It seems like the NFL has more elite quarterbacks than ever before heading in to 2022. Now more than ever, a top-tier quarterback is necessity in order to compete for […]
It seems like the NFL has more elite quarterbacks than ever before heading in to 2022. Now more than ever, a top-tier quarterback is necessity in order to compete for a Super Bowl. Blame the rules, blame the NFL, blame the mega contracts being given out at the position, but it’s a passing league and without an above average quarterback, it’s hard to compete in today’s NFL.
Furthermore, to succeed in 2021, 2022, and beyond, the leagues top quarterbacks often posses both talented arms and the ability to move the ball with their legs. Not every quarterback has to be as fast as Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray, or as sturdy as a runner as Josh Allen, but generally speaking, most of the league’s top quarterbacks today have at least some ability to extend plays with their legs, whether it be buying extra time in the pocket, picking up crucial first downs, or putting the ball in the end zone themselves.
Today I’ll be ranking the Top 10 Quarterbacks in the NFL Heading In To the 2022-23 Season. While I don’t have a strict rubric for ranking these signal-callers, I’ll generally be taking a look at:
- Passing ability: Accuracy, ability to throw passes at multiple levels (specifically the deep ball,) passing touchdown and yard totals, yards per attempt, interceptions thrown, interception rate
- Mobility: As mentioned above, there are multiple levels to mobility, from quarterbacks that can rush for 1,000 yards in a single season to those who can move around in the pocket to avoid sacks
- Winning: If we’re being honest, wins and losses is one of the worst ways to compare quarterbacks, due to the various circumstances that surround the outcome of each game. But still, I do place value on success, and especially sustained success over multiple seasons. Playoff records matter too.
Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders: At 31 years old, entering his ninth season in the NFL, Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is two things: consistent, and one of the best passers in the league. Carr has thrown for over 4,000 yards in each of the last four seasons, and has thrown 21 touchdowns or more in seven of his eight seasons, while keeping a respectable rate of 10.6 interceptions per season. Last season, Carr finished fifth in the NFL in both total passing yards and completion percentage. Writing all of that out, it feels kind of wrong to leave Carr out of the Top 10, but it’s just a testament to the transcendent talent available in the league right now.
Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns: Putting Deshaun Watson in the Top 10 when he hasn’t played a snap since the 2020-21 season. At the same time, Watson led the league in passing yards, yards per attempt, and yards per completion that season. The former Houston Texans quarterback would almost certainly be a Top 10 quarterback for the Cleveland Browns if he returns to form, but at time of writing, it’s looking less and less likely by the day that Watson will suit up for the Browns this season, or perhaps play for an NFL team ever again.
Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals: This one might be a little controversial, but I think Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow still has work to do before he’s a Top 10 NFL passer. Burrow led the league with a 70.4% completion rate and led again with 8.9 yards per attempt. But with some of the best, young yards after the catch receivers in the game (Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd,) some of these numbers may be inflated, such as Burrow’s 4,611 passing yards, sixth in the league. Don’t get me wrong, Burrow is very talented, and getting the Bengals to the Super Bowl in just his second season definitely raise’s the former LSU quarterback’s stock. But Burrow could cut down on interceptions, with 14 thrown in 2021 in 520 attempts, a high 6.5% rate.
10. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals fell apart last season after an impressive 7-0 start, ultimately losing the NFC West lead to the Los Angeles Rams and then being eliminated by their divisional foe in the Wildcard Round of the playoffs. While Kyler Murray couldn’t lead the Cardinals to a deep playoff run in the absence of Deandre Hopkins, Arizona has their hands on one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league for years to come.
Murray, the AP 2019 Offensive Rookie of the Year, completed a career-high 69.2% of his passes, threw a career-high touchdown rate of 5% and career-low interception rate of 2.1%, and averaged a career-high 7.9 yards per passing attempt, with, you guessed it, a career-high 100.6 passer rating in 2021. Murray threw for 3,787 yards and 24 passing touchdowns against 10 interceptions, with the Cardinals going 9-5 in the third-year quarterback’s 14 starts.
