Ranking the top 10 NFL quarterbacks in 2021: Patrick Mahomes # 1; Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford miss the cup
Arguably, no NFL offseason has displayed the power of quarterback position like this. An all-time greats Tom Brady celebrated a Super Bowl title after leaving his old dynasty for greener pastures (Tampa). Another, Aaron Rodgers, seems to want to change careers. Two former first-round players, Carson Wentz and Matthew Stafford, successfully negotiated a fresh start via trade. A few other stars of Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson have flirted with or are still looking for the same thing. It’s no wonder either, given the importance (and cost) of QBs in an passing league.
Which of the current NFL QBs, however, really stands out above the rest? Whether they are engaged in their current team or hoping for a new one, which smugglers reign supreme in 2021? We’re glad you asked. By incorporating both past performance and future projections, here’s how we would rank the top 10 QBs ahead of the new season: …
In all of his highlights, Murray has struggled to deliver big results in Arizona, going 13-18-1 with 24 interceptions and an average passer rating of 90.9 in two seasons under Kliff Kingsbury. Still, he’s improved in almost every category from 2019 to 2020, can expand games as well as anyone on this side of Lamar Jackson, and offers more perks at 23 than most under the center. He could afford to cut down on forced throws, but he would also benefit from better in-game training from Kingsbury. Ultimately, his dual threat athleticism always makes him a tough guy, which is why he has edged out more consistent or refined passer like Baker Mayfield, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford and Ryan Tannehill. Ask any of those other QB teams if they would trade their starter for Murray at this point in his career, and you’d be hard pressed to come up with a ‘no’.
If anything, the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year is too weak. It’s just to be careful with the hype given that we’ve seen first-round stallions go up in flames before (see: Wentz, Carson; Goff, Jared), but Herbert is a different animal. His poise and rookie output have only been matched by most Hall of Fame-caliber talent in NFL history, and he also has one of the strongest arms in the game. The physical tools, so, are not even a distant concern. The question is whether he can adapt quickly to new staff, led by a defensive head coach, and thrive behind a rebuilt offensive line rather than as an off-script gunslinger. In all cases, the arrow points upwards. It is a prototype under center. It just needs more time to prove that it is durable.
8. Lamar Jackson (Ravens)
There are some legitimate criticisms to be made about Jackson’s deep passes and big games (he’s 1-3 in the playoffs, making just 56% of his throws). But God bless you if you discount his label “QB franchise” entering its 24 year season. You don’t compile 68 touchdowns, 18 interceptions, and a 102.6 passer rating out of 37 starts – and go 30-7 – by accident. Is he one-dimensional considering how often he uses his legs and how much Ravens depend on them? Obviously more than most QBs, but he still has a one-armed rocket, and that “one dimension” makes him one of the most indefensible game makers in space. Jackson might not be the best strategist in the NFL, but he’s arguably his best Talent, and that always gives you a chance.
Anyone who still thought the old fourth round was better than irreplaceable (the Cowboys included) learned a lesson in 2020: Dallas’ guns mean very little without one of the NFL’s most stable point guards. Prescott had been a model of durability before injuring his ankle in his fifth season, but he’s also long been reliable as a QB: With the exception of a collapse in 2017, he’s been both relatively averse to turnovers and able to hit the big game, while still handling the pocket like the best of them. You still wonder if he can face an elite rival in a big game, but his career record (42-27) suggests he will always put the Cowboys in a position of challenge. Put him in a club with better training and improved defense, and you’re talking about a real competitor.
6. Deshaun Watson (Texans)
It’s unclear what the future holds for Watson, who turns 26 in September. Faced with 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault or misconduct, he may or may not be suspended. He would have also always wanted to leave Houston, asking for a trade at the start of this offseason. From a soccer perspective, he remains one of the best young QBs in the game, offering a strong arm, solid athleticism and balance both in and out of the pocket. His 2020 numbers (4,823 yards, 33 TD, 7 INT) may have been a little inflated on a bad team, but on the pitch, he ticks almost all the physical and mental boxes. The question is where, when and if these talents will return.
