Who are the top QBs heading into the 2018 season?
There are those elite quarterbacks who always make the list, and then there are new quarterbacks who come in and prove that they belong among the top QBs. Then there are the low tier of QBs who are merely serviceable game managers. The players that wind up in these categories change by the year, so how does every team’s quarterback fare at the position in 2018?
Let’s take a look at the rankings for this upcoming season.
32. Nathan Peterman/AJ McCarron/Josh Allen: Buffalo Bills
Normally I would rank AJ McCarron higher on this list, but the Bills have a pretty shitty situation going into 2018. According to Benjamin Allbright with 104.7 Denver, “Nathan Peterman has looked the best so far (at QB).” Yes, if you remember from last year this man literally threw not 1…not 2…not…okay he threw 5 picks in a HALF. The quarterback situation aside, there will probably be a step taken back in this upcoming season, and we can blame this on one thing: toxic locker room syndrome. Between these allegations about LeSean McCoy recently surfacing and the saga of Tyrod Taylor this past season, you have to wonder what kind of issues there have been that we don’t know about. The Bills are headed for one of their worst seasons in recent years, and whoever starts week 1 in 2018 most likely will not be there the entire year.
31. Josh McCown: New York Jets
I really wish I was sitting here saying that Teddy Bridgewater is going to be the starter this year, because he was going to be so good for the Vikings before he went down with injury. But alas, I’m stuck here talking about (no disrespect) one of the most boring QBs in the league. McCown puts up very good numbers and honestly if he wasn’t on such a bad team like the Jets, I might be ranking him higher. Unfortunately, that is not the case with our guy McCown here. Through 13 games in 2017 before McCown broke his wrist, he had racked up nearly 3,000 yards and a 2-1 touchdown to interception ratio. This was by far McCown’s best season as an NFL quarterback, but his inability to get his squad wins has always been what holds him back. Until McCown can prove that he can win consistently, he will always be at the bottom of this list.
30. Andy Dalton: Cincinnati Bengals
I’m sorry, but this is the last straw for Andy Dalton. Am I the only one that thinks Dalton should have been benched for AJ McCarron a long time ago? LOL nah everyone thought that. Dalton is a career 0-4 in playoff games, and with the Bengals going 7-9 and finishing 3rd in the AFC North, Dalton will be on a very hot seat this coming year. This is why I was so surprised that the Bengals did not try and keep McCarron. Andy Dalton absolutely loves to throw interceptions, and lots of them. Last year the team drafted wideout John Ross to give him another offensive weapon to pair with AJ Green, and this year they used their first round pick to bolster the offensive line with Billy Price. All of this is to help Andy Dalton succeed, so maybe…just maybe, this is the year Dalton turns it all around.
29. Joe Flacco: Baltimore Ravens
I feel bad putting this man so low on this list. He is always being criticized for allowing his defenses to carry him through every season, especially during the 2012 Super Bowl win. But rightfully so. For the past five seasons, Joe Flacco has ranked near the bottom of the league in yards per attempt, TD pass percentage, TD-INT ratio AND QB rating, according to CBS Sports. This is exactly why the Ravens traded up to draft Lamar Jackson at the end of the first round this year. They need excitement, they need production, they need fire, and Joe Flacco just so happens to be none of those things. To be a quarterback in this league, you need to be able to produce at a high level and if you can’t, you’re out. Teams aren’t going to waste their time on you, even if you “won” them a Super Bowl. I like Joe Flacco, but I think Ravens fans are going to be chanting for Lamar Jackson sooner than you think.