The former first overall pick out of Oklahoma can also do major damage with his legs, picking up extra yards and extending plays. Murray toned down his rate of carries in 2021 but still was effective when the time came: rushing the ball 88 times in 14 games (an average of 6.2 times per game) for 423 yards and five rushing touchdowns. The two-time Pro Bowl quarterback picked up 819 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2020, and is a threat to score the football whenever he hits the open field.
9. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
Matthew Stafford put up very solid numbers despite the circumstances surround him with the Detroit Lions for 12 seasons. With insanely high usage, leading the league in pass attempts twice, Stafford completed 62.6% of his passes in Detroit, throwing 282 touchdowns and 144 interceptions. Stafford posted a losing record in eight of his twelve season with the Lions, but was one of the lone bright spots on the team during his tenure on the roster. Guiding the Lions to the playoffs three times, even with an 0-3 record, is almost a Hall of Fame worthy achievement all on its own.
In almost every way, Stafford improved in his first season with the Los Angeles Rams, and at 33 years old, played the best football of his career. Stafford passed for 4,886 yards, 41 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions in 2021, while completing a career-high 67.2% of his passes. Stafford of course went undefeated in the postseason after guiding the Rams to a 12-5 record in the regular season, ultimately lifting the Rams over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl 56.
Stafford finished third in the NFL in passing yards and second in interceptions. So why doesn’t the 13-year veteran rank higher? Stafford’s 17 interceptions were tied for the most in the league with rookie Trevor Lawrence, despite seven quarterbacks attempting more passes than Stafford. And while Stafford certainly doesn’t have cement feet, he’s not as elusive in the pocket or out in the open field as many of the quarterbacks ahead of him.
Finally, while success is success, Stafford benefited immensely from being traded to the Rams last offseason. Surely any quarterback would see improvement when upgrading their offensive arsenal to the likes of Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr., Van Jefferson, and Robert Woods. Additionally, Los Angeles’ elite defense was able to recover from Stafford’s 17 interceptions.
8. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys have had some up-and-down seasons, playoff disappointments, and injuries galore over the last six seasons. But through it all, Dak Prescott has been a highly efficient quarterback that has led Dallas to a postseason berth in three of his five full seasons.
Prescott, a third day NFL draft gem in 2016 out of Mississippi State, is an aerial assassin, constantly connecting on short, medium, and long-distance passes. In 2020, an injury-shortened season, Prescott was on pace to throw over 6,000 yards over 16 games. In total, Prescott has thrown for 22,083 yards in six seasons, with 143 passing touchdowns against 50 interceptions, and has accumulated a 53-32 regular season record and a 1-3 postseason record.
By all measures, Prescott is one of the most successful quarterbacks in the NFL year-in and year-out. Prescott finished 7th in the NFL in passing yards in 2021 with 4,449, with a career-high 37 passing touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.
But especially when playing for the historic Dallas Cowboys franchise, Prescott’s playoff shortcomings are put under hyper-focus. In three postseason trips, Prescott has come away with just one playoff win. His completion rate drops from 66.6% in the regular season to 61% in the postseason, and his touchdown rate decreases from 4.9% to 4.1%.
While Prescott’s resume lacks a deep postseason run, a consistent passer that wins 63% of his games is an absolute commodity. And I haven’t even mentioned, while by no means a run-fist quarterback, Prescott keeps defenses honest with his legs. Prescott has 1,460 yards and 25 touchdowns on the ground in his career including a single score from 21 yards out in 2021.
7. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson couldn’t play for Baltimore down the stretch as they vied for a playoff spot, but when he has healthy, the Ravens were nothing short of Super Bowl contenders. While Jackson’s passing game hasn’t been spectacular since his 2019, video game-number, MVP-wining season, the former Louisville quarterback has done more than enough to quell the notion he’s “just a running back playing quarterback.”
