moment on my part. Flacco struggled in 2015, though he performed better this past season, compiling 4,317 yards, though his 20:15 touchdown-to-interception ratio was a bit underwhelming. Flacco, whose YPA has dropped from 7.2, to 6.8, to 6.4 the past three years, seems like just a mediocre passer at this stage of his career.

17. Tyrod Taylor, Bills. 2016 Ranking: 20. 2015 Ranking: –.
The Bills don’t like Tyrod Taylor very much. There were rumors that they wanted to select a quarterback in the 2016 NFL Draft, and then they tried to run him out of town by benching him in the finale just so they wouldn’t have to pay him in the event of an injury. Taylor isn’t the greatest passer, but he has generated 47 total touchdowns compared to only 12 interceptions the past two years. He has also rushed for more than 1,100 yards in that span. Oh, and he’s done all of this despite Sammy Watkins being in and out of the lineup all the time. Why can’t Buffalo just appreciate Taylor?

16. Kirk Cousins, Redskins. 2016 Ranking: 19. 2015 Ranking: –.
Kirk Cousins has struggled in some must-win games toward the end of the past couple of seasons, but he’s had two great years. He even threw for nearly 5,000 yards in 2016, generating 4,917 yards, 25 touchdowns and only 12 picks. Cousins is Washington’s best quarterback since Joe Theismann (sad, but true), so it’s puzzling as to why the Redskins’ front office refuses to pay him. If Cousins leaves, the Redskins will once again be one of the worst teams in the NFL.

15. Carson Wentz, Eagles. 2016 Ranking: –. 2015 Ranking: –.
Carson Wentz had numerous bright moments throughout his rookie campaign, particularly when Lane Johnson was on the field to protect him. In the six games with Johnson, Wentz threw for 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions. Johnson will be back in 2017, and it also helps that Wentz has a better receiving corps to work with. Wentz reportedly put in lots of work this offseason – take note, Blake Bortles – and he should be ready to make a huge leap in his sophomore campaign. Wentz has the ability to take the Eagles to the NFC Championship (or further), just as Donovan McNabb once did in his second full year as a starter.

14. Jameis Winston, Buccaneers. 2016 Ranking: 15. 2015 Ranking: 22.
Jameis Winston deserves credit for staying out of trouble despite the naysayers – including myself – saying it was too risky to take him early because of his off-the-field issues. On the contrary, Winston has been a tremendous leader in Tampa Bay. He threw for 28 touchdowns to 18 interceptions last year, and now he’ll have a better supporting cast with DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard on the roster. Winston needs to work on being more consistent, but a superior supporting cast should help.

13. Marcus Mariota, Titans. 2016 Ranking: 14. 2015 Ranking: 18.
It’s insane that Marcus Mariota has yet to throw an interception in the red zone in his career. What’s crazier is that besides Delanie Walker, Mariota’s top weapon has been Rishard Matthews. Now, Mariota will be paired with Eric Decker and Corey Davis. Mariota is expected to make a huge leap in his third season as a result, so don’t be shocked if Tennessee makes a deep push in the playoffs.

12. Dak Prescott, Cowboys. 2016 Ranking: –. 2015 Ranking: –.
Dak Prescott had an amazing rookie campaign. Granted, he was playing behind the best offensive line in the NFL, and he had the league’s leading rusher in the backfield with him. Still, a 67.8 completion percentage, an 8.0 YPA, and a 23:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio is no accident. Dallas’ blocking unit took a hit when it lost Ronald Leary this offseason, while Ezekiel Elliott could be suspended. Prescott will find things to be more difficult in his sophomore campaign, but I don’t expect much regression.

11. Andrew Luck, Colts. 2016 Ranking: 3. 2015 Ranking: 2.
Andrew Luck has fallen out of the top five for the first time since I began writing these quarterback power rankings. Luck still has the potential to be the best quarterback in the NFL, but his health is the primary concern. Luck is coming off shoulder surgery, and he has gotten beaten up too much, thanks to former general manager Ryan Grigson’s incompetence. It’s unclear how healthy Luck can be for 2017, so I’m reluctant to slot him nearly as high as I’ve had him over the past couple of years.

10. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers. 2016 Ranking: 4. 2015 Ranking: 4.
Ben Roethlisberger is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but like Andrew Luck, he’s out of the top five for the first time since I started these quarterback power rankings. There are two concerns. First, Roethlisberger has durability questions; he has missed numerous games over the past couple of seasons, and at 35, he could be more injury-prone. Second, Roethlisberger was considering retirement this offseason, so it’s fair to wonder if his heart is still in the game.

