The younger generation has taken over when it comes to the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Joe Burrow are the top superstars in football, while Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers might finally be showing signs of their age in 2023.
The way that the league has evolved, the sport’s top quarterbacks are more athletic than they’ve ever been. It’s getting harder to survive as an immobile pocket passer, though a few of the latest Super Bowl champions were led by veteran signal callers who don’t use their legs very often.
Let’s look at the best quarterbacks in the NFL. The rankings are a combination of performances in the recent past and their potential going forward. One starter from each team is included on the list.
32. Zach Wilson, New York Jets
No quarterback had a more tumultuous 2022 campaign than Wilson. The second-year player was benched on multiple occasions, culminating with an embarrassing 92-yard performance against the Jaguars on “Thursday Night Football” for the entire nation to see. Wilson’s 72.8 passer rating and 54.5% completion rate ranked dead last among all starters.
The Jets’ offense looked significantly better when Mike White was at the helm. Wilson has played so poorly that the Jets seem more than ready to move on from him just two years after drafting the quarterback second overall. In 22 career games, Wilson is averaging 182.8 passing yards with 15 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
31. Davis Mills, Houston Texans
It doesn’t say much about Mills’ 2022 campaign that he was briefly benched in favor of Kyle Allen. Mills tied for the league-high with 15 interceptions and didn’t progress after an encouraging rookie season. Mills’ passer rating fell from 88.8 in 2021 to 78.8 in 2022, and his 66.8% completion rate fell by nearly six points.
After going 5-19-1 in his first two seasons, Mills’ days as a starting quarterback could be numbered. The Texans will take a quarterback at the top of the 2023 NFL Draft. Mills could have more success with a roster that is trying to compete for a playoff spot, but he’s unlikely to ever start for a team that’s a threat to make any kind of a postseason run.
30. Marcus Mariota, Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons gave Mariota his first chance in three years to be a starting quarterback. It looked like the veteran might lead Atlanta on a surprising run to the playoffs until he lost four of his last five starts and an injury ended his season.
Mariota can only take a team so far with his limited ability as a passer. The quarterback completed 61.3% of his passes for 170.7 yards per game, both of which ranked 28th or lower for the 2022 season. Mariota can make some plays with his legs, but he only ran for more than 50 yards twice with Atlanta. Don’t expect him to be a starter in 2023.
29. Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers
The reality of Darnold’s potential, or lack thereof, set in long ago. It’s unlikely that Darnold will be anything more than a borderline NFL starter. The former No. 3 overall pick has a 21-34 career record and a 78.2 passer rating.
Darnold’s 92.6 passer rating in 2022 was a career-best, though he put up pedestrian numbers in six starts. Darnold averaged 190.5 passing yards per game and completed fewer than 60% of his passes for the third straight season. The Panthers don’t have their quarterback of the future on their roster.
28. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers
The only quarterback who was selected in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft showed plenty of promise. Will he ever be one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks? Probably not.
Pickett went 7-5 as a starter, making big throws on Christmas Day against the Raiders and on New Year’s Day against the Ravens. Those comeback wins allowed the Steelers to avoid a losing record for yet another year. Pittsburgh’s defense, however, was largely responsible for its victories. Pickett had seven passing touchdowns and nine interceptions. His 6.2 yards per attempt and 76.7 passer rating both ranked second-to-last.
27. Taylor Heinicke, Washington Commanders
Heinicke might be the best of the NFL’s bad starting quarterbacks. The former XFL star was more than an adequate replacement for an injured Carson Wentz, keeping the gig for some time once Wentz was healthy enough to play. When Commanders coach Ron Rivera sent Heinicke back to the bench at the end of the season, it was a mistake that might’ve cost Washington a playoff berth.
The Commanders went 5-3-1 in Heinicke’s nine starts. Heinicke also posted a sub-90.0 passer rating in his second straight year as the starter for most of Washington’s games. Heinicke failed to make the top-23 in completion percentage and yards per game.
26. Matt Ryan, Indianapolis Colts
Ryan’s first season in Indianapolis likely confirmed that he’s moved to the twilight of his career, Six years removed from winning the NFL MVP award and nearly winning the Super Bowl, Ryan put up his worst numbers in over a decade. Benched on two separate occasions, Ryan finished with 14 touchdown passes, 13 interceptions and an 83.9 passer rating in 12 games.
The Colts hoped that replacing Wentz with Ryan would improve their Super Bowl chances. Instead, Indianapolis won five fewer games than it did in the 2021 season. At 37 years old without much mobility, Ryan could be out of the league entirely in a year or two.