In 2021, Jackson averaged a career-high 240.2 passing yards per game, with a career-high 31.8 attempts per game. Some of the flaws in Jackson’s passing accuracy and decision-making showed, with a career-high 13 interceptions thrown at a 3.4% rate. But overall, Jackson was still a solid passer: completing 64.4% of his passes and throwing 16 touchdown passes. Jackson led four game-winning drives for a scrappy Ravens team in 2021, and boasts an incredible career record of 37-12 despite a 7-5 mark, the worst of his career, in 2021.
Of course, what makes Jackson unique is his game-breaking elusiveness and speed. Besides extending plays in the pocket with his legs, Jackson is a run-happy quarterback, with over 133 rush attempts in each of his four career seasons. Jackson only found the end zone twice in 2021, after finding 14 times in the two seasons before, and also registered “only” 767 rushing yards after back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Jackson “only” ranked 23rd in the NFL, despite playing just 12 games and you know, not being a running back.
Jackson is the heart and soul of the Baltimore Ravens offense, and while his 1-3 playoff record begs for improvement, Jackson is the biggest reason the Ravens have been in playoff contention for four straight seasons.
6. Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
After winning the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Award in 2020, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert continued to grow in 2021, posting some of the best passing numbers in the league and earning a trip to the Pro Bowl.
The former Oregon quarterback and sixth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft finished second in the NFL in passing yards with 5,014, behind only Tom Brady. For Herbert to be outplaying many seasoned veterans, and only outpaced by the most prolific player to ever play the position, all in just his second professional season, is highly impressive.
Hebert passed for 38 touchdowns in 2021, third in the NFL, and posted a 9-8 record as starter. The Chargers were one of the best offensive teams in the league, and Hebert can hardly be blamed for the defense’s shortcomings. Impressively, Herbert led five game-winning drives in the Chargers nine wins.
Herbert can still get better (he can start by cutting down on his 15 interceptions) and admittedly, his passing yards total is inflated by his insane usage: 672 pass attempts over 17 games, an average of 39.5 times per game and behind only, once again Tom Brady. But in just his second season, Herbert is already one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
5. Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos
Top 10 quarterbacks don’t tend to change franchises very often, as teams hold on to talented passers for dear life with mega extensions and quarterback-tailored offenses. But with the team heading in the wrong direction, the Seattle Seahawks decided to trade one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league, Russell Wilson, to the Denver Broncos.
After posting a 104-53-1 record in the regular season, leading the Seahawks to the playoffs eight times in ten seasons, with two Super Bowl appearances and one victory, and being selected to the Pro Bowl nine times, there isn’t much left I can say about Russell Wilson. He’s simply one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and a pure winner. Wilson’s 6-8 record in his slightly-shortened 2021 campaign is the only losing record he’s posted in his ten-year career. Wilson has eight seasons with 10 or more wins under his belt, and a 9-7 record in the postseason.
The Denver Broncos landed themselves a top-tier passer, consistent winner, savvy runner, and perhaps above all, an elite leader at the quarterback position.
Wilson passed for 3,113 yards, 25 touchdowns, and six interceptions in 2021, completing 64.8% of his passes and averaging 7.8 yards per attempt. The former Wisconsin quarterback and third round pick by the Seahawks in 2012 also posted a 103.1 passer rating in 2021: down from his 110.9 peak in 2018, but still good for fifth in the NFL.
With Wilson under center, the Broncos went from fringe playoff contender to Super Bowl threat overnight. I’m excited to see what Wilson can do in Denver (and on a personal note, I hope I can be in the city to witness it, as I’m in the process of attempting to move to Denver.)
4. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
This is the first year I’m ranking the NFL’s top quarterbacks, but if I had done so in 2019 and 2020, I certainly would have put Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes on top. After throwing 50 passing touchdowns in a 2018 MVP campaign and hoisting the Lombardi Trophy and winning Super Bowl MVP to cap off a 10-touchdown, two-interception playoff run, and then getting back to the Super Bowl the following year, Mahomes was undisputedly the best in the game, even sparking the question if he was the best ever.
