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Over the next few weeks until the season, I’ll be ranking each position group around the NFL, beginning with quarterbacks today. Where does Bucs QB Tom Brady still rank among the league’s best signal callers? Do Dak Prescott, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson have a shot to enter the top 5 QBs in the NFL this season? What should be expected of Matt Stafford? Is Kyler Murray overrated?

No rookies were included in these rankings, leaving the Jets and Jaguars unrepresented here. It’s simply impossible to rank guys who have never played in the NFL against guys who have. The evaluation process wouldn’t be clean.

I’ve also compiled these rankings with an eye toward 2021 projections, although I tried not to do anything too outlandish. It’s important to remember that rankings like this are largely fluid year-to-year, especially when you get outside the first 5-8 QBs. But this is how I expect quarterback play to stack up in 2021.

Tier 1 – The Elite QBs

1. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
3. Deshaun Watson, Texans
4. Tom Brady, Bucs
5. Russell Wilson, Seahawks

Yes, Mahomes should probably be in a tier by himself. He’s been that special in his relatively short NFL career, but Rodgers, Watson, Brady and Wilson were right there with him last season. Rodgers turned in one of his best seasons yet, while Watson was the only thing that kept the Texans from going 0-16. Wilson might have topped this list, but his MVP run crashed and burned with a disappointing handful of games to end the season.

The fact that Brady cracks the top five at almost 44 years old, after performing marvelously in a brand new offense that asks for a ton of high degree of difficulty throws from their quarterback, is nothing short of special. Many doubted Brady’s fit in a vertical passing attack, so he went out and led the NFL in deep (20+ air yards) completions and yards. Enjoy every second of it, Bucs fans.

Of course, there is a good chance Watson doesn’t play at all in 2021, due to his legal situation or due to his own choice. Rodgers is also not expected to return to Green Bay, which opens up an incredible scenario where two LOCK top 5 QBs are playing somewhere else next season. And it’s already almost July. What a crazy NFL offseason.

Tier 2 – Fringe Elite QBs

6. Dak Prescott, Cowboys
7. Josh Allen, Bills
8. Lamar Jackson, Ravens

If Prescott had stayed healthy all of last year, he likely would have cracked the top five. And he might not have been 5 either. I’m extremely high on Prescott to be an MVP candidate this year, leading a passing attack that should be among the league’s best. He has all of the tools and traits to be a top 3-5 QB for the rest of his career.

As for Allen, last season was a shocking improvement after two years of seesaw play in the AFC East. Allen has grown every season, but 2020 was a leap very few saw coming. Allen was one of the best quarterbacks in the league, improving his deep ball significantly and making much better decisions as a passer. If he can put up another year like that, he’ll be in the top five as well.

Jackson is the trickiest quarterback in the league to rank. Teams have become very aware of his weaknesses throwing outside the numbers, an issue that has plagued Jackson since college. He might never be able to win off of pure passing like Prescott or Allen, but he’s still a terrific middle-of-the-field passer, and should be able to find more splash plays with a better receiving corps. When all else fails, Jackson is the best athlete in the league with the ball in his hands. He’s carried the Ravens offense without a ton of skill position help throughout his career, and will likely do so again in 2021.

Tier 3 – Very Good Starters

9. Matt Stafford, Rams
10. Matt Ryan, Falcons
11. Ryan Tannehill, Titans
12. Baker Mayfield, Browns
13. Justin Herbert, Chargers
14. Joe Burrow, Bengals

This might be high for Stafford to some people, but I think we’re going to see peak Stafford come out in 2021. Being in a stable organization and a new offense with an elite head coach will bring out the best version of Stafford, but will it be enough to get the Rams to the promised land?

Ryan is still capable of playing at a high level, but the crumbling pieces around him should temper expectations moving forward. His lack of special tools will become more apparent as the margin for error decreases.

Tannehill and Mayfield have been in comparable situations as guys who have played well, but are rarely tasked with carrying the offense. More should be asked of both QBs this season, and consistently strong play should assure them a top ten ranking next year.

Herbert and Burrow could be top ten guys next year as well, especially if some older signal callers fall off. Right now I simply need to see both players sustain the brilliance of their rookie seasons for another year to be higher than the 10-15 range. I’m confident both will move up more than they’ll move down in the coming years. I would still bet on Burrow over Herbert, but the latter is simply in a far superior situation, which matters a lot.

Tier 4 – Good, But Limited QBs (Or Declining)

15. Derek Carr, Raiders
16. Kirk Cousins, Vikings
17. Kyler Murray, Cardinals
18. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington
19. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers

These guys could all have a brilliant game one week, then completely disappoint the next. Carr played better than I expected in 2020, but I still don’t see a high ceiling for the Raiders quarterback. Cousins is who he is at this point. He can’t create outside of structure at all. Murray can create just fine, but consistency and accuracy as a passer are still sorely lacking. I still believe in what he can be, but I’m starting to question if he will get there under this regime.

Fitzpatrick is like a fine wine, getting better with age it seems. If he can play his most consistent football yet in 2020, Washington could win the division. As for Roethlisberger, it sure looked like his best days were behind him in 2020. It would be great to see him bounce back in a new offense, but I think his last hurrah season will be a disappointment for the Steelers.

