I told you we’d get to quarterbacks. Had to save the best for last right? No position is more important in the NFL or perhaps in all of sports. I know I’ve kept you waiting long enough, so here are the top 10 quarterbacks heading into 2022!
1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Two-time reigning MVP. 37/4 TD/INT ratio. League-leading 111.9 passer rating. Those points alone earn Rodgers the top spot on this list without even discussing the fact that he went 13-3 for the second straight year and compiled 4115 yards passing. What sets Rodgers apart from his peers is his true mastery of the QB position from both physical and mental standpoints. His arm strength is among the best out there, and he can throw from multiple arm platforms. Mentally, he diagnoses coverages before the snap, sets perfect protection schemes, audibles effectively, and aligns his teammates. Once the ball is snapped, he excels at looking off safeties, moving within and outside the pocket, and firing passes with pinpoint accuracy. It’s simple really: with Rodgers, GB is a Super Bowl contender every year; without him, they’re a mediocre team at best.
2. Tom Brady, Buccaneers
At some point, Brady won’t be on these types of lists anymore. We thought that day had finally come, but his retirement was brief and he’s back terrorizing the league. My heart goes out to fans of other teams in the NFC South. Despite finishing the season at age 44, Brady unfathomably led the league in both yards (5316) and passing TDs (43). We already know that he’s the ultimate winner, but he’s also one of the greatest tacticians on the field that the game has ever seen. He adjusts his game to attack opponent weaknesses, slicing and dicing coverages and taking targeted deep shots. No one has ever accused Brady of being a speedster, but his movement within the pocket is unmatched. That in combination with his quick release makes his offensive line look better, as Brady took sacks on a league-low 3% of his dropbacks last season. Can he keep this up? I know better than to bet against Brady, no matter his age.
3. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
If Brady is both the NFL’s past and present, then Mahomes is simultaneously its present and future. What counts as a “down year” for Mahomes would be a career year for almost anyone else; he totaled 4389 yards and 37 passing TDs with 13 INTs. He had the league’s second-lowest sack rate at just 4.1%, and he even added 381 rushing yards with 2 TDs on the ground. Mahomes’ athletic gifts are evident every play: he has a rocket arm, can elude pressure and make you pay with his legs, and can fire passes at ridiculous arm angles. When a play breaks down, that’s when Mahomes is most dangerous. He can extend plays and bide his time until a target becomes open downfield before firing a laser at that pass catcher. I suspect he’s better equipped than most to handle the departure of a dynamic WR like Tyreek Hill, and the Chiefs will be contenders again as a result.
4. Matthew Stafford, Rams
Taking a good team over the hump to a Super Bowl title in your first season with them earns you plenty of ranking points. Long viewed as a good but not elite QB that was stuck on poor Lions teams, Stafford set out to prove what he could do with a good organization and immediately delivered. Though he led the league in INTs (17), he ranked second in TD passes (41) and third in passing yards (4886) The difference between him and Jared Goff was also enough to take the Rams from playoff team to title winner. Stafford excels at deep passes and plays with a moving pocket, such as bootlegs. His accuracy is strong, and he has sufficient mobility to get out of trouble when needed. He seems like a perfect fit for coach Sean McVay’s scheme, and this partnership is likely to remain fruitful for years to come.
5. Joe Burrow, Bengals
Burrow didn’t have the best regular-season numbers on this list, although he did provide better QB play than the Bengals have had in years. He had 4611 passing yards, 34 TDs, and 14 INTs. Everything changed starting in the first matchup against KC. Burrow went toe-to-toe with Patrick Mahomes and won. His play remained elevated through the playoffs, culminating in a Super Bowl berth. He did all this despite some of the worst offensive line play I’ve ever seen over any two-year stretch. Burrow’s 51 sacks were the most suffered by any QB in a single season since 2019, and his 9 sacks taken against the Titans in the playoffs tied a league record for a single playoff game. With the additions of La’el Collins, Alex Cappa, and Ted Karras, Burrow’s protection should be drastically improved, which may raise his ceiling even further than once thought.
6. Josh Allen, Bills
The first thing you might be thinking is “how is Josh Allen only 6th?!” I hope you let me explain before closing the page. I recognize that Allen has the strongest arm…perhaps ever. His rushing ability (763 yards and 6 TDs) is elite. He’s also made real strides as a passer. However, his accuracy still haunts me a little. Allen finished 24th in completion percentage (63.3%) and had the second-most INTs (15). Perhaps no one has a higher ceiling, but accuracy is not something you can coach unless it’s caused by a mechanical flaw. It is undeniable that Allen can convert any throw, including many that even Hall of Fame QBs couldn’t dream of. Clearly, I consider him to still be a top QB based on this ranking, and he did throw for 4407 yards and 36 TDs. However, unless his accuracy takes a surprising step forward, I can’t put him in the next tier.
7. Justin Herbert, Chargers
The talk about Herbert being “too quiet” and coming from a spread offense were clearly overblown. All he’s done is win Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2020 before putting up a Pro Bowl campaign in 2022. One of only two players to hit 5000 passing yards last season, Herbert’s 5014 yards were second only to Tom Brady. He finished third with 38 passing TDs, but he also tied for second-most INTs with 15. Herbert might have the league’s second-strongest arm (behind Josh Allen), and his accuracy has been a surprising strength that he didn’t display as much at Oregon. His athleticism is also great, as he’s able to evade pressure and throw on the run or take off for a positive gain. Next, he just needs to focus on cutting down on turnovers and a few poor mistakes/throws per game to join the elites. He’s primed to do so in year 3. At Herbert’s current pace, this #7 ranking is likely to be his lowest for a while.
8. Derek Carr, Raiders
This time people are going to accuse me of ranking a QB too high. Carr doesn’t always have the best TD/INT ratio (23/14 this past season), but when you watch him on film, he looks the part of a true franchise QB. His passing yards (4804) and completion percentage (68.4%) both ranked 5th in the NFL. None of that is actually what got him on this list though. Few players (or people for that matter) are as clutch or stronger leaders than Derek Carr. His Raiders went through the wringer last year; coach Jon Gruden resigned after racist emails were discovered; Henry Ruggs was released after a fiery car crash that resulted in someone’s death. Still, he kept the team together and even guided them to a playoff berth for the first time since 2016. Carr also excels in close games, with a staggering 24 fourth-quarter comebacks in his career. That’s 5th-most among active players, and nobody ahead of him was drafted later than 2012. Some may not think highly of Carr, but I’d take him over most QBs out there.
9. Kirk Cousins, Vikings
I am going to get quite a bit of flak for this one as well. Cousins is quite a polarizing player, with some viewing him as a steady upper-tier player and others blasting him as all stats, no substance. Think about this though: how has the Washington franchise faired lately without him? From a statistical standpoint, he ranked in the top 10 of every major category in 2021, including passing yards (4221, 9th), passing TDs (33, 9th), interception percentage (1.2%, 2nd), and passer rating (103.1, 5th). I wouldn’t call him a mere game manager. He’s a distributor that gets the ball to his playmakers (i.e., Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson) effectively. Is he good enough to take a team to a Super Bowl? I’m not sure, but it’s not his fault the Vikings secondary can’t stop opposing offenses any better than a Division II school.
10. Russell Wilson, Broncos
I’m putting Wilson in the top 10 partly as a show of respect for what he’s done in his career and partly due to how rejuvenated I think he’ll be with his new team. The truth of the matter is that Wilson has not been quite as good as we’ve been used to for the past couple of years. He has taken too many unnecessary sacks, and the Seattle offense went into far too many perplexing lulls. His TD-to-INT ratio was stellar as always at 25/6, as was his passer rating (103.1). However, he took sacks on 7.6% of his dropbacks, and not all of them were the fault of his line (Duane Brown was really good at LT), so that’s a very high number for a player with Wilson’s elusiveness. The team also finished 16th in points per game (23.2), suggesting that the offense had grown stale. His 3 missed games, the first of his career, probably didn’t help his case. I’m willing to bet that with an energized Broncos team that has high hopes for this season, Russ will start cooking once again.