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NFL Quarterback Tier Rankings: 2019 off-season update

Ranking all 32 starting QBs, plus a few others

Seth Dunlap
May 08, 2019 - 8:04 pm
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With teams having re-assembled (mostly) their rosters for the upcoming year, it’s time to update our look at our NFL Quarterback Tiers rankings for the 2019 offseason. 

Quarterback play in the NFL might be as good as it ever has been, which makes sorting all of the signal-callers into six different tiers a daunting task.  Whether it is rule changes, improved development in college, or simply an unprecedented talent influx at the position, there’s no doubt that we’ve never seen consistent high-level play this widespread across the league.

Therefore, players are placed in these tiers relative to the performance of their peers.  Derek Carr may be in Tier IV today, but just a decade ago his statistical output may have had many considering him a star.  There’s not one metric used to classify this quarterbacks, rather I’ve used a mix of traditional and advanced metrics along with my own subjective analysis to try to sort all 32 projected NFL starting quarterbacks, and a few others, into the tiers below.

*PFF grades below indicate the final Pro Football Focus ratings for the 2018 season

Editors note: The quarterbacks aren't ranked inside of each tier.  For example, the first quarterback listed in Tier I isn't necessarily a "better" quarterback than the quarterbacks listed No. 5 & 6 in the same tier.

Tier I – The Elite

Defined:  The quarterbacks separating themselves from even other ‘stars’, who have the ability to nearly single-handedly carry an offense throughout an entire season, regardless of the talent, or lack thereof, around them.  Irreplaceable franchise stalwarts who have clearly defined Hall of Fame career trajectories.  League-wide shifts in play calling and offensive schemes can be attributed to these ‘mega-elite’ stars.

  • Tom Brady, New England Patriots (Last season: 29 TD, 11 INT, 66% CMP, 4,355 yds, 90.7 PFF)
  • Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (Last season: 39 TD, 15 INT, 67% CMP, 4,593 yds, 91.1 PFF)
  • Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs (Last season: 50 TD, 12 INT, 66% CMP, 5,097 yds, 93.2 PFF)
  • Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (Last season: 25 TD, 2 INT, 62% CMP, 4,442 yds, 89.9 PFF)
  • Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (Last season: 32 TD, 5 INT, 74% CMP, 3,992 yds, 94.7 PFF)
  • Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (Last season: 35 TD, 7 INT, 66% CMP, 3,448 yds, 87.2 PFF)

 

Tier II – The Stars

Defined:  A category that has expanded and contracted rapidly over the past few years.  Quarterbacks who play at a consistently high level, statistically superior to the majority of their peers.  Super Bowl caliber quarterbacks and the usual MVP contenders. Even some Hall of Fame candidates reside here.  Their play while on the field remains at an elite level. 

  • Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (Last season: 34 TD, 16 INT, 67% CMP, 5,129 yds, 78.2 PFF)
  • Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers (Last season: 32 TD, 12 INT, 68% CMP, 4,308 yds, 90.8 PFF)
  • Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (Last season: 35 TD, 7 INT, 69% CMP, 4,924 yds, 84.3 PFF)
  • Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams (Last season: 32 TD, 12 INT, 65% CMP, 4,688 yds, 85.5 PFF)
  • Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans (Last season: 26 TD, 9 INT, 68% CMP, 4,165 yds, 82.6 PFF)

 

Tier III – The Underappreciated & Rising Stars

Defined:  Quarterbacks with, usually, a remarkable athletic skill set that clearly puts them beyond the ‘Trent Dilfer’ category.  They have the ability to look like best quarterback in the league on a given day.  However, they don’t make ‘The Stars’ tier as either their track record is too short or too inconsistent to merit consideration among that group, or their injury history merits considerable concern.

