Jared Stanton presents his top 10 Quarterback list.
With the NFL Draft in the rear-view mirror, and with OTA’s now looming on the horizon, most teams in the NFL have a clear understanding at this point regarding who their starting quarterback will be this upcoming season.
Ranking quarterbacks and assessing who is currently better than who is always an interesting discussion amongst football fans, and the following article promises to be no different.
Below is an individual look at the guys who I believe make up the NFL’s top 10 at the position, and it is heavily based upon what we last saw from these players a season ago.
I do not believe in allowing a player to piggyback off his performance from multiple years ago, and ultimately, I feel as though what we have seen most recently is what should matter the most when compiling any current hierarchy.
Will these rankings look anything like this at the end of next year?
No, absolutely not, but that is how power rankings work – they can change drastically in a very short period of time.
Anyway, you did not come here to hear me waffle on all day, so let us rank some quarterbacks!
10. Jimmy Garoppolo
Jimmy Garoppolo is the real deal folks.
The way in which the San Francisco 49ers immediately transformed themselves from a 1-10 team to a 5-0 team with Jimmy G at the helm should say enough, however, for the purpose of quality discussion more detail will be provided.
3rd down is typically where games are won or lost in the NFL, and Jimmy Garoppolo’s 52.8% conversion rate on 3rd down passing attempts was the highest mark in the entire league last season.
Also, Garoppolo brought a certain element of aggression to the 49ers offense that was not seen at all with C.J. Beathard under center, and this was evident through the staggering 8.8 yards per attempt that he averaged, as well as through the whopping 5,027 total yards that he was on pace for had he started all 16 games.
He might not have set the world ablaze with the number of touchdowns that he threw, and he certainly could have taken better care of the football, but in due course, Jimmy Garoppolo was effectively able to move the ball whilst turning punts into field goals, and field goals into potential touchdowns.
At the end of the day, San Francisco simply became a very good team once Garoppolo took over, and he is only going to get better as the rest of the team around him continues to improve.
9. Drew Brees
Drew Brees is still an excellent quarterback, and the New Orleans Saints should definitely be able to build off a terrific year a season ago.
In saying this, however, there are a couple of factors that are preventing him from ranking any higher on this list.
First of all, this coming season Drew Brees will be yet another year older, and whilst there is no indication that a potential drop-off is looming, there is simply just no way to predict how long a player can remain effective as they approach their 40’s – especially when they have had multiple injuries to their throwing shoulder throughout the course of their career.
Secondly, if last season is any indication, the Saints are no longer going to demand as much out of Brees, and this is due in large part to the dramatic improvements seen across other areas of the roster.
A potent ground attack, along with a young defence on the rise, means that Drew Brees now needs to simply manage the game and assert himself when necessary.
This is not a knock on Brees by any means, however, it does indicate that his days of throwing 35 touchdowns and 5,000 yards are all but over.
With less responsibility on now his shoulders, number nine seems to be the right spot for number nine.
There is just a bunch of other guys who will be just as effective whilst carrying a heavier workload.
8. Ben Roethlisberger
After an inconsistent start in 2017, Ben Roethlisberger was able to play some stellar football throughout the second half of last season.
Much like Jimmy Garoppolo, Big Ben was able to maximise drives and consistently deliverer on 3rd down a season ago, and his 46.5% conversion rate on 3rd down passing attempts was the 4th highest mark in the NFL.
Combine that with a TD:INT ratio of roughly 2:1, and a yards per attempt average of 7.6, and it becomes abundantly clear that Roethlisberger was able to have one of his most productive seasons to date in 2017.
With the New England Patriots now starting to show some chinks in their amour, the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves presented with a golden opportunity to seize control of the AFC.
The Jacksonville Jaguars will be a tough foe, and they are a team that had Pittsburgh’s number last season, however, with Big Ben playing extremely well, 2018 looks to be an extremely promising year for the Steelers.
7. Russell Wilson
If Russell Wilson had the kind of help and support that some of the leagues other top quarterbacks have, he would probably be the best quarterback in the NFL.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Seattle Seahawks’ offensive line ranked 27th in the NFL a season ago, meaning that as per usual, Russell Wilson was being asked to run an efficient offense whilst frequently running for his life.
Also, Seattle’s ground game was almost non-existent in 2017 – ranking 23rd in the NFL.
When both of these issues are combined, the end result is a high number of 3rd and long passing situations under constant duress, and this is why Russell Wilson’s completion percentage (61.3%) was relatively low, and it is also why he was only able to move the chains on 37.8% of his 3rd down passing attempts.
