Welcome back, everyone. The 32 starting quarterbacks will be ranked once again.
No.32: Trevor Siemian, New Orleans Saints
Yes, the Saints won last week. Yes, Trevor Siemian played most of the game in place of Jameis Winston. Both of these things are true. However, putting all of your eggs into one basket that’s three-football quarters large is an issue. For Siemian’s entire career, he has been a below-average passer. In a great turn of irony, Siemian’s best passing grade in a season is exactly 10 points lower than Winston‘s worst passing grade in a season. Even if you take Winston’s pick-happy self from 2019, the NFL‘s book on Siemian has been an absolute disaster compared to the former Seminole. Siemian does not have a season that he has more big-time throws than turnover-worthy plays, likely taking the conservative nature of the Saints offense and throwing it into the trash.
No.31: Jared Goff, Detroit Lions
Jared Goff is the player one begins with when they start a Madden career. He has been the same player for the last five seasons. He makes the same mistakes over and over again, and both the Rams and Lions just shrug and let Goff continue to exist. It was one thing with the Rams who had top-tier weapons like Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, but the Lions have a dearth of receiving talent. This lack of talent has turned Goff into a painfully average quarterback once again.
No.30: Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers
Sam Darnold was one of the highest-graded quarterbacks in Week 8, but do recall that the Falcons have one of the worst pass-rushes in the NFL. Darnold was effective in large part because his offensive line was able to hold up against practically no pass rush. Moreover, he does have the physical tools to make NFL throws, but his decision-making falters under pressure, like many quarterbacks. This is a step in the right direction for Darnold, but remember that he plummeted by about 15 spots from being a mediocre quarterback to a catastrophe just a few weeks ago.
No.29: Taylor Heinicke, Washington Football Team
Winning the lottery sounds like a fun idea. It’s a life-changing amount of money for just about anyone. Taylor Heinicke is taking this philosophy way too far. Perhaps the most indicative start of this YOLO brand of football is Heinicke‘s connection to star receiver Terry McLaurin. McLaurin leads the NFL in contested catch opportunities and contested catches. Both of these sound reasonable. However, he has more contested catches than any other receiver in the NFL has total opportunities for contested catches. McLaurin has 19 contested catches while the second place has just 18 opportunities. Terry McLaurin is essentially lapping the field based on Heinicke‘s incompetence in the pocket. These throws do connect from time to time, but each throw is a prayer.
No.28: Justin Fields, Chicago Bears
One can complain about Justin Fields‘ inconsistencies as a passer, but when you can run the football like Fields was able to against the 49ers, some of the passing ineptitude will be swallowable. Quarterbacks such as Lamar Jackson and Michael Vick have been so productive as rushers that some passing shortcomings can be overshadowed. Fields falls into this category. He will likely be an inconsistent passer for a decent chunk of his next few seasons but has a special ability to take over a game. Outside of the aforementioned Jackson and the retired Vick, how many other players would make that play that Fields had against the 49ers to score a rushing touchdown on a broken play?
No.27: Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy Garoppolo is finally moving in the right direction. He had his best game of the season against the Bears, and he even tacked on a pair of rushing touchdowns. He benefitted from a huge catch-and-run from Deebo Samuel, but other than that, he was exceptional. Garoppolo may be a painfully average quarterback, but he is a painfully average quarterback that can run the Kyle Shanahan offense well. He is limited, but Shanahan knows these limitations and generally puts Garoppolo in a position to succeed.
No.26: Zach Wilson, New York Jets
Zach Wilson has missed the last two weeks with injury, but he is poised to return before Week 10. He’s had an up-and-down rookie season, but he has tended to turn the ball over more often than one would like. He has made some spectacular throws. However, he generally makes more turnover-worthy plays than big-time plays in the Jets offense. For the sake of everyone’s sanity, one must hope that Mike LaFleur will send Wilson out with a similar game plan to that of Mike White and Josh Johnson in the last two weeks. The Jets had their two best passing games in 20 years despite the lack of talent at the quarterback position.
