Ranking all 32 NFL quarterbacks, from best to worst
The NFL has never had as much overall quarterback talent as it does now. While future Hall of Famers defy their age and further define their greatness, the next wave of superstars is splashing with more to come.
That makes ranking the projected veteran starting quarterbacks for 2018 a challenging exercise. Although this list excludes rookies, there are many new starters around the league to consider.
Beyond physical talent, recent success and remaining upside factored most in the methodology that helped determine the order.
1 Tom Brady, Patriots
Age: 40 | Career passer rating: 97.6
Brady is building on his GOAT resume before he retires, whenever that might happen. He has played like a passer possessed over the last three seasons, and there’s no reason to think he’ll drop off from arguably his best-ever play anytime soon.
2 Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Age: 34 | Career passer rating: 103.8
Rodgers is coming off a season mostly lost to a broken collarbone, but considering how he rebounded from a similar injury a few years ago, he should make up for lost time with stellar play in 2018. Given how deep some of Rodgers’ elite contemporaries have played into their careers, his best could be yet to come.
3 Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Age: 29 | Career passer rating: 98.8
With even more riding on his arm and legs, Wilson has gone from an exceptional complementary player to the all-out carrier of his team. His numbers are prolific and efficient, and so is his impact as a consistent MVP candidate. Just wait until he hits 30.
4 Drew Brees, Saints
Age: 39 | Career passer rating: 96.7
Brees has a lost a little on his deep ball, but otherwise, his mental and physical skills remain sharp. He is durable and can adapt his play to what’s around him. He knows he can now get more from the running game and defense in New Orleans, which should lead to more wins.
5 Carson Wentz, Eagles
Age: 25 | Career passer rating: 88.8
Wentz is making good progress in his recovery from a torn ACL, the unfortunate late blemish in his MVP-caliber second season. He looks comfortable beyond his years both in and out of the pocket, and he is just getting started with the flair and magic combined with efficiency. Wentz does, however, need to protect himself better going forward.
6 Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
Age: 36 | Career passer rating: 94.0
Roethlisberger continued his home/road roller-coaster last season, but overall, the highs screamed and the lows were limited. He can still handle a big volume of passing, and lately he has learned to better preserve his body and big arm. Big Ben was huge in four game-winning drives last year.
7 Matt Ryan, Falcons
Age: 33 | Career passer rating: 93.4
Ryan’s slide after his MVP season was tied to his losing offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, as the QB’s numbers closer resembled the disappointing results of 2015. But Ryan still lived up to the “Matty Ice” nickname with clutch play to keep the Falcons in the playoffs. His floor remains high, and he will be in for a rebound season.
8 Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers
Age: 26 | Career passer rating: 99.7
The hype is real. Jimmy G won all five of his starts as a 49er last season to push his career record to 7-0. He made some mistakes, but he compensated with his fearlessness to push the ball downfield despite limited receiving help. He will keep earning his lucrative contract in his first full year as starter.
9 Philip Rivers, Chargers
Age: 36 | Career passer rating: 94.8
Based on what he keeps doing late in his still-underrated career, Rivers should have earned a lot more than five playoff chances in 12 seasons as starter. His 2017 production in Los Angeles matched the best of his early days in San Diego. He has turned into a more risk-adverse gunslinger, and now he might finally have a championship-level team around him.
10 Matthew Stafford, Lions
Age: 30 | Career passer rating: 88.3
As the Lions have remained a one-dimensional offense often put in shaky positions by the defense, Stafford is the reason they’ve been NFC playoff contenders. His play when trailing in the fourth quarter has been special. Early in his career, Stafford was just a QB with a big arm; now he is a smart, smooth passer.
11 Marcus Mariota, Titans
Age: 24 | Career passer rating: 88.6
The numbers say Mariota was not as clean or productive last year as he was in his first two seasons, but he led three fourth-quarter comebacks and delivered four game-winning drives. He also came through to get his first playoff victory as starter. There’s something schoolyard dangerous about Mariota’s potential. Look for new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur to harness the QB’s skills in a true West Coast passing scheme.
