Ranking The NFL's Top 10 Quarterbacks Entering 2022 Season
The talent found at quarterback in today's NFL is more exciting than ever.
The Arizona Cardinals' Kyler Murray, Baltimore Ravens' Lamar Jackson, Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen, Cincinnati Bengals' Joe Burrow, Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes and Los Angeles Justin Herbert are all currently 26 or younger.
Those names comprise 60 percent of this year's top-10 quarterbacks for the 2022 campaign.
The old guard isn't ready to step aside, though. The GOAT still roams the field, while a four-time league MVP is ready to make adjustments.
Distinguishing between these immense talents can be difficult. In certain cases, nitpicking is all that separates who projects as a slightly better player this fall. But it's important to understand this is a projection based on what should happen during the upcoming season while factoring in each situation.
On the field, Deshaun Watson is one of the league's most gifted quarterbacks, but he's suspended for 11 games. In Denver, Russell Wilson is in a brand new setup where he must adjust after a down season. Neither made the list.
In fact, no quarterback on a new team did. Stability is important since an adjustment period usually occurs, even for the likes of Tom Brady and Matt Stafford, despite their success in Year 1 with their current squads.
The present and future are blindingly bright for the talent playing behind center. In a quarterback-driven league—which becomes more true with each passing year—the following are the 10 best every time they step into the stadium.
10. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
Imagine how high Kyler Murray would rank on this list if he actually studied the game.
All joking aside, Murray looked like an early MVP candidate last season when the Arizona Cardinals jumped out to a 7-0 start. Ultimately, an ankle injury cost him three games, and the team regressed over the second half of the campaign.
Still, the 25-year-old's combination of dazzling downfield passing and electric creativity when working outside of structure, particularly as a runner, make him a difficult matchup for opposing defenses. Last season, Murray graded as the game's best deep passer, according to Pro Football Focus.
"Murray ranked top-10 in completion percentage, yards per attempt, passer rating and yards on passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield, notably leading starting quarterbacks in PFF grade on those throws," Bryant Horn wrote.
"According to PFF's ball-location data, the Oklahoma product also threw 48.5 percent of his deep attempts in the perfect spot for a receiver. He was the only quarterback to breach the 45.0 percent mark."
The Cardinals wide receiver room is loaded with weapons, too.
This offseason, the organization acquired Marquise Brown, who served as Murray's favorite target when they played together at Oklahoma.
Brown joins A.J. Green, Rondale Moore and DeAndre Hopkins, though the 30-year-old veteran is suspended for the first six games of the season after violating the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy.
Otherwise, the offensive line remains intact with the inclusion of right guard Will Hernandez, and James Conner returns to last year's eighth-ranked offense.
No one should completely overlook the drama between the quarterback and his team this offseason. In the end, both sides agreed to a five-year, $230.5 million contract extension. Murray has the talent, system and surrounding cast to enter the MVP race again this year if the entire franchise puts in the work.
9. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
What quarterback orchestrated the NFL's No. 1-ranked offense last season?
No, it wasn't Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, though all three will appear on this list here shortly.
The Dallas Cowboys led the league at 407 yards per contest. Simply put, Dak Prescott doesn't get enough credit for the caliber of player he's become.
In Prescott's last 21 games as a starter—which includes the injury-shortened 2020 season and 2021 campaign—he's averaged 300.2 passing yards per game and thrown for 46 touchdowns. Tom Brady is the only quarterback to throw for more yards on a per-game average in his last 21 starts.
According to ESPN, Prescott is "the first player in NFL history with 140 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing touchdowns in his first 85 career games."
That Prescott is a former fourth-round pick sometimes sullies his reputation because he's not seen as a fantastic talent in any specific area. But the 29-year-old doesn't need to be. His consistency, toughness and leadership qualities allow him to continually produce at a high level.
"He has good poise in [the pocket], sturdy," an NFL offensive coach told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. "Always been deadly when they space the field in empty. Sometimes needs an extra hitch to confirm things, but he's typically a good decision-maker in their dropback game."
