Ranking the NFL's Top 10 Quarterbacks Under 25

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistOctober 11, 2019

Ranking the NFL's Top 10 Quarterbacks Under 25

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    While elder statesmen like Tom Brady and Philip Rivers continue to play and thrive in today's NFL, it's clear the next generation of star quarterbacks has arrived. While not every young signal-caller has reached an elite level of play yet, guys like Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen appear poised to headline the league for years to come.

    But how well does the crop of young quarterbacks stack up as we head toward the midpoint of the 2019 season?

    Here, we'll rank the 10 best quarterbacks under the age of 25 based on factors like on-field production, win-loss results, leadership and physical potential.

    You probably have a pretty good idea of which quarterback tops the rankings, but you might find a few surprises along the way.

10. Daniel Jones, New York Giants

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    Vera Nieuwenhuis/Associated Press

    If we revisit this list at the end of the 2019 season, there's a good chance New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones finds himself ranked much higher. The 22-year-old rookie has shown a ton of potential and promise early in his NFL career, flashing arm talent, accuracy and mobility while also revitalizing the Giants passing attack.

    "He's an accurate thrower at all three levels. He's shown a lot of poise in the pocket," New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said, per Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. "He's been hit a few times, but he just stands in there and can keep ripping it. So, he's been impressive."

    Taking over for a New York legend like Eli Manning would be a daunting challenge for any young player, but Jones has made it look relatively easy.

    The one thing keeping him low on this list is that he's only delivered two wins as a pro—and one of them required several missed kicks from their opponent. Giants fans may take exception to that, but they should also feel very, very good about the direction in which Jones' career is headed.

9. Sam Darnold, New York Jets

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    Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    We have to rank New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold largely on potential and limited play, as injuries and illness have sidelined him for much of his young career. He appeared in 13 games as a rookie last season and has been out since Week 2 with mononucleosis.

    What we've seen from Darnold has been promising, though. He possesses archetypal size (6'3", 225 lbs), athleticism and arm talent, and he's able to attack all areas of the field.

    Darnold passed for 2,865 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2018, which is impressive considering the lack of receiving talent the Jets had. However, he also tossed 15 interceptions and fumbled the ball five times.

    Ball security appears to be Darnold's biggest problem at this point in his career, and it could haunt the Jets if it doesn't get fixed. As far as upside goes, however, New York has to love what it has in the former USC standout.

8. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

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    James Kenney/Associated Press

    There's a lot to love about 23-year-old Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen. He has arm talent galore, is a fast and physical runner and plays with an energy that would make Brett Favre smile. He also has the Bills sitting at 4-1 and firmly in the playoff chase.

    However, Allen still has some issues that need to be corrected, which is why he isn't higher on this list. He still has a tendency to uncork passes that he shouldn't throw, and his pocket presence leaves a lot to be desired.

    So far this season, he has turned the ball over nine times.

    Still, Allen is one of the best young dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL today. He'll keep defenses off-balance with his running ability, and he'll make plays with his legs when open receivers aren't there. As a rookie, he rushed for 631 yards and 7.1 yards per carry.

    Allen is still very raw as an NFL passer, so he's only going to climb lists like this one as he continues to mature and develop.

7. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has not played well this year—there's no denying that. However, his overall body of work dating back to last season is still impressive, especially since he's played for the perennially quarterback-challenged Browns.

    Mayfield passed for a rookie-record 27 touchdowns last season. In 19 career games, he's passed for 4,972 yards with 31 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. He's gone 8-10 as a starter, which doesn't seem great until you realize that Cleveland won just two games in the two-plus years before his first career start.

    Does Mayfield have issues that need to be cleaned up? Absolutely. He has to trust his progressions and be more decisive with his throws. He cannot panic in the pocket like he has for much of 2019, and he has to be more careful with the football—he has thrown eight interceptions in just five games so far this season.

    Yet Mayfield still possesses the same qualities that made him an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate in 2018. He's as accurate as they come when he has a clean pocket, and he has a drive that few players in the NFL can match.

6. Gardner Minshew II, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    Daniel Jones fans are likely to point out the fact that Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II has also only won two games at the pro level. This is fair, but Minshew has also outperformed Jones—and most other young quarterbacks—so far this season.

    Minshew Mania is a thing for a reason. The 23-year-old rookie out of Washington State has been electric, passing for 1,279 yards with nine touchdowns and just one interception. He's also rushed for 124 yards on just 19 carries. Perhaps more importantly, he's shown the energy and the moxie needed to become the new face of the Jaguars franchise.

