Taking a break from the MJ LeBron GOAT debate, one of the hottest topics in sports today are the standing of NFL QBs. Many analysts will just examine and rank QBs 1-32 and call it a day, but that is not the best way rank them. For an extremely valuable QB, the difference between his ability and the ability of the QB next on the list can be far greater than just one number. This is why, to rank QBs accurately, you must do it in tiers. This allows you to show how QBs stand against others around the league with similar skill sets and abilities, while also making it clear that difference between an Aaron Rodgers and a Kirk Cousins is a lot more than just a few numbers. Stats are an important part of the evaluation of QBs, but they are not the end all be all. Stats don’t lie, but they may not paint an entire picture. That’s why the overall performance of the offense is crucial to understanding a QBs’ worth, whether it be how he affects his receivers and running backs or vice versa. So, without further ado, here are part one of my 2018 Training Camp QB rankings.
The QBs have been divided into 7 Tiers labeled the following:
A Hall of Fame Class- Top QBs in a different Universe than all others
B These Guys are Good- Considered Franchise QBs, and can play at that level when given a solid supporting cast, but may struggle without some help
C Help Wanted- Some are considered Franchise guys and have played at that level at times. These QBs are much like the last tier, but are more susceptible to the boom or bust of having a good team or bad team around them.
D Flashes- Often young QBs who are hard to rank, guys who have shown some potential and played really good football at times, but lacked the consistency of the Franchise QBs they are expected to be.
E Water Under the Bridge- Classic Bridge QBs who can be serviceable in the right situation. Some past their primes trying to hold on, others plagued by the limitations of their skillsets.
F Still Looking- Their teams are still looking for a franchise QB, and it’s usually not them.
U Undecided- There is no way to know what these guys will turn into, time will tell where they rank.
The Jury is Still Out (U)
Lamar Jackson- He is the NFL’s most athletic QB since Michael Vick and hasn’t even played a snap for the Baltimore Ravens. Jackson won the Heisman in 2016 and took home ACC Player of the Year honors in 2017 capping a historic career at Louisville. Baltimore traded back into the first round to select Jackson with the final pick of the 1st round in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Louisville product led the ACC in rushing yards, passing yards, and rushing TDs as a dual threat QB. He will undoubtably put pressure on incumbent starter Joe Flacco in training camp, and the Ravens hope he can grow into their starter sooner rather than later. Jackson’s unique skill set makes him attractive to the Ravens brass as a potential difference maker, but his 57.0% completion rate at Louisville raises some concern.
Tier Rank: 7th Overall: 37
Josh Rosen- Early in the 2018 Draft process, Josh Rosen was heralded as the most pro-ready QB in the class coming out of UCLA. Rosen’s film is impressive, showing a combination of intermediate throw accuracy and deep ball touch. The biggest questions for the former Bruin have been his injury/concussion history, and apparent attitude concerns from NFL executives. He missed a total of 8 games in his Sophomore and Junior seasons, and was accused of not wholeheartedly investing in football. In a little less than a full season, Rosen finished with 3756 passing yards and 26 TDs; both marks good for 2nd in the PAC-12. He experienced a bit of a draft day slide, but was ultimately scooped up by the Cardinals with the 10th overall pick. Rosen shares the Arizona QB room with veteran Sam Bradford, so starting Week 1 may not be likely even if he is the most ready. First-year head coach Steve Wilks seems intent on starting the season with Bradford, but his extensive injury history may force the Cardinals to turn to Rosen as a starter at some point this season.
Tier Rank: 6th Overall: 36
Josh Allen- Oh boy this was a gamble, and I hope for Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane that it works out. Josh Allen was by far the biggest boom or bust prospect in the draft. NFL scouts are on the record saying that Allen possesses the best arm that they have ever seen. The downside to Allen of course, is the concern over his ability to accurately deliver the football, completing 56.2% in his career at Wyoming. Allen was considered by Cleveland with the first overall pick but fell to 7 after some 4-year old insensitive tweets resurfaced, marginally affecting his draft stock. To move up and select Allen, Buffalo parted with two second round picks in the 2018 Draft. The Wyoming Product threw for 3203 yards and 28 TDs as a Sophomore in 2016 but struggled some in 2017 throwing for 1812 yards and 16 TDs. Bills brass have clung to the idea that Allen has played well with better players, something Allen’s play does support. Wyoming was a much better football team in 2016 than 2017, and Allen, when surrounded by much better talent at the Senior Bowl, played well. Despite being labeled a project, the Firebaugh, CA native maybe the rookie most likely to start as a product of the Bills lack of QB depth. Allen will battle Nathan Peterman and AJ McCarron to become Buffalo’s starter.