No.25: Teddy Bridgewater, Denver Broncos
Teddy Bridgewater is perhaps the most irrelevant quarterback in the NFL. For being a game manager, he does not avoid mistakes as much as you would like. Other quarterbacks make mistakes with the football, but unlike them, Bridgewater offers very little upside at the quarterback position. Furthermore, he is slightly mobile but not mobile enough to do anything magical, and his decision-making is less than ideal for a game manager. He is likely the starter for the rest of the season for a decrepit Broncos team, but this is nothing more than a placeholder for the next failed quarterback experiment in Mile High.
No.24: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger has been generally poor via the eye test, but his stats say he’s been a little bit better than average. Rothlisberger does not have the same sort of zip that he used to have on his deep ball, but he can dial it up once or twice a game. Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool have been dynamic downfield threats when Rothlisberger has been able to hit them. Otherwise, Rothlisberger has adopted the check-down method of playing quarterback as he continually finds Najee Harris for short gains. To Harris’ credit, he leads all pass catchers in missed tackles forced. No wide receiver is within nine of his total.
No.23: Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
Tua Tagovailoa is almost an inverted Josh Allen. He grades out very well, but he is unable to have dominant statistical performances. Tagovailoa is one of the most difficult players in the NFL to make a case for because one must watch all of the film to see that he’s a competent quarterback. If one just looks at the stats, he appears to be a below-average quarterback. However, the eye test generally reveals that Tagovailoa is incredibly accurate with the football to all levels of the field, and he is lost in an offense with two offensive coordinators that don’t know how to coach football.
No.22: Carson Wentz, Indianapolis Colts
Through six weeks, Carson Wentz had just one turnover-worthy play. In Weeks 7 and 8, Wentz combined for seven total turnover-worthy plays. While the Colts were fortunate enough to beat the 49ers in Week 7, they fell to the Titans after Wentz had two horrendous interceptions in the fourth quarter and overtime. He rebounded with a solid Week 9 performance, but this does leave an important question. Should the Colts bench Wentz and keep their first-round pick this season? Indianapolis is not necessarily out of a playoff spot, but the team would need divine intervention for the Titans to blow the AFC South. Otherwise, the Colts must win many difficult games including games against the Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, and Arizona Cardinals.
No.21: Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
With Odell Beckham gone, will Baker Mayfield improve? That question remains to be answered, but he does have a history of elite play when Beckham is out of the picture. In 2018 and the second half of 2020, Mayfield was regarded as a top 10 to 12 quarterback even without one of the most effective playmakers in NFL history in Beckham. With OBJ, Mayfield flirted with being a bottom-five to -ten quarterback. This season, the touchdown distribution in Cleveland has done Mayfield zero favors, but he does need to be more productive than his PFF passing grade will show you.
No.20: Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
Jalen Hurts is probably the best bad quarterback in recent NFL history. On tape, he does a variety of generally stupid things including escaping from clean pockets and not staying past this first read, but he finds an inordinate amount of success out of the structure. While in structure, Hurts is generally O.K., but it is the middle ground between totally in structure and totally out of the structure that Hurts turns into a pumpkin. He hasn’t had an albatross of a game this season, but he is prone to putting the ball in harm’s way more often than other quarterbacks in this range.
No.19: Daniel Jones, New York Giants
Daniel Jones has generally been better than he was his first two seasons, but he has just enough dumb interceptions to make the Giants question if he is the real deal moving forward. In the first seven weeks of the season, Jones had six good games and one absolute, downright atrocity against the Rams. Most quarterbacks have that one outlier game in a season, but Jones’ blowup has been more indicative of a larger problem than Aaron Rodgers having a blowup start in Week 1 against the Saints for example. For as much talent as Jones has, he occasionally turns his brain off and turns into Phillip Walker. For those wondering, Walker is the lowest-rated quarterback that has appeared in multiple games of the season.
No.18: Jordan Love, Green Bay Packers
With Aaron Rodgers out with COVID, Jordan Love will step in and make his first NFL start. In his previous action this season, Love was solid. While it was in garbage time, Love was able to have a big-time throw, and he graded out well for his first NFL action. This is not comparable to playing a full game against a defense that is preparing for you, but it does give Love a solid floor as a quarterback. He is unlikely to be the worst, or the best, quarterback in the NFL, but he’s likely to be closer to the middle of the pack than most other young quarterbacks.
