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Ranking Each of the 32 NFL Starting Quarterbacks: From 32 to 1

A new season brings with it some veteran faces in new places, and yet another season with Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers doing what they've been doing for years. Where do they rate among the NFL's starting quarterbacks for 2023?
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Ranking Each of the 32 NFL Starting Quarterbacks: From 32 to 1

This year's NFL draft was absent the typical top-tier talent we see at the quarterback position. Only Kenny Pickett was selected in the first round, and the next handful of signal callers were drafted to places where they may not start for a season or two. But with all that being said, the talent around the league is as good as it's been in some time.

The quarterback landscape ranges from long-time veteran and future Hall of Famers to second- and third-year talents. Some young guns are proven performers on the rise, while others are unproven and fighting for their chance to be or remain a starter. Of course, a lot could change between June and September, but knowing what we know now, which quarterbacks should we expect to be the best of the best, and who might be in danger of losing their starting gig at some point in the season?

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32. Drew Lock, Seattle Seahawks

Lock started a total of 21 games in his three years with the Broncos before being shipped to Seattle in the offseason deal for Russell Wilson. With Denver, there were very little positives to speak of in his three-year career. The 25-year-old threw 20 picks to 25 touchdowns over that span, and -- per Pro Football Reference -- made a bad throw on 17.8%, 22.9% and 22% of all passes. By comparison, Sam Darnold's highest bad throw rate was 19.3% in his rookie season, while a player of Russell Wilson's caliber peaked at 18.6% in 2021. Sure -- he finds himself in a new situation, but it's going to take a lot to undo the inaccurate reputation he's built up early in his NFL tenure.

31. Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers

Speaking of Darnold, last year was quite the rollercoaster for the soon-to-be 25-year-old. Across his first four contests (three wins for the Panthers), he completed more than 67% of his passes for nearly 1,200 yards with 5 touchdowns to 3 interceptions. From that point forward, he didn't throw for more than 209 yards in a single game and posted a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 4:10. Darnold's accuracy and decision-making still seem to be a work in progress, so it wouldn't be shocking to see Matt Corral get the call for a portion of the season.

30. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers

The lone rookie of this list, Pickett is becoming more likely to get the starting nod over free agent signee Mitch Trubisky. His overall preparedness from experience, as well as the talent and coaches around him could push him a few spots of this list when all is said and done. After all, in his final year at Pitt Pickett threw for more than 4,300 yards and 42 touchdowns on a 67% completion percentage.

29. Davis Mills, Houston Texans

Mills' rookie season was successful for what it was. Amidst some tough circumstances, he carried low expectations and exceeded those in the Houston offense. According to Pro Football Focus, he had four above-average performances and five below a player grade of 50, speaking to the inconsistencies we saw and typically see from a rookie quarterback of his draft capital. The team retained Brandin Cooks, added guard Kenyon Green in the draft, and improved on the outside opposite Cooks, with John Metchie and Philip Dorsett. Mills' conditions are only better, and if he improves in some of his problem areas there's a chance his level of play exceeds that of Mariota, Jones, Wilson and the like.

28. Marcus Mariota, Atlanta Falcons

It's a new day in Atlanta. With Matt Ryan now elsewhere, Mariota has been brought in to be the guy of the here and now (Desmond Ridder might be the future) and aim to make the most of Arthur Smith's offense. The last time we saw the two together in Tennessee, the 28-year-old quarterback started a half-dozen games (and appeared in another), parlaying that into a measly 35.5 QBR. He looked good the few times he was called upon with the Raiders, but it remains to be seen what he can do in a starting role, not to mention with limited weapons in Atlanta. There's a non-zero chance that Mariota only starts a handful of games in the lead-up to Ridder's NFL introduction.

27. Daniel Jones, New York Giants

In 2021, Jones was limited to 11 games yet was able to improve in a number of areas: completion percentage, interception percentage, sack rate and adjusted net yards per attempt. He was still below the league average in others and near the bottom of the barrel in big throw rate. The Giants have upgraded the offensive line, so we could see a breakout, but until he proves otherwise, this is where Jones belongs.