Tier 5 – Who Knows, Man

20. Jared Goff, Lions
21. Carson Wentz, Colts
22. Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers
23. Daniel Jones, Giants
24. Cam Newton, Patriots
25. Jameis Winston, Saints

We’ve seen brilliant quarterback play from almost everyone on this list, or at least better-than-expected in the case of Jones. But Goff and Wentz simply cannot find stability in their level of play, with Goff going up-and-down week-to-week these days, and Wentz on a sharp decline each of the past two seasons. With both quarterbacks now in new territory, it is difficult to know what will become of them. Goff might be in the worst situation amongst all QBs in the league (outside of Houston).

Garoppolo will always be limited, but he’s a starting caliber quarterback in the NFL. The Giants have put an impressive cast around Jones for the 2021 season, if his protection can hold up. Could he finally take the expected leap in his development? Newton’s best days are over, and Winston couldn’t beat out Taysom Hill last year in New Orleans. He’s expected to win the job this offseason, but that remains to be seen.

Tier 6 – So Many Questions

26. Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins
27. Sam Darnold, Panthers
28. Jalen Hurts, Eagles
29. Andy Dalton, Bears
30. Drew Lock, Broncos

It wasn’t a great rookie season for Tagovailoa, but he’s young and has time to grow. I’m not sure the same can be said for Darnold, who has been consistently bad throughout his career. Could a new environment turn things around? Perhaps, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Darnold’s issues go beyond the poor coaching he received in New York.

Hurts flashed a little bit early on, but decision-making and accuracy became big concerns the more he played. Dalton shouldn’t last long as the Bears starter, but we’re not ranking rookies, so he makes this list.

The amazing thing about Lock ranking dead last on this list? The Broncos could still trade for Watson or Rodgers, vaulting their QB situation from worst in the NFL to top three. You hardly ever see a team capable of swinging their fortunes like that as we near the month of July. The Broncos are in unprecedented territory, as a non-factor with Lock or QB Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback, but a Super Bowl contender with Watson or Rodgers this season.

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About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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eaustinyoung
3 months ago

Everyone ahead of Brady is a joke – especially Watson. I’d put Justin Herbert over Watson in a heartbeat.
Brady owns the league. It’s not a competition and there is no real argument to prove otherwise. He is the best that is, was, and might ever be.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  eaustinyoung
3 months ago

If we’re taking his off-field situation into account, I can’t even really rank Watson right now. If we’re only talking about on-field stuff, then you flat out clearly have no idea what you’re talking about with him. He’s an elite QB, period. He was on the worst team in the league last season, bar none. He put up legitimate all-pro level play. It was not even remotely his fault that they lost 12 games last year. Had Brady been there instead, they would’ve lost more. Not saying I think Waston > Brady right now, but on a talent bereft team,… Read more »

Bradley Smith
3 months ago

I can see everyone in the Tier 5 & 6 be benched at some point this season. Fitzpatrick also has some bad streaks in his play.

M4X
M4X
3 months ago

I’d take Brady over Mahomes and Rodgers.

In 2019, their stat lines looked almost identical, Brady threw for 4057 yards and 24 touchdowns, Mahomes for 4031/26 and Rodgers 4002/26. Advantage Brady, because he was throwing to Nkeal Harry and the corpses of Edelman and Watson the whole year, while Mahomes had Hill/Kelce/Watkins and Rodgers the best WR in football.
Brady obviously outplayed Mahomes in 2020, and once the offense started to gel, he also played better than Rodgers (best QB in the second half of the season per PFF rating).

Brady > Mahomes
Brady > Rodgers 

Any day of the week. 

Last edited 3 months ago by M4X
M4X
M4X
Reply to  M4X
3 months ago

Mahomes also sucked ass in both Superbowls he played in, so there is that.

scubog
Reply to  M4X
3 months ago

Max: Mahomes’ team “sucked”, not him. If not for the youngster’s unique skills, the score could have been even worse. No mortal QB could have fared any better against that relentless pressure. What I witnessed was a kid who played his ass off, resembling a youthful Fran Tarkenton, throwing perhaps ill-advised passes that were still surprisingly accurate, but dropped.

eaustinyoung
Reply to  M4X
3 months ago

Rodgers is 0-39 when trailing after the 3rd against teams with an over-.500 record. The dude is not clutch.

Spruce
3 months ago

That’s ridiculous putting Brady in the top tier. A top tier QB doesn’t throw three interceptions in a playoff game and have to depend on an elite defense to bail him out. GOAT of all time yes, one of the best now not even close. Then there is the age issue, a longer season and the long odds of recapturing the lightning in a bottle the team did last year at just the right time. Those are static ratings based on everything leading up to now. DING!!! That’s the reset button where some QB’s rise and others fall and everything… Read more »

TheTruth
3 months ago

Deshaun Watson, really do we have to put him as an elite QB, maybe he thinks he is elite with massage therapist and frankly disappointed in the league not even interviewing him over all the allegations. First he is not an elite QB, second he is POS that will be out of the league in 2 years (should be sooner), respect women and people in general.

Captain Sly
3 months ago

If all you’re going to use are stats to draw your conclusions then Dak Prescott is a better QB than Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, or Justin Herbert. However if there were a QB only draft held today Trevor Lawrence would still rival any QB in the league for the top spot in the draft and that goes beyond stats. In an attempt to respect Brady we disrespect the talent assembled around him. Truth is if Brady had chosen the other FL team the Jags we would be talking about his retirement. Brady wouldn’t overcome a lack of talent in JAX… Read more »

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