28. Ryan Tannehill: Miami Dolphins
There was a time that I thought Ryan Tannehill was going to save the Dolphins franchise and be the guy for them. Tannehill has had a couple of solid season for the Fins, posting 4,000 yards passing 2 years in his career. He even helped lead them to their first playoff (wild card) game since 2008 in 2016. We can sit here and say that Tannehill has never really had a strong enough supporting cast to warrant much success, but after 6 seasons, maybe it is time to start asking questions. Is Ryan Tannehill really the guy? Everything starts and ends with number 17. 2018 will be a make or break season for Tannehill, and the Dolphins may turn to someone else sooner rather than later…
27. Mitchell Trubisky: Chicago Bears
I might be a bit higher on Trubisky as this coming year progresses, as he made incredible strides as a rookie. However, with his youth and lack of help on the defensive side of the ball, Trubisky will still need to take some time to adjust. This does not mean that Trubisky won’t have a breakout year. With the offseason additions of Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, Anthony Miller and James Daniel on offense, Trubisky will have no shortage of weapons. The Bears have a young gun QB who is mobile, has pinpoint accuracy and has a strong football IQ. The Bears bringing in Matt Nagy at head coach, one of the most creative offensive minds in the NFL, will help unlock Trubisky’s full potential. Bears fans everywhere are searching for a reason why they decided to move up in the draft for a quarterback who started only one year at the University of North Carolina. Maybe this year Trubisky will show them why.
26. Eli Manning: New York Giants
I’m sorry to say this, but the Manning era is over in the NFL, especially in New York. At age 37, we have certainly seen the best out of the younger Manning brother. In 2017, Manning posted the second lowest QBR of his career at 80.4, his lowest since 2013 per ESPN. His 19 touchdown passes in 2017 are also the second lowest total of his career, while his numbers and his play are dwindling by the day. Lucky for Manning, the Giants realize that they are going to have to begin to prepare for life without Eli, as they have built a young offense around him. However, there is one problem with that: they have not yet found a Manning successor. Behind him are Davis Webb and Kyle Lauletta, a sophomore and a rookie respectively that have the same amount of NFL starts. No one is there to push Manning to keep him competitive and humble, and that is only hurting the Giants. Eli has never been the player that Peyton was, but he was still a serviceable quarterback. Now we are wondering if we can still call him that.
25. Case Keenum: Denver Broncos
I am still not sold on Keenum as a full time starter. While he had a fantastic season for the Vikings this past year, I think we should credit that to great protection and talent around him on offense. The defense also played a large factor in Keenum’s success, allowing the lowest points per game average in the league. Keenum did not have to do a whole lot for the Vikings to put up points as the defense took care of itself. I am not trying to knock on this quarterback, he had a career year and could very well repeat it this year in Denver, however I will need to see similar numbers next year to put him higher on this list. Keenum is just as accurate and a bit more mobile as his counterpart in Minnesota Sam Bradford, and maybe he will end up having more success. But at age 30, on a team that is coming off a last place finish in the AFC West, the odds are against Keenum for this coming season. This is the season where Keenum will either make a name for himself, or prove that his storied season in Minnesota was in fact a fluke.
24. Blake Bortles: Jacksonville Jaguars
Behold…the only thing keeping the Jaguars from going to the Super Bowl. Blake Bortles has never been able to show that he can become the franchise guy for the Jags, and he disappoints more and more every season. At 6’5″ and 230 pounds, Bortles has the ideal size for the quarterback position in this era, and at age 26 he still has room for improvement. However, Bortles has been unable to win for his team over the course of career, taking his team to the playoffs one time. Granted, in 2017 the Jaguars had their best season in ten years, and Bortles helped the team reach the AFC Championship game against the Patriots. Throwing for 3500+ yards and 21 touchdowns is an average season in this pass heavy league, so if Bortles can build on that his team just might make it past New England in the postseason. The Jaguars’ defense is the steadiest rising defense in the NFL, and Bortles should be able to continue to feed off of that and improve his own play in the process.
