Ranking Every NFL Team's QB Situation Heading into 2021 Season
The 2021 NFL offseason has been all about the quarterbacks, and for good reason. It's the most important position in team sports, and the franchises that don't have a good one are desperate to add one.
We saw starters like Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff, Sam Darnold and Carson Wentz traded. We have seen names like Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers crop up in trade speculation. We saw three quarterbacks go in the first three picks of the draft, with five going in the first round in total.
Now that the quarterback carousel is (almost) done spinning, it's time to rank each team's quarterback situation heading into the 2021 season. We'll be focusing primarily on the presumed starters here, though depth and any relevant off-field matters will be included where applicable.
The usual quarterback metrics like passer rating, touchdown-to-interception ratio and completion percentage will apply, but factors like health, starting experience and fourth-quarter comebacks will also be considered.
We'll also be looking exclusively at the 2021 season, so while the future may not be bright for teams with aging stars, many will still be near the top of the list.
32. Houston Texans
- Tyrod Taylor
- Jeff Driskel
- Davis Mills
If Deshaun Watson was going to play for the Houston Texans in 2021, this team would be ranked near the very top of our list. Watson is a three-time Pro Bowler who possesses MVP-caliber talent. However, there's virtually no chance that he suits up for Houston this season or ever again.
For one, Watson is facing multiple allegations of sexual assault and misconduct that, if proven true, could end his playing career. But even if he is cleared, he has no desire to be a Texan.
"Watson has denied wrongdoing related to recent lawsuits, which have slowed the process of sorting out his future," NFL Network's Tom Pelissero tweeted. "But his position hasn't changed: Watson wants out of Houston."
This leaves Houston with a journeyman in Tyrod Taylor, a career spot-starter in Jeff Driskel and a rookie in Davis Mills, who has had multiple knee injuries and only played in 14 college games.
This isn't to knock the players Houston has, but unless Mills really surprises, there isn't a signal-caller of the future on this roster. The Texans should expect average quarterback play at absolute best, and it's this low 2021 expectation that leaves Houston at the bottom of our rankings.
31. Denver Broncos
- Drew Lock
- Teddy Bridgewater
- Brett Rypien
The one advantage the Denver Broncos have over Houston is the fact that Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater were both once considered potential franchise quarterbacks. The Broncos took Lock in the second round of the 2019 draft, while Bridgewater was a first-round pick back in 2014.
The problem is that Bridgewater, acquired via trade this offseason, was decidedly average last season. Lock was downright bad.
Bridgewater finished with a passer rating of 92.1 but tossed just 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while compiling a 4-11 record in Carolina. This led to the Panthers trading for Sam Darnold and moving Bridgewater.
Lock, meanwhile, had a passer rating of 75.4 and went 4-9 as a starter. He also tied for the league lead in interceptions (15) while throwing just 16 touchdown passes.
The looming camp competition between Bridgewater and Lock may be the most unexciting of the offseason. It's unlikely that Denver fields a high-upside quarterback this season, regardless of who emerges as the Week 1 starter.
30. New York Jets
- Zach Wilson
- James Morgan
- Mike White
The good news for the New York Jets is that they do have a high-upside quarterback in rookie Zach Wilson. The second overall pick in the draft, Wilson has all the physical tools to develop into an elite NFL signal-caller.
The problem is that Wilson lacks polish, has zero NFL experience and may not be close to his final form in 2021.
"Overall, Wilson is a legit franchise QB prospect who will add excitement and explosive plays to whatever offense he joins, but might take some time to adjust to what he can—and can't—get away with at the NFL level," Nate Tice of the B/R Scouting Department wrote.
The bigger problem is that New York doesn't have an experienced quarterback who can mentor Wilson and/or allow the BYU product to learn from the sideline. They have James Morgan and Mike White, two quarterbacks who have never taken a regular-season snap.
This shouldn't be a long-term concern for Jets fans, who can rest comfortably knowing they have a quality prospect in-house. However, they're also likely to see a Josh Allen-type rookie season where Wilson flashes some signs of brilliance while also fighting through some substantial rookie struggles.
29. Carolina Panthers
- Sam Darnold
- P.J. Walker
- Will Grier
It'll be interesting to revisit Sam Darnold after the 2021 season to see how much being in a better situation helps him. The third overall pick in the 2018 draft has all the physical tools needed to be an upper-echelon quarterback, and now he has the supporting cast.
The Carolina Panthers will provide many of the things that the Jets did not. This includes an elite running back in Christian McCaffrey, quality receivers in D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson and a proven quarterback guru in offensive coordinator Joe Brady.