Tier Rank: 5th Overall: 35
Sam Darnold- Many draft analysts considered Darnold to the 2018’s QB1. The Jets sure think so, as they surrendered three 2nd round picks to move up from 6 to 3 in a pre-draft trade with the Indianapolis Colts. Scouts like Darnold’s makeup, accuracy, and poise at such a young age. The So Cal product completed 63% of his passes and threw for 4143 yards and 26 TDs, good for 1st and 2nd in the Pac-12 respectively. He also led the conference in total yards and TDs responsible for in his Redshirt Sophomore campaign. The knock on Darnold coming out of USC was his tendency to turn the football over at times, throwing 13 INTs in his final year as a Trojan. Although Darnold receives favorable projection, many NFL executives expect him to need time to develop before playing meaningful snaps, and the Jets are equipped with veteran QBs Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater to allow Darnold the necessary time to develop into an NFL-ready talent. It would be surprising to see Darnold get much action in 2018, but with the Jets anything can happen.
Tier Rank: 4th Overall: 34
Baker Mayfield- The Cleveland Browns selected the fiery Heisman Trophy winner with the 1st pick in the 2018 Draft after becoming the second team to record a winless season in NFL history. The former Sooner possesses great accuracy, plus arm-strength, in-pocket mobility, and is the best competitor in this QB class. Mayfield’s question marks stem from off the field antics including an arrest involving running from the police and questionable on field behavior in incidents seen at Kansas and Ohio State. His stature at 6’1 concerned some NFL execs, but evidently the Browns were not overly concerned. 2017 was a magical year for Mayfield, he took home the Heisman trophy after completing an NCAA leading 70.5% of his passes for 4627 yards and 43 TDs which both ranked 2nd in the nation. He led the country in yards per attempt, passing efficiency rating, yards per play, and TDs responsible for. In the pre-draft process Mayfield declared that he would not spend 2018 as a backup, but the Cleveland organization had other plans after acquiring Tyrod Taylor from Buffalo this offseason. Head Coach Hue Jackson has declared Taylor the unquestioned starter, but it remains to be seen if and when the Browns could press their QB of the future into action.
Tier Rank: 3rd Overall: 33
Mitchell Trubisky- Mitch Trubisky looked like a QB who needed time to develop before being thrust into NFL action. Unfortunately, John Fox could only wait 4 games. The Bears signed Mike Glennon last offseason to steer the ship in 2017 so Trubisky could learn and grow into the eventual starter, but Glennon flamed out rather quickly, forcing the Bears to go to Trubisky earlier than they had hoped. The 2017 2nd overall pick struggled, but improved as the season went on, he posted a 4-8 record as a starter and chucked 7 TDs and 7 INTs in his first 12 starts as a pro. Chicago finished a lowly 30th in total offense and dead last in passing. The former Tar Heel wasn’t great in his inaugural season, but then again neither was Jared Goff, and the Bears hope they just hired their own Sean McVay. John Fox now works at ESPN and the Bears hired former Chiefs OC Matt Nagy to help develop the Franchise QB. Trubisky has plus arm strength and completed 59% of his throws last year, so Chicago has faith that Nagy will be able to utilize Trubisky’s skill set in order to see a Jared Goff like jump in his Sophomore season.
Tier Rank: 2nd Overall: 32
Patrick Mahomes- The Kansas City Chiefs paid a pretty penny in draft capital to move up and select Patrick Mahomes with the 10th overall pick in the 2017 Draft. Mahomes is known for the insane arm strength and gunslinger mentality he displayed throughout his career at Texas Tech. The “Magician” spent 2017 sitting behind Alex Smith who had a really productive year until KC unraveled in a 2nd half collapse in their AFC Wild Card loss to the Tennessee Titans. He made one start in 2017, leading the Chiefs to a somewhat meaningless win over the Denver Broncos. The rookie flashed his tremendous potential in that start completing 22 of his 35 passes for 284 yards, while failing to throw a TD and tossing 1 INT. Andy Reid and Co have tapped Mahomes as the 2018 starter after trading away Alex Smith this offseason. Mahomes lacks the experience to even try and rank him among NFL QBs, but if he can make use of his explosive offensive weapons like Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Travis Kelce the Chiefs newly-anointed Franchise QB will skyrocket up this list.
