We are about two months away from the regular season, and one month away from the start of the preseason! Just like we did with the MLB, it’s time to look at the top ten players at each position. Let’s start with the most important position: quarterback. There are obviously a lot of factors that are needed to take into account when judging quarterbacks, who are under a lot of pressure as the faces of their organizations. Though finding a franchise quarterback is arguably the most difficult task for a general manager, the teams that have these ten quarterbacks, and honorable mentions Jared Goff and Deshaun Watson, have the luxury of being set at the position heading into this season. Based off of their production over the past two seasons, here are the top ten quarterbacks in the NFL.
DYAR “gives the value of the quarterback ‘s performance compared to replacement level, adjusted for situation and opponent and then translated into yardage.”
DVOA “represents value, per play, over an average quarterback in the same game situations. The more positive the DVOA rating, the better the player’s performance. Negative DVOA represents below-average offense.”
EYards: “Players with more Effective Yards than standard yards played better than standard stats would otherwise indicate, while players with fewer Effective Yards than standard yards played worse than standard stats would otherwise indicate.”
#10: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Coming into last season, no one knew what to expect from Andrew Luck. He missed all of the 2017 season with a shoulder injury that couldn’t be identified, and hadn’t played a full season since 2014. He started out slow, but starting with a Week 7 win over the Bills, Luck finished strong with an average of 8.77 yards per attempt, (Y/A) and led the Colts to the divisional round of the playoffs. Overall, his 71.7 quarterback rating (QBR) was terrific, as were his 4985 effective yards (EYards). Plus, he ranked in the top ten in Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (DYAR, 1072) and Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA, 13.4%). He continues to be plagued by interceptions – 15 last season – which definitely hurts his position on this list. However, Luck’s second half to the season was undoubtedly outstanding and assuming he builds onto to that success next season, he and the Colts both have an encouraging outlook heading into next season.
#9: Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
In 2017, Carson Wentz was an MVP front-runner; he had a 33-7 touchdown-interception ratio and a 23.8% DVOA. However, he tore his ACL while diving into the end zone versus the Rams in Week 14, and after Nick Foles led Philadelphia to a Super Bowl title, failed to meet high expectations in 2018. Still, that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a productive season. He showed obvious symptoms coming back from the injury, but still averaged more yards per attempt (7.7) and ranked 14th with 549 DYAR despite only playing in 11 games. There is a concern regarding his injury history, which stems from college and also includes a back injury last year, but this was one of the best quarterbacks as recently as 2017. The Eagles should feel great about having Wentz as their franchise quarterback. Hence, the decision to give him an extension. Now, presumably healthy and locked up with a very talented Eagles team, Wentz is a sneaky MVP candidate heading into next season.
#8: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Oftentimes, quarterbacks can go under the radar if they aren’t on a winning team or aren’t flashy. As a result of a disappointing 7-9 season, Matt Ryan’s terrific season was unfortunately overlooked. He excelled in several categories, including 7.71 adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A), 1233 DYAR, an 18.2% DVOA, and 5064 EYards. He also had a terrific touchdown-interception ratio of 35-7, did well despite a rough performance by the offensive line, and also had maintained a steady QBR (68.2 2018, 67.1 2017) over the past two seasons. He may need a little more of a supporting cast that other quarterbacks and lacks an insanely high ceiling, but there’s rarely a variance in his performance; he continues to be extremely reliable for the Falcons, who should have a much better offense this season after firing offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and replacing him with Dirk Koetter.
#7: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
For many years, Ben Roethlisberger has been at the center of explosive offenses. However, with the departures of star receiver Antonio Brown (trade) and running back Le’Veon Bell (free agency) to go along with the loss of right tackle Marcus Gilbert (Cardinals), more pressure will be on Roethlisberger’s shoulders if the Steelers are going to be a playoff team. When dissecting his overall statistics, there are plenty of positives; his 71.8 QBR ranked 4th in the NFL, his 5,424 EYards ranked 2nd, and his 1208 DYAR ranked 5th. However, though those statistics would indicate an elite quarterback, there are many weeks when Roethlisberger struggles; he had eleven games with an AY/A over 7, but also had five weeks with an AY/A of 6.60 below. Meanwhile, he led the league in interceptions (16 last season) and has thrown at least 13 interceptions in each of his last four seasons. It’s very easy to enjoy Roethlisberger when he’s in his groove, as he clearly demonstrates traits of an elite quarterback. However, his inconsistency and reckless style make him somewhat unreliable; this is the highest I can rank him on this list, given those issues, though succeeding with a lesser supporting cast could certainly boost his ranking in future lists.
#6: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
For many years, Aaron Rodgers was considered to be right along with Tom Brady as the best quarterback in the NFL. The talent that Rodgers has flashed throughout his career are still present, but after posting somewhat underwhelming numbers in three of his last four seasons, he falls out of the top five in these rankings. Dealing with injuries in each of the last two seasons, along with a feud with head coach Mike McCarthy, Rodgers clearly wasn’t the same. He’s posted back to back seasons with an ANY/A below 7.00 with a mediocre QBR (60.2, 66) and DVOA (8..2%,7.8%), and even when using the eye test, which usually favors him, he doesn’t look the part of the groundbreaking elite quarterback he once was. Still, that doesn’t mean Rodgers isn’t still a well above average quarterback. He had a 25-2 TD-INT ratio last season, has plenty of excuses with the injuries and McCarthy’s system, and had four games with an AY/A over 10. However, now presumably healthy and in a better situation under new head coach Matt Lafleur, the time is now for Rodgers to prove he’s still capable of posting the outrageous numbers that he once did. Another mediocre season, and his spot on this list entirely could be compromised.