If everything comes together, Darnold could be a Pro Bowler in his new home. Based on what we've seen from him thus far, though, the Panthers have a troublesome quarterback situation.
Darnold was done no favors by the Jets, but he has only flashed glimpses of promise during his three pro seasons. He has also struggled to stay healthy, missing 10 of 48 possible games. Last year, he ranked 35th in passer rating (72.7) among qualifying starters and 32nd in yards per attempt (6.1).
The Panthers don't have anything in the way of a veteran mentor either, as P.J. Walker and Will Grier have only three regular-season starts between them.
Carolina's trade for Darnold was a boom-or-bust move, and the Panthers very much find themselves in a boom-or-bust situation.
28. Miami Dolphins
- Tua Tagovailoa
- Jacoby Brissett
Ideally, the addition of wide receivers Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle will help Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa be better than he was as a rookie. If not, Miami could be searching for its next quarterback of the future sooner than later.
While the Alabama product wasn't a complete disaster in 2020—he did go 6-3 as a starter and lead two fourth-quarter comebacks—he also left an awful lot to be desired. Tagovailoa averaged just 6.3 yards per pass attempt and 181.4 yards per game. Twenty-eight starters averaged more yards per attempt, and 25 had a passer rating higher than Tagovailoa's 87.1.
Perhaps more alarmingly, Tagovailoa was twice benched in favor of journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick in-game.
Obviously, Tagovailoa can still grow and develop into a quality NFL signal-caller, but he has a long way to go. Fitzpatrick is gone, which does hurt Miami's overall ranking some. He was the more potent of Miami's passers last season. However, the Dolphins do have a seasoned former starter in Jacoby Brissett who can help mentor Tagovailoa and spot-start if necessary.
27. New York Giants
- Daniel Jones
- Mike Glennon
- Clayton Thorson
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is facing a make-or-break season, and if he has a repeat of last year, New York may be facing a broken quarterback situation.
While it's worth noting that Jones played most of the year without star running back Saquon Barkley, he was still borderline awful in 2020. He ranked 30th in passer rating (80.4) and 31st in completion percentage (62.5) among qualifying starters. He also took 45 sacks, fumbled 11 times and had an 11-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Jones' 2020 campaign represented a notable decline from his promising rookie season, during which he tossed 24 touchdowns and 12 picks. However, he had a fumbling issue that year too and has a league-high 29 fumbles in two seasons.
Perhaps the addition of pass-catchers like Kenny Golladay and rookie Kadarius Toney will help Jones finally thrive. New York had better hope so, because its alternative is Mike Glennon. The seven-year veteran has a career record of 6-21 as a starter.
26. Detroit Lions
- Jared Goff
- Tim Boyle
- David Blough
The Detroit Lions traded longtime starter Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams this offseason, which could leave them searching for a new franchise quarterback. While Detroit did get Jared Goff as part of the deal, there's no guarantee Goff will succeed away from Sean McVay.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft, Goff was downright bad in his rookie season. He threw just five touchdowns in seven games with seven interceptions and a passer rating of 63.6. A pair of Pro Bowl seasons and a Super Bowl berth followed McVay's arrival, but Goff was back to average in 2020.
He finished last season ranked 23rd in passer rating (90.0) and 20th in yards per attempt (7.2) among qualifying starters. He also didn't lead a single fourth-quarter comeback and threw just 20 touchdowns to 13 interceptions.
With McVay out of the picture and Detroit featuring a less-than-impressive receiving corps—headlined by Breshad Perriman, Tyrell Williams and rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown—Goff could be in store for further regression.
Unfortunately for Detroit, there isn't a viable alternative on the roster. Tim Boyle has never made an NFL start, while David Blough is 0-5 for his career.
25. New England Patriots
- Cam Newton
- Mac Jones
- Jarrett Stidham
Had the New England Patriots not used the 15th overall pick on Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, they might be even further down this list. While starting quarterback Cam Newton is still dangerous as a runner, he was one of the league's worst starting quarterbacks as a passer last season
Newton finished ranked 28th among qualifying starters in passer rating (82.9), threw eight touchdowns to 10 interceptions and averaged just 177.1 passing yards per game. That said, he didn't have the weapons that New England added this offseason—including Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry and Nelson Agholor—and still went 7-8 as a starter.
Newton could be much better in 2021, and Jones adds elements of upside and unknown to the equation. He threw for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns and four interceptions last season—though he won't have the overwhelming supporting cast that he did at Alabama in New England.