23. Sam Bradford: Arizona Cardinals
Had Bradford been able to stay healthy over the course of his career, he may have developed into a top 5 quarterback. Bradford has some of the best pocket poise in the game. Where he lacks in arm strength, he makes it up with his accuracy and that is where Bradford earns his money. in 2016, Bradford had the best season of his career with the Vikings, posting career highs in completion percentage, passing yards and QBR. While the Vikings missed the postseason that year, imagine if Bradford had stayed healthy and posted those numbers for the Vikings last year. Now Bradford is a bridge quarterback, with the Cardinals preparing to transition from Carson Palmer to Josh Rosen, franchise QB to franchise QB. However, Bradford still has some juice left in him, and he will show out for the Cardinals in 2018.
22. Patrick Mahomes II: Kansas City Chiefs
Like Trubisky, Mahomes could climb up this list very quickly. The Chiefs made a franchise altering move this offseason by trading Alex Smith, a reliable quarterback that played 5 seasons in Kansas City, to the Redskins. The Chiefs are putting their franchise in the hands of a 22 year old gunslinger from Texas Tech University. Mahomes has a lot of pressure building on his shoulders going into this season. The Chiefs have been playoff contenders every year that Alex Smith had started for the Chiefs, and now Mahomes has been handed the reigns. He is not alone, however, as the Chiefs have brought in Sammy Watkins to go along with Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt to form an offensive juggernaut. The Chiefs are giving Patrick Mahomes every opportunity to succeed in his first full season as a starter, and I fully expect to see him climb up this list as the season progresses. There’s a new sheriff in town for KC, and he just might be what gets them over the hump.
21. Jameis Winston: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
To me, this is the biggest disappointment at the quarterback position. The number one selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, expectations were extremely high on Winston to elevate the Buccaneers. I think it is safe to say that (so far) Winston has not lived up to those expectations. The biggest concern for Winston coming out of Florida State was his love for throwing interceptions, and that concern has come to life in the NFL as well. Winston has thrown 44 interceptions in 3 seasons, and has fumbled the ball 31(!) times in that span as well. Granted, Winston’s offensive line has never done him justice, as he has been sacked 30+ times in the last 2 seasons. The Buccaneers also finished 27th in the league in total rushing yards in 2017, pushing more and more of the pressure on Winston. He is still only 24, and has passed for 4,000 yards twice already in his young career. If he can clean up the turnovers, Winston may finally get over the hump.
20. Dak Prescott: Dallas Cowboys
It is too early to say beginner’s luck about the young QB in Dallas, however it is suspicious how his play changed when Ezekiel Elliot wasn’t on the field. Sure, the team lost two key players along that dominant offensive line in Doug Free and Ronald Leary, but that does not explain Prescott’s drop in production in 2017. Nearly taking the Cowboys to the NFC championship game in his rookie season, there was a lot placed on his shoulders as the heir apparent to Tony Romo going into the 2017 season. Prescott surprised many with his poise as a rookie starter, and performed extremely well for a playoff team. Prescott relies a lot on short passes and his mobility, but he can come up clutch in big situations, and I think that is what will make or break him going forward. Will he be able to recreate what he had in his first year?
19. Tyrod Taylor: Cleveland Browns
Like Prescott, Tyrod Taylor relies a lot on his mobility, and has made himself known as a mobile quarterback. While he has never had the gaudy numbers or made a huge name for himself, he hasn’t had the talent around him to better himself. With the Browns, they have done everything to give Taylor the weapons that he needs to vault himself among some of the best QBs in the league. With Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, David Njoku and Duke Johnson on offense, Taylor has a bevy of talented pass-catchers at his disposal. The Browns have also added Baker Mayfield to groom him as their future franchise QB. But for now, the competition will only keep Tyrod Taylor on his toes and make him play at a high level to keep the starting job. The starting gig is Taylor’s to lose, but I think the Browns are confident that Taylor will lead them to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
18. Philip Rivers: LA Chargers
The side arm slinger is back at it again for his 15th season in the league, and at age 36 Rivers has still got it. There may not be a fiercer competitor in the league, and that will not change until he hangs up his cleats for the last time. Rivers has never won a Super Bowl, nor has he come close to winning one, however, he has made his mark as the best quarterback in Charger history. You know what you get with Philip Rivers and he will give you 100% effort every down, which is why Chargers fans love him. The one thing that I am worried about is Rivers’ arm. After throwing the way he has thrown for so long, you have to wonder if that has worn it down, and I think that has shown in a couple games from last season. Nevertheless, Rivers will shake it off and continue to play consistently and put wins in the win column. You can’t ask for much more from Rivers.