No.17: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan had been trending up in the last few weeks before he delivered one of the worst quarterback games in recent history. Quarterbacks are allowed to miss throws. Quarterbacks are even allowed to throw interceptions. However, performances such as Ryan’s last week are fireable offenses. He was such a catastrophe that if the Falcons had played 10-on-11 and run wildcat every play, they likely would’ve been more competitive. It is one of Ryan’s worst-ever games, and it is a catastrophe that he was allowed to be on TV across the country last Sunday.
No.16: Tyrod Taylor, Houston Texans
Tyrod Taylor is finally back at the helm for the Texans. When he was healthy, Houston had a competent offense. When Davis Mills was at quarterback, the Texans varied from O.K. to downright high school level in terms of offensive production. Taylor should raise the floor of the Houston offense, and he could even guide the Texans to a handful of wins down the stretch. The Texans should likely be underdogs in every game the rest of the way, but they could knock off the likes of Miami or Jacksonville down the stretch.
No.15: Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars lost in Seattle last week in a pitiful display of offense. Lawrence did not necessarily look poor, but he did not make enough plays for the Jaguars to score more than one touchdown. While this might not be a cause for concern against most defenses, Seattle’s defense has been unable to stop a bloody nose this season. However, the Seahawks kept Lawrence and the Jaguars in a box offensively, only letting them out to score a late meaningless touchdown. Lawrence has more high-end upside than quarterbacks in this area, but he does have many turnover-worthy plays from trying to do too much.
No.14: Mac Jones, New England Patriots
Mac Jones is limited as a passer, but these limitations force Jones to be productive at what he does best. He has been the beneficiary of many contested catches by the likes of Kendrick Bourne and N’Keal Harry, but Jones is playing at a high level, especially for a rookie. He may never win an MVP or be an elite quarterback, but most NFL teams would kill to have a quarterback of Jones’ caliber this season.
No.13: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
By pure talent, Patrick Mahomes is unquestionably in the top three. However, the on-field production and the game tape have been against Mahomes this season. While he does have many interceptions off of deflected passes or receiver drops, he has just as many stupid decisions that he did not pay the price for. This is similar to last year as he had more than a dozen dropped interceptions on the season. Turnover luck has swung in the opposite direction, but Mahomes is often putting himself in a bad situation by not taking check-downs or easy completions. It is likely due to a variety of factors including Kansas City‘s terrible defense, but Mahomes has no patience. This lack of patience exacerbates his terrible decision-making.
No.12: Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
Ryan Tannehill has been solid in 2021. His tape has been better than the statistical production, but neither has been particularly inspiring in the last few weeks. Tannehill is one of the more likely quarterbacks to have a stupid interception in any given week, but he does have enough weeks without a dumb interception to be viewed as a generally competent quarterback. With Derrick Henry gone, Tannehill will shoulder more of the offensive load. However, with A.J. Brown blossoming into a superstar, Tannehill may be able to get away with more above-average play for the rest of the season.
No.11: Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert is very similar to a certain quarterback in Kansas City. While he does have an otherworldly amount of talent, he has generally questionable decision-making matched with an overwhelming desire to be the second coming of Jesus when he throws the football. Herbert has all of the talents in the world, but this talent goes to waste when he is forcing the issue as much as he is. In the last couple of weeks, the Ravens and Patriots have defended Herbert and the Los Angeles passing attack very well, causing Herbert to be stressed in the pocket and make ill-advised throws. Herbert will make enough positive plays to outweigh the negatives over the course of a season, but the negatives have pooled to the last few weeks.
No.10: Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
Not everything that happened on Sunday Night Football is Kirk Cousins‘ fault, but it was an ugly display of football from the Vikings as a franchise. In the first seven weeks of the season, Cousins was among the better quarterbacks in the league. He graded out well, and he had a dynamic statistical profile. While he is helped by a top-10 receiver in Justin Jefferson, Cousins is making awesome throws on a weekly basis. In Week 8, this philosophy went out of the window as the Vikings played perhaps the most pathetic four quarters of football in recent NFL history.