Jarrett Stidham was a fourth-round pick in 2019 but will likely be irrelevant to the quarterback competition. Even when Newton was forced to miss a start in 2020, Stidham couldn't get an opportunity. New England is looking at either an unproven rookie or another year of Newton in 2021.
24. Indianapolis Colts
- Carson Wentz
- Jacob Eason
- Sam Ehlinger
The Indianapolis Colts rank this low because there's no telling exactly what they'll get from Carson Wentz this season. If they get the 2020 version of him, it's going to be a disaster.
Wentz was arguably the league's worst quarterback last season. He ranked 34th in passer rating (72.8) and 34th in completion percentage (57.4) among qualifying starters. He also tied Drew Lock for the league lead in interceptions with 15.
However, there's reason for the Colts to be bullish on Wentz. He was an MVP-caliber signal-caller in 2017 before tearing his ACL and losing Frank Reich as his offensive coordinator. Now reunited with Reich—Indy's head coach—Wentz could very well see a return to that form in 2021.
Wentz's upside is why the Colts aren't completely in the basement here. If his rehabilitation tour doesn't pan out, though, Indianapolis could be in trouble. Sam Ehlinger is a sixth-round rookie, while second-year man Jacob Eason has never taken a regular-season snap.
As far as boom-or-bust quarterback situations go, Indianapolis' tops the list.
23. Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears traded up to draft their quarterback of the future in Justin Fields, but the Ohio State product may not see the field early. Chicago signed Andy Dalton in free agency, and Dalton will be the Week 1 starter unless Fields blows the Bears away during camp.
"They're OK sitting Fields if Dalton has a good grasp on the job and they feel like they can win with him," ESPN's Jeremy Fowler said on Get Up (h/t Bleacher Report's Tyler Conway).
While Dalton is still a starting-caliber quarterback—and only 33 years old—he was toward the back end of the spectrum in 2020. He ranked 25th among qualifying starters in passer rating (87.3), threw 14 touchdowns to eight interceptions and went just 4-5 as a starter in Dallas.
Still, the Bears are in a better spot than they were a year ago. Dalton isn't a downgrade from Mitchell Trubisky, and Fields possesses the sort of upside Chicago hasn't had at quarterback in a very long time, if ever.
Plus, former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles is still on the roster to provide guidance, depth and a low-level starting option should the situation call for it.
24. New Orleans Saints
- Jameis Winston
- Taysom Hill
- Ian Book
There's a heavy risk-reward element to the New Orleans Saints' quarterback situation. On one hand, the Saints have a championship-caliber roster that features weapons like Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. They also have an innovative play-caller in Sean Payton. These factors could help New Orleans' signal-caller be a star in 2021.
On the other hand, the Saints don't yet have a starter in place. Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill are expected to compete for the job with Drew Brees now retired.
While Hill only has 134 career passing attempts on his resume, Winston is an experienced starter. He's started 70 career games, has 19,812 career passing yards and led the league with 5,109 passing yards in 2019. Should Winston win the competition, he has the potential to move the Saints up the rankings in a hurry.
However, Winston also has a turnover problem, with 88 interceptions in five seasons as a starter. If he fixes that issue, he could produce MVP-caliber numbers. If he doesn't, the Saints may be inclined to yank him for Hill.
No matter how talented a quarterback is, turnovers lose games.
Ultimately, though, New Orleans' ranking is the product of it not yet having a starter. This is a team that should have playoff expectations but is without an entrenched quarterback—and that's a significant problem.
21. Washington Football Team
- Ryan Fitzpatrick
- Taylor Heinicke
- Kyle Allen
While the Saints have yet to decide on a starter, the Washington Football Team has pegged journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick as their man for the 2021 season. While Fitzpatrick has played for a quarter of the league and been wildly inconsistent throughout his career, he's been surprisingly good over the last three seasons.
In 2018, 2019 and 2020, Fitzpatrick posted passer ratings of 100.4, 85.5 and 95.6, respectively. While he only went 11-16 as a starter during that span, Washington could do worse at the quarterback position.
Last year, Fitzpatrick ranked 17th in passer rating and seventh in completion percentage (68.5) among qualifying starters. He also ranked eighth in yards per attempt (7.8) while throwing 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions in nine games.
A journeyman is as a journeyman does, and the Football Team should expect average-to-good quarterback play from Fitzpatrick. However, there is always the risk of "bad Fitzpatrick" returning: He produced a passer rating of 69.6 in 2016 and led the NFL with 23 interceptions in 2011. So, there is some risk here.