With all this in mind, I knew I probably wasn’t ranking Mahomes #1 on this list after a 2021 campaign that was mediocre by the standards the Chiefs quarterback had previously set for himself, but pretty spectacular for anyone else. Mahomes went 12-5 as a starter, earning the most losses in his four-year starting career with the advent of the 17-game season. The former Texas Tech quarterback, selected 10th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, also threw a career-high 13 interceptions.
I’m highlighting the bad things first because the quarterback’s unworldly play speaks for itself: it’s me who has to justify putting Mahomes fourth on this list and not in the Top Three. Whether Mahomes is getting worn out, defenses are figuring out how to cover him, or some combination of the two, Mahomes was slightly less lethal in 2021. His 7.4 yards per attempt was well below his career average of 8.7, and his 2% interception rate was above his career average of 1.6%.
But now is about time we flip the script. A 1.6% career interception rate? 37 passing touchdowns, 4,839 passing yards, a 12-5 record, and a fourth straight AFC Championship Game… in a down year?
Mahomes is playing at an unprecedented rate early in his career, and could ultimately go down as one of the best if not the best to ever play the position if he keeps it up. What he will need more of to officially top that list is rings: Mahomes and the Chiefs were embarrassed in Super Bowl 55 by Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, and the Chiefs collapsed in the second half against the Bengals in last season’s AFC Championship: in no small part due to Mahomes’ disappearing act in the second half.
With a 50-13 career record in the regular season, with 151 touchdowns thrown against just 37 interceptions, Mahomes is easily one of the best in the game. He’s ranked fourth here after a disappointing finish in 2021, but I have no doubts he will remain one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks for years to come.
3. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
For Tom Brady to even be in this conversation at 44-going-on-45 years old is absolutely mind-boggling. Brady didn’t just play good football in his 22nd NFL season, he was the best passer in the league and posted career-highs and near-career-highs across the board. Brady somehow finished second in MVP voting and third in Offensive Player of the Year Awards, and honestly, I don’t know how he didn’t win both.
Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to an elite 13-4 record on a fast-paced, highly accurate passing attack. The three-time NFL MVP and seven-time Super Bowl champion did things he’s never done before in his 22nd season: like drop back to pass an NFL-high 719 times, leading the NFL with a career-high 485 completions, a career and NFL-high 5,316 passing yards and an NFL-high 43 passing touchdowns. Brady threw just 12 interceptions despite 719 passing attempts for a low 1.7% interception rate, with a nice 6% touchdown rate. Brady posted a 102.1 passer rating, above his career average of 97.6.
The only asset Brady doesn’t have in today’s NFL is elusive speed and rushing abilities. Brady has pocket presence and savviness for sure, but isn’t putting the ball in the endzone with his legs from mid-field of saving a drive with a third-and-long scramble. This isn’t a knock on Brady, rushing the ball was hardly expected of the quarterback in the NFL Brady grew up in. But with the game evolving, there are a couple quarterbacks who, while maybe not as surgical of passers as Brady, offer a more complete package to win in the NFL in 2022.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
While Aaron Rodgers has been a headache for Green Bay Packers fans and front office brass alike, flirting with retirement or otherwise leaving Green Bay, there’s no doubt the four-time NFL MVP is still one of the best, if not the best, quarterbacks in the NFL. Rodgers has been the Packers starting quarterback for 14 seasons after waiting in Brett Favre’s shadows for three years, and ten-time Pro Bowler’s career has certainly been worth the wait.
We could get into Rodgers’ 139-66-1 career record, uncannily low 1.3% career interception rate, or his 11 career playoff appearances, but this list is about the 2022-23 NFL season. Based on last year’s play, Rodgers is still one of the best in the game entering his age-38 season.
Rodgers has gone 13-3 each of the last three seasons, for an incredible 29-9 mark as a starter. Rodgers won his third NFL MVP Award in 2020, leading the league in completion percentage (70.7), passing touchdowns (48), passing touchdown percentage (9.1%), adjusted yards per attempt (9.6), passer rating (121.5) and posting a league-low 1.0% interception rate.
Rodgers had another incredible year for the Packers in 2021, completing 68.9% of his passes for 4,115 yards, and 37 touchdowns, with just four interceptions, once again hitting the league-low at 0.8%.
As a passer, Rodgers is the total package. Accuracy, arm strength, and decision-making abilities, you name it. Rodgers has led the league with the lowest interception rate six times, with the aforementioned career rate of just 1.3%. With a quite high 6.3% touchdown rate to boost (a category in which he’s led the league four times as well,) Rodgers imply does what a quarterback needs to do: score the football while minimizing turnovers.
While no Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray, Rodgers can do some damage wit his legs as well to keep the defense honest. Averaging about two rush attempts per game, Rodgers has scored three rushing touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. More frequently, Rodgers uses his mobility to extend plays in the pocket, followed by the use of his cannon of an arm to find an open receiver down field in broken coverage. At 38 years old, Rodgers pocket presence and ability to extend plays is still up there with the best of them.
The Packers went one-and-done in the playoffs for the fourth time in Rodgers career following a loss to the San Francisco 49ers last postseason. With eleven postseason trips as a starting quarterback, Rodgers has advanced to the Super Bowl just once, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in. 2011. While this knock on Rodgers may affect his all-time ranking, it’s hardly affecting his current ranking: despite postseason shortcomings, Rodgers is more of a winner than almost any other quarterback in the NFL.
1. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Josh Allen. The Buffalo Bills have been Super Bowl contenders for two or three seasons now, and the reason is Josh Allen. After being selected seventh overall by the Bills out of Wyoming in the 2018 NFL Draft, Buffalo has been inching closer and closer to a Lombardi Trophy every season.
Allen finished second in 2020 NFL MVP voting behind Aaron Rodgers, throwing for 4,544 yards and 47 touchdowns, with 10interceptions and a 69.2% completion rate. The fourth-year quarterback didn’t receive the same voters love in 2021, despite posting similar stats: 4,407 passing yards, 36 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions, while commanding one of the NFL’s highest-scoring offenses.
The Bills have gone 39-21 under Allen, including a 34-15 record with three straight playoff berths in the last three seasons. Buffalo has gone 3-3 in six playoff games over that span, with some absolutely tough losses, such as last season’s overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs (a loss so brutal it sparked a change in the NFL’s overtime procedures.) Allen posted cosmic numbers last postseason, throwing for 637 yards, nine touchdowns, and zero interceptions in two games. This came as the Bills completed the NFL’s first-ever perfect offensive game in the Wildcard Round against the New England Patriots, followed by a loss in a back-and-forth shootout with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
In terms of accuracy, there’s a couple guys ahead of Allen and his 62.3% career completion rate, but he’s been above 63.3% each of the last two seasons. The physical tools that set Allen apart from his peers are his arm strength (with arguably the deepest deep ball in the league) and his abilities as a runner.
Again, while not having the fastest legs in the league, Allen is still pretty darn quick, clocking in a 4.70 40-yard dash time at the 2018 NFL Combine. But when you throw in Allen’s 6-foot-5-inch, 237-pound frame, good luck taking him down in the open field. Allen carried the ball 122 times in 2021, accumulating 763 yards (25th in the entire NFL) and six touchdowns on the ground. With 31 career rushing scores, Allen averages nearly eight trips to the end zone per season with his legs.
With monstrous arm strength, above-average accuracy, and wide receiver-speed with a linebacker-build, Josh Allen is the most dangerous play at the quarterback position heading in to the 2022-23 season. The Buffalo Bills have been denied of a trip to the Super Bowl in Allen’s tenure so far, but that drought may be over sooner than later.
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