17. Deshaun Watson: Houston Texans
One of the biggest stories of 2017, Deshaun Watson is poised for a huge season in 2018. After suffering a torn ACL back in November of 2017, the Texans’ hopes of being a legitimate threat in the AFC were all but tarnished. Watson set records in only seven games last season, throwing for the most 3 touchdown games by a rookie with four, and had the most touchdowns by a rookie ever through seven games with 19. Watson made fantasy owners very happy over those seven games, but just wait until 2018. There is a connection growing between Watson and his number one receiver (Hopkins), and once they start clicking in 2018 they will be unstoppable. I would not be surprised if Watson makes a case for offensive player of the year, and along with that nasty Texans defense, he might take them deep into the playoffs.
16. Cam Newton: Carolina Panthers
There have been many doubters of Cam Newton who think that he is too streaky to be a top quarterback in the league, and these doubters are 100% correct. To be an NFL quarterback, you need one thing: consistency. Newton took the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2015 and won the NFL MVP, however, he followed that season up with a last place finish in the division. His numbers plummeted and his team lost, and Newton was a big part of that. Turnovers have been quite the issue for Newton over the course of his career, and it seems like he still has not learned from the on-field mistakes he has made. However, no one gets hit in this league more than Cam Newton does and that has affected the way he plays the game. I still believe that Newton has another MVP caliber season in him.
15. Derek Carr: Oakland Raiders
Carr probably could’ve been in the conversation for a top 10 quarterback, however, injuries and a surprise losing season in 2017 are what are holding him back at the moment. Derek Carr was a legitimate MVP candidate in 2016 after leading the Raiders to a 12-4 season. But after breaking his fibula in week 16 against the Colts, we will never know what the Raiders season would have amounted to. In 2017, Carr took a bit of a step back, and we had to wonder whether his injuries were nagging him. However, Derek Carr is a fierce leader for the Oakland Raiders and his players are behind him all the way. With new head coach Jon Gruden bringing his old school mind to the Bay, Carr might just be in for a bounce back season. After the exodus of Alex Smith, the aging of Philip Rivers, and the subpar play of Case Keenum, Derek Carr will establish himself as the best QB in the AFC West in 2018.
14. Marcus Mariota: Tennessee Titans
I will say that Marcus Mariota is the most improved quarterback in the league right now. After watching him and his team dismantle the Chiefs’ defense in the AFC Wildcard Round, we saw the birth of a new clutch performer. At the University of Oregon, Mariota was questioned for his passing ability and was thought to rely on his legs too often. However, looking at his first three NFL seasons, we now overlook the questions that were dragging him behind. Like Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota had a strong 2016 season that was cut short by injury. He protected the ball with only 9 interceptions, threw for a career high 26 TDs, and gave the Titans their first winning season since 2011. But in week 2016, Mariota fractured his fibula and was done for the year. Had Mariota not been injured, the Titans 2016 season may have had a different ending. Injuries are hard on NFL players, and that showed for Mariota in 2017. But going into this coming season, he is healthy with a strong offensive line and a good core of young athletic players. Mariota will only continue to rise.