On the bright side, Taylor Heinicke played admirably during Washington's playoff loss last season, and Kyle Allen is well-versed in coordinator Scott Turner's offense, having spent time with him in Carolina.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars
- Trevor Lawrence
- Gardner Minshew II
- C.J. Beathard
The Jacksonville Jaguars should feel great about their long-term quarterback situation after landing Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick. They should feel pretty good about the present too, as Lawrence is about as NFL-ready as a quarterback prospect can be.
"Lawrence is the complete package of size, arm talent, athleticism and intangibles," Nate Tice of the B/R Scouting Department wrote. "Although he played in a very simple offense in college, his ability to deliver top-tier throws at all three levels with a variety of touch and consistent placement is something that translates to any offense."
The Jags also have a quality backup in Gardner Minshew II, who has started 20 games in his two pro seasons.
Yet, it's impossible to put Jacksonville in the top half of the rankings when Lawrence has yet to play an NFL snap. This is still a team that won a single game a year ago, and there's no guarantee that Lawrence will be an immediate star.
19. Philadelphia Eagles
- Jalen Hurts
- Joe Flacco
- Jamie Newman
With Carson Wentz now in Indianapolis, the Philadelphia Eagles are Jalen Hurts' team. While Hurts only has four games of NFL starting experience, there are reasons to believe that Philadelphia is in a high-upside situation.
For one, Hurts' numbers in his three full games—he was pulled in the season finale—were fantastic. He passed for 847 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed for 238 yards and a score. Prorated over a 17-game season, that would put Hurts on pace for roughly 4,800 passing yards, 23 touchdown passes, 11 interceptions, 1,349 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns.
Secondly, Hurts worked with a receiving corps largely devoid of reliable weapons and without starting tackles Andre Dillard and Lane Johnson. Philadelphia used its first-round pick on wideout DeVonta Smith and should have both Dillard and Johnson back for Week 1.
Is there a lot of unknown left with Hurts? Absolutely, and that's why the Eagles' situation ranks in the bottom 16. However, Hurts oozes potential, has a seasoned backup in Joe Flacco and could help spark a Philadelphia turnaround in 2021.
18. Cincinnati Bengals
- Joe Burrow
- Brandon Allen
- Kyle Shurmur
Before any Cincinnati Bengals fans get angry, know that this ranking isn't a reflection of Joe Burrow's upside. The No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft showed plenty of promise as a rookie, passing for 2,688 yards with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions in 10 games.
The problem here is that Burrow suffered a devastating left knee injury during his 10th game that involved multiple torn ligaments. There's no telling how he'll respond to that injury, physically or mentally—Carson Wentz has not been the same quarterback since his left ACL tear in 2017.
Cincinnati did sign tackle Riley Reiff and draft guard Jackson Carman, but it probably didn't upgrade the offensive line as much as it should have. Burrow was sacked 32 times in 10 games, and coming off of the injury, Burrow really is in an alarming situation.
Burrow has the tools to be an elite NFL signal-caller, but those tools won't matter if he cannot stay on the field.
Backup Brandon Allen does have eight career starts, so Cincinnati shouldn't be forced to rush Burrow back before he is ready. Still, Cincinnati's season will hinge on when/if Burrow can get back to being the quarterback he was pre-injury.
17. San Francisco 49ers
- Jimmy Garoppolo
- Trey Lance
- Josh Rosen
If rookie third overall pick Trey Lance can make his way onto the field this season, the San Francisco 49ers may have a high-upside quarterback situation. However, much of the team appears to still favor Jimmy Garoppolo—for now.
"I'm told Garoppolo still has significant support in the 49ers building," ESPN's Jeremy Fowler said on SportsCenter (h/t Bleacher Report's Rob Goldberg). "...They feel like if he's in the lineup, he's healthy, 'We win.'"
If Garoppolo does fend off Lance, San Francisco is looking at a relatively average quarterback situation. Yes, Garoppolo did help the 49ers reach the Super Bowl two years ago, but he has never been a Pro Bowler and has an extensive injury history—he's missed 23 games over the past three seasons.
Availability is a major asset for quarterbacks, and Garoppolo often doesn't provide it. If Garoppolo can't stay on the field, San Francisco will be forced to either turn to a physically gifted but inexperienced rookie (19 college games) or former first-round bust Josh Rosen.