26. Zach Wilson, New York Jets

Wilson joins Daniel Jones in this distinct tier of young passers who have some promising traits but alongside those that cause them troubles in the structure of an NFL offense. The Jets' 2021 pick is very new to it all, meaning he has more room for improvement, especially when you consider his receiving core. Garrett Wilson rounds out a top three consisting of he, Corey Davis and Elijah Moore on the outside. All signs are pointing up for the BYU product; just temper expectations on what the ceiling might be in year two. After all, PFF charted him 35th of 36 qualified quarterbacks in adjusted completion percentage.

25. Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints

It's unfortunate that Winston was held to just seven starts a year ago in New Orleans. A lot of the metrics pointed to an improved season, as he continued to throw the ball downfield and thrive in a clean pocket. He had far more positively graded plays than negative ones, turning a very average 59% completion rate into 1,170 yards and 14 touchdowns (3 interceptions). His 7.24 adjusted net yards per attempt surpassed his previous career-high, and that's without the services of Michael Thomas. Equipped with Thomas and new toy Chris Olave, Winston should take another step forward. The big question mark presents itself in the form of an ACL tear and a return from offseason rehab.

24. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

By most measures, rookie Lawrence was among the bottom six passers in the NFL last year. In the majority of PFF's quarterback matrixes, he falls in the "worst" quadrant, and for obvious reasons. While Urban Meyer and leadership didn't put him in the best position for sucess, the former Clemson standout posted eight below-average game grades and turned the ball over 26 times -- via 17 interceptions and 9 fumbles. He has to improve in that category, and assuming he does he should take a second-year jump with the added weapons in front of him and out wide.

23. Carson Wentz, Washington Commanders

Wentz is about as volatile as they come, and his 2021 performance shows as much. His upfront numbers appear solid through the first 10 to 12 games, but after that he failed to throw more than one touchdown in all but one contest and was held below 160 yards on four different occasions. The former Colts produced 18 turnover-worthy plays, and he just wasn't good enough to overcome those with the positives. We'll see what a new offensive scheme and weapons can do for him, but he's below a top-20 quarterback without a doubt.

22. Jared Goff, Detroit Lions

At 27 years old, Goff has proven to be the definition of a capable starting quarterback over the whole of his career. His time in L.A. came to end only to give way to a better signal caller, while his first campaign in Detroit yielded a similar performance just absent the numbers of a Sean McVay offense. Limited to 14 games, Goff had his lowest yardage and touchdown totals since his rookie year, though more telling was a 60.7 PFF grade that fell more than 10 shy of his final year as a Ram (26th in 2021). He should continue to serve as a solid and accurate quarterback that simply lacks the next gear to place him anywhere near the top half of the league at quarterback.

21. Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers

Indeed, this assumes that no matter what transpires with Jimmy Garoppolo it will be Lance under center for Kyle Shanahan and the Niners. We've yet to see much from the physically gifted 22-year-old sophomore, but in his 178 snaps and 6 appearances (2 starts), he displayed the question marks of a rather raw prospect. He posted a 61.1 passing grade and 56.7 rushing grade despite the high praise of his scrambling and designed-run promise. Lance showed flashes against Arizona and Houston, but it's going to take a lot more for him to fulfill expectations.

20. Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

Precisely in line with what the outside fan may think, Fields was a real volatile passer last year. His metrics were the product of a deep-ball, risk-taking style that saw him finish 24th in player grade with only four games above the average mark. He struggled behind an offensive line that has -- somehow, some way -- seemingly gotten worse over the offseason. That, coupled with a supporting cast headlined by Darnell Mooney and not much else of note. It could be a repeat of 2021.

19. Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins

Tua gets the nod over Fields, not just because of his slightly better PFF grade, but because the Miami quarterback was far better, albeit in the very middle of the pack, in adjusted completion percentage last year. And unlike the Bears' young gun, Tagovailoa has been surrounded by playmakers this spring. I expect the addition of Tyreek Hill to confirm the fact that he has the tools to be an average (maybe even above average) starting quarterback in the next handful of seasons.

18. Matt Ryan, Indianapolis Colts

Can you say, "Old face, new face?" After 14 seasons as the Falcons' franchise guy, Ryan's moved on to Indianapolis where he'll look to return to his old form. Last year, with a slim supporting cast, his PFF grade fell to 75.8 for the second time in three years. Is the 37-year-old on the finale decline? If you were to look at his depth of target and accuracy numbers, not quite. Ryan probably has another solid year under his belt.