13. Jared Goff: LA Rams
The leader of the most explosive offense in 2017, Jared Goff has busted through the rookie wall and proved that he is, in fact, not a bust. Number one overall draft picks always have a lot of pressure dropped on them, and it seemed as though Goff was succumbing to that pressure in his rookie season. However, Goff flipped that narrative and busted out in 2017. Finishing the season with 3,800 passing yards, 28 TDs and a top five quarterback rating, Goff gave Rams fans reassurance that they have their franchise QB. Of course, it helps that you have such a young and creative offensive mind at head coach with Sean McVay, and that only helped unlock Goff’s potential. All questions facing Goff entering the draft, such as his small hands, have been shattered. The Rams already had arguably the league’s best offense, and now with the offseason additions they made on defense (Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Ndamukong Suh), the Rams will be a force in the NFC. Look for the Rams to make a much deeper playoff run this coming year.
12. Kirk Cousins: Minnesota Vikings
I am not super high on Kirk Cousins. I actually believe that alone, Alex Smith will be a better QB than Kirk Cousins. However, Kirk Cousins is in the absolute perfect situation for his style of play. What held Cousins back in Washington was his lack of options, and Cousins loves to take chances. This is the reason for his high passing yards, yet also his high number of interceptions. Now in Minnesota, Cousins has a number of options who have the ability to create space and get big yardage. Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph, and Dalvin Cook all have big play capabilities, and Kirk Cousins will bring out the best in all of them. Imagine if the Vikings had Cousins instead of Case Keenum last year…they may have made the Super Bowl.
11. Jimmy Garoppolo: San Francisco 49ers
I will not call a player who has not even played a full season as a starter the next Tom Brady, but it may not be long before we start calling him that. After 4 seasons of playing under the best quarterback in the game and the best coach in the game, Garoppolo is ready to take hold of his own team and show what he has learned in his time with the Patriots. The 49ers have an excellent offensive mind in Kyle Shanahan, and he will be able to allow Garoppolo to access all of his potential. I loved what I saw from Jimmy G in the five games that he played for the 49ers. He showed fire, leadership, and a winning mentality (5-0 with the Niners). These are all Tom Brady qualities, but I will need to see a full season of action before he can be in the same sentence as the GOAT.
10. Alex Smith: Washington Redskins
Through the first half of 2017, Alex Smith was considered the favorite for MVP, leading the Chiefs to a 5-0 record while also leading the league in passing yards. However, Smith faltered towards the end of the season, as did the rest of the Chiefs offense. Injuries plagued Kansas City throughout the season, as Mitch Morse, Spencer Ware and Chris Conley all sustained major injury during the year. Alex Smith still finished the year with excellent numbers, posting career highs in passing yards (4,042) and touchdowns (26) at age 34. This was the best season of Smith’s career by far, and it was not his fault that the Chiefs were ousted quickly in the postseason. Smith has found a new home in Washington, and Jay Gruden will love having an efficient quarterback like Smith running his offense.
9. Matthew Stafford: Detroit Lions
This guy does not get enough love. He has never had the supporting cast needed to make a deep playoff run, yet he has still taken the heat for never being able to win in the postseason. Stafford has thrown for at least 4,000 yards every season since 2011, and has improved on those numbers every season. His powerful arm has grown from erratic to controlled and accurate, and his role as a leader has made him into the Lions’ guy. So what is keeping them from making it to the Super Bowl? I don’t believe in the Lions front office and I don’t think Matt Patricia is a good fit in Detroit, although the Lions could use a shake up on the defensive side of the ball. Either way, Matt Stafford will produce and put up big numbers, and maybe this will be the year those numbers translate to wins.
8. Ben Roethlisberger: Pittsburgh Steelers
I think we are finally starting to see Big Ben slow down a bit. Don’t get me wrong, Ben Roethlisberger is still a top quarterback and is always taking his Steelers to the postseason, but the end may be near for the Big Ben era. After publicly considering retirement from the game at the end of the 2017 season, Big Ben decided to come out and play in 2018. Whether that means this is his last season remains to be seen, but we haven’t see the last of Big Ben. In terms of big play ability and pinpoint accuracy, Big Ben is among the best in the league. He has established himself as an extremely tough and durable quarterback since he came into the league in 2004, and has proven that he will be a first-ballot hall of famer in the future. Big Ben will keep doing Big Ben things.