Prescott does have some obstacles to overcome this fall. Wide receiver Amari Cooper is no longer with the team after being traded to the Cleveland Browns. Cooper's replacement in the lineup, Michael Gallup, is still recovering from a torn ACL. The offensive line is in flux after left tackle Tyron Smith suffered a torn hamstring last week.
Nonetheless, Dallas still features plenty of weapons in wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, tight end Dalton Schultz and running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard for Prescott to utilize and keep its top-ranked offense rolling.
8. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
Things couldn't have gone better for the Los Angeles Rams after the organization made the bold decision to trade starting quarterback Jared Goff and multiple draft picks, including two first-rounders, for Matthew Stafford.
A Hollywood ending ensued for the 2009 No. 1 overall draft pick. After years of toiling in a directionless franchise, the Rams captured a Super Bowl victory with Stafford at the helm. In doing so, the 13-year-veteran set career-highs in pass attempts (741), passing yardage (6,074) and passing touchdowns (50) for a single season (including the postseason).
Stafford completed Sean McVay's offensive scheme. The 34-year-old entered the league with explosive arm talent and has been able to make ridiculous off-platform throws for years. He simply didn't get the level of recognition he deserved because of where he played and being forced to carry a usually mediocre-to-bad roster.
In Los Angeles, Stafford expanded the offensive scheme thanks to his passing ability and understanding of the game.
"Bro, this dude's a bad MF-er," McVay told Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer last summer. "Whatever people say about him, as good as it can be, he's even better than advertised. It makes sense to him. The guy's ability to see the game, his ability to draw on his experiences, the feel that he has, it's pretty special and unique."
Stafford enters his second season with the Rams with dreams of winning back-to-back titles. The organization didn't bask in its newfound glory and just enjoy its accomplishment.
General manager Les Snead went out this offseason and signed Allen Robinson II to give the team a vertical threat outside the numbers. Six-time first-team All-Pro Bobby Wagner takes over the middle of the defense after playing 10 seasons with the archrival Seattle Seahawks. Snead also brought corner Troy Hill back in a trade with the Cleveland Browns.
Yes, Andrew Whitworth's retirement and Austin Corbett's departure via free agency will hurt the offensive line. But the Rams have continually invested and developed mid-round draft picks to help offset those losses.
From this point forward, Stafford's health is the biggest concern. But the quarterback's workload began to increase as the regular season neared. The previous inflammation in his throwing elbow may not be as significant as originally thought if managed properly.
7. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
The NFL clearly has Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson figured out, right?
Every narrative used to downplay Jackson's status as an outstanding quarterback has been proved wrong along the way, and he deserves recognition for how good he really is.
Some will automatically argue that Jackson is coming off an injury-plagued campaign with a 16-to-13 touchdown-to-interception ratio without taking into account the outrageous amounts of turmoil the roster underwent last season.
In total, 18 players—including left tackle Ronnie Stanley, Pro Bowl fullback Patrick Ricard, defensive lineman Derek Wolfe, cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters and running backs J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill—found their way to season-ending injured reserve.
"All told, the Ravens racked up 191.2 [adjusted games lost]," Football Outsiders' Scott Spratt noted. "It was the most by a team in our database, and it remains the most when prorated to 16 games."
Despite the heavy losses, Jackson was well on his way to setting career-highs in passing attempts and passing yardage before suffering an ankle injury that cost him the final five games. The 25-year-old quarterback has taken more control of the offense with each passing season.
But what can he do when he's forced to throw?
Excel. According to Sharp Football's Warren Sharp, Jackson posted the highest expected points added per pass attempt when trailing in the second half over the last three seasons.
He's also the league's second-best red-zone passer since the start of the 2019 campaign, per Inside Edge NFL.
Jackson is truly unique in a league of exceptional athletes. He's been the MVP, led the league in touchdown passes and rewrote quarterback rushing records.
The team around Jackson is coming back mostly healthy this season, and the fifth-year signal-caller can build upon an already stellar resume as the NFL's best offensive weapon.