San Francisco's future with Lance should be bright, but its present hinges on Garoppolo staying healthy. That's not an ideal situation for any team with championship aspirations.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers
- Ben Roethlisberger
- Dwayne Haskins
- Mason Rudolph
This ranking probably feels low for a team with a first-ballot Hall of Famer at quarterback. The reality, however, is that the Pittsburgh Steelers can't possibly know exactly what they still have in starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
On one hand, Roethlisberger's late-2020 decline could be a fluke. With weapons like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool and Najee Harris, he could potentially bounce back and have a career year. On the other hand, Roethlisberger's late-season collapse could be a sign of things to come.
Roethlisberger was solid early last season and finished with 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. However, he lost the long ball—he ranked 30th in yards per attempt (6.3)—and really struggled down the stretch.
Including the postseason, Roethlisberger threw 12 touchdown passes and eight interceptions in his final five games. Pittsburgh went 1-4 during that final stretch.
If Big Ben has finally hit the dreaded cliff, the Steelers could be in trouble. Mason Rudolph proved during the 2019 season that he isn't a high-level starter—he went 5-3 but posted a passer rating of just 82.0—while Dwayne Haskins washed out of Washington in less than two seasons.
This doesn't mean that the Steelers can't still be title contenders in 2021. The Broncos won a Super Bowl with the ghost of Peyton Manning under center, so it can be done. However, the Steelers have to feel about as bad about their quarterback situation as they have since drafting Roethlisberger in 2004.
15. Minnesota Vikings
- Kirk Cousins
- Kellen Mond
- Jake Browning
Kirk Cousins seems to define what it means to be a good-but-not-great NFL quarterback. The Minnesota Vikings signal-caller consistently produces impressive statistics but does not deliver wins like his truly elite counterparts.
With a career record of 51-51-2, Cousins really does deliver average results.
Still, Minnesota can't feel bad about its current quarterback situation. Cousins has been great statistically over the past two seasons. He had quarterback ratings of 107.4 in 2019 and 105.0 this past season. He had three game-winning drives in 2020 while passing for 4,265 yards and 35 touchdowns. However, Cousins' 13 interceptions were problematic and, again, his results were underwhelming (Minnesota went 7-9).
Cousins is a two-time Pro Bowler, and Minnesota can win with him. However, the Vikings may have hit their ceiling with the nine-year veteran and began looking to the future in the 2021 draft—where they took Texas A&M's Kellen Mond in Round 3.
If the rest of the team plays well, Cousins can steer the Vikings on a deep playoff run. He isn't likely to carry the team, however, which is why Minnesota falls near the middle of the pack.
14. Los Angeles Chargers
- Justin Herbert
- Chase Daniel
- Easton Stick
If we were basing things on 2020 statistics alone, the Los Angeles Chargers would be further up this list. Quarterback Justin Herbert was fantastic as a rookie, throwing for 4,336 yards with 31 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a passer rating of 98.3.
However, Herbert only has 15 games of experience under his belt, and we've seen standout rookies falter in Year 2 before. Baker Mayfield also had a record-setting rookie campaign only to flounder in his second season. Like Mayfield did in 2019, Herbert will have to adjust to a new coaching staff in Year 2.
Still, Herbert played like a legitimate franchise quarterback last season. He ranked 12th in quarterback rating and 15th in completion percentage (66.6) among qualifying starters. At no point did he appear overwhelmed by the speed and talent of the NFL game.
It will be exciting to see how Herbert develops under new head coach Brandon Staley, and L.A. has a fine insurance policy in Chase Daniel. While Daniel only has five career starts on his resume, he's been in the league for 11 seasons and has been around veterans like Drew Brees, Alex Smith and Matthew Stafford.
13. Arizona Cardinals
- Kyler Murray
- Colt McCoy
- Chris Streveler
Kyler Murray is still developing as a passer and isn't a finished product—he ranked 18th in passer rating (94.3) last season among qualifying starters—but he's already one of the most dangerous signal-callers in the game.
Murray is nearly unstoppable as a runner when he hits his stride, he's loaded with arm talent and he has shown growth as a professional quarterback. He didn't make the Pro Bowl by accident last season, as he threw for 3,971 yards, rushed for 819 yards and produced 37 combined touchdowns with 12 interceptions. He also led three fourth-quarter comebacks.
While Murray isn't quite on Lamar Jackson's level as a dual-threat, he's close, and he should be a viable MVP candidate in 2021.
Murray has also proven himself to be durable for a 5'10", 207-pound quarterback. He's absorbed 75 sacks over two seasons and hasn't missed a start. Arizona has a fantastic insurance policy in place, though, as Colt McCoy has 10 years and 30 career starts under his belt.