12 Deshaun Watson, Texans
Age: 24 | Career passer rating: 103.0
Before Watson tore his ACL last season, he was running away with offensive rookie of the year. While adapting to a complicated NFL offense with some inconsistent accuracy, he still managed to explode with improvisation and uncanny big-play ability. With his recovery on track, there’s no limit to his potential coming off his first full offseason with coach Bill O’Brien.
13 Jared Goff, Rams
Age: 23 | Career passer rating: 89.4
Goff has gone from working with bad play-calling to starting what should be a long, beautiful relationship with offensive mastermind Sean McVay. The QB processed all the complexities and produced a stellar sophomore season to push the Rams into the playoffs. Expect the 2016 No. 1 overall pick to keep pushing to the point where he can battle for the No. 1 spot on this list in a few years.
14 Kirk Cousins, Vikings
Age: 29 | Career passer rating: 93.7
Cousins had a disappointing final season in Washington while adjusting to a Sean McVay-less offense, but any QB would love to produce the way he did with dwindling skill-position support. The Vikings will provide him everything he needs — receivers, running game, defense, John DeFilippo — to make the jump from solid to very good.
15 Dak Prescott, Cowboys
Age: 24 | Career passer rating: 95.5
No matter how one measures Prescott’s play last season, there’s no doubt he went through a sophomore slump. Losing Ezekiel Elliott for six games and seeing Tyron Smith get hurt were considerable blows, but Prescott also got limited passing-game help to overcome those obstacles. The big receiving changes around him will be beneficial.
16 Tyrod Taylor, Browns
Age: 28 | Career passer rating: 91.2
The Browns have upgraded significantly at QB even if they need to wait to start Baker Mayfield. Taylor did not get enough credit for what he did with the Bills last season; he put up the best possible numbers and efficiency with a makeshift receiving corps. He needs to keep using his legs, and that should lead to fewer sacks now that he has legitimate pass-catchers to whom he can the spread the ball.
17 Jameis Winston, Buccaneers
Age: 24 | Career passer rating: 87.2
There’s a feeling that Winston should have accomplished more in his first three seasons given his former draft status as a no-brainer No. 1 overall pick. But even through the numbers and wins haven’t progressed as desired, there has been improvement in his game. Year 4 will be either the big leap or another middle-of-the-pack season.
18 Derek Carr, Raiders
Age: 27 | Career passer rating: 87.5
Carr is hard to rank. Coming off a broken fibula, he had a weak follow-up season to his 2016 breakout that powered the Raiders to the playoffs. His true value is probably in between, which leads to his current ranking. Can new coach Jon Gruden light the QB’s fire with a new-look receiving corps? The season ahead is critical to righting Carr’s trajectory.
19 Cam Newton, Panthers
Age: 29 | Career passer rating: 85.3
Newton is another frustrating QB to rank. He seemed entrenched in the top five after his spectacular MVP campaign in 2015, but since then, he has had consecutive shaky passing seasons with too many turnovers. His legs are still good, but the Panthers are hoping some big offseason changes to the downfield passing game will bring his big arm back to form with a little more accuracy.
20 Andrew Luck, Colts
Age: 28 | Career passer rating: 87.3
Luck’s efficiency in 2016 was spectacular, as he maintained a good balance of aggressive and conservative passing despite taking a ton of lumps. But his 2017 being wiped out by a shoulder injury creates a reset. As luck returns to a new offense and a better line, this is a critical season for him to stay healthy and get back on track as the elite QB he’s supposed to be.
21 Blake Bortles, Jaguars
Age: 26 | Career passer rating: 80.8
Ripping Bortles and wondering whether he would be a liability for a strong running and defensive team got old last season, and the QB silenced a few more critics in the playoffs. He has transitioned from reckless gunslinger to prudent caretaker, but the top-line athleticism and arm are still there to raise his game without lowering his efficiency.
22 Case Keenum, Broncos
Age: 30 | Career passer rating: 86.0
Keenum is hard to rank, because although he was terrific during his only season as the Vikings’ starter, he had a tiny, unimpressive sample size before that. Now he is stepping into an unfamiliar situation. Keenum also had a rough end in the playoffs last season that reminded everyone of his ceiling as an older, journeyman QB. There’s bound to be a fall back to earth, even from a mile-high starting point.