No.9: Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders
Derek Carr and the Raiders enjoyed a Week 8 bye. He is on the fringe of the MVP consideration, and a strong end of the season would go a long way in Carr being a realistic MVP candidate for the second time in his career. While he will be without Henry Ruggs for the rest of the season, Carr has a solid rapport with the likes of Darren Waller and Bryan Edwards. If Carr can continue to be an effective deep-ball quarterback, he and the Raiders win many more games. They might even steal the AFC West from the Chiefs.
No.8: Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Josh Allen managed to rise up the MVP rankings despite looking lackluster for most of the game against Miami. Allen has been very good in 2021, but his overall stats are a tad bit misleading. He has ten turnover-worthy plays including nine turnover-worthy throws, but he’s only thrown three interceptions. This is generally a good thing, but if Allen suddenly has a slew of turnovers, there is historical precedent in his film from the first few weeks. Otherwise, Allen has been very good and continued upon his stellar 2020 season. He may turn the ball over or put the ball in harm’s way more often than you would like an elite quarterback to do, but he brings more than enough positives.
No.7: Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
Matthew Stafford might be the MVP front-runner through eight weeks. He has a stellar statistical profile, and the eye test has been good enough in a year that no quarterback has been leaps and bounds better than the rest. With injuries and COVID afflicting other top quarterbacks, Stafford should continue to build a strong case to win his first MVP. He has an incredible rapport with Kupp, and one should expect that connection to continue to be fruitful for the Rams.
No.6: Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Lamar Jackson and the Ravens enjoyed a Week 8 bye. In Week 7 the offense stumbled to just 17 points, but the total is slightly misleading as they were chasing the game for much of the second half. Under normal game script, the Ravens likely score a few extra points, but with this accelerated game script, they were forced to turn the ball over on downs several times. Either way, Jackson has been efficient as a downfield passer, and he is shown flashes of being one of the best passers in both the short and intermediate areas of the field this season. His statistical profile is not impressive, but his on-field performance is a major reason why the Ravens are at the top of the AFC North.
No.5: Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow had a fluky late-game interception against the Jets, hurting an otherwise terrific performance. Burrow is the only quarterback in the NFL to start more than five games and have multiple passing touchdowns in every game. He has the statistical profile that some quarterbacks in the MVP conversation do not have, but he and the Bengals are only 5-3 while other teams have better records. Burrow and the Bengals are likely a year ahead of schedule, but it is encouraging to see Burrow play at this high of a level. He is one of the better decision-makers in the league, and has enough mobility to be dangerous in the pocket and as a short-area runner.
No.4: Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
All will be forgotten if Tom Brady and the Buccaneers win another Super Bowl, but Brady had one of his weird games against the Saints in Week 8. In 2020, Brady had two terrible games against the Saints, but nothing mattered because the Bucs went on the incredible run to the Super Bowl. This year, Brady may have dashed his walk to the MVP with a horrific performance in New Orleans. While this is only one game out of the large collection, it is a massive step in the wrong direction for the G.O.A.T.
No.3: Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
Kyler Murray‘s Week 9 status is in doubt, but he would be limited if he does play. He will stay in the rankings because he is likely back for Week 10 either way, but it would be a major blow to the Cardinals to be without Murray. Murray has a strong MVP case, but a Week 8 loss and Week 9 injury has diminished his lead (if he still has the lead). Injuries are beginning to mount on both sides of the ball, so Murray is critical for Arizona’s chances of winning the NFC West for the first time since 2015.
No.2: Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Dak Prescott did not play in Week 8 as he was nursing a calf injury, but he’s likely to play in Week 9. Prescott has one of the easiest jobs in the NFL as he is surrounded by elite talent at the running back position, wide receiver position, tight end position, and across the offensive line. Despite this relatively easy job, Prescott makes it easier on himself because he is a solid decision-maker and one of the faster processors in the NFL. He may never wow you with his arm talent like other quarterbacks in the league, but he is resoundingly consistent for a position known for its inconsistency.
No.1: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson is not technically back, but the Seahawks have a Week 9 bye. Wilson recently got a pin removed from his thumb, so his Week 10 outlook is bright. When healthy, he has been the NFL’s top quarterback by a wider margin than one might expect. Among quarterbacks with his number of dropbacks, Wilson leads the league in yards per attempt, big-time throw percentage, and turnover-worthy play percentage. He is fifth in average depth of target and third in adjusted completion percentage, two stats that are often inversely proportional to each other.
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