NFL quarterback rankings for 2019: Best to worst, 1-32Sporting News — (Vinnie Iyer)
The practice of ranking NFL quarterbacks has never been tougher, because the league has never had this many strong QBs at once. In 2019, the NFL continues to benefit from an intriguing intersection of future Hall of Famers and rising superstars.
Sporting News' NFL team — writers Vinnie Iyer, Bill Bender and Tadd Haislop — did not shy away from the challenge of this increasingly difficult offseason tradition. Before you see our current list, however, be wary of our criteria.
These rankings are based on how each QB performed last season and the upside of how each might perform in 2019. No matter how many Super Bowl rings or MVP awards a QB has won, or the number of efficient passing seasons he has posted in the past, history is a small part of the equation. We thought about where each QB ended up last season in terms of effectiveness, production and durability, and then we thought even more about how his talent and offensive support set him up for success (or lack thereof) this season.
Get it? Got it? Good. Let's get into SN's NFL quarterback rankings for 2019.
NFL quarterback rankings for 2019
The top tier
(Elite QBs; best MVP candidates.)
1. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
The reigning league MVP is seeing some personnel change around him, but his play last season proved how much he can elevate his backs, receivers and tight ends. Mahomes has raised the standard for all young guns coming into the league.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Rodgers is due for a durable, MVP-like season, and he will feel rejuvenated with new, offensive-minded coach in Matt LaFleur letting him loose with a versatile receiving corps. LaFleur also will use the Green Bay's strengths up front and in the backfield to full advantage.
3. Tom Brady, Patriots
No matter how one measures his play, the GOAT was "only" superhuman last season, showing mild decline at age 41. Brady will be getting used to life without Rob Gronkowski in 2019 and leaning a little more on the run, but it's hard to rank him any lower until he retires.
4. Drew Brees, Saints
Brees was right there with Mahomes and Brady in the MVP conversation last season, and he is one of those legends many will grow to appreciate more years down the road when they look back on how prolific he was. Now at 40, Brees in a couple years could even become known as a better age-defier than Brady is now.
5. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Wilson has had a roller-coaster offseason, first getting his big contract and then losing his longtime go-to guy in Doug Baldwin. But here's to a QB who consistently puts his team on his back, right arm and legs. Wilson will need to do even more of that in 2019.
6. Andrew Luck, Colts
With his shoulder fully mended, his offensive line now a wall and his immersion into a passing game that maximizes his intelligence complete, Luck is back as the QB everyone knew was a can't-miss, mental and physical specimen for the position.
The second tier
(Slightly more dependent but still great QBs helped by fine offenses.)
7. Philip Rivers, Chargers
Rivers looks like a young 37 with his ironman status. His two seasons with coach Anthony Lynn in Los Angeles have produced stellar play, throwing it back to his late 20s.
8. Matt Ryan, Falcons
Ryan's MVP year in 2016 was written off as a late-career anomaly when he struggled under Steve Sarkisian the very next season. In 2018, Ryan quietly rounded back into that form with similar numbers. Now with a familiar new coordinator in Dirk Koetter, expect the QB to adapt well and find comfort quickly.
9. Baker Mayfield, Browns
This is not just more Cleveland hype for 2019. Mayfield put together a terrific rookie season, one that could have been even better had Hue Jackson allowed him to compete for the job in the preseason, or had Freddie Kitchens been coaching him all the way. Now Kitchens is doing just that, and Mayfield has an elite No. 1 wideout in Odell Beckham Jr.
10. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
No, we did not put Big Ben behind Baker just to stir conversation in the AFC North. Given current trajectories, it made little sense to go the other way around. Roethlisberger will be impacted by the absence of Antonio Brown, and the Steelers will lean more on the running game and defense this season to compensate for the fade in Roethlisberger's athleticism and ability to carry the team. Big Ben is still a fine, winning gunslinger, but going forward, Mayfield has the edge in intangibles.
