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NFL QB Rankings: Patrick Mahomes is the perfect football player

September 24, 2023

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

I ranked every current starting quarterback in the NFL based on how I think they can perform this upcoming season, taking into account how they have played in the first couple weeks of the new season, as well their play in the last few seasons. The goal of these rankings is to answer the question: “if all things are equal for a team, which players contribute the most to their offense?” Quarterbacks that can carry more of a burden for their offense contribute to greater schematic flexibility and playmaking ability, increasing the ceiling of an offense.

Tier 1: Mahomes Tier:

1: Patrick Mahomes – Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes might be the literal embodiment of a perfect football player. What can’t he do at an elite level? There just isn’t an answer. He is one of one; in what might be the most talented generation of quarterbacks ever, Mahomes stands mountains above the rest. Need Mahomes to be a brutally efficient pocket passer who reads the defense and follows the offense to a tee? Check. Need him to create explosive plays on a whim, inside and outside the structure of the offense? Check. Last year we saw Mahomes at his absolute peak, with every aspect of his game firing on all cylinders, and he was impossible to stop against any defense even with a below-average receiving core. Mahomes isn’t like most successful quarterbacks of the past; but he doesn’t have to be, because he’s the best to ever play.
Biggest strength: Decision-making
Biggest “weakness”: Accuracy

Tier 2: Best of the Rest:

2: Josh Allen – Buffalo Bills
Allen is the most physically talented quarterback in the league right now, leading the league or coming close to it in size, strength, and speed. These attributes, as well as strong processing, have made him an unstoppable weapon against defenses at his peak, reaching levels that only he and Mahomes can. At his best last year, Allen was making explosive plays down the field and making good decisions to check down when needed. However, Allen can be prone to making bad mistakes, including throwing inexplicable interceptions or succumbing to bad sacks. If he can consistently avoid mistakes, he could challenge Mahomes as the best on this list.
Biggest strength: Arm Strength
Biggest weakness: Decision-making

3: Lamar Jackson – Baltimore Ravens
Jackson is probably the most unconventional quarterback in league history, which is why when the time came to negotiate a new contract this summer, teams had some reservations. They were worried that he wasn’t a consistent processor and that he had weak throwing mechanics. However, the power his mobility and playmaking have over defenses more than makes up for any of his potential limitations as a passer. In fact, Jackson is quite a talented thrower with a quick release, ability to throw from different angles, and a high velocity on the ball. His unparalleled mobility facilitates a top 5 rushing attack for the Ravens every year, because even when he doesn’t have the ball, his gravity opens up rushing lanes for running backs and forces defenses to adapt, opening up passing lanes down the field. Jackson can and will return to MVP form over this season.
Biggest strength: Creativity
Biggest weakness: Processing

4: Justin Herbert – Los Angeles Chargers
Herbert has all the talent in the world, and he knows how to use it, processing defenses brilliantly and maintaining composure in the pocket to limit mistakes like sacks. He might have the strongest arm in the league, powered by some of the best throwing mechanics. Herbert may have the highest processing speed of any quarterback in the league and is instantly able to spot when a receiver is open, which has led to his record-breaking success over his early NFL seasons. However, his dedication to following the playbook can lead to some maddeningly conservative checkdowns. If he is able to overcome the mental block that limits his creativity, the sky’s the limit; his arm talent is unlimited, he’s not affected by pressure, and he rarely makes mental mistakes.
Biggest strength: Pocket Presence
Biggest weakness: Creativity

5: Trevor Lawrence – Jacksonville Jaguars
When Lawrence entered the NFL draft, he was essentially the perfect prospect, demonstrating time after time at Clemson his ability to make any throw on the field, avoid pressure, and release the ball lightning quick. If all of that transferred to his pro career, his team was going to greatly benefit. And luckily for Jacksonville, it did. Lawrence is a good processor with the ability to get himself out of trouble and create explosive throws. Lawrence may occasionally have some lapses in decision-making or accuracy, but he’s just about the best you can expect from a 23-year-old.
Biggest strength: Pocket Presence
Biggest weakness: Accuracy

6: Joe Burrow – Cincinnati Bengals
Burrow is one of the smartest quarterbacks in the NFL. Often before a play even starts, he can diagnose a defense and greatly simplify his decision-making. He is usually able to get the ball out quickly, but can also create explosive gains to receivers downfield if necessary. He can consistently find and attack open spaces in the defense with precision. Burrow may not possess some of the same physical tools as the quarterbacks around him and is prone to taking sacks, but his mental advantage more than makes up for it. As he battles a calf injury, it will be interesting to see whether he can move back up these rankings.
Biggest strength: Accuracy
Biggest weakness: Arm Strength