9. Matthew Stafford, Lions. 2016 Ranking: 13. 2015 Ranking: 15.
Matthew Stafford looked like an MVP candidate last year when the Lions were 9-4. Unfortunately, numerous injuries ravaged the team, and Detroit didn’t win a single game after that. Stafford threw for 4,327 yards, 24 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions – numbers that would’ve been better had Stafford not broken his finger late in the season. Stafford should have another terrific year coming up, though the injuries are already beginning to fester, with Taylor Decker suffering a torn labrum.

8. Cam Newton, Panthers. 2016 Ranking: 5. 2015 Ranking: 11.
Cam Newton’s numbers were down last year across the board. His completion percentage (59.7 to 52.9), YPA (7.7 to 6.9) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (35:10 to 19:14) all worsened by a wide margin. It must be noted that Newton played through injuries in 2016, so if healthy, he’ll rebound this upcoming season. However, Newton’s accuracy is why he’s lower than some of the quarterbacks on this list. Despite being MVP in 2015, Newton failed to complete more than 60 percent of his passes, something that he had only done once in his career.

7. Philip Rivers, Chargers. 2016 Ranking: 7. 2015 Ranking: 7.
Philip Rivers has eclipsed 4,200 passing yards in each of the previous four years. This is remarkable, given the immense amount of injuries the Chargers have sustained over that span. Imagine how successful Rivers and his team would be if everyone could actually remain healthy. Mike Williams has already gone down, but if there aren’t many other injuries, Rivers could have the Chargers making a playoff push this upcoming season.

6. Drew Brees, Saints. 2016 Ranking: 8. 2015 Ranking: 12.
Drew Brees turned 38 this offseason, but he’s coming off a year in which he compiled 5,208 yards, 37 touchdowns and only 15 interceptions, maintaining a sterling 70.0 completion percentage in the process. Brees’ skills will erode soon enough, but it’s pretty amazing that he’s posting such tremendous numbers at his age. Brees has said that he wants to play into his 40s, and it appears as though he’ll be able to do that. If so, Brees will break the career passing records Peyton Manning recently set.

5. Derek Carr, Raiders. 2016 Ranking: 18. 2015 Ranking: 26.
Unlike a signal-caller chosen one round earlier than him in the 2014 NFL Draft, Derek Carr has worked hard to become a great NFL quarterback. Carr has improved by leaps and bounds each year, as he accumulated 3,937 yards, 28 touchdowns and only six interceptions last season despite suffering multiple injuries. Now entering his fourth year, Carr is on the cusp of entering elite territory, and he’s fully capable of leading the Raiders to a Super Bowl victory.

4. Matt Ryan, Falcons. 2016 Ranking: 16. 2015 Ranking: 10.
“Matt Ryan has been overrated for quite some time, and I’ll admit that it was a mistake to list him No. 10 last year.” I wrote this last year, and it turns out that I was wrong about being wrong. Ryan proved how important it is to have a great offensive line in today’s NFL. Thanks to the addition of Alex Mack, Ryan threw for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and only seven interceptions, winning MVP in the process. Some expect Ryan to regress to the mean in 2017, but that’ll only happen if his blocking unit sustains multiple injuries.

3. Russell Wilson, Seahawks. 2016 Ranking: 2. 2015 Ranking: 3.
Russell Wilson is a wizard on the football field. What he does in terms of maneuvering around the pocket, and either finding open lanes to pass through or picking up yardage on the ground is just amazing. Wilson is also a winner; if the Seahawks are behind entering the fourth quarter, they can easily generate a comeback victory via Wilson’s play-making. Wilson, unfortunately, is shielded by one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL, and this could get him hurt in the near future. Wilson has never missed a game, but he’s certainly at major risk for an injury.

2. Tom Brady, Patriots. 2016 Ranking: 6. 2015 Ranking: 8.
Tom Brady turns 40 in August, but he deserves to be ranked this highly. Brady’s workout and dietary regimen is intense and unparalleled, so his proclamation that he’ll play into his mid-40s is realistic. Brady could be even better in 2017, as he’ll be paired with Brandin Cooks – the best receiver he has worked with since Randy Moss. Ranking Brady sixth and eighth over the past two years was foolish on my part, as I expected him to regress. I’ve learned my lesson to never doubt him.

1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers. 2016 Ranking: 1. 2015 Ranking: 1.
It’s tough to argue against Aaron Rodgers being the top quarterback in the NFL right now. What he did last year after predicting that his team would run the table was incredible. Despite having absolutely no running game – a receiver had to play running back, for crying out loud – Rodgers threw for 4,428 yards, 40 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. The Packers didn’t quite run the table, but they advanced to the NFC Championship after beginning the year 4-6. The defense betrayed Rodgers, but the fact remains that he’s still the top quarterback in the NFL right now.

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