  • Nick Foles, Jacksonville Jaguars (Last season: 7 TD, 4 INT, 72% CMP, 1.413 yds, 76.6 PFF)
  • Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals (Last season: 21 TD, 11 INT, 62% CMP, 2,566 yds, 81.9 PFF)
  • Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns (Last season: 27 TD, 14 INT, 64% CMP, 3,725 yds, 84.5 PFF)
  • Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys (Last season: 22 TD, 8 INT, 68% CMP, 3,885 yds, 74.6 PFF)
  • Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (Last season: 21 TD, 7 INT, 70% CMP, 3,074 yds, 79.4 PFF)
  • Matt Stafford, Detroit Lions (Last season: 21 TD, 11 INT, 66% CMP, 3,777 yds, 77.8 PFF)
  • Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings (Last season: 30 TD, 10 INT, 70% CMP, 4,298 yds, 79.3 PFF)

 

Tier IV – The Trent Dilfers

Defined:  Also see ‘Game Manager’.  Not a pejorative, these ‘Dilfers’ aren’t flashy but they are consistent and worthy starting NFL quarterbacks who can steady a franchise and provide opportunity for regular season and playoff success.  With enough talent across the rest of the roster, these quarterbacks can even win a Super Bowl.  Being in this tier doesn’t preclude swift advancement upwards, but an objective look at their recent play on the field puts them below a majority of their peers.

  • Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans (Last season: 11 TD, 8 INT, 69% CMP, 2,528 yds, 76.8 PFF)
  • Joe Flacco, Denver Broncos (Last season: 12 TD, 6 INT, 61% CMP, 2,465 yds, 72.0 PFF)
  • Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders (Last season: 19 TD, 10 INT, 69% CMP, 4,049 yds, 73.4 PFF)
  • Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears (Last season: 24 TD, 12 INT, 67% CMP, 3,223 yds, 63.0 PFF)
  • Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last season: 19 TD, 14 INT, 65% CMP, 2,992 yds, 70.2 PFF)
  • Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (Last season: 24 TD, 13 INT, 68% CMP, 3,395 yds, 70.9 PFF)

 

Tier V – Replacement Level Recency

Defined:  What we’ve seen from these quarterbacks recently doesn’t warrant consideration in a higher tier.  They might be old veteran placeholders, or young guns who are still learning on the job, but their recent performance on the field warrants placement here. There’s also no reason to believe, even with superior talent across the roster, these quarterbacks could win a championship. These quarterbacks are either young and developing, or declining veterans whose teams need to look for immediate options elsewhere.

  • Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills (Last season: 10 TD, 12INT, 52% CMP, 2,074 yds, 65.5 PFF)
  • Josh Rosen, Miami Dolphins (Last season: 11 TD, 14 INT, 55% CMP, 2,278 yds, 49.1 PFF)
  • Sam Darnold, New York Jets (Last season: 17 TD, 15 INT, 58% CMP, 2,865 yds, 64.7 PFF)
  • Eli Manning, New York Giants (Last season: 21 TD, 11 INT, 66% CMP, 4,299 yds, 64.3 PFF)
  • Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers (Last season: 5 TD, 3 INT, 60% CMP, 718 yds, 62.6 PFF)

 

Tier VI – Not Enough Information

Defined:  This self-explanatory tier is for quarterbacks who we are still evaluating, and haven’t had enough on-field NFL experience to definitively put them into a specific category.

  • Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens (Last season: 6 TD, 3 INT, 58% CMP, 1,201 yds, 58.5 PFF)
  • Dewayne Haskins, Washington (Rookie)
  • Kyler Murray, Arizona (Rookie)

Others:

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami Dolphins (17 TD, 12 INT, 67% CMP, 2,366 yds) – Trent Dilfer tier
  • Alex Smith, Washington (10 TD, 5 INT, 63% CMP, 2,180 yds, 70.2 PFF) – Trent Dilfer tier
  • Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans (17 TD, 9 INT, 64% CMP, 1,979 yds, 45.3 PFF) – Replacement level
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