"Anytime he has the football in his hands, he's the most dangerous person in the world," Pro Bowl safety Tyrann Mathieu said during the NFL Top 100 telecast (h/t Sarah Ellison of Ravens Vault podcast).
6. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
There can be only one, and Tom Brady is the NFL's version of the Highlander. He is immortal. He's never going to stop playing football. He may need a break from the sport for a short period, but the idea he'll permanently retire now seems quaint.
Why would even he consider truly stepping away from the game when he's playing as well as ever has well into his 40s?
Unbelievably, the 22-year veteran set career highs last season with 485 completions, 719 pass attempts and 5,316 passing yards. Granted, those numbers came during the league's newly formatted 17-game season, but they're still staggering, considering he did it at 44 years old.
The Buccaneers also featured the game's No. 1 passing attack. Their quarterback has averaged more passing yards per game (301.5) than any other since joining the squad.
Tampa Bay claims one of the league's most talented rosters, though Brady changed the locker room and expectations throughout the entire franchise. The offense flows through him, and he expects the most from his teammates. At this point, Brady has done it all. His ability to process pre- and post-snap is at a level never before seen, and it shows up on the field.
"You still need Brady's mind to make it work," an NFL personnel evaluator told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. "His ability to manipulate defenders with his eyes, anticipate and throw with location is still the best."
Anyone still betting against Brady should be checked to make sure they're OK. He's the best who's ever played the position and possibly the best to ever play the game.
Yet two points can be fairly argued as to why he's not among this year's top five quarterbacks.
Slight regression should be expected because surpassing those career-highs in two straight seasons is asking far too much. From a roster standpoint, Brady is a pure pocket passer and always struggled with consistent pressure, particularly when it collapses the pocket's interior. Well, the Buccaneers' offensive line is going through significant changes.
Last year's starting guards—Ali Marpet and Alex Cappa—retired and left in free agency, respectively. General manager Jason Licht acquired Shaq Mason from the New England Patriots to replace Cappa. Otherwise, left guard and center are major concerns.
Aaron Stinnie suffered a torn ACL and MCL last week, which places second-round rookie Luke Goedeke in the spotlight. Ryan Jensen was arguably the best center in the game, but the Pro Bowl center suffered a season-ending knee injury at the onset of training camp. To make matters worse, backup pivot Robert Hainsey is now dealing with an ankle injury.
Furthermore, wide receivers Chris Godwin and Russell Gage continue to recover from injuries.
Brady will work around these things, of course. He is too good not to do so, and the Buccaneers offense will remain on track for the most part. But it's easy to project a slight downturn in overall performance.
5. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers is the reigning back-to-back NFL MVP, yet he's not even included among the top-four quarterbacks for the upcoming season.
To paraphrase the late, great Vince Lombardi, "What the hell is going on around here?"
Rodgers may be the most perfect passer the league has ever seen, with the type of natural throwing ability that's often awe-inspiring. However, someone must be on the other end to make the catch. Therein lies the rub.
Rodgers could be nearly as good as we've seen the last two seasons, but the Packers offense will take a step back. After trading Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders, Green Bay's wide receivers consist of Allen Lazard, the free-agent acquisition of Sammy Watkins, veteran Randall Cobb, Amari Rodgers and rookies Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs.
The real value in Aaron Rodgers' work this season should be in how he helps develops these options.
"The greatest gift I can give my teammates, in my opinion, is to be able to show up and to be someone who can model unconditional love to them," Rodgers said during an interview on the Aubrey Marcus Podcast (h/t MSN's Nina Zdinjak). "They won't care about what you say until they know how much you care."
The 38-year-old quarterback hasn't always been the most patient with his young wide receivers. He expects a lot, and targets can quickly lose his trust. Rodgers' presence must help them because none of them will step in and realistically replace Adams.
A different Rodgers must emerge where he spreads the ball out more frequently and doesn't give up on someone after he runs the wrong route or drops a pass. If the quarterback does those things, his performance can be considered a partial success, even if his numbers dip.
It's also not unfair to question why the Packers haven't experienced more success during Rodgers' latest run. His on-field performance has been exceptional in almost every way, but the team seems stuck in a holding pattern, incapable of reaching the Super Bowl. Maybe Rodgers isn't willing to take those chances when games matter the most.