23 Alex Smith, Redskins
Age: 34 | Career passer rating: 87.4
Smith is coming off the best season of his long career, one that grouped him among the top 10 quarterbacks in the league. But the Chiefs still moved on, and Smith now is in a more questionable offense away from both Andy Reid and Matt Nagy. Washington doesn’t set up Smith to be better than the mediocre passer he was during his first season in Kansas City.
24 Mitchell Trubisky, Bears
Age: 23 | Career passer rating: 77.5
Trubisky last season was very rookie-like and did the best he could in a conservative offense void of legitimate receiving threats. Enter offensive-minded head coach Matt Nagy and weapons such as Allen Robinson and Trey Burton. Trubisky looks primed to make a successful transition as he shows signs of his worth as a No. 2 overall pick.
25 Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
Age: 22 | Career passer rating: 76.4
Mahomes got only one start as a rookie in last year’s meaningless season finale, but on the road in windy Denver in December, he wasted no time in showing off his monster arm. It was plenty of evidence to convince the team Mahomes needed a shot full time. The question is how well Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy will adjust their passing concepts to fit Mahomes’ strengths.
26 Andy Dalton, Bengals
Age: 30 | Career passer rating: 88.7
Dalton, like 2011 draft classmate Cam Newton, has regressed to his own mean after an exceptional fifth season. Bad offensive line play and inconsistency at receiver behind A.J. Green have contributed, but there has been a lowered floor to go with Dalton’s limited ceiling as a dependent passer.
27 Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
Age: 29 | Career passer rating: 86.5
Tannehill has played with steady efficiency in his last three healthy seasons, but he’s another QB who seems to have hit his ceiling given solid-but-not-spectacular results with Adam Gase. The Dolphins have not yet drafted a potential replacement, but Tannehill needs to show more with the added challenge of returning from a torn ACL.
28 Josh McCown, Jets
Age: 38 | Career passer rating: 80.8
McCown was a big reason why New York was not a total embarrassment last season, as he did his best Vinny Testaverde impression during his first year on his eighth NFL team. He was let loose in the Air Raid offense and had some big games, but as he did in previous stops, he also proved there’s a limited shelf life to his strong, durable play. He won’t be able to hold off Sam Darnold for long.
29 Joe Flacco, Ravens
Age: 33 | Career passer rating: 84.1
Flacco, since his truly elite playoff run after the 2012 season that added up to Super Bowl MVP honors and a ludicrously lucrative contract, has mostly reverted to ho-hum production, save for 2014. A constant shuffle of skill players has hurt him, but it’s shocking how the yards per attempt have dropped off for such a strong-armed passer. With Lamar Jackson lurking, the heat is on Flacco to come through with something closer to his ceiling.
30 Eli Manning, Giants
Age: 37 | Career passer rating: 83.5
Manning, still as durable as ever, remains a veteran leader and a classy representation of the franchise. But his recent play has been on the decline enough for one to question whether his two Super Bowl rings can get him a sniff at Canton. With a couple developmental options behind him, it comes down to Manning rebounding with a new, offensive-minded head coach, healthy receiving corps, better pass protection and a legitimate running game.
31 Sam Bradford, Cardinals
Age: 30 | Career passer rating: 85.1
Bradford is still reaping the benefits of being the last QB drafted No. 1 overall before the rookie wage scale, which has led to his constant overpricing in free agency. Although he had some production spikes in Philadelphia and Minnesota, there also were mixed results and major knee-injury woes. Bradford at best is a middling stopgap in Arizona before Josh Rosen is ready to rock.
32 AJ McCarron, Bills
Age: 27 | Career passer rating: 93.6
At one point, McCarron somehow was lumped in with Jimmy Garoppolo and Kirk Cousins as attractive QBs in free agency. The rough results on the open market — getting a backup-like deal in Buffalo — are more in line with his value. McCarron had a good, short stint three seasons ago, but even when Andy Dalton struggled, the backup never popped as an option in Cincinnati. What’s around McCarron and what’s behind him (Josh Allen) are why he won’t fit in the Bills’ lineup for long.