17. Mac Jones, New England Patriots

Jones is three or more spots clear of the four quarterbacks drafted ahead of him in the 2021 draft, and for good reason. He put together a very solid season for Bill Belichick and team, completed nearly 68% of his passes to the tune of 3,800 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 picks. His on-field play earned him the 12th-best PFF grade at the position, though it's worth noting that he benefited from a short-passing scheme that saw his grade fall from 104.6 behind the line of scrimmage to 72.4 on 20-plus yard throws.

16. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans

The Titans seemingly brought in Tannehill's eventual replacement in Malik Wills -- and let's just say the veteran didn't take too kindly to that idea. Undoubtedly, the 33-year-old's fire will be fueled heading into 2022, particularly on the heels of another great regular season. For the third straight year he notched a grade of 83 or higher with the league's seventh-best adjusted completion percentage. While Tannehill will be forced to deal with the departure of A.J. Brown, Robert Woods and Treylon Burks should be enough for him to demonstrate his ability as a top-half starter.

15. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles

From the guy who watched Brown walk out the door, to the guy who will benefit from his arrival in Philly. Hurts only gets the nod over Tannehill because of his elite running ability and the better overall talent around him. It seems like the Eagles are in do-or-die mode as far as counting on Hurts to be the franchise quarterback they're building around. He has a ton of motivation, and at that, it wasn't all bad last year. In 2021, he finished 10th in PFF grade and 2nd in grade under pressure.

14. Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders

Like Hurts, Carr too has a new toy to play with on the outside in Davante Adams. That could certainly boost his numbers from both a counting and efficiency perspective, though many would argue that Carr's already a second or third-tier guy. In the last three years, he's now ranked 12th, 10th and 14th in PFF grade, most recently turning a top-10 big-time throw rate into a career-best 4,800 yards on a massive number of throws. Carr will have to watch the turnover numbers (27 combined interceptions and fumbles), as they could crater an otherwise great 2022.

13. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings

Cousins' 88.2 PFF grade might come as a surprise to those who ignore every other NFC North quarterback not named Aaron Rodgers. And believe it or not, that ranked fifth in the league and was a mere 1.4 off the pace of the aforementioned Packers QB. He was really good on paper and on film and has been inside the top 11 for the past three seasons. His inconsistencies are there (87 yards and a 62.8 grade against the Bears will do that), and that's the deciding factor for him falling outside the top 12.

12. Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns

It's hard to say exactly what Watson will look like after such a long layoff, but from what we can glean of his previous work and current situation, he's on the fringes of a top-10 guy. Back in 2020, the former Texan threw for a career-high 4,823 yards on a 70.2% completion rate, 8.2 adjusted net yards per attempt and for 33 touchdowns. On the ground, he added more than 400 yards and another 3 scores. With what projects to be a top-10 line in front of him, the production should be there -- it's just a matter of when and how long Watson will be on the field with a suspension looming.

11. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

Don't allow Murray's injury-riddled 2021 to keep you from believing in him as second-tier starter in Arizona. Winning 9 of his 14 starts, he was able to eclipse 3,700 yards with an improve (84.0) PFF grade. That rated seventh among quarterbacks, while Murray's big-time throw percentage rose to the very top. The combination of a big arm and lightning-fast feet make him a threat to any team. If anything, he's kept outside the top 10 by his lack of even higher production in a very pass-happy Kliff Kingsbury offense.

10. Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos

Last season was one to be forgotten in the career of Russell Wilson. In addition to an injury-shortened season, his actions resulted in a very average 73.9 PFF grade -- following three straight years of 87 or higher. He executed poorly on passes inside 10 yards and was only 24th in on-target percentage. It's likely that Wilson's thumb injury played a role in that, so take it for what it's worth. Either way, there will come a day when the 33-year-old isn't the true dual-threat he was in his first nine years.

9. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

Jackson is yet another top-flight quarterback that saw his 2021 run limited to less than a full season, having played just 12 games due to injury and sickness. That had to have had some level of impact on his uncharacteristically poor metrics, but how much we can't really know. What we do know is that he has now seen his player grade drop from 91.1 in 2019 to 79.3 in 2020 and 70.2 in 2021. That last number put him 22nd in the league despite a 75.8 rushing grade. Let's assume that, if healthy, he's back to his usual self and running all over defenses in 2022.

8. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

This past season, Dak wasn't among the elite of the elite players under center, but he was right there on the outside looking in. He was 12th in adjusted completion percentage, worked great against both a clean pocket and against pressure and (for the first time since 2016) broke into the top eight in PFF grade at the position. His 108.7 passer rating speaks to the masterful precision he showed in pushing the ball down the field to his playmakers. Now, he lost Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson, but if Michael Gallup's back to full health he will have the speed to make Dallas a top offense for the full season and head toward a playoff run.

7. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams

Speaking of playoff runs, Stafford had himself a long one for the very first time this past year. In the first year he wasn't a member of the Detroit Lions, he took the Rams to the promised land after totaling more than 4,800 yards and 41 touchdowns in Sean McVay's offense. His 17 interceptions should be scrutinized, but when you weigh the two sides of the coin the one side is much heavier. Stafford was 11th in player grade and 3rd on third down alone. I can't think of a reason not to believe a repeat of that is in order.

6. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals

Burrow built upon his already promising first year, and then some. In taking his squad to the Super Bowl and a near championship win, the 25-year-old posted more than 4,600 yards with 34 touchdowns on the NFL's best adjusted completion percentage. He completed north of 70% of his passes and came in second in PFF grade. With the assumption that the Cincinnati line makes a vast improvement, Burrow's numbers could go even higher this season.

5. Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers

For the other L.A. team, their quarterback is just as -- if not more so -- set up for success. In his age-23 sophomore season, Herbert was able to go beyond his impressive 2020 and break out for 38 touchdowns to 15 picks, alongside 5,000 yards on 6.95 adjusted net yards per attempt. His 90.1 grade was third in the league as he shined in short-yardage and down the field. If anything, his intermediate game could use a slight lift. When you throw in the fact that he was the best quarterback as far as turnover worthy plays go, and at 24, what more could you ask for?

4. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Following his ultra-brief retirement, Mr. Brady will be back for more in his 23rd season. And while it's apparent to everyone that he has the bonafides as the GOAT, his passing skill is not quite enough to overcome players with similar passing skill but a massive leg-up in rushing skill. Still, anticipate a massive season from Brady with or without Rob Gronkowski back. Last season, he was able to finish first in PFF grade and had a mere one below-average game.

3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

For Rodgers, it's been two straight MVP seasons for the future Hall of Famer. Despite some bumps in the road, he was able to maintain an 89.6 PFF grade behind the third best on target percentage and a 128.2 rating between 10 to 19 yards. Davante Adams won't occupy that spot any longer, but if we've learned one thing with Rodgers it's that he doesn't need the very best of talent to get the job done and produce at a sky-high level. He'll continue to do his thing until he doesn't.

2. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

For his standards, 2021 was a gigantic step back for Mahomes. His grade dropped from 91.9 to 77.5, falling below 84 for the first time in his career. But even with some of his shortcomings, such as the 21st-best big-time throw rate, he was able to blow past 4,800 yards and produce 37 touchdowns via his arm. Mahomes added more on the ground and was rewarded with an 81.5 grade for his efforts. In other words, the entire recipe is still there -- it's just a matter of the execution. And just like Rodgers, he'll have to make do without his former number-one receiver, Tyreek Hill. Mahomes will have to elevate those the Chiefs brought in and bring up his level of play to compete in the ultra-competitive AFC.

1. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

Near the very top of the food chain in the AFC sits Allen and his Bills. They were only a step short from pushing past the Chiefs in the playoffs last year and enjoyed a rather breezy 11-win regular season. The deciding factor? Allen and his do-it-all talent. The 26-year-old had more than 5,100 yards and 42 touchdowns between his arm and legs, and for that he had pass and rush grades of 77.5 and 92.3(!), respectively. Overall, he was sixth, but it's the hyper-efficient run production that makes him stand above the rest for me. His will is on par with anyone, his ceiling is uncapped, and we should see him and Mahomes duke it out for top dog in the AFC.


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