In spite of these unideal circumstances, Wilson’s 34 passing touchdowns was still the league’s highest mark last year, and he was one of only seven quarterbacks to record a TD:INT ratio equal to or better than 3:1.
The fact that Russell Wilson is able to perform so well despite the many holes in Seattle’s roster is a testament to how good he really is, and whilst number seven on this list is the right spot, his ability is clearly better than this.
6. Carson Wentz
Make no mistake, Carson Wentz is the NFL’s future at the quarterback position.
Prior to tearing his ACL in week 13 last season, Wentz was sitting on a stat line of 3,296 yards, 33 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions, and these numbers put him on pace for 4,056 yards, 40 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions had he played in all 16 games.
On 3rd down passing situations, Wentz was also able to move the chains at a rate of 49.2% which was the NFL’s second highest mark, meaning that his offense was not only explosive, but it was also impossible for opposing defences to get it off the field.
He is big, he is athletic, he is smart, he has elite arm talent, and just 2 years into his career, he has already proven himself to be amongst the NFL’s most productive players.
In saying this, however, there are obviously a couple of reasons that explain his number six ranking here.
Firstly, as mentioned, Carson Wentz is coming off a torn ACL that was suffered late last season, and given that such an injury typically takes 9-12 months to recover from, there is simply no telling as to when he will return at this point.
Second of all, Wentz was barely able to complete over 60.0% of his passes a season ago, and being able to surgically dissect defences instead of relying so heavily on chunk plays is really the only thing that is preventing him from being unstoppable.
Once Carson Wentz is fully healthy, and once he begins displaying better overall efficiency, fans should look for him to become the best quarterback in football for the next 5-7 years.
5. Matthew Stafford
A lot of people know that Matthew Stafford is a good quarterback, but not many people understand the true extent of this.
With no defence, no running game, and with mediocre offensive line units in front of him, Stafford produces year-in-and-year-out whilst consistently keeping the Detroit Lions in contention for the playoffs.
Last year in particular was a career year for the former Bulldog, as he finished 2017 with 4,446 yards, 29 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and a career-high 99.3 passer rating.
The only red flag with regards to Matthew Stafford a season ago is the fact that he lost 7 fumbles, however, the 47 times in which he was sacked was the second highest mark in the NFL.
Similar to Russell Wilson, if the Detroit Lions could simply just provide Stafford with adequate help, then he would probably be able to launch himself towards MVP status.
A lot of people say that an elite quarterback should be able to elevate a mediocre team and transform them into a good one, but Matthew Stafford is the only reason in which Detroit are even mediocre in the first place, as opposed to being absolutely terrible.
He is a top 5 quarterback every day of the week, and he does not get nearly as much credit as he deserves.
4. Tom Brady
Last season, the greatest quarterback that any of us have ever seen was flawless yet again.
Statistically, Tom Brady was able to finish 2017 with 4577 yards (7.9 YPA), a 4:1 TD:INT ratio, and a 66.3% completion rate, and as far as accolades are concerned, he was recognised with First Team All-Pro honours, and was rightly crowed the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.
Despite turning 41 this August, Brady is still getting it done at the highest possible level, however, there are a few reasons as to why he comes in at number 4 on this list.
First of all, Tom Brady plays for a model franchise under an elite coach, and an argument suggesting that the three quarterbacks ahead of him were “statistically” better can easily be formed.
Next, as previously outlined, Brady will be 41 once the 2018 season kicks off.
While he has shown no signs of slowing down, like Drew Brees he is now at a stage of his career in which his play could potentially fall off a cliff at any time, and there is simply no way to predict when this will occur as it could realistically happen at any moment from here on out.
Lastly, how durable can Tom Brady honestly be heading into next season?
In 2017 he was the 9th most sacked quarterback in the league, and given that New England lost some key pieces to their offensive line throughout the offseason, it is fair to question whether or not Brady’s aging body will be able to hold up against the incoming slaughter that it faces.
He is still brilliant, but Tom Brady and the New England Patriots face a tonne of questions that need answering this coming season.
If they still want to be viewed as the NFL’s best, then that is a title that they are going to have earn back.
3. Case Keenum
The more time in which one spends analysing Case Keenum’s 2017 season, there more impressive it seems to get.
Sure, it is very easy to say that he simply rode a loaded roster en route to a career year, however, his individual production was honestly nothing short of incredible.
Just like Russell Wilson, Case Keenum was one of only seven quarterbacks to post a TD:INT ratio equal to or better than 3:1.
On top of that, he was tied for second in the NFL with regards to game winning drives, his 67.5% completion rate was also the second highest mark in the league, and his 46.5% conversion rate on 3rd down passing attempts trailed the likes of only Jimmy Garoppolo, Carson Wentz, Jameis Winston, and Ben Roethlisberger.
A good defence and running game certainly helps, but at what point do people begin to realise that a quarterback still needs to be talented enough himself in order to capitalise?
When Case Keenum was consistently making smart decisions with the football, and when he was calmly orchestrating multiple game winning drives, he was the one who was making the difference.
Cam Newton and Blake Bortles both had the help of a very good running game and defence last season, yet they did not nearly produce up to the standard of Case Keenum – because Case Keenum was able to show us the contrast between an average quarterback with help, and a good quarterback with help.
Throughout his time at Houston, Keenum also set NCAA records for the most career completions, touchdowns, and yards, so this is a guy who entered the NFL with a tremendous amount of individual ability.
When thinking about everything that has been said, how come it cannot be possible that he actually took a genuine step forward a season ago?
It is completely understandable as to why many feel as though Keenum will not replicate his 2017 production, but as the new face of the Denver Broncos, he has at least earned the right to prove his doubters wrong before sliding back down the ranks.
2. Aaron Rodgers
There is not a whole lot that needs to be said for this one.
Aaron Rodgers is still the same electrifying quarterback that he has always been, and Packers fans should be extremely optimistic about their team heading into next season.
If not for a collarbone injury in 2017, Rodgers would have been on pace to finish the year with 3,828 yards, 36 touchdowns, and only 13 interceptions, however, this year promises to be even better than that.
This year, the Packers have Joe Philbin returning as the team’s offensive coordinator, and playing as a full-time starter under Philbin from 2008-2011, Aaron Rodgers averaged an impressive 4,256 yards (8.3 YPA), 32 touchdowns, and only 9 interceptions per season over that four year stretch.
That same period of time also included Rodgers’ career year in 2011 in which he produced 4,643 yards (9.2 YPA), 45 touchdowns, and only 6 interceptions, and let us not forget, the team also won a Super Bowl in 2010.
With a revamped coaching staff, a solid defence that quietly ranked 11th in the NFL last season, the lethal edition of Jimmy Graham, and an impressive draft haul, Green Bay’s number 12 appears primed to explode in 2018.
The Vikings are the deserving favourites in the NFC North, but do not be surprised if the Packers are able to convincingly snatch back the division title.
1. Alex Smith
Alex Smith was the best quarterback in the NFL last year, and this means that he enters 2018 with the most individual momentum.
After all, this is the top 10 quarterbacks “heading” into next season is it not?
Playing for the Chiefs in 2017, Smith was able to finish the season with 4,042 yards (8.0 YPA), a 5:1 TD:INT ratio, a 67.5% completion rate, and a 104.7 passer rating – which was the highest mark in the league.
Sure, Kansas City crashed throughout the second half of the season, however, their defence ranked an abysmal 28th in the NFL, and it was a unit that just could not stop anybody.
As most of the team around him underperformed, Alex Smith’s incredible play was one of the few things that remained constant for the Chiefs, and when his numbers are taken into account, it is obvious that the team’s inconsistent play was absolutely not his fault.
Now the starter for the Washington Redskins, Smith’s potential fit in the Capital City is another reason as to why he deserves the number one spot on this list.
According to NFL analyst Bucky Brooks, Alex Smith is the perfect quarterback to lead the Redskins, and he had the following to say with regards to what fans can expect this coming season:
“Despite being labelled a “dink and dunk” quarterback for most of his career, Smith is an outstanding passer when targeting every area of the field… In my opinion, Alex Smith is exactly the quarterback that Jay Gruden wants — conservative, careful with the ball, doesn’t make mistakes, has a quick release, situational awareness, can read a defence and understands the offense… Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if Alex Smith — who just put up his best career numbers as a passer in 2017, puts up bigger numbers in 2018 with Jay Gruden in charge.”
Obviously, for Smith to produce at an even higher level than what we saw a season ago is quite a tall feat, however, there is every reason believe that he can least replicate that stellar play, and he is easily a better, more proven quarterback than Kirk Cousins.
As a pure individual, there was simply just no better passer than the newly aggressive Alex Smith when we last saw everybody play.
He deserves this title until another quarterback is able to step up and take it.