11. Carson Wentz, Eagles
Wentz, a physical and athletic freak who got strong MVP consideration in his second season before his knee injury, would be ranked higher if not for concerns about his durability going into Year 4. He has a good chance to quickly change that narrative this season. The Eagles no longer have a good backup plan, and they are investing more in Wentz's playmakers and protection.
12. Jared Goff, Rams
The notion that Goff is a system QB is not an insult; he should not apologize for his coach tailoring an offense to his strengths and allowing him to operate with the best wide receiver trio in the NFL. Goff proved last season he can get the job done even when other parts of the offense are not working. It just comes with more streakiness than consistency.
The third tier
(Younger QBs who have shown flashes and are on the cusp of greatness.)
13. Deshaun Watson, Texans
Considering Watson has been running for his life behind what have been some of the NFL's worst pass-protecting lines, he has done well to survive and find ways to make plays. With the Texans' investments at tackle and with better overall health among his targets, Watson in 2019 should have his best passing season yet, with less dependency on scrambling at the first sign of trouble.
14. Dak Prescott, Cowboys
Prescott dazzled as a rookie in 2016 and slumped as a sophomore in 2017. Last season, he was closer to his rookie form in a year that largely landed between both extremes. Prescott got hot in the second half of the season once he clicked with new No. 1 wideout Amari Cooper, creating a trickle-down effect that should continue with more legitimate overall weapons in 2019.
15. Mitchell Trubisky, Bears
Trubisky felt the free-wheeling groove in Matt Nagy's offense last season, and he compensated for the passing lumps he took with fearless running and smart, short-to-intermediate distributing to an array of targets. For Chicago to go further in the playoffs, its QB will need to show more confidence.
16. Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers
Jimmy G was a tough QB to rank coming off a torn ACL, but before he was injured last September, he showed signs of his ability to light up a defense. He returns to a more loaded offense with Tevin Coleman, Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd adding to Dante Pettis, George Kittle, Marquise Goodwin and Jerick McKinnon. Expect Garoppolo to pick up where he left off (and then some) in his true Year 2 under coach Kyle Shanahan.
The fourth tier
(Older QBs with some standout accomplishments, but pressure to perform in 2019 is on.)
17. Matthew Stafford, Lions
Rumors have suggested Detroit recently thought about replacing Stafford and/or is thinking about replacing him in the near future. The Lions finally have succeeded with reigning in the high-volume gunslinger as they have shifted toward a more run-oriented offense. Stafford will continue to miss Golden Tate, but he will appreciate how a player like T.J. Hockenson can help relieve pressure.
18. Kirk Cousins, Vikings
Cousins was another tough QB to rank, but his first season in Minnesota was not nearly the expensive bust it has been made out to be. With no reliable protection, a lack of a key third target and more coaching-staff changes, for Cousins to bounce back in 2019, he needs to connect with big plays downfield more consistently and cut down on the ill-timed mistakes.
19. Cam Newton, Panthers
Newton is entering the 2019 season with concerns about his throwing shoulder and coming off a season he was not healthy enough to finish. Given the current landscape of QBs in the NFL, the 2015 league MVP being ranked in the middle of the pack is not disrespect; it's reality. Last season, Newton did improve from 2017 with a better completion percentage and yards per attempt, but he still ranked No. 17 in passer rating (20th in ESPN's QBR and 23rd in Pro Football Focus' QB grades). In 2019, with offensive coordinator Norv Turner having the desired running game down with Christian McCaffrey, Newton will benefit from D.J. Moore and his other quick weapons in the downfield-passing aspect of the offense.
20. Jameis Winston, Buccaneers
It was tempting to rank Winston higher just because Bruce Arians seems like a coach who can get the best out of the QB. But Winston got toggled with Ryan Fitzpatrick last season because he kept committing turnovers with sloppy passing, enough for the Bucs to think about starting over at QB in 2020. Winston was supposed to be a can't-miss QB as the No. 1 overall pick in 2015, but it's now or never for him to tap into his potential. If anyone can turn Winston into a Big Ben clone, it should be Arians.
