Brian Sullivan (@MadManSports)
Here’s another overdone article for you while we wait for Week 3 of the preseason to start. I understand this isn’t a creative piece of work, but I do feel the need to present my opinion on how the league will look this year. These are projections of how the quarterbacks will perform. They are not fantasy projections, rather, my opinion on how we’ll view these quarterbacks by the end of the season. I had to go bold for a few, and I struggled with some of the rankings. Leave your rankings in the comments below, I’d love to see some differing opinions.
Tier 1 – The Elite
1) Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)
1675 Yds, 64.7%, 16 TD, 6 Int (4-2)
Aaron Rodgers is still the most talented quarterback in the league. Tom Brady possesses better leadership qualities, and he exceeds Aaron Rodgers when it comes to other intangible qualities. In fact, you can argue either one. However, I’m expecting a memorable season from Rodgers, who will be motivated to return with a bang.
2) Tom Brady (New England Patriots)
4,577 Yds, 66.3%, 32 TD, 8 Int (13-3)
The greatest quarterback of all time is obviously going to be high on this list. I don’t know if he’ll ever start aging normally. He might continue to somehow look younger and better as the years go on. Brady is the epitome of why work ethic and conditioning are so important in today’s league. Having him at 2 is not at all a knock on him. You can argue Brady or Rodgers at 1, it’s all about preference.
3) Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)
3,983 Yds, 61.3%, 34 TD, 11 Int (9-7)
The first of many bold takes on this list. While I don’t think the Seahawks will win a ton of games this season, because their schedule is absolutely brutal, I do think Russell Wilson is simply unbelievable. What he is able to do behind an offensive line that constantly leaves him out to dry is mind boggling, yet people continue to find ways to avoid giving him the credit that he deserves. If he can lead the league in touchdowns with a garbage line and virtually no rushing attack, can you imagine what his numbers would be like in Pittsburgh? Or with the Falcons? Or with Bill Belichick as his coach? I think he’s severely underrated, and he’s in for a fantastic year that will go unnoticed because he doesn’t have the help that a quarterback of his caliber deserves.
4) Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)
4,334 Yds, 72%, 23 TD, 8 Int (11-5)
Drew Brees didn’t put up the monster stats that we’ve grown accustomed to over the years, but that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t phenomenal last season. He just finally had a defense and a running game. Unlike Russell Wilson, the team around him was very balanced. He didn’t need to put up absurd numbers for the Saints to be successful. This season, I expect him to have one of those “Drew Brees” seasons that we’ve seen in the past. Last season felt like an anomaly to me. He still has another year or two left of elite play.
Tier 2 – The Borderline Elite
5) Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts)
2017 Stats N/A
If you’ve been following this site, you know I’m all in on Andrew Luck this year. I feel that he’s been disrespected for years. Also, similar to the Joel Embiid fiasco in the NBA, it appears that people don’t understand how or why the Colts chose to manage his injury the way that they did. Sure, he might be rusty for a few games, but behind a newly built offensive line, he is due to remind the league that he is a very rare talent.
6) Carson Wentz (Philadelphia Eagles)
3,296 Yds, 60.2%, 33 TD, 7 Int (11-2)
The future of the league is here, and his name is Carson Wentz. Carson has everything going for him; organizational stability, a high quality coaching staff, and most importantly, he’s really good at throwing the football. I’m obviously concerned about him coming back from a brutal ACL tear, but he doesn’t have an extensive history of knee injuries. I think he’ll bounce back just fine, with maybe a few rusty starts before he gets back in his groove.
7) Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)
4,251 Yards, 64.2%, 28 TDs, 14 Int (12-3)
To be completely honest, I’ve always thought Big Ben was a tad bit overrated. But my goal is to be as unbiased as possible when it comes to this list. He’s been surrounded by talent since he entered the league, whether it be great defenses early in his career, or a fantastic combination of elite offensive line play and countless weapons during the 2010s. But it’s not like the Steelers haven’t had consistent success with him. I can’t pair him with Brady and Rodgers like most analysts do, but he’s clearly an elite talent. His offense is once again loaded, so he should put up some outrageous numbers this season.
8) Philip Rivers (Los Angeles Chargers)
4,515 Yards, 62.6%, 28 TDs, 10 Int (9-7)
It’s crazy how whenever Philip Rivers has an offensive line, he suddenly performs like an elite QB. It’s almost like that matters or something. The Charger’s offensive line should only improve this season, as they add 2017 2nd round pick Forrest Lamp and free agent acquisition Mike Pouncey to the unit. Even with the loss of star tight end Hunter Henry, the Charger’s offense is loaded with weapons. There are no excuses for Rivers this year. He should light it up considering what he’s done with less in the past.
9) Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans)
1,699 Yards, 61.8%, 19 TDs, 8 Int (3-3)
I won’t lie, if not for the injury history, I might have Watson in the top 5. Maybe even the top 3. He was THAT spectacular when he played last season. It was extraordinary to watch. But unlike Wentz, Watson does have a history of knee injuries that dates back to college. If he plays for the whole season, I’m convinced that the Texans have a chance to win the AFC. If I was 100% certain he’d stay healthy for the year, I’d throw a huge bet on him winning the MVP. But I’m wary of making that claim without seeing a full healthy season from Watson. He’ll skyrocket up this list if he’s healthy all year.
10) Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions)
4,446 Yards, 65.7%, 29 TD, 10 Int (9-7)
Stafford is the new Philip Rivers; perennially underrated and disrespected because his incompetent organization has failed him for years. What’s even worse is that ignorant football fans will say “But he had Calvin Johnson!” as if that makes up for never having a stable rushing attack, a good offensive line, and anything above average coaching at best. The Lions should see improvements on their line this season, which means that we could be in for a big year for Stafford.
Tier 3 – The Future Of The League… And Matt Ryan
11) Jimmy Garoppolo (San Francisco 49ers)
1,560 Yards, 67.4%, 7 TD, 5 Int (5-0)
This is where the list starts to get more controversial. When Garoppolo stepped in the 49ers offense looked completely different last season. You can nitpick certain things and you can point out his lackluster TD-INT ratio. But there’s no doubt that this offense completely shifted once Jimmy took over. The 49ers added more talent to this offense as well, including rookie OT Mike McGlinchey and rookie WR Dante Pettis. With a full offseason and another year to learn under Kyle Shanahan, you should expect Jimmy to improve even more next season.
12) Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs)
284 Yards, 62.9%, 0 TD, 1 Int (1-0)
This is it, this is where I either quit writing about football or begin taking applications to be the next lead analyst at the NFL Network. Remember, this is all projections. I know that I “do not have a right to put him above so many established quarterbacks”. But I believe this will be a special year for Mahomes, similar to how we saw Jared Goff break out last season. Last year you would have been crucified for putting the aforementioned Goff in your top 20. Sometimes it pays to be bold.
13) Jared Goff (Los Angeles Rams)
3,804 Yards, 62.1%, 28 TD, 7 Int (11-4)
Remember when everybody wrote of Jared Goff in 2016 because he was thrusted into the equivalent of the 9th circle of hell for a quarterback? And then suddenly, he looked like a Franchise QB when he was given a smart coach, some good offensive linemen, and some weapons? Crazy how much a supporting cast affects a quarterback’s performance. Anyway, he could experience another big leap this season. The Rams added more speed to this offense by trading for Brandin Cooks. Rookie John Kelly could be a stud #2 back. Sean McVay is a football savant. There’s a reason he’s my bold pick for the MVP. this season
14) Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons)
4,095 Yards, 64.7%, 20 TD, 12 Int (10-6)
Take a deep breath Falcons fans, I know you want to hit me right now. I like Matt Ryan, I want to make that clear. I think he’s a very good quarterback. But I don’t believe he should be placed in the top 10 nowadays. He’s very much a product of the talent around him. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t a great quarterback, but there are very few situations that would be more beneficial for a signal caller than Atlanta at this current juncture. Given, he does win, which is why I have him this high. But if you threw him into Cincinnati, are you suddenly chalking them in for 11 wins? Would he lead Buffalo to a playoff berth? His MVP season was an anomaly due to a perfect storm surrounding him. He’s a franchise quarterback, he’s but he’s not a top 5-10 guy like everybody seems to think.
15) Sam Darnold (New York Jets)
4,143 Yards, 63.1%, 26 TD, 13 Int (11-3)*
*2017 College Stats
More projecting on my part that would likely cause headlines if I had any sort of relevance whatsoever. But who would have predicted that Deshaun Watson would come out and be a top 10 QB right away? Every year, a rookie shocks the league. Darnold feels like the guy this season. Maybe I’m a little too optimistic, but Darnold looks special to me. His numbers this season may not be great, considering the Jets aren’t surrounding him with the best supporting cast. But if he can lead this team to an above .500 record, the hype will be real. Considering they managed to win 6 games last season, I’d say it’s more possible than most might think.