If you had asked someone in 2018 if the Bills made the right move to recruit Allen out of Wyoming, you probably would have suggested they didn’t. An inaccurate QB remained inaccurate as a rookie, let alone recklessness with football. But Allen has improved in each of the two seasons since, to the point of rivaling guys like Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes as the position’s first playmaker in a 2020 MVP bid. He could protect the ball even better. (and himself), but his progression – paired with unteachable size, arm talent, and tenacity – almost guarantees Buffalo will remain a contender in 2021 and beyond. The numbers might not always be as pretty as they were a year ago, but his rugged demeanor and athleticism are top notch.
For 14 months, it looked like TB12 could in fact, well, to be in real decline, if only for the big harvest of mid-range QBs. Then Brady did as he always does, erasing memories of a sluggish last year in New England and a mercurial start at Tampa Bay to get into the clutch, speeding up the home stretch in 2020 with some of the his best passages in years. At 44, could a physical setback finally happen? We refuse to consider the idea until Brady hangs up the studs himself. He doesn’t have the biggest arm, he’s practically still, and he’s more prone to turnovers than you might think. But he still has a sense of precision and deep passing, he’s still one of the smartest to play the position, and he’s surrounded by a familiar and talented supporting cast.
3. Russell Wilson (Seahawks)
It’s pretty amazing that we can revisit Wilson’s 2020, in which he kicked off a career high of 40 TDs to hit 12-4, and see it as a little underwhelming because of how it ended. This speaks to the bar that Russ has set for himself. You’d love to see more of a playoff presence (he’s lost four of his last five playoff games), and he’ll endure occasional bursts of puzzle picks. But these are nit-picking for a guy who’s never had a losing season, who remains arguably the calmest pocket operator in the game alongside Mahomes, and who could still step up as a passer ahead of his 10th season. . As long as Wilson is on the court, the Seahawks aren’t a snap. And with enough backing, Russ is still a championship contender.
2. Aaron Rodgers (Packers)
Brady waltzing from New England to Tampa Bay to win the Super Bowl MVP was a showy performance for an alumnus, but Rodgers’ 2020 MVP resurgence could have been even more impressive. A-Rod never do not been one of the most talented and talented signalers in the NFL, but starting in 2018-19, after a serious collarbone injury, he became a bit more conservative, keeping the INT total low but also recording less of revolutionary darts. Then Green Bay upset him (in part by drafting a potential successor, it seems), and he’s gone to the tune of 48 TDs and a second straight NFC title bid. At 37, he still has one of the sharpest minds and arms in the league. A departure from Green Bay would test whether he can win big without his familiar weapons as well, but most teams would cut their own QBs if that meant a few years with Rodgers, and for good reason. The ultimate end of Rodgers’ spite tour at Lambeau would be a 2021 Super Bowl run, then a move elsewhere on his own terms.
1. Patrick Mahomes (Chefs)
How can it be someone else? Brady, Rodgers and Wilson offer more experience, but no one offers the tantalizing combo of youth (25), height (6-3, 230), effortless arm talent, early career production (114 TDs, 24 INTs, 108.7 ratings at 46 starts) and the playoff familiarity (three AFC title games and two Super Bowls in three years as a starter) he does. Like everyone else, he can be fooled by turnarounds. But not often. Is he boosted by the guns and elite coaching of Kansas City? Sure. But let’s not pretend that Derek Carr or Teddy Bridgewater is doing what he does for Andy Reid. If Lamar Jackson is a magician on the pitch, Mahomes is a magician everywhere else, combining impossible throws with an inherent confidence. If you bet on any QB to win multiple championships from 2021 and for years to come, there is no doubt that it should be No.15.
Just missed: Kirk Cousins ââ(Vikings), Matthew Stafford (Rams), Ryan Tannehill (Titans), Baker Mayfield (Browns), Matt Ryan (Falcons), Derek Carr (Raiders)
The next level: Ben Roethlisberger (Steels), Ryan Fitzpatrick (Washington), Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers), Teddy Bridgewater (Broncos)
Maybe next year: Joe Burrow (Bengals), Trevor Lawrence (Jaguars), Carson Wentz (Colts), Jalen Hurts (Eagles), Trey Lance (49ers)