25. Andy Dalton, New Orleans Saints
At this stage of his career, Dalton should be one of the league’s best backup quarterbacks. The Saints decided to turn the veteran into a full-time starter over Jameis Winston, and it yielded mixed results.
On the one hand, Dalton’s 18 touchdowns, nine interceptions and 66.7% completion rate were his best stats in several years. The quarterback only went 6-8, despite playing with a top-nine scoring defense. Dalton had a passer rating north of 107.5 in five games, but his rating fell below the league’s average in half of his starts. The Andy Dalton experience is a rollercoaster that won’t end with a trip to the playoffs.
24. Mac Jones, New England Patriots
In the span of a year, the Patriots have gone from thinking that they had their quarterback of the future to potentially wondering if Jones can be their starter long-term. Jones regressed by just about every metric from his rookie to sophomore season. New England’s 2021 first-round pick played so poorly to start the year that fans were clamoring for Bailey Zappe to become the No. 1 QB.
Jones made too many mistakes early in the season. His two touchdowns and six interceptions played a significant role in the Patriots’ 1-3 start. Jones settled down with only one pick over an eight-game stretch. Replacing Matt Patricia with a qualified offensive coordinator should help Jones have a better 2023 campaign, though he might never be more than a game-manager.
23. Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos
Wilson fell off a cliff in 2022 like few athletes—let alone quarterbacks—have in recent memory. The former Seahawks quarterback was one of five starters who completed fewer than 61% of his passes. Wilson’s 84.4 passer rating didn’t even crack the top-25. Sixteen touchdowns and 11 interceptions gave Wilson the worst ratio of his career.
In Seattle, Wilson was a perennial winner, going over .500 in each of his first nine seasons. Not only did the veteran go 4-11 in his first season as a Bronco, but he did it in spite of a strong defense. Wilson engineered the worst scoring offense in football and lost six games in which Denver surrendered fewer than 18 points in regulation.
Two years ago, Wilson was an MVP candidate and a top-five QB. Have Wilson’s skills eroded that much or will things be different in 2023 now that first-year coach Nathaniel Hackett is no longer around?
22. Justin Fields, Chicago Bears
The Bears don’t have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but they do have one of the most exciting players in football. Fields led all QBs and ranked seventh overall with 1,143 rushing yards in the 2022 season, and he did it despite missing two games.
Fields has surpassed Lamar Jackson as the NFL’s most prolific running quarterback. When it comes to using his arm, Fields is just the opposite. His 149.5 passing yards per game ranked last among all starters. Fields ranked in the middle of the pack with 7.1 yards per attempt, but his 60.4% completion rate was the worst among quarterbacks who played more than 12 games.
Fields needs to evolve into a more accurate passer before he can become a winning quarterback. Even though Chicago’s roster takes most of the blame, Fields’ eight-game losing streak to conclude his 2022 isn’t exactly a positive.
21. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
For his first three seasons in Tennessee, Tannehill was one of the NFL’s most underrated quarterbacks. All Tannehill did was lead the league in passer rating in 2019 and take the Titans to the AFC Championship Game, throw 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions the following year and help Tennessee earn the No. 1 seed in 2021.
An ankle injury derailed Tannehill’s 2022 season. The quarterback did have the Titans in position to win another AFC South title before getting hurt. Tannehill thrives in play-action and can be the best possible version of a game-manager. He’s also been exposed in the playoffs when asked by Tennessee to make big-time throws.
20. Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns
Watson’s fall from grace hasn’t only come off the field. After returning from his 11-game suspension, Watson played like one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL. No aspect of Watson’s first season in Cleveland was impressive. Averaging a measly 183.7 passing yards per game, Watson completed 58.2% of his attempts for seven touchdowns and five interceptions.
The Browns quarterback should be better in 2023 when he isn’t going 23 months in between NFL games. There’s a reason why Cleveland gave the quarterback a fully guaranteed $230 million contract. Watson led the league in passing yards and was second in passer rating for the 2020 season.
19. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
The trajectory of Murray’s career has taken a nosedive since the Cardinals were embarrassed on Wild-Card Weekend 2022. Maybe a head coaching change will do some good for one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league
Even before a torn ACL ended Murray’s 2022 season, Arizona was only 3-8 and Murray had a career-low 87.2 passer rating. It was a far cry from the stats that Murray put up in his back-to-back Pro Bowl campaigns. From 2020-2021, Murray completed more than 68% of his passes with 66 total touchdowns. There’s still hope for Murray to lead the right team on a deep playoff run if he can stay healthy.
18. Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
It’s hard to put the NFL’s leader in passer rating much lower than 18th on the list of best quarterbacks. Surrounded by a top receiving tandem in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, Tagovailoa thrived, throwing for 3,548 yards, 25 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 105.5 rating in 13 games.
Tagovailoa was limited to 13 games because of multiple concussions, which leaves his long-term future as an NFL player very much in question. There were also some glaring games in between injuries, including a 10-of-28 performance against the Chargers. Tagovailoa is 21-13 as an NFL starter with three straight winning seasons.
17. Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers
Purdy’s rookie season has to be one of the most unlikely quarterback stories in a long, long time. San Francisco selected Purdy with the last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft to be its third-string quarterback. It took Purdy 13 weeks to see any meaningful action, and Mr. Irrelevant has been anything but irrelevant since replacing Jimmy Garoppolo.
Purdy’s numbers look like those of a future Hall of Famer. The 23-year-old has gone undefeated in his first seven games with six passer ratings north of 114.5. Is Purdy the next Tom Brady or just a product of Kyle Shanahan’s system and an elite group of playmakers? It’s impossible to know, though a few too many questionable throws in his first playoff game raise concerns that Purdy could turn into a pumpkin at a moment’s notice.
16. Daniel Jones, New York Giants
The way that Jones has answered his critics during a contract year is nothing short of remarkable. Under head coach Brian Daboll, Jones has played a new brand of football, limiting mistakes and punishing teams with his legs. After averaging just over 200 passing yards per game in the regular season, Jones had a 300-yard game in the playoffs to go along with 78 rushing yards and an upset victory.
Jones has earned a multi-year contract to stay in New York. He’s in the perfect situation with a coach who knows how to utilize his strengths. It will be interesting to see how Jones might perform with a legitimate No. 1 target, though he does have limitations that could prevent him from ever going much higher on the list of best NFL QBs.
15. Jared Goff, Detroit Lions
Goff’s second season in Detroit was a bit of a resurgence for the quarterback. The Lions’ signal caller reminded the league that he can succeed with the right pieces around him. With 4,438 yards, 29 touchdowns and seven interceptions, Goff had a borderline Pro-Bowl season. Detroit scored more points than all but four other teams.
Of course, Goff is the same quarterback who the Rams replaced right before they won the Super Bowl. Goff won’t elevate a team, but he can take advantage of a talented roster, making him a perfectly average quarterback.
14. Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks
Add Smith to the list of quarterbacks who were pleasant surprises in 2022 but could just as easily come back to earth in 2023. Smith went from being a career backup to one of the best quarterbacks in the NFC in the blink of an eye. Making more than three starts for the first time in eight years, Smith completed a league-high 69.8% of his passes for 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Maybe Smith won’t make another Pro Bowl, but he can remain a quality starter. Smith hadn’t been given much of a chance in recent years, and there didn’t seem to be much fluky about the way he excelled. At the very least, the Seahawks can be grateful that they traded Wilson and kept Smith for a bargain.
13. Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders
Carr’s 2022 season was bad enough that it cost him his job in Las Vegas. The Raiders are moving on from their quarterback of nine seasons. The addition of Davante Adams didn’t prevent Carr from posting a career-worst 2.8% interception rate. Carr completed 60.8% of his passes for 234.8 yards per game on the way to a 6-9 record.
There isn’t much separation from Carr and the league’s other average quarterbacks. When Carr plays behind a good offensive line with adequate weapons, he can shine. If the pieces around him struggle, Carr will do the same.
12. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
The most-hyped quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck is showing the league what all the fuss was about. A concerning rookie season can likely be chalked up to growing pains and being coached by Urban Meyer. By this time next year, Lawrence might firmly be a top-10 QB.
Lawrence turned a corner in the second half of the season, throwing 15 touchdown passes and one interception over the final nine weeks. The Jaguars seemed dead and buried in the AFC South race until Lawrence led them to a division title. If there was any doubt that Lawrence is destined to be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, he squashed it by leading a 27-point comeback in the wild-card playoffs.
11. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Jackson might be the most polarizing quarterback in the NFL. The quarterback has a ceiling that’s higher than most, as evidenced by his 2019 MVP campaign. Jackson’s inability to stay on the field, a direct result of the style of play that makes him so effective, has prevented him from being universally regarded as one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.
Only five active players have won an MVP award, putting Jackson in a rare class of quarterbacks. Even his record-setting year, however, ended with a disappointing playoff performance. Jackson has a 1-3 record and a brutal 68.3 passer rating when the games matter most.
The last two Baltimore seasons were derailed because Jackson missed the final month with injuries. Jackson was effective in 2022 when healthy, on pace for 1,082 rushing yards and 28 total touchdowns over the course of 17 games. The Ravens are willing to give Jackson a $200 million-plus contract because of his upside, but they won’t guarantee all of it because of his injury history.
10. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
There are few quarterbacks who are more consistent than Cousins. For better or worse, the Vikings know what they are going to get from the most important position every single year.
Cousins has put up some of the NFL’s best regular-season numbers during his five seasons in Minnesota. The quarterback has made three Pro Bowls as a Viking, posting a 100.9 passer rating. Cousins’ 14 interceptions in 2022 were a career-high, though his 4,547 yards were his most in Minnesota. Cousins and the Vikings went 13-4 to secure the No. 2 seed.
Minnesota’s first-round playoff exit was highlighted by Cousins’ throw well short of the sticks on the Vikings’ final offensive play. Cousins was under pressure, and the quarterback did what he consistently does when things get difficult—he came up short. Cousins is a good quarterback, but he’ll never be a great one.
9. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
Super-Bowl winning quarterbacks deserve the benefit of that doubt. Everything that could’ve gone wrong for the Rams in 2022 did, including a season-ending injury that limited Stafford to nine games. Stafford wasn’t particularly impressive before getting hurt, throwing for 2,087 yards, 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Seven months before Los Angeles’ season from hell began, Stafford was hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy at Sofi Stadium. The veteran led the Rams to a fourth-quarter comeback in the Super Bowl. In four playoff games, Stafford completed 70% of his passes for 1,088 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions.
It’s no coincidence that Stafford exploded for 4,886 yards and 41 touchdowns in his first season out of Detroit. Put a good roster around a healthy Stafford in 2023 and that team has a shot to be a contender.
8. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Prescott answered a lot of questions by leading the Cowboys on a rout of the Buccaneers in the wild-card playoffs. The face of the NFL’s most popular franchise, Prescott has firmly established himself as one of the 10-best quarterbacks by consistently leading one of the league’s top offenses and winning multiple playoff games.
In each of Prescott’s last three full seasons, the Cowboys have finished no worse than sixth in scoring offense. Dallas scored more points than anyone in 2021. After Prescott returned from a thumb injury in the 2022 season, the Cowboys scored at least 24 points in 10 straight games, averaging 35.1 points per contest.
Prescott has the accuracy and the mobility that it takes to win games in today’s NFL. His league-high 15 interceptions in just 12 games were out of character and are unlikely to be repeated going forward.
7. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
An MVP-caliber campaign in 2022 has catapulted Hurts up the list of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. While it remains to be seen if Hurts can sustain that level of play for years to come, the Eagles’ star has played his way into the conversation among the elite signal callers.
The Eagles nearly went undefeated with Hurts under center, going 14-1 in his 15 starts. Hurts punished defenses with his legs, rushing for 760 yards and 13 touchdowns. The third-year QB also became one of the most efficient passers in football. Hurts’ 101.6 passer rating and 8.0 yards per attempt both ranked in the top four. He threw 22 touchdown passes to just six interceptions.
What Hurts does in the playoffs will ultimately determine if he’s a top-five quarterback. Hurts came up small in Philadelphia's wild-card loss during the 2021 season. The significant improvement that he’s shown every year is an encouraging sign that he can become a winning playoff quarterback.
6. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Has Rodgers entered a new phase of his career or was 2022 just a down year highlighted by an underwhelming receiving corps? Rodgers made his case to be recognized as the best quarterback in the NFL with back-to-back MVP seasons. That case went out the window when his passer rating dropped 20 points and the Packers failed to make the playoffs this year.
There’s no question that Rodgers’ performance was hindered by a lack of chemistry and experience from young receivers. The loss of Davante Adams was a killer. It’s hard to win games without a true No. 1 receiver.
Rodgers was simply bad at times. No matter how often he threw up his hands and gave his receivers a confused look, Rodgers couldn’t disguise the fact that he was playing poorly. Worst of all, Rodgers was mediocre in the season finale, during which the quarterback had a back-breaking interception in a loss at home that kept Green Bay out of the postseason.
Rodgers is still one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, but Green Bay’s seasons continue to end in disappointment while the four-time MVP comes up short in the biggest moments. That doesn’t belong on the resume of a top-five quarterback.
5. Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
Calling Herbert a top-five quarterback is as much about projecting his career as it is about what he’s done in the NFL. Herbert has just one playoff appearance and no postseason victories. The 24-year-old has lost at least seven games in all three of his seasons, and he’s just one-game over .500. Herbert’s also been stellar in each of those years and is still closer to being 20 than 30 years old.
Herbert’s top two wide receivers were in and out of the lineup all season long. The quarterback didn’t get much help from Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who was let go after the team lost in humiliating fashion on Wild-Card Weekend. Herbert still managed to be the runner-up in passing yards for the second straight year. He was one of six QBs to post an interception rate below 1.5%.
Although Herbert could’ve been better in the second half, the Chargers’ defense and coaching staff blew the 27-0 lead in Jacksonville. A 30-point effort from Herbert and Los Angeles should’ve been enough to get the quarterback his first playoff victory, which shouldn’t be far away.
4. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Doubt Brady at your own risk. Fans and members of the media alike have been looking to throw dirt on Brady for over a half-decade. The greatest quarterback of all time has proven them wrong time and time again.
It would make sense to say that Brady’s days as an elite passer are now through. The seven-time Super Bowl champion is coming off an 8-10 season, including the playoffs, and will celebrate his 46th birthday before the 2023 season opener. Father Time is eventually going to catch up to Brady, and he was never the most mobile quarterback.
A down year by Brady’s standards still produced solid numbers. Brady’s 4,694 passing yards were good for third in the NFL. He has 25 touchdown passes and nine interceptions in a season that saw 14 quarterbacks throw double-digit picks. Injuries to the offensive line, an aging roster and poor coaching were the biggest reasons for the Bucs’ lackluster performance.
Brady’s 2022 season was reminiscent of his final year with New England. The quarterback had an 88.0 passer rating in 2019 on his way to a first-round playoff exit. One year later, Brady won his record-setting fifth Super Bowl MVP in Tampa Bay. Don’t be surprised if a change of scenery results in a 16th Pro-Bowl season for the GOAT.
3. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
When Allen is at the top of his game, he might be the best quarterback in the NFL. With a rocket arm and one of the best rushers at the position in recent years, the Bills’ quarterback is downright indefensible at times. Although too mistake-prone, Allen is a top-three QB, at worst.
Allen’s historic two-game stretch in last year’s playoffs made him the 2022 MVP favorite. The 26-year-old did all he could to deliver Buffalo its first Super Bowl ring, completing 77.4% of his passes for 637 yards and nine touchdowns, in addition to adding 134 yards on the ground. A final 2022 stat line of 4,283 passing yards, 35 passing touchdowns and 14 interceptions resulted in Allen’s second Pro Bowl appearance in three years. Allen also ran for just north of 760 yards for the second straight season. He’s had at least six rushing touchdowns in all five NFL seasons.
Allen has engineered a top-three scoring offense in three straight seasons. Close to 1.7 combined interceptions and fumbles per game, however, hurt his case to be considered the best quarterback.
2. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
Allen would probably be the No. 2 quarterback on most lists, but Burrow has earned this spot with what he’s done in the 2021 and 2022 campaigns. All it took was one full season for the former No.1 overall draft pick to revive one of the NFL’s most beleaguered franchises with a trip to the Super Bowl. The quarterback has single-handedly made Cincinnati a top championship contender for years to come.
Yes, Burrow gets to target one of the league’s best wide receiver trios in Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. But he’s largely played behind a bad offensive line, and it hasn’t stopped him from continuing to win big games. A season after leading all quarterbacks in completion percentage, Burrow’s rate of 68.3% was good for second overall. Burrow and Allen tied for second with 35 passing touchdowns, though the Bengals’ star threw two fewer interceptions.
If the Bengals can give Burrow adequate protection up front, it might not be long before the 2020 college football champion wins his first title at the professional level.
1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
There is no more debate regarding who is the best quarterback in the NFL. With Brady and Rodgers no longer in the prime of their careers, Mahomes has cemented himself as the top player in football.
Mahomes’ first five seasons as a starting quarterback have been unprecedented. The 27-year-old has been made the Pro Bowl every single year. He’s about to win his second NFL MVP award, and Mahomes has a Super Bowl MVP on his resume. Mahomes’ career stats give him an absurd 4,791 passing yards, 38 passing touchdowns and 10 interceptions in an average year. His career 105.7 passer rating is the best of all time.
The Chiefs traded their top wide receiver for draft picks in the offseason and it didn’t stop Mahomes from leading the league with 5,250 passing yards and 41 passing touchdowns for the top-scoring offense. Much like Brady during his time in New England, Mahomes makes the Chiefs a borderline lock to reach the AFC Championship Game, at the very least, each season. During a time when teams continue to have immediate buyer’s remorse for awarding their quarterbacks massive contracts, Mahomes’ 10-year, $450 million contract looks like a steal.
Mahomes is talented enough to win a few more Super Bowl MVPs and go down as one of the two or three greatest quarterbacks to ever play.
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