#5: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
For the first 12 weeks of the season, Drew Brees looked to be on his way to winning the MVP award; he was putting up incredible numbers while the Saints had only lost one game. For the rest of the season, however, Brees showed a significant decline; he had an A/Y of 5.68 in three of his last four games, struggled to throw the ball down the field, and couldn’t get the Saints into the Superbowl amid a 6.23 AY/A performance in the NFC Championship Game. Still, Brees’ overall numbers over the past two seasons are fantastic. His 8.41 ANY/A last year was spectacular, especially considering the drop-off, as were his 80.8 QBR and 36.8% DVOA, while he also ranked as Pro Football Focus’ top quarterback. Had Patrick Mahomes not taken the league by storm, Brees still would’ve managed to win the MVP award, which proves how amazing his start to the season was. Even if he lacks the arm talent he once had, but with his accuracy and efficiency (5 INT), he’s still capable for now of succeeding in this short passing heavy offense. I’m incredibly skeptical that Brees will produce like his old self next season, as I am with the Saints as a whole, but until the drop-off is clearer from a larger sample size, he still earns a spot in the top five.
#4: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
When doing this list, there was no tougher quarterback to rank that Russell Wilson; his overall statistics aren’t elite, but what he’s accomplished despite a poor supporting cast illustrates the incredible value he brings to the Seahawks. As mentioned, Wilson’s statistics (65.6 QBR, 3326 EYards, 679 DYAR) aren’t particularly noteworthy, though his 7.28 ANY/A were fine. However, as cited by Pro Football Focus, Wilson’s deep ball efficiency is off the charts, as his ability to make plays both in the pocket and out of the pocket, with the latter skill a necessity for him playing behind a consistently well below average offensive line. Additionally, Wilson is also consistent, and unlike most of the other quarterbacks on this list, provides value via his legs. Rather than hope for a better supporting cast (Ryan, Jared Goff, even Brees at this point), Wilson clearly elevates the players around him, and though I’m breaking my own standard by in a way overlooking his overall numbers, his reliability and his capability to succeed despite having by far the worst talent around him of the quarterbacks on this list earns him a spot in the top five.
#3: Phillip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers
With no Super Bowl championships and no MVP awards, the idea of Phillip Rivers being a future Hall of Famer may seem puzzling. However, the truth is that the 37-year-old has been one of the most underrated players throughout his career, and that remains the case today. When examining his production over the past two seasons, he’s consistently been a top-notch quarterback for the Chargers. He’s had little variance with his DYAR (1321, 1412), DVOA (27.3%, 27.4%), and ANY/A (7.79, 7.6); he’s clearly reliable. Plus, he is coming off of a strong season with a 70.2 QBR last year; he ranked as Pro Football Focus’ 4th best quarterback. Though he does have interceptions issues – he hasn’t had a season with single digit interception totals since 2009 – but that doesn’t mean he’s reckless; he’s efficient and is throwing the ball down the field more (8.5 Y/A last year). Additionally, even though he’s closer to age 40 than age 30, he’s actually improving; I have no concerns over his ability to continue to perform at a high level. With a very talented roster, the Chargers are a force to be reckoned with, and Rivers is at the center of it.
#2: Tom Brady, New England Patriots
“He’s going to fall off a cliff this season.” “This is the end of the Patriots dynasty.” Every year, NFL fans make these bold claims about Tom Brady and the Patriots, partly in hopes that they will indeed come true. However, these claims have not come close to fruition, and this season, things should be no different. It’s not as though Brady didn’t see some regressions last year; his DYAR dropped from 1595 to 1034, his DVOA decreased from 27.8% to 15.4%, and his EYards went down by almost 1000. Still, he remains an elite quarterback, as evidenced by his consistent 70.6 QBR in each of the past two seasons. Additionally, some of that drop-off was by a change in focus; it’s clear, in large part to lengthen Brady’s career, New England invested more in the running game and short passing game. Plus, Brady’s supporting cast was minimal without a true impact receiver, and as illustrated by some of his postseason (at KC and LAC) and regular season performances (vs KC, at CHI, at NYJ, vs MIN, vs NYJ), he still has the capability to be an MVP quarterback that carries his team; he may not be the top quarterback, but he remains a top two quarterback.
#1: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
When the Chiefs moved on from Alex Smith in favor of 2017 first-round pick Patrick Mahomes under center, there were supposed to be growing pains that caused a drop in their offensive productions. That assumption turned out to be as foolish as it gets. Mahomes easily coasted to winning the MVP award as a result of his stellar numbers (8.89 ANY/A, 2039 DYAR, 40.1% DVOA, 81.6 QBR, 5980 EYards), while he led Kansas City to the AFC Championship game. In fact, it would be harder to find a statistic that Mahomes DID NOT lead in than a statistic that he did. Though one may be worried about his limited track record, that resume is already as impressive as it gets; Mahomes is not only the top quarterback in the NFL, but the most talented and overall best player in the entire NFL.