12. Las Vegas Raiders
- Derek Carr
- Marcus Mariota
- Nathan Peterman
It's time to stop dismissing Derek Carr. While the Las Vegas Raiders starter isn't a truly elite quarterback, he might be the league's most underappreciated signal-caller. He has quietly been great over the past couple of seasons, posting quarterback ratings of 100.8 in 2019 and 101.4 in 2020.
This past season, Carr ranked 10th in completion percentage (67.3) and 10th in quarterback rating while delivering three fourth-quarter comebacks and five game-winning drives.
Carr has also been dependable, missing only two regular-season games in six seasons.
The one knock on Carr is that he hasn't racked up the wins. However, his career record of 47-63 has more to do with some of the teams that have been around him than his own play. Carr has only posted a passer rating below 90.0 once since his rookie season and has had to overcome some atrocious defenses (Las Vegas ranked 30th in points allowed last season) and offensive line play (Carr was sacked 51 times in 2018).
Should Carr miss time this season, the Raiders can turn to 2015 second overall pick Marcus Mariota.
11. Los Angeles Rams
- Matthew Stafford
- John Wolford
- Bryce Perkins
This offseason, the Rams decided to go all-in on 12-year veteran Matthew Stafford. They traded a package of picks that included two first-rounders plus Jared Goff to acquire the Lions signal-caller. Thus far, they are quite happy with their decision.
"I think we're in the early phases of it," head coach Sean McVay told reporters (at the 2:25 mark). "But certainly, the way he's handled things up to this point, been very pleased. He's a joy to be around every single day. The consistency that he comes into work with is definitely something that he makes it really fun. And been pleased with what he's done up to this point."
The Rams should be happy with their decision. Stafford has been a tremendously consistent quarterback—he's had a passer rating of 93.0 or higher in five of the past six seasons—who can make every throw imaginable. He consistently battles through injuries, and last season he produced three fourth-quarter comebacks and had four game-winning drives.
As pocket-passers go, Stafford fits the mold perfectly, and the only real blemish on his career is that he's never won a playoff game. There's a good chance that changes this season. Behind Stafford, the Rams have John Wolford, who won his only start for the team last season.
10. Cleveland Browns
- Baker Mayfield
- Case Keenum
- Kyle Lauletta
Baker Mayfield is not yet a top-10 quarterback—unless you're looking at ESPN's QBR grading system, in which case, he was in 2020. However, if the second half of the Cleveland Browns 2020 season is an accurate indication, that will probably change in 2021.
Mayfield and the Browns had a lot to overcome last season—a fourth head coach in three years, the loss of No. 1 wideout Odell Beckham Jr. and the complete lack of a preseason—and the early results weren't great. Mayfield started slowly in Kevin Stefanski's offense, but once things clicked, he went off.
In his last eight games, including the playoffs, Mayfield threw for 2,180 yards with 15 touchdowns and two interceptions. He went 12-6 as a starter, including the postseason, and helped the Browns win their first playoff game since the organization was reactivated in 1999.
Mayfield is a perfect fit for Stefanski's run-heavy offense, as he has the mobility and the arm talent needed to buy time in the pocket and turn play-action into big gains. He has a winning record as a starter, which is an anomaly for Cleveland quarterbacks, and with a full offseason and Stefanski and Beckham set to return, he should be even better in 2021.
While Mayfield has never missed a start due to injury, Cleveland has an ideal insurance policy in place. Case Keenum played under Stefanski in Minnesota and has made 62 starts in his NFL career.
9. Tennessee Titans
- Ryan Tannehill
- Logan Woodside
- DeShone Kizer
While the Tennessee Titans' quarterback depth isn't particularly impressive—DeShone Kizer is 0-15 as a starter, while Logan Woodside has attempted just three passes—starter Ryan Tannehill has been fantastic for the franchise.
Since arriving in Tennessee two years ago, Tannehill has quietly been one of the most consistent and productive quarterbacks in the league. He led the NFL in yards per attempt (9.6), yards per completion (13.6) and quarterback rating (117.5) in 2019. He wasn't quite as impressive this past season, though he did lead the league with five fourth-quarter comebacks and six game-winning drives.
Tannehill threw for 3,819 yards with 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions and posted a passer rating of 106.5 in 2020.
The one caveat to Tannehill's Tennessee success is that he's played the game-manager role in an offense spearheaded by running back Derrick Henry. He has not been forced to carry the team the way quarterbacks ahead of him on this list have done at various points in their careers.
Still, Tannehill is a perfect fit for the Titans, and they should be thrilled to have him under center in 2021.