The hardware is nice, and Rodgers remains an elite passer. Still, the timing feels right for younger quarterbacks to surpass him this season.
4. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals exceeded every single expectation last season with a trip to Super Bowl LVI. The team came up short, but the excitement over quarterback Joe Burrow's performance throughout the year and the immense talent found among the Bengals' skill positions should reach an all-time high.
Burrow's skill set is different than many of the league's top, young quarterbacks. He's mobile and can create outside of structure, but his game is predicated on precision and feel. Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan explained, per the Ringer's Kevin Clark:
"Joe’s greatest gift is he’s got an incredible perception of what everybody on the field is doing and where they are located. So his ‘making every throw’ is gonna look a little different sometimes than [Aaron] Rodgers or [Patrick] Mahomes. He doesn’t necessarily have that huge, awkward body position, that kind of power those guys have. He can make a lot of throws. But Mahomes, where he takes nine steps back and he’s off his back foot and throws it 60, that might necessarily not be in Joe’s bag. He’s probably not far off it—the difference is minuscule to me—but [Rodgers and Mahomes] do have some freakish body control things that they do that’s different than really anybody in the world."
Callahan added, "When the pattern comes up, he can feel things happening, and his decision-making is so fast and he’s so accurate that there’s no throw on the field he can’t find."
Burrow's strengths come from his unflappable pocket presence, along with outstanding anticipation and ball placement. To the first point, defenses sacked Burrow more than any other quarterback last season.
He consistently faced pressure, yet he was graded as the league's best quarterback, according to Pro Football Focus. Burrow also posted the highest passer rating when working from a clean pocket, pressured or forced out of the pocket. His 14 deep passing touchdowns finished first as well.
The Bengals also have many offensive weapons in Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon and the newly acquired Hayden Hurst. The talented group was already good enough to win a Super Bowl. The offensive line wasn't, though.
Cincinnati spent this offseason upgrading its front five with the acquisitions of Ted Karras, Alex Cappa, La'el Collins and rookie Cordell Volson.
Imagine Burrow and those weapons wreaking havoc when the quarterback is properly protected. A collective shudder just went down the spine of opposing defensive coordinators.
3. Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
The end of the 2021 campaign left a bitter taste in the Los Angeles Chargers' mouths after missing the playoffs because of an overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 18. Yet the team knows exactly what it has in quarterback Justin Herbert.
"The first person that I was thinking about was Justin. I wasn't thinking about anything or anybody else," Staley told The Athletic's Daniel Popper. "For me, I came into this, and I said, I know I have a special quarterback. I also know part of my responsibility is to train him. Part of my responsibility is to get him ready. And I also know that if I take the ball out of his hands, I know what that's going to do, too.
“For him to grow and be as good as he’s going to be, he needs to be in these pressure-packed moments. Whether he throws it or not, it’s not the point. It’s that the ball is in his hands, it’s in our hands as a team, and that is where it all started for me."
The 2020 sixth overall pick has been nothing short of exceptional since he stepped onto an NFL field. In Herbert's first season, he set multiple league records, including the most touchdown passes (31) by a rookie. He built on his initial effort and became a Pro Bowl in Year 2 after passing for 5,014 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Herbert is the entire package from both a physical and mental standpoint. He's 6'6" and 236 pounds. Despite his size, he's mobile and an effective runner to extend plays. The third-year quarterback also has a cannon strapped to his right shoulder. Only a few quarterbacks can drive the ball down the field like Herbert can, particularly when he's on the move.
The 24-year-old is genuinely brilliant, too. Herbert won the William V. Campbell Trophy, aka the academic Heisman, during his final season on campus. He carried a 4.01 grade point average in college while focusing on the field of biology. He'll continue to learn more as he plays, especially since he's entering the second year in Joe Lombardi's offensive scheme.
"He's a lot more comfortable this year," Lombardi said. "Probably experimenting a little bit out here with some throws, being a little more aggressive and testing the limits of things."
Center Corey Linsley added, "He's making calls now. And he's making adjustments and stuff. Last year, he was maybe a little hesitant."
A more confident Herbert, while adding tight end Gerald Everett and first-round guard Zion Johnson, can elevate an already potent Chargers offense into the league's best.
2. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
For the first time since Josh Allen has been an NFL quarterback, he'll be without offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.
Allen benefited from the stability found within the organization since he entered the league. During Allen's first four seasons, the Buffalo Bills had the same head coach and offensive play-caller. The setup allowed a developmental prospect with plus physical tools to blossom into one of the league's premier quarterbacks.
Over the last two seasons, Allen has been outstanding. The 26-year-old completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 8,951 passing yards and a 73-to-25 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Allen's size (6'5", 237 pounds), strength, mobility and the strongest arm in football make him an intimidating presence on the field. The quarterback is just as likely to run over a defender as he is to rocket one over the secondary.
"You could argue he's a top-five player in the league right now," an NFL personnel evaluator told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. "He's incredibly tough, and his ability to run and throw is a problem."
The Bills don't exactly take much pressure off their quarterback since he doubles as the team's best runner with 1,184 rushing yards over the last two seasons.
Allen deserves credit for transforming into an elite passer. He also had the physical tools to rip the ball. But he made a concerted effort each offseason to improve his mechanics, particularly his footwork. He's a far more sound passer today than this first two years in the league.
But a slight transition could occur with former quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey now calling the offensive plays. Allen showered Daboll with praise after leaving to become the New York Giants head coach.
"One, he's real as they come," Allen told the New York Post's Steve Serby. "He's been around the league. He's been around some of the best minds in [Nick] Saban and [Bill] Belichick. … He has this extreme competitive nature that relates with his team and his guys. And it makes guys want to play for him, it really does. And how he carries himself in the building not keeping things too serious, try to make things competition-based, I think guys really appreciate that."
A change in Allen's setup proved to be just enough to place him in the two-hole. However, he could easily emerge as the NFL's best quarterback this fall if the Bills perform as well as many expect. To do so, he'll be forced to go through the quarterback who outdueled him in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.
1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes is the quarterback by which all current and future quarterbacks will be judged. A signal-caller's creativity under pressure, playmaking ability outside of structure and reliance on pure arm talent are more important than ever.
Unlike the other young quarterbacks on this countdown, Mahomes overcame adjustments specifically made to frustrate him after running roughshod over the league for three years. Last season, opponents forced Mahomes and the explosive Kanas City Chiefs offense to be patient by regularly using two-high safety looks.
The approach threw Mahomes for a few weeks. The 26-year-old is a gunslinger at heart. Maybe it's the result of being the son of a longtime MLB pitcher or just being able to throw it all over the yard for most of his football career. Either way, he wants to push the ball down the field. He simply needed time to figure out how to counteract what he saw when he lined up under center.
"You kind of figure out answers and stuff you can do to combat and have more success," Mahomes told reporters in December. "I think just finding that happy medium where you're taking shots still and attacking, but at the same time, hitting guys underneath and guys are creating a lot of yards with the football in their hands."
Good players flourish when everything is set up for them to succeed. Great players overcome adversity. Despite supposedly struggling, Mahomes still threw for more than 4,700 yards for the third time in four years, and the Chiefs finished with the league's fourth-best passing attack.
"He's had to evolve in that way, and I think long term it will be good for him," an NFC exec told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. "There did appear to be a hangover from the Super Bowl, and [the Buccaneers] showed you can get pressure on [the Chiefs] and make things difficult for him, make him scramble around and cover the deep ball. He doesn't always want to check it down. But he's good enough to overcome all of that and just has a special ability to make plays."
Mahomes faces a different kind of hardship this season because the Chiefs traded wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins. No one should be worried about how the quarterback adjusts because he already showed us he can. Expect a more confident and precise distributor in Kansas City's offense with the occasional flare for the spectacular.
No one will ever fully take away what the former MVP can do when everything breaks down and he's forced to make a throw nobody else can.