    "In his three quarters of relief action and the subsequent four starts, Minshew has energized a once-stagnant Jaguars offense," Danny Kelly of The Ringer wrote. "He has opened up the team’s passing game, helped put DJ Chark on the map, and consistently put the Jags in positions to win week in and week out."

    Virtually everyone missed on Minshew heading into the 2019 draft, and injured quarterback Nick Foles may be wishing the Jaguars had too now that his starting job is in jeopardy.

5. Kyle Allen, Carolina Panthers

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    Though he doesn't possess the star power of Minshew, Carolina Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen has quietly been one of the best young quarterbacks in the league dating back to last season. He's gone 4-0 as a starter in relief of Cam Newton, and not just because he has a quality team around him.

    Allen is accurate and decisive with his throws, and he has enough mobility to make even premier pass-rushers like J.J. Watt look a little silly.

    Though he may not become the new face of the Panthers franchise, Allen has shown all the tools needed to be a future franchise quarterback. Through three games this season, he's thrown for 674 yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions. For his four starts, he has an impressive passer rating of 108.8.

    The reality is that Carolina isn't going to rush Newton back from his foot injury, largely because they have a winning quarterback in Allen.

4. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    If there's a young quarterback who can change the way the position is played, it's likely going to be Baltimore Ravens signal-caller Lamar Jackson. The former Louisville star isn't just athletic and mobile; he's a game-breaking runner in the mold of Michael Vick.

    However, Jackson is already a more accurate and dangerous passer than Vick ever was. In his best season, Vick completed 62.6 percent of his passes. Jackson is completing 65.4 percent of his throws so far this year.

    Jackson is also tied for second in the NFL with 11 touchdown passes. He's thrown for 1,271 yards and averaged 7.8 yards per attempt. Oh, and he's also rushed for 308 yards and 6.2 yards per carry.

    From arm strength and downfield ball placement to straight-line running speed and elusiveness, Jackson has everything a team could want in a young quarterback. At just 22 years old, he should have a long and fruitful career ahead of him.

3. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff just barely makes the cut for this list, as he'll turn 25 on October 14. He's not there yet, though, so he finds himself at No. 3.

    There are plenty of folks who will argue Goff is largely a product of head coach Sean McVay's offense, and there's validity to that argument. Goff was a subpar passer prior to McVay's arrival, with a passer rating of 63.6 as a rookie. However, he's been a high-end signal-caller ever since, finishing both the 2017 and 2018 seasons with a passer rating above 100.

    Few quarterbacks can match Goff's accuracy when he has a clean pocket, and he has enough arm strength to threaten all areas of the field. However, he's ranked this highly because of his ability to produce wins.

    Goff is the only quarterback on this list to have taken his team to the Super Bowl, and there's a lot to be said for that—even if seven touchdowns and seven interceptions so far this year indicate a bit of a Super Bowl hangover.

2. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Few quarterbacks in recent memory have risen to an elite level as quickly as Houston Texans signal-caller Deshaun Watson. The former Clemson standout is one of the most productive passers in the league, and not just because he has superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins in his lineup.

    Watson is as accurate as they come, but he's also mobile in the pocket. This has been important in Houston, as the offensive line has often forced him to buy time on his own. Last season, Watson was sacked an alarming 62 times, yet he still led his team to a division title after starting the season 0-3.

    Though Watson is definitely a pass-first quarterback, he is able to chew up yards on the ground. He has rushed for 942 yards and 10 touchdowns in 28 career regular-season games and will often freeze defenders with his scrambling ability.

    Of course, it's Watson's passing ability that lands him at No. 2 on this list. So far this season, he's thrown for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns with just one interception. He holds an elite passer rating of 115.9 through Week 5.

1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    No surprises here. Mahomes is just 24 years old and has already established himself as the most dangerous quarterback in the NFL today. As a first-year starter in 2018, he passed for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns. So far in 2019, he's on pace to throw for 5,859 yards and 35 touchdowns. He also has yet to throw an interception this season.

    Yet, it's not just the stats that make Mahomes the best young quarterback in the league. It's his athleticism, his command of the offense, his ability to throw from multiple angles and his ability to put the ball right where it needs to be.

    "He's a winner, he's a ballplayer and leader," Watson said of his fellow 2017 first-round draftee, per ESPN's Sarah Barshop.

    Mahomes appears set to obliterate records and win multiple titles—though all of that remains in the future. Right now, he's simply the most exciting player in the NFL and most definitely the best quarterback under 25.


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