8. Green Bay Packers
- Aaron Rodgers (maybe)
- Jordan Love
- Blake Bortles
Ranking the Green Bay Packers is extremely difficult, and we're ranking on a bit of a curve here. On one hand, Aaron Rodgers is the reigning MVP and arguably the most physically gifted quarterback in all of football. On the other, there's a very real chance he won't play for Green Bay this season.
Rodgers is unhappy with...something in the Packers organization. Exactly what isn't clear, but Rodgers told ESPN's Kenny Mayne that it has something to do with the franchise's culture and character. The unknown issue may be problematic enough for Rodgers to sit out the 2021 season or seek retirement.
"Some close to him remain adamant that he is stuck in and won't play for the Packers ever again," wrote CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora.
If Rodgers doesn't play for the Packers this season, they'll be looking at either Blake Bortles or the unproven Jordan Love in Week 1. That combination would push Green Bay toward to bottom of the rankings.
If Rodgers was surely going to play for the Packers this season, an argument could be made to rank Green Bay at No. 1. The possibility that he still will suit up keeps the team in the top 10 for now, though this ranking could change wildly at any given moment.
7. Atlanta Falcons
- Matt Ryan
- A.J. McCarron
- Feleipe Franks
The Atlanta Falcons may or may not have star wideout Julio Jones in 2021—they're asking for "a lot," according to NFL insider Josina Anderson—but they will have quarterback Matt Ryan under center. As long as the Falcons have Ryan, there's reason to hope for a successful season.
While Ryan is a throwback pocket passer and is 36 years old, he's still one of the most reliable signal-callers in the game. While his efficiency has been down in recent years—he had passer ratings of 92.1 and 93.3 in 2019 and 2020, respectively, Ryan has also had to overcome a lot.
The Falcons defense has been bad, ranking 20th and 29th in yardage allowed in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Ryan has been sacked 89 times over the past two seasons and has constantly had to play from behind. He led the league in completions each of the past two years for a reason.
Yet, the four-time Pro Bowler rarely misses games (three in 13 seasons) and has passed for at least 4,000 yards in each of the past 10 years. With 55,767 passing yards and 347 touchdowns in his career, Ryan is posting Hall of Fame-caliber numbers.
Backup A.J. McCarron has six years of NFL experience and undrafted rookie Feleipe Franks could be developed for the future, but Atlanta should be completely confident in what it has in Ryan this season. The overall team might not be great, but the Falcons should have no concerns about their quarterback situation.
6. Dallas Cowboys
- Dak Prescott
- Cooper Rush
- Garrett Gilbert
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott probably doesn't get enough run as an upper-echelon quarterback, but that's exactly what he has developed into. Though not a true dual-threat, Prescott is plenty mobile, has tremendous arm talent and knows how to take advantage of the talent around him.
In just over four seasons, Prescott has thrown for 17,634 yards with 160 touchdowns and just 40 interceptions. The two-time Pro Bowler was leading the league with 1,856 passing yards after five games last season when he was lost for the year with a broken right ankle.
While Prescott's recovery does play a minor factor in Dallas' ranking, he appears to already be close to 100 percent.
"From a physical standpoint, it would be difficult to know Dak Prescott is coming off an open ankle fracture," Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News tweeted during Cowboys OTAs.
Given the weapons on Dallas' roster, Prescott should have a legitimate chance of making an MVP run this season. While his backups don't bring extensive experience, Garrett Gilbert did earn a start while Prescott was sidelined last season.
Of course, Prescott never missed a game before suffering the fluke injury in 2020.
5. Baltimore Ravens
- Lamar Jackson
- Trace McSorley
- Tyler Huntley
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson had a "down" year in 2020—at least by his already impressive standards. This past season, the Louisville product threw for 2,757 yards, rushed for 1,005 yards and produced 23 combined touchdowns. This came a year after Jackson was unanimously named the NFL MVP.
While Jackson is unorthodox by NFL standards, he's one of the most indefensible signal-callers in the game. He can carve up opposing defenses with his leg or his arm, and he can buy seemingly endless amounts of time in the pocket.
While Jackson still has room to grow as a passer—that growth may come this season with new weapons like Rashod Bateman and Sammy Watkins on the roster—he's effective enough in that department. He produced a passer rating of 113.3 in 2019 and 99.3 this past season.
The one real knock on Jackson is that he hasn't been the most efficient when playing from behind. He had just one fourth-quarter comeback in 2020 and stumbled in both the 2019 and 2020 playoffs when facing a sizable deficit.
While the Ravens don't have a ton of proven depth behind Jackson, they have an elite signal-caller who hasn't missed a regular-season game due to injury. They should feel terrific about their situation heading into 2021.