Tier 3: Elite QBs … with the Right Supporting Cast

7: Jalen Hurts – Philadelphia Eagles
For Hurts, it starts with his mobility: Hurts’s speed and strength allow him to essentially be an extra man for the offense instead of a statue who cannot contribute much to the offense when outside the pocket. The gravity Hurts creates pulls defenses closer to the line of scrimmage, allowing him to use his arm strength and accuracy to make big gains downfield, making the Eagles offense nearly impossible to defend. Of course, Hurts has some holes in his game, including that he can sometimes leave the pocket too quickly and miss some open receivers. He is still an accurate quarterback with good arm strength, who has gotten better every year since his first year in college, so we could see him vault up this list.
Biggest strength: Creativity
Biggest weakness: Pocket Presence

8: Dak Prescott – Dallas Cowboys
For years, Prescott has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the NFL. He is consistently able to find both big plays down the field and successful smaller plays. He is one of the smarter processors in the league, who can diagnose a defense well and hit receivers in stride. Unfortunately, he is somewhat of a statue in the pocket, and refuses to use his mobility to create plays outside of structure. His accuracy still allows him to elevate the offense, but some creativity would help.
Biggest strength: Processing
Biggest weakness: Creativity

9: Matthew Stafford – Los Angeles Rams
By far the oldest quarterback yet, Stafford is still one of the more talented throwers in the league, using his big arm to find open receivers in a variety of situations. He is a very good processor, but often trusts his pre-snap processing too much and is tricked by opposing defenses. Despite his all-around talent, his lack of playmaking outside the pocket keeps him slightly out of the top tier.
Biggest strength: Arm Strength
Biggest weakness: Decision-making

10: Geno Smith – Seattle Seahawks
Geno checked all the boxes last year, showing strong pocket presence, quick processing, and good downfield accuracy. He was also able to create out-of-structure plays relatively well using his arm strength and speed. However, Smith had some issues with inconsistent decision-making and accuracy. With another year to prepare as the Seahawks’ starter, he could take a leap.
Biggest strength: Arm Strength
Biggest weakness: Decision-making

11: Tua Tagovailoa – Miami Dolphins
Tua has silenced the doubters through the first two weeks of the season, showing off his deep arm strength and ability to make plays outside of structure. Tagovailoa executes the Dolphins offense very well and uses his exceptional accuracy and processing to identify and hit open receivers. He has strong anticipation but often falls victim to tricks by opposing defenses. His baseline skills are strong, however, allowing him to hold a spot around the top 10.
Biggest strength: Processing
Biggest weakness: Arm Talent

Tier 4: System QBs but Good

12: Kirk Cousins – Minnesota Vikings
Cousins might be the ultimate system quarterback, following the directions of an offense to a tee, and making accurate throws on time with good accuracy. However, he often throws too many checkdowns and struggles under pressure; while he is improving in these areas, they are a relative weakness. As he improves his ability to throw the ball downfield and overcome pressure, he could escape the system quarterback label.
Biggest strength: Processing
Biggest weakness: Creativity

13: Jared Goff – Detroit Lions
Goff is one of the best quarterbacks in the league throwing over the middle, and is able to process and find open receivers in that area. However, he sometimes struggles to throw to the outside of the field, and he often cannot find every open receiver on the field. Sometimes, under pressure, he is prone to making mistakes, including taking bad sacks, missing open receivers, and not getting through his progressions. Even with his limitations, however, it is still possible to build a top offense around him.
Biggest strength: Arm strength
Biggest weakness: Creativity

14: Ryan Tannehill – Tennessee Titans
Tannehill is a very tough quarterback who can take and withstand hits and still get throws off. He can process pretty well, and has enough arm strength to hit receivers downfield. Sometimes, his decision-making can be overly aggressive and result in some mistakes, but he can still pilot a good offense.
Biggest strength: Pocket Presence
Biggest weakness: Decision-making

Tier 5: Pure Pocket Passers

15: Derek Carr – New Orleans Saints

16 Mac Jones – New England Patriots

Tier 6: Versatile Athletes with Inconsistent Accuracy

17: Jordan Love – Green Bay Packers

18: Russell Wilson – Denver Broncos

19: Daniel Jones – New York Giants

20: Jimmy Garoppolo – Las Vegas Raiders

21: Brock Purdy – San Francisco 49ers

Tier 7: Young Guns (Some of Whom Are Low on Time)

22: Anthony Richardson – Indianapolis Colts

23: C.J. Stroud – Houston Texans

24: Justin Fields – Chicago Bears

25: Bryce Young – Carolina Panthers

26: Deshaun Watson – Cleveland Browns

27: Baker Mayfield – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

28: Kenny Pickett – Pittsburgh Steelers

29: Sam Howell – Washington Commanders

30: Desmond Ridder – Atlanta Falcons

Tier 8: Welp

31: Josh Dobbs – Arizona Cardinals

32: Zach Wilson – New York Jets

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Brock Purdy at 21?! Really?!?! Do you actually watch the games?! Do you know he’s #2 in total qbr for the season so far?! He’s never lost a start he finished?! He was the highest rated passer in the nfl over time he played last year?! SMH…