With most teams starting their preseason games this week, it’s time to dive in and rank each team’s starting QB going into the year! Some are going to be higher than expected, some lower than expected, as well as some hot, which takes near the bottom of the list. Forget the long-winded intro, let’s get right to it.
NOTE: This list is made up of who is projected to start week 1 for each team. Guys like Justin Fields and Trey Lance will not be included. Also, in light of Deshaun Watson’s ongoing legal issues, he will not be included either.
32. Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers.
The first of my hot takes on the list. A lot of media members think the change of scenery for Darnold will help get him right and get his career back on track. My take on that is simple; it’s hard to get back on track when you’re a bad QB. Darnold never impressed me at USC, I thought he was a reach when the Jets drafted him, and now I think he has Carolina destined for a top-five pick next season. I may be wrong, but I’m firmly planting my flag on this hill.
31. Andy Dalton, Chicago Bears
If this was 2015, Dalton would be much higher on the list. Alas, it’s 2021, and Dalton was bad for Dallas in 2020, even with the myriad of weapons he had available. Dalton is the quintessential bridge QB for Chicago this season. I’ll be shocked if Fields isn’t starting by Week 8. Until then, Dalton is the guy in Chicago. At least Bears fans are used to poor QB play by this point, it’s been years since Jay Cutler was decent there.
30. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
This one pains me. I love me some Jalen Hurts. The edge and uniqueness he can bring to the ground game are nearly unmatched at this level. But his development as a passer is why he’s low on the list. In college, he was throwing into wide-open windows where precise accuracy isn’t as necessary. This isn’t the BIG12 (RIP) though. The Windows are much smaller at this level, and that lack of pinpoint accuracy showed its head last season. I want Hurts to be good, and I’ll be rooting for him to take that step, but right now the tape doesn’t show a starting caliber QB.
29. Zach Wilson, New York Jets
You’ll find a quick theme in my rankings, I’m low on most young QB’s. Zach Wilson was QB4 for me this past draft cycle, and while I’m intrigued by what he could do in the west coast scheme they’re going to be running in NY, I just didn’t seem enough against high levels of competition on his college tape to be that confident in him. I’ve been wrong on players before as everyone has (RIP my Josh Rosen QB1 takes on Twitter), and I very well may be wrong on Wilson. I just don’t see it right now.
28. Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints
The Taysom Hill experiment was cool when New Orleans started it a few years ago. Last season it was getting to the point that defenses knew what was coming when he was lined up in the backfield, and it had lost its luster. Now we’re into training camp, and NO is still trotting Hill around as QB1.
It’s to the point that I’m legitimately worried about what they’ll look like this season. Hill is as raw of a passer as you’re going to find, and at this point that isn’t going to change. It’s hard not to trust Sean Payton, and they do still have Jameis Winston on the roster, but Taysom Hill ranks near the bottom of the list as far as starting QB’s go.
27. Drew Lock, Denver Broncos
To quote Benjamin Solak, formerly of the Locked on NFL Draft podcast, now writer for the Ringer, when scouting Lock during the 2019 NFL Draft process, “here’s the thing about Drew Lock, he’s bad.” That sums Lock up pretty well. He’s not an instinctive player, and at this point, I’m not sure he processes things well enough at the NFL level. QB is the one spot that’s holding the Broncos back from being a very good team, and Lock is the main culprit there.
26. Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
Tua is extremely low on this list for very good reason. The Miami coaching staff has outright said they simplified the playbook for him last season, which makes one worry about his processing abilities. Factor in the fact that he wasn’t throwing into the wide-open windows like he had at the college level, and he was downright timid at times last season.
However, I think Tua has a lot of potentials to climb up these rankings this season. Miami added some legitimate separation creators with Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle, plus an entire offseason in the system should help his processing on the field. It wouldn’t shock me if after this season we’re talking about Tua as a fringe top ten QB going into 2022.
25. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow was lighting the NFL up last season, in part because HC Zac Taylor did a lot of what burrow was comfortable with. A lot of empty sets, quick passing game, which let the WR’s do the work for him. The problem with the empty sets, it leaves your QB exposed to free rushers, which ended up biting them last season.
Coming off of his torn ACL, reports out of camp have been that Burrow is timid in the pocket, and playing scared. I truly hope by the start of the season he’s right because he’s one of the more exciting young players in the game. I’m just not far enough removed from the Titans ruining Marcus Mariota with injuries to have faith in another timid QB coming off of injury.
24. Tyrod Taylor, Houston Texans
There isn’t much to say about Tyrod Taylor at this point. He is who he is, which is a very good backup who can win a spot start here and there. The only problem is that he’s going into the season as the projected starter in Houston. That’s far from ideal. Houston’s hands are tied with the Deshaun Watson situation, so they’re making the best of what they can get at QB. Which, considering how solid Tyrod can be, could be a whole lot worse.
23. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
As a football fan, I love Trevor Lawrence. He has everything you could want in a young franchise QB, poise, arm talent, moxie, a winning background. He’s the whole package. As a Titans fan, I absolutely hate that he’s in Jacksonville. I said earlier that Tua had a lot of potentials to be a top-tier QB going into next season, but if we aren’t talking about Lawrence being one of the top five to eight guys in the NFL in two to three years, it’ll be a huge disappointment.
The only reason he isn’t higher on the list is I tend to not overvalue younger players, since this is ranking where they’ll be THIS season, not down the road.
22. Daniel Jones, New York Giants
Daniel Jones has a lot of tools to be successful at the NFL level. He is a plus athlete, has a more than solid arm, and has a couple of years of experience at this point. I just can’t get there with him. He’s always a tick slow or misses a target just wide. It seems like it’s just a couple of little things. If he can clean up the sloppiness that creeps in, he could be higher on the list. But going into 2021, he’s just not quite there.
21. Ryan Fitzpatick, Washington Football Team
I’ve gotta admit, I’m a sucker for some Fitzmagic. Sure, for the majority of the season, h’s going to be a fringe-level starter. But BOY for four to five weeks out of the year, he’s going to be a blast. I really like his fit with the regime in Washington as well, and with the supporting cast around him, we could be in for a big year from Fitzpatrick. Or a fun few games, at least.
20. Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy G is a completely fine NFL starter. In structure, he’s going to hit the layups, and he’s going to keep the offense on schedule. No doubt, you could do much worse than Garoppolo. You could also do a lot better too, which is why San Francisco decided to trade up and grab rookie Trey Lance this offseason. I’d expect Garoppolo to be replaced by Lance at some point this year, but Jimmy G is still a fine, quality starter.
19. Carson Wentz, Indianapolis Colts
Wentz is another player who I’m not overly high on, at least compared to national media. I think his “MVP” caliber season was more fluke than the norm, and he’s already fighting the injury bug again in Indy. The only reason he isn’t lower on the list is the fact that he has some exciting tools to use when healthy, but they do you no good in street clothes. If he can get healthy, he has a chance to move up the rankings, but with no training camp with a new team and system, I almost expect 2021 to look a lot like 2020 for Wentz.
18. Cam Newton, New England Patriots
Speaking of oft-injured QB’s, enter Cam Newton. The Patriot’s offense in 2020 was oddly interesting, with OC Josh McDaniels putting together some fun packages using Newton’s legs as his primary weapon.
But once teams figured out Newton’s arms isn’t what it used to be and New England’s weapons STUNK, defending them became a lot easier as the year went on. Hopefully, some offseason additions make life easier for Cam, because I’d love to see him have a bounce-back season.
17. Jared Goff, Detroit Lions
Ahh, the lifelong question, who caused Goof’s success more, Goff or McVay? We’ll finally get an answer to that question this season, and I’d expect the answer to be a little of both. Goff can make every throw on the field, and within a structure is a fantastic QB.
I don’t know how much the Lions will be able to play within structure this season, considering the black hole of a roster they have. But Goff is still one of the most physically talented throwers out there, so moving him further down the list just doesn’t feel right to me.
16. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburg Steelers
Three years ago, Big Ben being this low would be blasphemy. He’d been one of the most decorated players in NFL history, putting up ridiculous numbers most of his career. One elbow surgery later, and we’re looking at a completely different player. No more of the guy who can stand in the pocket for ten seconds and send a rocket 50 yards downfield.
Now Roethlisberger is a dink and dunk check down machine, not unlike Alex Smith. that’s not a terrible thing, considering the weapons they have! But it is a far cry from the guy who was a top 5 QB for most of his career.
15. Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders
Carr is one of the more polarizing QBs in the game. Some people love him, some people hate him, some people think he’s fine. I’m more in the “fine” camp. He’s one of the better starting QBs in the game. He’s consistent, he doesn’t miss starts and can make every throw you could ask of him.
Does he miss throws down the field to take check-downs from time to time? Sure. But he’s one of the more accurate deep ball passers when he does cut it loose according to PFF. So it’s not for lack of ability, more of taking the sure thing, versus a 50/50 deep ball. I have no issue with that most of the time, which is why I think I’m higher on Carr than the consensus.
14. Justin Herbert, Los Angles Chargers
I said earlier I’m generally low on young players, which is still true. But maaaaaaan, Herbert is that dude. H has a legitimate chance to be considered a top 5 QB before his career is over. I do expect a bit of a second-year regression, but not enough of one to turn me off of the guy. He has every tool imaginable for a QB, showed great leadership last season and his outlook is sky-high. I’ve seen a lot of folks ranking him in the top 10 now, which is a bit rich for me, considering how young he is. I think the top 15 is just right for him.
13. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
I simply do not understand the hate people have for Matt Ryan. He’s still a high-level starter, he doesn’t miss games, he doesn’t do stupid stuff to put your team in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. His cap number is a bit ridiculous, but the Falcons have done that to themselves. I still think Ryan is a more than capable starter.
Another hot take for you, but I like Ryan to lead the NFL in passing yards this season. The Falcons defense is going to be cheeks, and Arthur Smith is a very creative play-caller. I’d expect Ryan to put up some great numbers this year, even if the team success isn’t there.
12. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
Kirk is another QB I think people undervalue. He’s another consistent guy who isn’t going to miss games. The only wart on his game is how he plays out of structure, which is pretty ugly. But within structure, and playing in rhythm, you’re not going to find a better game manager in the NFL. He’s not quite a top ten guy, but he’s a high-tier starting WB.
11. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
I’ve been a huge fan of Baker for years, ever since he crushed the hearts of my Tennessee Vols while he was at Oklahoma. He can get a little lax with his feet, and he does make some boneheaded throws, but boy when he’s cooking watch out. There were some throws in the game against the Titans last season that had my jaw on the floor.
IF HC Kevin Stefanski can continue to get more of the good Baker out, you’re talking about a guy who could easily be in the top 6-9 QBs after this season.
10. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
I was a Kyler skeptic coming out of Oklahoma. I thought he was too small, he looked faster than he was, and he benefitted from the scheme more than he made plays. Then he got thrown into playing for Kliff Kingsberry, balled out, and proved me wrong. Kyler is a STUD. If Arizona could ever get a legitimate coach in there, Kyler could become a perennial MVP candidate. Until then, he’s still going to be a very good QB.
9. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
MATT STAFFORD IS FREED. I am beyond hyped to see one of the best physical talents playing under one of the best offensive minds in football. What has me most excited about Stafford in LA is his ability to win out of structure.
McVay nearly won a Super Bowl with Jared Goff, who couldn’t play out of structure if his life depended on it. Now give him Stafford, who thrives out of structure, but has also proven to win in structure? Boy oh boy, the Rams are going to be a BLAST this season.
8. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
Since taking over the starting gig in Tennessee, Tannehill has been one of the most productive QB’s in the NFL. Gone are the days of Tannehill second-guessing himself like he did in Miami under the train wreck that is Adam Gase. Tannehill has taken control of the Titans offense and has taken it to the next level.
Add in the addition of future Hall of Famer Julio Jones out wide along with returning weapons AJ Brown and Derrick Henry, and Tannehill’s outlook for 2021 looks even better than the past two seasons. I expect him to be knocking on the door of the top 5 conversation by the end of the season.
7. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Before the injury last season, Dak was on pace to shatter most of the NFL passing records. I’m not going to expect that sort of pace with him coming off of injury, but I do expect him to continue to be one of the premier passers in the game. There isn’t much you can say about him, Dak does everything you could want in a franchise QB. He’ll continue to be a borderline top 5 passer throughout his career.
6. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
I’m sick and tired of the “Lamar is a running back” trope. It’s lazy and racist, “black QB who runs well is just a running back.” Stop it. He’s a perennial MVP candidate, who is going to be in the top QB conversation year after year.
He has areas to improve as a passer, no doubt, but so do most players. He’s a complete game wrecker at QB, and as long as he stays healthy will continue to be one of the best in the game.
5. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Allen is one QB who I 100% missed on. I thought he was all arm, and would never get the nuisances of QB play. After three years, I can wholeheartedly admit I was WRONG. Allen has went from inaccurate guy with a Howitzer to accurate dual threat guy with a Howitzer. With OC Brian Daboll coming back for another go this season, I’d expect more of the same from Allen, with him being firmly entrenched in the MVP debate this season.
4. Russel Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
First off, let’s all agree that #LetRussCook early in the 2020 season was absolutely beautiful football, right? Wilson has shown over his career that he is one of the most polished and accurate passers in all of football. I see no reason that he doesn’t continue that trend in 2021.
If the Seahawks truly give into the movement in let Russ just run the show, we could see astronomical numbers in 2021. Here’s hoping they give into it and let Wilson eat.
3. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I don’t envision a future where Tom Brady is playing football and isn’t considered a top-three QB. He’s been in the league long enough to have two HOF caliber careers and is still one of the best in the game. Even now, if I had to pick any QB to win a single game, I’d have a hard time with not picking Brady. He’s going to be around this spot until he decides to hang them up.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Everyone thought Rodgers’ time in yellow and green was running out when they drafted Jordan Love last year. Oh ye of little faith. Aaron put on an absolute clinic last season in route to his second MVP, and was yards away from another Super Bowl berth.
He’s still one of the most physically gifted to ever play, and he still has plenty left in the tank. Who knows who he’ll be lacing up for beyond 2021, but for this season there is little doubt that Rodgers is again an MVP candidate.
1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
I mean, was there ever really any doubt here? Mahomes is the best QB in the NFL, and will continue to be that for years to come. I don’t know that there is even really a debate.
His mix of talent, leadership, play out of structure, and his ability to just make people’s jaws drop on routine plays is just otherworldly. As long as Mahomes is healthy, he’s going to be an MVP frontrunner, as he very well should be.
Pissed about how low I have your team’s QB? Pissed at how high I have someone? Holler at me and let me know! You can find me on Twitter @j_noah53. I got thick skin, so bring on any comments ya got!