Tier 4 – They’re All Still Good And They’re All So Close That You Can Argue Any Order And I Won’t Fight You On It
Note: This was the toughest section by far for me. These quarterbacks can be put in any order, it really all depends on the situation around them. I flip flopped a lot on this one. So don’t take it personally if your guy feels too low. He could easily be higher.
16) Derek Carr (Oakland Raiders)
3,496 Yards, 62.7%, 22 TD, 13 Int (6-9)
In 2016, Derek Carr was being heralded as the 2nd coming of Aaron Rodgers, because he happened to play behind a phenomenal offensive line and he won every close game he played in. In 2017, the Raiders regressed backwards towards the mean, the offensive line didn’t perform at a high level, and suddenly everybody was off the Carr hype train. He’s still an incredibly gifted talent. He went from overrated to underrated just like that. Maybe this year he’ll finally be properly rated.
17) Alex Smith (Washington Redskins)
4,042 Yards, 67.5%, 26 TD, 5 Int (10-5)
He’s not perfect by any means, but there’s no denying that Alex Smith always wins. This year will be a huge indicator of whether or not he’s just been in fortunate circumstances or if he really is better than anybody gives him credit for. Everybody loves to harp on his one weakness, which is the fact that his arm strength is, at best, “meh”. But he’s incredibly accurate, his composure under pressure is second to none, and he’s one of the most intelligent QBs in the game. He’s also a phenomenal athlete. Don’t count out Washington this season.
18) Kirk Cousins (Minnesota Vikings)
4,093 Yards, 64.3%, 27 TD, 13 Int (7-9)
We’re going to learn a lot about Kirk Cousins in his first season with the Vikings. His situation is fantastic in Minnesota. He has a phenomenal defense that will give him plenty of opportunities. His offense contains a dynamic receiving duo and a talented dual-threat RB in Dalvin Cook. I’m concerned about the injuries to this offensive line, but hopefully they can still perform well enough for him to have a career year.
19) Tyrod Taylor (Cleveland Browns)
2,799 Yards, 62.6%, 14 TD, 4 Int (9-6)
I can’t tell if Tyrod Taylor is overrated, underrated, or perfectly rated. He’s very polarizing. But one thing that’s not debatable; he’s the best quarterback to don a Cleveland Browns Jersey since… Bernie Kosar? Seriously, find me a better Browns QB. Actually, Baker Mayfield probably is. But I saw Tyrod put up some respectable performances for a Buffalo team that wasn’t flowing with talent on offense last season. The Browns have quietly built a talented offense for Tyrod, who could be in for a better season than many pundits expect.
20) Dak Prescott (Dallas Cowboys)
3,324 Yards, 62.9%, 22 TD, 13 Int (9-7)
The fact that Dak fell this far is not an indictment on his abilities. Instead, it proves how stacked the league is with quarterbacks currently. Dak is a very good option. He’s not flashy, but he’s very similar to Alex Smith in that he’s dependable, smart, and consistent. He’s benefited from the Cowboys loaded offensive line, but he has performed well and won football games during his short career. He’s a mature leader who will take what the defense gives him, which is an under-appreciated trait nowadays. I’d be more than fine with him being the face of my franchise.
21) Marcus Mariota (Tennessee Titans)
3,232 Yards, 62%, 13 TD, 15 Int (9-7)
This is the year. I need to see something different from Marcus Mariota. His offensive line is packed with elite talent. He should have a dependable running game. His receivers are entering their 2nd year with him, so the synergy should be there. I believe in Marcus. I think he could end up a lot higher on this list. But if he puts up more lackluster numbers this season, it could spell trouble for the Titans.
Tier 5 – The Tier That You’ll Disagree With The Most
22) Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers)
3,302 Yards, 59.1%, 22 TD, 16 Int (11-5)
I may have just alienated myself from the entire Carolina Panthers fan base with this one. I understand, you love your quarterback and hate to see him slandered. That makes sense. But there’s no denying that Cam has lacked consistency over the years, especially considering that Carolina has provided him with plenty of help, especially on the offensive line. He’s arguably the best athlete to ever play at the position. He can be utilized in ways that no other quarterback in the league can. But in the end, he’s an inconsistent passer who has completed 58.5% of his throws in his career. I just prefer consistency, especially from a veteran.