Tier Rank: 1st Overall: 31
Still Looking (F)
Joe Flacco- Joe Flacco’s 2012 run was one of the more impressive stretches by a QB in recent memory. With a miracle win in Denver followed by a rare postseason triumph in Foxboro, Flacco led the Ravens to a win in the Harbaugh Bowl over the 49ers in an electric finish to a magical season. That Joe Flacco appears to have left the building. Riding the wave of his playoff success, Flacco cashed in nicely to the tune of a 3 year 66-million-dollar contract with 44 million guaranteed. He has not come close to living up to his bank account. The 2012 Super Bowl MVP has quarterbacked the Ravens to three straight seasons without a playoff appearance, including last year’s debacle in which the Ravens lost at home to the lowly Cincinnati Bengals, allowing the Bills to sneak into the playoffs. Flacco, who holds the 4th highest cap hit in the entre NFL, has not surpassed the 20 TD mark in the last 3 seasons. He posted an abysmal 18 TDs against 13 INTs in 2017, while leading the Ravens to the league’s fourth worst passing rate. Baltimore has an out in Flacco’s contract after 2020, but after drafting Lamar Jackson in round 1,he may not last his contract. If 2018 goes south, it’s only a matter of time until the Ravens hand over the keys to Lamar Jackson. Flacco’s lackluster productivity coupled with his absurd contract place him the dog house of these rankings.
Tier Rank: 5th Overall: 30
Blake Bortles- The Jacksonville Jaguars of 2017 were for real, and no one saw them coming. Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin and first year head coach Doug Marrone built a team that no one wants to play. With a tough, athletic defense and a breakout rookie campaign from Lenard Fournette, Jacksonville has enough talent to give any team nightmares. There is, however one small problem: BLAKE BORTLES IS STILL THE QUARTERBACK OF THIS TEAM. It’s mind boggling that the Jags fail to see that a decent QB could make them the favorite in AFC (Yes, better than the Patriots). Perhaps Coughlan and Marrone subscribe the old-school philosophy of winning with a running game and strong defense, but even that requires a competent game manager, something Bortles does not seem to be. This misstep could cost Jacksonville their championship window, but I guess they are confident in Bortles. Coughlin and Co missed some big opportunities in the last few months to make moves that could have brought this team to a new level. Options like trading for Alex Smith or Tyrod Taylor, making a play for Kirk Cousins in free agency, or trading up for a rookie QB all would have presented an upgrade to the QB position. Instead, they solidify their standing in QB purgatory by inking Bortles to a mind-blowing 3 year 54-million-dollar extension. He threw for an abysmal 21 TDs against 13 INTs in an offense that finished 17th in passing, a gross underachievement with the weapons at Bortles’ disposal. The former 3rd overall pick’s lack of value was on full display in his first career playoff start where he threw 87 yards. Yes, not a typo, 87 yards. Bortles improved marginally (It’s hard to get worse) throughout the rest of the Jags postseason run, but he finds himself low on this list for being a major liability on an otherwise championship caliber team.
Tier Rank: 4th Overall: 29
Josh McCown- The Jets weren’t very good last year, but they were worse when Josh McCown missed the final 3 weeks of the season with a broken hand. The journeyman QB quietly put together a pretty solid season tossing 18 TD passes and nearly 3000 yards. The Jets finished a lackluster 28th in total offense in 2018. McCown is a lifetime backup who has played decently in the right situations, but his career 23-50 record with 8 different teams does not excite the average football fan. He is consistent and steady as a bridge and mentor but has the least upside of the other bridge QBs on this list. He will likely hold down the fort until the Jets turn to Sam Darnold (who is less than a year older than McCown’s daughter) to take the reins. McCown’s standing as a placeholding QB with limited career success ranks him in this spot.
Tier Rank: 3rd Overall: 28
Ryan Tannehill- Ryan Tannehill has down some god things in his short career, but he has not lived up to the high expectations set for him when Miami selected him 8th overall in 2012. The Dolphins have been mediocre in his tenure, finishing with a winning record only once, a 2016 season that was cut short for him due to a torn ACL. The A&M product had a bounce back season under first year head coach Adam Gase after a tough 2015, throwing for 19 TDs and 12 INTs in 13 games, while amassing nearly 3000 yards. Tannehill’s lack of consistent play and injury history have some in the Dolphins organization ready to move on from him, as it was reported that Miami considered selecting a QB in this April’s draft. Of all the QBs in this tier, Tannehill has the most potential to stick with his team and move up this list, but for now, due to a lack of consistency and ability to stay healthy, Tannehill finds himself near the bottom.
Tier Rank: 2nd Overall: 27
Andy Dalton- Andy Dalton has played decently since coming into the league in 2011, and while the Bengals have had some good moments with him as their QB, it hasn’t translated to postseason success for a team that has not won a playoff game in 27 years. For Dalton, 2017 just didn’t cut it. He threw for 25 TDs and just 12 INTs, but that was after the offense scored just 9 points in their first 2 games. After firing OC Ken Zampese, Bill Lazor took over and steered Dalton and the rest of the crew to a better rest of the season, but then again it’s hard to get any worse. 2017 saw Cincinnati finish 27th in the league in passing and finish dead last in total offense. Dalton has been serviceable but has not been someone you’d confuse as a Franchise QB as his zero playoff wins indicate. The Red Rifle had had little help from the organization that he plays for, which inexplicably retained Marvin Lewis after another lost season. Cincinnati has played adequate defense in the last 5 years or so, but have lacked a reliable offensive line and running game that their QB has not compensated for. Dalton has never been gifted with great support outside of AJ Green, and will need to lead the Bengals out of the basement on offense to move up this list.
Tier Rank: 1st Overall: 26
Water Under the Bridge (E)
Tyrod Taylor-This tier of QB presents a challenging component when ranking them: evaluation of their supporting cast. For Tyrod Taylor, this is crucial. It is reasonable to believe Taylor would be higher on this list if he had more reliable receiving threats. None of these QBs are considered Franchise guys, so the pieces put in place around them make a huge difference. Taylor threw for 37 TDs in 2 seasons with Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods at WR, but unfortunately for Taylor, QBs who make their receivers better have value, not the other way around. He threw for 14 TDs and 4 INTs in 2017 when both Woods and Watkins packed for L.A., but ranked 25th in passing yards and led a Bills offense that sat 29th in the league and scored 4 total TDs in 7 games against playoff competition. Taylor does offer an added dimension of mobility, finishing third in both rushing among QBs as well as avoiding sacks. The Tyrod debate is certainly a contentious one; his stats are good but the offenses he quarterbacks are not. Taylor is classic game manager, a guy who won’t turn the ball over and won’t lose you the game, but don’t count on him to win it for you either. He is 2-12 when attempting 30 or more passes in his career, and has led only three 4th quarter comebacks in his career. For the Browns, Taylor is perfect. A QB that is consistently average, and won’t turn the ball over. That’s big for a team looking to win at least one game this year. Taylor will certainly avoid the dumpster fire of turnovers that have plagued other Browns QBs in the past and will allow first overall pick Baker Mayfield time to develop. Taylor is serviceable, nothing more nothing less, so don’t expect him to lead any Browns playoff run, the Dawg Pound will have to wait for Mayfield to get them over the hump.
Tier Rank: 5th Overall: 25
Case Keenum- When Sam Bradford lost his season to a torn ACL in week 2, Minnesota thought they were in trouble. Enter third-string QB Case Keenum. Case took the job and ran with it in 2017, and the failed Texans and Rams starter put together his best season to date. He threw for 3547 yards, 22 TDs and just 7 INTs leading to Vikes to a 13-3 record and NFC Championship appearance. Keenum led 3 game winning drives, good for 6th in the league, and completed 67.6% of his passes, the second-best mark among QBs behind only Drew Brees. While the Vikings’ luck would eventually run out in Philadelphia, it was a solid result for a season that many thought was lost early on. The veteran signal caller did benefit from a quality running game (even after Dalvin Cook’s injury) and a strong Mike Zimmer led defense, but was solid throughout his only campaign in Minneapolis. Following the 2017 season the Vikings chose to move on from Keenum in favor of Kirk Cousins, freeing the former Viking to ink a 2-year 36-million-dollar deal with the Denver Broncos. He looks to be a good fit in Denver, playing in a Bill Musgrave QB-friendly system and benefitting from a defense that can hold leads. The Broncos have faith in Keenum. Giving him 36 million and opting not to draft a QB were strong endorsements from John Elway. However, the lack of a long term commitment to Keenum displays that the Broncos see him for what he is: a QB that can be productive in the right situation.
Tier Rank: 4th Overall: 24
Didn’t see your QB? Part 2 of the 2018 QB Ratings will come next week. Stay Tuned.