21. Marcus Mariota, Titans
Here is another frustrating QB to rank. Mariota has been through the wringer with offensive schemers, and health has not been on his side. Neither has game-planning in one of the league's most run-heavy offenses. Tennessee has invested more in his targets with wide receivers Adam Humphries and A.J. Brown to complement Corey Davis. We can't totally believe in Mariota until we see him respond.
The fifth tier
(Second-year QBs trying to make the leap, plus a supersub trying to make it as a starter.)
22. Sam Darnold, Jets
Darnold last season had an underrated receiving corps with Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa and Chris Herndon, and now has the ultimate backfield outlet in Le'Veon Bell. He is the kind of smart, pro-style passer new coach Adam Gase can mold.
23. Lamar Jackson, Ravens
Jackson was trying to figure things out as a passer last season, yet he still managed to lead Baltimore to a division title. The drafting of Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin suggests the Ravens are OK letting Jackson throw more downfield without curbing his special athleticism.
24. Nick Foles, Jaguars
Foles has had success in Philadelphia, but it's been a different story elsewhere in his seven-year career. There are some favorable elements for him in Jacksonville, but many of those are rooted in the running game and defense. Foles is bound to return to his streaky nature as a downfield passer.
25. Josh Allen, Bills
Allen last season put up some pleasing fantasy stats because he produced while running with reckless abandon, adding some big plays with his big arm later in his rookie year. There is plenty of style in Allen's game; now we will see if there's Year 2 substance behind Buffalo's dedication to improving the offensive line and making both the backfield and receiving corps deeper.
The sixth tier
(QBs who have been adequate but are fading fast.)
26. Andy Dalton, Bengals
Dalton gets an extension of his starting status in Cincinnati with Zac Taylor giving the offense a fresh, wide-open look. The Bengals hope that development, plus a good supporting skill cast, can push Dalton closer to his ceiling. But that's still pretty low in relation to the QBs above; Dalton remains a dependent QB regardless.
27. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Dolphins
The Fitzmagic was rediscovered for stretches in Tampa Bay, where the Buccaneers simply let him chuck the ball all over the field for Dirk Koetter and Todd Monken. The streaky, well-traveled veteran is bound to return to more journeyman fill-in status in a different offense, where he will be challenged to keep his bridge gig ahead of Josh Rosen.
28. Derek Carr, Raiders
Coach Jon Gruden is sticking with Carr, hoping the big changes to the receiving corps (Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow) and a promising rookie feature back (Josh Jacobs) can smooth out the QB's recent bumpy ride. In trying to live up to his big contract, Carr's lack of consistency in accuracy and decision-making has let him down.
The seventh tier
(QBs who have won Super Bowls, but age has caught up to them.)
29. Eli Manning, Giants
Manning's deteriorating physical skills are evident. He is keeping the job for now because he is an established leader for the Giants' gradual transition to Daniel Jones, for whom Manning is the ideal mentor.
30. Joe Flacco, Broncos
Flacco's big arm is not as booming anymore. He will need to come through more with the mental aspects of his game to contribute effectively as a bridge QB in an offense built around its running game. He will feel the heat of Drew Lock while trying to keep the pocket warm for the rookie.
The top rookies
(QBs we're getting to know as pros.)
31. Kyler Murray, Cardinals
Coach Kliff Kingsbury promises not to hold back the offense for Murray, looking to stretch the field both vertically and horizontally. Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, David Johnson, Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler give Murray favorable targets on every level to make that happen. The trick will be Murray harnessing his electricity to match a higher degree of difficulty in the NFL.
32. Dwayne Haskins, Redskins
Haskins needs to prove he does not have happy feet in the pocket, but rather the presence to stand tall and deliver strong, accurate throws while under pressure. Physically and arm-wise, he is ready to play soon.
(Other notable QBs.)
33. Case Keenum, Redskins
34. Tyrod Taylor, Chargers
35. Josh Rosen, Dolphins
36. Ryan Tannehill, Titans
37. Nick Mullens, 49ers
38. Blake Bortles, Rams
39. Daniel Jones, Giants
40. Drew Lock, Broncos