7. Matt Ryan: Atlanta Falcons
Like Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan loves to put up big numbers, yet his teams have always failed to have postseason success. Ryan almost saved me from writing that previous sentence in Super Bowl 51…until you know, Tom Brady happened. Still Matty Ice has more postseason experience than Stafford has, and he has also won an MVP. Matt Ryan gives a strong presence in the pocket and can fit a ball into the tightest windows, but like I said the biggest knock on him has been his lack of success in the postseason. Look for that to motivate Ryan and bring the best out of him, because the Falcons are not far off from contending again.
6. Drew Brees: New Orleans Saints
A surefire hall of famer, a class act guy, an extreme competitor, an 11 time pro bowler. Drew Brees has had a hell of a career. But it’s like he doesn’t slow down. He is third on the all time leaders in passing yards list, and the guy is still playing! After this year, Brees will become the all time leader in passing yards, and possibly touchdowns as well. He has always been one to put up big numbers, and him and Sean Payton will go down in infamy as one of the greatest Coach-Quarterback duos in the history of the sport. At age 39, Brees will likely begin to wind down and pick a time to hang up the cleats, but for now we can enjoy another season of watching number 9 play.
5. Andrew Luck: Indianapolis Colts
When healthy, Andrew Luck has the same ability as a Brady and a Rodgers. His football IQ is possibly the highest on this entire list, and he makes everyone around him better. These are qualities that make a quarterback great in this league, and Andrew Luck will one day be at the top. But injuries will always get in the way of that. It happens to the best of players, and when it happens to Luck, the Colts get very anxious. After finishing towards the bottom of the division the past couple of years in Indianapolis, the Colts will turn to Luck to get them back on track. Frank Reich brought Carson Wentz along in Philadelphia, and he will use that experience to improve his offense in Indianapolis as well. But it all starts with a healthy Andrew Luck.
4. Russell Wilson: Seattle Seahawks
This may come as a surprise to some people. Russell Wilson just does it again and again and again every year. With a completely depleted roster on both sides of the ball, Wilson kept doing his thing and balled out for Seattle. Since 2012, Russell Wilson has not given the Seahawks a single losing season, and has performed highlight reel plays for us to googly eye at every year as well. Wilson gives another meaning to dual-threat quarterback. As much as he uses his legs, he has the ability to step up in the pocket, throw on the run or throw the deep ball as well as anyone else. He is a Super Bowl Champion and will continue to singlehandedly keep the Seahawks in contention.
3. Carson Wentz: Philadelphia Eagles
Drafted immediately after Jared Goff, Carson Wentz is much further ahead in the curve than him. Eagles fans everywhere owe the Super Bowl they just won to Carson Wentz, as he had an MVP caliber season in only 13 games before going down to injury. Throwing for 33 TDs and only 7 interceptions, Wentz has computed the fast paced NFL defenses faster than many veterans do, and he did it well. At North Dakota State, Wentz won 4 national championships with the team, and brought that winning mentality to Philadelphia. That trend will not change, and the Eagles will have success as long as Carson Wentz is leading the way.
2. Aaron Rodgers: Green Bay Packers
Rodgers would be number one on the list if Tom Brady did not exist. Aaron Rodgers will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. In 2011, he led the Packers to their first championship since 1997, and has led them to the postseason 8 total times in his career. Rodgers has consistently been efficient at the helm for Green Bay, as he has always kept his interception numbers down. Another player with a high football IQ, there aren’t many that can read the field and evaluate a situation in a split-second the way Rodgers can. There will never be a doubt that him and the next guy in this list will be the best quarterbacks in the league until they retire, and there will likely never be another player like either of them.
1. Tom Brady: New England Patriots
*insert GOAT emoji*