4. Buffalo Bills
- Josh Allen
- Mitchell Trubisky
- Jake Fromm
The 2020 season was a breakout campaign for quarterback Josh Allen, and it was one that should have Buffalo Bills fans absolutely jazzed about the coming season. The mobile, cannon-armed Wyoming product finally reached his potential, and the results were remarkable.
Allen ranked fourth in passer rating (107.2) and fourth in completion percentage (69.2) among qualifying starters last season. He was fifth in yards per completion (7.9) and led two fourth-quarter comebacks. In all, he passed for 4,544 yards with 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 421 yards and eight more scores.
Oh, and Allen also helped the Bills reach the AFC Championship Game for the first time since the 1993 season.
Allen has shown steady growth in his three years as a signal-caller, and there's no reason to believe he'll regress in 2021. He should be in the MVP conversation throughout the season and might only struggle if bitten by the injury bug.
Should Allen miss time, the Bills can turn to former Bears starter Mitchell Trubisky. While going from Allen to Trubisky would be a huge drop-off, Trubisky does have a 29-21 starting record. From a quarterbacking standpoint, Buffalo is prepared to handle just about anything that could come its way.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Tom Brady
- Blaine Gabbert
- Kyle Trask
There's no arguing with seven championships, and that's what Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady has on his resume. Even at 43 years old, he's still playing at an elite level, as evidenced by his 2020 numbers.
Last season, Brady threw for 4,633 yards with 40 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He ranked ninth in passer rating (102.2) among qualifying starters and produced three fourth-quarter comebacks. Most importantly, of course, he helped the Buccaneers win their first championship since the 2002 season.
Tampa should feel as good about its quarterback situation as any team in the NFL. The only reason the Bucs aren't ranked even higher is the fact that the depth behind Brady isn't particularly impressive. Kyle Trask is a second-round rookie, while Blaine Gabbert has a 13-35 starting record.
Brady is still a 43-year-old quarterback who underwent knee surgery this offseason. He has only missed time due to injury when he suffered a torn left ACL in 2008, but if he misses any time this season, the Buccaneers could be in trouble.
2. Seattle Seahawks
- Russell Wilson
- Geno Smith
- Danny Etling
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson may lack the height of an archetypal NFL quarterback, but he has every other quality an NFL franchise could ever want. He's accurate, throws a tremendous deep ball, sees the field extremely well, avoids pressure and, while he's not a pure scrambler, he can gobble up yards on the ground.
Wilson is also incredibly consistent. He's thrown for 30 or more touchdowns in five of his past six seasons, has topped a passer rating of 100.0 in six of his nine campaigns and has missed the postseason exactly once.
Last season, Wilson ranked sixth in completion percentage, seventh in quarterback rating and tied for second in touchdown passes among qualifying starters. He also led three fourth-quarter comebacks and had three game-winning drives after leading the league with five game-winning drives in 2019.
Having never missed a career start, Wilson's durability also makes his backups largely irrelevant.
Wilson is a first-ballot Hall of Famer like Brady, and while he doesn't have the career accolades that Brady has, he owns advantages in mobility, youth and raw arm talent. Put Wilson on last year's Tampa team, and the Buccaneers would probably still be reigning Super Bowl champions right now.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
- Patrick Mahomes
- Chad Henne
- Anthony Gordon
This is a ranking that should surprise no one. Patrick Mahomes has been a full-time starter for three years now. In that span, he has reached the AFC title game three times, been to two Super Bowls, won one Lombardi Trophy, been to three Pro Bowls and been both a regular-season and a Super Bowl MVP.
This past season, Mahomes started 15 regular-season games and passed for 4,740 yards with 38 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He went 14-1 in his starts, led the league in yards per game (316) and posted a passer rating of 108.2.
While the Kansas City Chiefs weren't down often in the regular season, Mahomes still led three fourth-quarter comebacks and had three game-winning drives.
And no, it's not fair to put the Chiefs' Super Bowl loss on Mahomes. They ran into a buzzsaw of a defense, didn't have either of their starting offensive tackles, and had to contain Tom Brady and an offense firing on all cylinders.
There's practically nothing Mahomes cannot do physically, and his statistics already have him on a track to Canton. Barring injury, Mahomes should remain at the pinnacle of the quarterback mountain for a long, long time.
To add icing on the proverbial cake, Kansas City has a terrific backup in Chad Henne—one who took over when Mahomes was in the concussion protocol and helped deliver a win in the divisional round of the playoffs.
As quarterback situations go heading into 2021, no team has a better one than the Chiefs.
*Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference