Ranking Every NFL Starting Quarterback Entering 2020 Season

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistAugust 31, 2020

Ranking Every NFL Starting Quarterback Entering 2020 Season

0 of 32

    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    With the 2020 NFL season now just over a week away from its launch, it looks as though 28 of the league's 32 teams have locked in their starting quarterbacks, as only a sliver of mystery remains on quarterback depth charts belonging to the Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Chargers, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots. 

    But with front-runners established in those spots and Week 1 looming, this is an apt time to take a broad look at all 32 presumed 2020 opening-day starters, power rankings-style. 

    Based on a combination of talent and recent production, with career trajectory (i.e., potential) and durability factoring in, here's how we rank every projected starting signal-caller in professional football for the 2020 campaign.

32. Tyrod Taylor, Los Angeles Chargers

1 of 32

    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    We kick it off with clear-cut temporary starters Tyrod Taylor of the Los Angeles Chargers and Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Miami Dolphins, both of whom are expected to play bridge roles while rookie first-round picks Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa marinate. 

    Fitzpatrick was at least a 13-game starter who had some magical moments and surprisingly won a handful of games with a terrible Miami team last season, but Taylor only started three games the last two seasons. 

    The 31-year-old has averaged just 6.7 yards per attempt dating back to his 2016 season with the Buffalo Bills. During that same stretch, Fitzpatrick has averaged 7.4 yards per pass. 

31. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami Dolphins

2 of 32

    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Ryan Fitzpatrick has been a hot-and-cold quasi-starter for about a decade. The 37-year-old journeyman isn't the future in Miami or elsewhere, especially after posting a 20-to-13 touchdown-to-interception ratio and an 85.5 passer rating last year. 

    But he's serviceable enough to escape the bottom spot here, and his Fitzmagic moments leave room for an argument that he could rise beyond the bottom five with more support on the Dolphins roster this season. 

    For now, though, with basically everyone healthy, a grizzled veteran with clear limitations can only beat out Taylor. 

30. Gardner Minshew II, Jacksonville Jaguars

3 of 32

    John Raoux/Associated Press

    There was also some Minshew Magic from 2019 sixth-round pick Gardner Minshew II last year, as the mustachioed Washington State product shocked the football world and supplanted expensive free-agent pickup Nick Foles atop the Jacksonville Jaguars' quarterback depth chart.

    Minshew and Fitzpatrick both led three fourth-quarter comebacks despite quarterbacking weak teams, and nearly half of his 21 touchdown passes came in that period. 

    But quarterbacks drafted that low rarely pan out for a reason, and nobody is comparing Minshew to Peyton Manning. Could his buzz-worthy 2019 campaign have been a fluke? It's worth noting that he completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes and averaged just 6.1 yards per attempt in the month of December.

29. Nick Foles, Chicago Bears

4 of 32

    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Gardner Minshew II's emergence means Nick Foles is now a member of the Chicago Bears, and a recent report from NBC Sports Chicago's Adam Hoge suggests the Super Bowl LII MVP has pulled ahead in a battle with disappointing 2017 No. 2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky. 

    In addition to leading the Philadelphia Eagles to that championship in 2017, Foles was a Pro Bowler when he posted the third-highest passer rating in NFL history in 2013. That accomplishment is by no means recent, but it's substantial. And when combined with that memorable playoff run, it's enough to earn Foles a spot outside of the bottom trio despite the fact that he's essentially a 31-year-old journeyman. 

    His 71-to-35 career touchdown-to-interception ratio also helps, but Foles' utter lack of consistency and his inability so far to excel outside of Philly hold him back for now.

28. Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers

5 of 32

    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    It's great to see Teddy Bridgewater get a shot at a franchise quarterback role with the Carolina Panthers, but after suffering a career-threatening knee injury in 2016 and then starting just six games over the course of the next four seasons, the 2014 first-round pick and 2015 Pro Bowler has a lot to prove. 

    It helps that he won all five of his starts with the New Orleans Saints in place of an injured Drew Brees last season, but those were team victories and Bridgewater wasn't often asked to do a lot. He completed just 11 deep passes on the season.

    The 27-year-old gets credit for always being highly efficient, but he's never really been a game-changer. Now he's trying to pick up where he left off half a decade ago, and it's fair to wonder if he'll ever get back on that track. 

27. Dwayne Haskins, Washington Football Team

6 of 32

    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Had Dwayne Haskins' rookie season ended when he possessed a completion rate of 55.0, a 3-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 61.2 passer rating five starts into his career, he might rank in the bottom few spots on this list. 

    But because the 2019 first-round pick out of Ohio State still has tremendous upside as a one-year college starter with limited support in the Washington Football Team's offense, a late-season spark is enough to boost Haskins closer to the middle of the pack entering his first full campaign as a starter (barring a shocking development involving Alex Smith).

    In those final two outings, Haskins completed 72.1 percent of his passes, averaged 9.2 yards per attempt, threw four touchdown passes to zero interceptions and posted a 131.3 passer rating. The 23-year-old still has plenty of work to do, but potential and momentum are both on his side.

26. Cam Newton, New England Patriots

7 of 32

    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    The same can be said of Teddy Bridgewater's predecessor in Carolina, Cam Newton, who is now likely to take over for the departed Tom Brady with the New England Patriots (he should handily beat out Jarrett Stidham). The three-time Pro Bowler also hasn't been at his best since 2015, when he won NFL MVP while guiding the Panthers to the Super Bowl. 

    And while he deserves some credit for that remarkable campaign, it's quite concerning that since then, the 2011 No. 1 overall pick out of Auburn has thrown 44 interceptions to 65 touchdown passes while posting a sub-60 completion percentage, a sub-7.0 yards-per-attempt average and an 82.6 passer rating. Among qualified passers during that span, that rating ranks second-to-last, ahead of only Blake Bortles. 

    And while Newton deserves credit for his unreal physical abilities and presence as a rusher (only four running backs have rushed for more touchdowns since Newton came into the league in 2011), recent shoulder and foot injuries that kept him off the field for long stretches diminish that bonus. 

25. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

8 of 32

    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    I can already hear the cacophony of Pittsburgh Steelers fans and can feel the digital pitchforks. But those who read this rant from February might be surprised Ben Roethlisberger wasn't ranked in the bottom five.

    Big Ben's undeniable ability and six-Pro Bowl track record lift him above that bottom tier, and a 2020 rejuvenation is a possibility considering optimistic summertime reports on his health, but there's an equally strong chance Roethlisberger is toast.

    He was an utter mess even before a significant elbow injury ended his 2019 season in September, he led the league with 16 interceptions in 2018, and his 35.4 completion rate on deep passes since the start of 2018 ranks 26th among 27 quarterbacks with at least 100 such attempts. He looked tired before tearing apart his elbow, and there's no telling how he'll bounce back from that one year later. 

24. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

9 of 32

    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    This is a tricky one. On one hand, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff is a two-time Pro Bowler with top-pick pedigree and a Super Bowl run on his resume. On the other hand, the 25-year-old has seen his statistics decline rapidly ever since bombing in Super Bowl LIII, and it's fair to wonder if his success in 2017 and 2018 had more to do with Sean McVay's system and a loaded supporting cast than Goff's abilities. 

    Before that system and support were there, the California product was legendarily bad while losing all seven of his starts as a rookie. Combine that with his 22-to-16 touchdown-to-interception ratio, 86.5 passer rating and abysmal numbers on deep balls in 2019, and you're allowed to be concerned about Goff's current trajectory. 

    That's why he ranks this low despite posting massive numbers in the two seasons sandwiched by those ugly campaigns.

23. Sam Darnold, New York Jets

10 of 32

    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    I'm giving Sam Darnold one last chance. 

    The third-year New York Jets quarterback generally struggled as a rookie in 2018, but he lacked offensive support and still posted a 102.8 passer rating in his final three outings that year. But then he had to transition to a new system, contracted mononucleosis at the start of his sophomore season and couldn't right the ship until he posted a 13-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 93.3 passer rating as the Jets finished 6-2. 

    The USC product just turned 23 and has encountered an unfair number of obstacles early in his career. We've seen his potential in short stretches, but now he's healthy, familiar with Adam Gase's offense and positioned to live up to his first-round talent. It can happen, but he's running out of rope in what might be a make-or-break year considering the media environment in New York. 

22. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

11 of 32

    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    In almost every respect, Tom Brady was a mediocre quarterback in his final season with the Patriots. Considering he's now 43 years old and that every minute counts when you're trying to defy Father Time, it's fair to wonder whether he can be counted on to be any better with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020. 

    But take away Brady's strong start against mainly soft opponents in 2019, and it becomes even more discouraging. In his last 12 games (including a playoff dud against the Tennessee Titans), the most decorated player in NFL history completed 59.4 percent of his passes for only 14 touchdowns, a 6.2 yards-per-attempt average and an 81.1 passer rating. Only three qualified passers posted lower ratings than that on the 2019 season.  

    No quarterback has ever even sniffed success at Brady's age, and it's beginning to look as though he won't be an exception to that rule. Still, you can never count out No. 12, and it's possible he'll be rejuvenated by a new atmosphere and a stronger supporting cast in Tampa. So, he avoids the bottom quarter of this list. 

21. Philip Rivers, Indianapolis Colts

12 of 32

    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    In his swan song with the Los Angeles Chargers, new Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers completed a much higher percentage of his passes for considerably more yards per attempt than Tom Brady, but the eight-time Pro Bowler's numbers still declined across the board in his age-38 season.

    Throw in the fact that he was a turnover machine with 20 interceptions (nine of which came in the fourth quarter), and the fact that he posted a 60.2 rating in the fourth quarter and overtime of one-score games, and you could make the argument Rivers deserves to be ranked below Brady and fellow accomplished vets Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton. 

    But he's not crashing as hard as Brady, and unlike those other two, he's not coming off a major injury. In fact, Rivers hasn't missed a start since 2005. And the reality is his gunslinging nature cost him on paper as he pressed with an underachieving team in 2019. We're giving him the slight benefit of the doubt as he moves to Indy. 

20. Daniel Jones, New York Giants

13 of 32

    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    You're not often expected to be fully efficient or consistent as a rookie, which is why New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is off to a promising start despite a roller-coaster ride of a maiden campaign. We now know what his ceiling might look like, and it's high considering he was one of just a dozen quarterbacks to post three-plus single-game qualified passer ratings of 120 or higher in 2019. 

    That's despite the fact that the first-round Duke product, who also registered a 112.7 rating in his very first start, made only 12 starts as a rook. 

    That said, Jones also had several flat-out embarrassing performances, and he fumbled a ridiculous 18 times. He can't afford another 20-plus-turnover season (he threw 12 interceptions and lost 11 fumbles in 13 games in 2019), but the ingredients and the tape are there for Jones to become a star.

19. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

14 of 32

    James P. McCoy/Associated Press

    There's no denying that Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen made progress in his sophomore season. The physically enticing 2018 top-10 pick entered the league raw and needed to improve on his accuracy and decision-making in 2019, and the numbers and the eyeball test both indicate that happened. 

    Allen also showed he has some baller in him with a tied-for-league-high four fourth-quarter comebacks and five game-winning drives. Still, he ranked right near the bottom of the barrel in terms of QBR and DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) at Football Outsiders as well as deep passing effectiveness (he completed just 35.3 percent of his deep passes, ranking dead last among those with at least 100 such attempts).

    We're giving him a bit of a pass here because he's 24 and maturing with an unreal set of measureables and skills, but the Wyoming product is still such a liability at times that he remains below the median on this list. 

18. Drew Lock, Denver Broncos

15 of 32

    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Denver Broncos waited to throw Drew Lock to the wolves as a rookie in 2019, and that decision looked to pay off when a sub.-500 team won four of its final five games with the Missouri product under center.

    The 2019 second-round pick has a cannon attached to the right side of his torso, but in a more conservative offense, he also proved as a rookie that he can be disciplined and efficient. He threw seven touchdown passes to three interceptions in those starts, and he finished the campaign riding a streak of 79 consecutive pass attempts without a pick. 

    Among 36 quarterbacks who attempted at least 10 third-down passes during Lock's five-week stretch as the Denver starter in 2019, only two had higher completion rates and only three had better passer ratings than the 23-year-old. The sample is small, but we can't fault him for that. 

17. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

16 of 32

    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    If we were only looking at 2019 output, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield would be in much worse shape in these rankings.

    In what Browns fans can only pray was a sophomore slump brought on to an extent by strife within the locker room and poor front-office decisions (the Freddie Kitchens era won't be remembered fondly), Mayfield led the AFC with 21 interceptions and was the only qualified quarterback to post a sub-80 passer rating among 20 signal-callers who started at least 14 games in 2019. 

    But that doesn't erase the fact that the 2018 No. 1 overall pick was Offensive Rookie of the Year runner-up after posting a 103.3 passer rating in the final 10 games of his debut campaign. The Oklahoma product was electric down the stretch that year, and he should be positioned to get back to that space with Kevin Stefanski taking over and significantly more support within the Cleveland offense following the offseason additions of tight end Austin Hooper and offensive tackles Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills Jr. 

16. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals

17 of 32

    Aaron Doster/Associated Press

    We're going in blind with Cincinnati Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, but the no-brainer 2020 No. 1 overall pick has a loaded skill set and is coming off one of the most bonkers seasons in the history of college football. 

    In the most competitive conference in the college ranks, Burrow completed 76.3 percent of his passes and posted 60 touchdowns to six interceptions en route to a national championship for LSU.

    There are naturally "one-year wonder" concerns and there could of course be growing pains in Cincy, but the middle of the pack seems like a fair place to start for one of the most intriguing quarterback prospects of this era. 

15. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

18 of 32

    Matt York/Associated Press

    Meanwhile, the previous No. 1 overall pick did a pretty good job dusting away any "one-year wonder" questions after a standout single season as a college starter by earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2019.

    Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray was by no means an immediate superstar in his maiden NFL season, but he limited his mistakes while completing 64.4 percent of his passes and added 544 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

    In a way it was the opposite of Daniel Jones' rookie season—not as many highs but far fewer lows. But the more intriguing skill set and the significantly lower mistake rate gives him an obvious edge over fellow 2019 first-rounders Jones and Haskins.

14. Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers

19 of 32

    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    I'm a little afraid San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will suffer a post-Super Bowl-dud hangover similar to Jared Goff's, especially considering big changes and key injuries to his supporting cast.

    Top receiver Deebo Samuel is dealing with a broken foot, Jalen Hurd has a torn ACL, veteran Emmanuel Sanders is gone, and left tackle Joe Staley has retired. And completing just three of 11 passes for 36 yards and a 2.8 passer rating in the fourth quarter of the biggest game of his life hurts Jimmy G's status regardless. 

    But that doesn't change the fact that in his first full season as an NFL starter, the 28-year-old ranked third in the league in yards per attempt, fourth in completion rate and eighth in passer rating.

    He compiled a tied-for-league-high nine triple-digit-rated games, his passer rating was a sparkling 117.8 in the fourth quarter and overtime of one-score games beyond Week 10, and his full-season third-down completion percentage (69.2) ranked first among quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts in those situations. 

    Toss in that he was one of just three quarterbacks to lead at least four fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives, and Garoppolo deserves an above-average ranking. 

13. Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders

20 of 32

    John Locher/Associated Press

    But so does Jimmy Garoppolo's underrated former fellow Bay Area quarterback, Derek Carr, who, despite rarely getting mentioned among the league's elite signal-callers, is coming off a sneaky-strong season with the now-Las Vegas Raiders. 

    The 29-year-old three-time Pro Bowler posted a career-best 100.8 passer rating while leading the AFC with a 70.4 completion percentage in 2019. Is he aggressive? No. Next Gen Stats determined that only Teddy Bridgewater averaged fewer intended air yards per throw in 2019, which could explain why the seemingly unsatisfied Raiders brought in Marcus Mariota in the offseason. 

    But Carr was a top-10 quarterback in practically every metric, including DVOA and QBR. He might never be a consistent game-changer, but let's not forget he was a legitimate MVP candidate in 2016 and a Pro Bowler in 2015 and 2017. 

12. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

21 of 32

    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    It was Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan who beat out Carr for MVP in that 2016 season, and in 2018, Ryan put up another campaign that blew most of his signal-calling peers out of the water. Coincidentally or not, he hasn't been as strong in odd-numbered years of late, but he's one of just seven players in NFL history to finish multiple seasons with a passer rating of 108 or higher

    It's not as though Ryan was a slouch in 2019. The four-time Pro Bowler still completed 66.2 percent of his passes despite the fact that Atlanta's season went down the drain early, and the 35-year-old was often victimized by poor blocking, a lack of continuity along the offensive line and unreliable contributions from the running game. 

    That doesn't excuse what was a very disappointing season from Ryan—his passer rating dropped 16 points from 2018 as his interception total doubled from seven to 14—but he's earned the benefit of the doubt. 

11. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

22 of 32

    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    The benefit of the doubt also belongs to the league's highest-rated all-time passer, but the many accomplishments of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers are no longer enough to guarantee him top-10 signal-caller status.

    Rodgers is a two-time MVP on track for a first-ballot entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he hasn't been a first- or second-team All-Pro since 2014, he hasn't surpassed the league average in yards per attempt since 2016, and his 62.6 completion rate since the start of 2017 ranks 25th among 31 qualified passers during that stretch. He also posted the highest bad throw rate in football last year.

    It often feels as though something changed when he injured his collarbone in 2017, as he has been a lot more risk-averse of late. Of course, an uninspiring supporting cast hasn't helped, nor did former Packers head coach Mike "Iso" McCarthy. It's too early to give up on Rodgers, but he no longer merits a spot among the elite at his position.

10. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

23 of 32

    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Somewhat quietly, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford posted the sixth-highest passer rating and the fourth-highest DVOA among signal-callers in 2019. He also led the NFL in intended and completed air yards per attempt. 

    That all went up in flames when a back injury ended Stafford's season at the midway point, and it's fair to hold that small eight-game sample against him. He's been an NFL starter for 11 years and has yet to earn All-Pro honors or experience playoff success, which costs him points here. 

    That being said, the 2009 No. 1 overall pick has rarely been well supported in Detroit, and he was an ironman before 2019. If that injury was a one-off and his 2019 success was a sign he's taken his game to the next level, the 32-year-old could become a top-five quarterback with a strong supporting cast in 2020. 

9. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles

24 of 32

    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Injuries are a larger concern for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, who hasn't been on the field at the conclusion of three consecutive Eagles seasons. So even though Wentz has elite potential and was a triple-digit-rated passer in 2017 and 2018 as well as an MVP candidate in the '17, his durability and a dip in his 2019 production cost him here. 

    How much did that dip had to do with a problematic receiving corps? That likely factored in, but 19 quarterbacks posted higher DVOA totals and his on-target rate (72.3 percent) ranked 25th among 32 qualified passers. 

    It was simply a down year for a player with a troubling injury history, but the 27-year-old's ceiling remains sky-high, he's delivered significantly in the past and he still flashed enough of that "it factor" on his four game-winning drives to sneak into the top 10. 

8. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans

25 of 32

    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill is proof of just how quickly a quarterback can rise on a list like this. One year ago, he was Marcus Mariota's backup and wouldn't have been included here, but even if he were the starter, he likely would have been in the bottom 10 as an inconsistent seven-year veteran coming off a lost season due to injury in Miami. 

    Now, that pre-2019 track record is the only reason Tannehill doesn't rank closer to the top five. He led the NFL in passer rating and yards per attempt while posting a completion percentage above 70 in 12 games, 10 of which were starts, last year for Tennessee. 

    It helped that teammate Derrick Henry was the league's best running back, but maybe some stellar support was what the 2012 top-10 pick needed to finally bloom. Tannehill still posted a 107.8 passer rating on deep attempts, led the AFC in intended air yards per attempt and recorded the fifth-highest DVOA among qualified quarterbacks. 

7. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings

26 of 32

    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    It's a similar story for Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who, like Tannehill, experienced a career year with more support and a top-notch running game in 2019. How fitting that the two 2012 draft picks were born 23 days apart in 1988 (Leo pride!).

    Cousins didn't get quite as hot as Tannehill last season, but the league's fourth-highest-rated passer had a superior touchdown-to-interception ratio (26-to-6 compared to 22-to-6) and he actually had a higher rating (108.7) on his deep balls for a top-10 DVOA

    But the main difference between Cousins and Tannehill is that the former's 2019 campaign is less likely to be an anomaly. Cousins also posted a triple-digit passer rating in 2015 and was a Pro Bowler in Washington in 2016. 

6. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

27 of 32

    David Grunfeld/Associated Press

    Even at the age of 41, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints remains the most efficient quarterback in the NFL. The league's 2019 DVOA leader led the NFC with a career-high 116.3 passer rating, and his 74.3 completion percentage ranked second all-time behind only...2018 Drew Brees (74.4) and just ahead of 2017 Drew Brees (72.0).  

    But Brees is certainly no longer the downfield playmaker he used to be. He had a 123.2 passer rating on his deep attempts in 2019, but he ranked last in the league in intended air yards per attempt. He continues to benefit from a tremendous arsenal of weapons, and it's worth noting that he was the least-pressured qualified quarterback in the league last year. 

    What happens when he loses a step and that pressure becomes too much? Quarterbacks often decline quickly, and the effects of Brees' aging will eventually reach a tipping point. That appeared to happen to Tom Brady in 2019, and there's a decent chance Father Time will also catch up to an increasingly conservative Brees in 2020. That's why he falls just out of the top five even though he's been close to perfect on paper.

5. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

28 of 32

    LM Otero/Associated Press

    Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott might not consistently carry the offense, but that might only be because the fifth-year signal-caller rarely has to.

    The 27-year-old ranks fifth in NFL history in passer rating and touchdown-to-interception ratio, he threw more deep touchdown passes than all but three other quarterbacks in 2019, and he ranked third in air yards per completion last year.

    Prescott is not a checkdown artist, and the 2016 fourth-round pick continues to improve. He led the league in DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement) in 2019, and there are no durability concerns for a signal-caller who has started all 64 games in his four-year career. That's pretty close to a complete package. 

4. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

29 of 32

    Brett Coomer/Associated Press

    Still only 24, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has "superstar" written all over him. The two-time Pro Bowler has all the numbers you want at the three-season mark: 71 touchdown passes to only 29 interceptions, an 8.1 yards-per-attempt average and a triple-digit career passer rating. He's also rushed for 12 touchdowns the last two years, and only Dan Marino has accounted for more combined passing/rushing touchdowns at the 37-start career mark. 

    But Watson also has something special going on beyond the broad stats. He's led a league-high 10 game-winning drives in 31 outings since the start of 2018, and you can never count the Texans out when he's on the field. In the fourth quarter and overtime of one-score games, his career passer rating of 114.9 ranks first among 32 quarterbacks who have thrown at least 100 passes in those situations since Watson came into the league as a first-round pick in 2017. 

    The Clemson product hasn't been as dominant as the players yet to be named on this list, and he's been more hot-and-cold than Texans fans would prefer. Still, he's undoubtedly emerged as a top-five quarterback entering 2020. 

3. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

30 of 32

    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    There's never been a dual threat in NFL history quite like Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who became the youngest signal-caller ever to win the MVP by leading the league in touchdown passes while ranking sixth with 1,206 rushing yards in 2019. 

    That alone is unprecedented, but it's wild to consider Jackson's trajectory considering the 23-year-old's completion percentage shot up from 58.2 in his rookie season to 66.1 in his sophomore campaign. He entered the NFL as a raw passer and an excellent rusher, but he's already achieved excellence in both fields. 

    He aired it out with immense success all season long, finishing with the top QBR in football and a 12-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio on passes that traveled 15-plus yards. Now he just has to prove that wasn't an aberration. 

2. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

31 of 32

    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has never peaked as high as Lamar Jackson did in 2019, but the six-time Pro Bowler has done the job time and again. He's coming off the fifth triple-digit-rated season of his eight-year career, and he ranks second all-time to only Rodgers when it comes to passer rating and touchdown-to-interception ratio

    Wilson is empirically and—as Pro Football Focus points out—statistically the best deep ball thrower in the NFL. The 31-year-old is superclutch—he's thrown 20 touchdown passes in the fourth quarter and overtime of one-score games since 2017, which is the highest total in football by a 20 percent margin.

    And his improvisational skills as a scrambler and rusher are second to none. In fact, only two quarterbacks were pressured more frequently in 2019 than Wilson, who still managed to post the league's fifth-best passer rating in yet another Pro Bowl campaign. He's a comeback king and a magician, and it's only a matter of time before that lands him an MVP award or two. 

1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

32 of 32

    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    Speaking of magic, our obvious top choice has performed more of it than anyone else in football (maybe even professional sports?) since becoming a full-time starter in 2018. That, of course, is Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who at the age of 24 has already captured a regular-season MVP and a Super Bowl MVP. 

    Among quarterbacks with at least 1,000 career attempts, Mahomes is the highest-rated passer in NFL history by a huge margin. He's also the highest-rated playoff passer of all time, and that doesn't fully account for that unquantifiable magic

    Even in a 2019 season plagued by injuries, Mahomes dominated the rest of the quarterback pool in deep passing while continually making plays with his legs. He's becoming this era's Michael Jordan.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.