23) Mitchell Trubisky (Chicago Bears)
2,193 Yards, 59.4%, 7 TD, 7 Int (4-8)
I really want to put him higher, but if this happens to be the article that blows up, I can’t be known as “the guy who has MITCHELL TRUBISKY ahead of Cam Newton”. Even though I fully believe it’s possible, Trubisky would have to play out of his mind this year to justify it. He is bound to improve with another year under his belt, a fresh new creative coaching staff, and a far more talented arsenal of weapons than he had last season.
Tier 6 – Everybody Else
24) Sam Bradford (Arizona Cardinals)
382 Yds, 74.4%, 3 TD, 0 Int (1-0)
Ah Sam Bradford. What could have been. I really wish we could see the alternate reality where he stays healthy for a whole year. He is very gifted, and could easily sneak into the top 10-15 if he could just stay on the field. But until I see it, I won’t believe it.
25) Ryan Tannehill (Miami Dolphins)
2017 Stats N/A
Tannehill is a fine quarterback, which again shows that we’re entering a great era for the position. Before his injury, he appeared to be taking the leap that we’ve been waiting for for years. He’s flying under the radar this year if you ask me. However, unfortunately I don’t think that he has the talent around him to make a significant impact this season. Kenyan Drake could be a stud, and I like Devante Parker and Kenny Stills, but unless the offensive line takes a massive step forward, it will likely not be enough.
26) Joe Flacco (Baltimore Ravens)
3,141 Yards, 64.1%, 18 TD, 13 Int (9-7)
I firmly believe this could be the year we finally see 16 games of PLAYOFF JOE… but because he’s been atrocious lately, I can’t put him too high yet. I know I know, “but Brian, you have Mahomes and Darnold so high”. Neither of them have been stinking it up for the past 3 seasons. Still, Flacco could rise if Lamar Jackson lights a fire under his rear.
27) Eli Manning (New York Giants)
3,468 Yards, 61.6%, 19 TD, 13 Int (3-12)
Eli Manning has been ever so slightly underrated lately. Ever so slightly, because his situation has been awful. Very few quarterbacks would have had success in that Giants offense last season. He’s not what he once was, but with an improved offensive line, the addition of Saquon Barkley, and the return of Beckham, he should have a decent year. Perhaps he’ll even ascend up this list.
28) Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills)
2018 Stats N/A
I actually think Josh Allen can be something special one day, just not THIS day. He does appear to have already made some dramatic improvements based on the small amount of preseason tape we have on him, but I still think there will be many bumps along the way, especially since Buffalo is lacking elite weapons.
29) Andy Dalton (Cincinnati Bengals)
3,320 Yards, 59.9%, 25 TD, 12 Int (7-9)
The Dalton line has dipped quite a bit. It’s not really that Andy has gotten much worse; it’s just that the league is getting better. The talented older QBs aren’t going away, but so many fresh new faces are simply more exciting than Dalton right now. Sorry Andy.
30) Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
3,504 Yards, 63.8%, 19 TD, 11 Int (3-10)
Jameis has all of the talent in the world, but his poor judgement will lead to his demise. He’s simply immature, and that’s putting it lightly. It would behoove the Bucs to move on from him if he doesn’t display a complete 180 soon. He has shown improvements on the field, and he’d be higher on this list if I wasn’t so concerned about the wild card that is his off-field behavior.
31) Blake Bortles (Jacksonville Jaguars)
3,687 Yards, 60.2%, 21 TD, 13 Int (10-6)
I was a Bortles believer for a while, but I just can’t do it anymore. When your own coach publicly announces that he prefers you never throw the ball, that is not a good sign. The Jaguars roster has plenty of talent, so they’ll still be competitive, as they were last season. But Blake has fallen behind.
32) Case Keenum (Denver Broncos)
3,547 Yards, 67.6%, 22 TD, 7 Int (11-3)
Last season, Case Keenum surprisingly held his own for the Vikings, despite being thrusted onto the field unexpectedly. That being said, he was surrounded by one of the best rosters in football. He was good. His 22-7 TD to INT ratio wasn’t bad. But he’s not a starter in this league. He’s a very good backup who can take care of business for a few weeks. We learned in the NFC Title game that he isn’t anything more than that.
Image Credit – http://www.bostonherald.com/sports/patriots/2018/08/tom_brady_sharp_in_2018_debut_against_eagles