Ranking 2020's starting QBs
It’s been over a month since the draft, and over two since free agency started, which means we’re starting to see what teams will be looking like come the start of the 2020 season.
This offseason has been one of the more active ones in recent memory, especially in terms of quarterbacks. In fact, only 20 of the 32 quarterbacks that I have on this list are starting for the same team this year as they did last year. Several of last year’s starters aren’t currently set up to start for any team at all in 2020 (Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, and Nick Foles, to name a few).
And, of course, not all quarterbacks are created equal. So here are my (very arbitrary) rankings of 2020’s starters.
Side note: there are a few teams that have not declared a starter as of the time I’m writing this article. For those teams, I decided to just pick who I thought had the best shot at playing week 1, but that could very well change in the next few months.
Unproven/should be backups:
32. Tyrod Taylor, Chargers
Tyrod Taylor did lead the Bills to their first playoff appearance in 17 seasons back in 2017, but there’s a reason he didn’t keep that starting job. He’s a serviceable quarterback, but for a team that struggled with Philip Rivers throwing the ball, I don’t think Taylor will prove much better. He’d be much better suited in a backup position in case Herbert goes down. Is it harsh ranking Taylor at the bottom of the league, below rookies and other unproven players? Maybe. But I’m not sorry about it.
31. Gardner Minshew, Jaguars
Once again, this might seem like a strange choice to be so low. Gardner Minshew had a solid rookie season, putting himself in the ROTY conversation for a little while. But while the Jaguars made the right choice by keeping Minshew over Nick Foles, I don’t think Minshew has what it takes to be a starting quarterback–at least, not on a team with so many holes.
30. Jarrett Stidham, Patriots
Although Jarrett Stidham is the (perhaps temporary) answer in New England, the fact remains that he’s completely unproven as a player. He’s only thrown the ball 4 times as a pro, which resulted in 14 yards and a pick-6. Not exactly the stat line you want to put your future in. This Patriots team is also much weaker offensively than they have been in past seasons, and they tied for 4th in the league for the most amount of drops with 24. Stidham definitely has his work cut out for him.
29. Dwayne Haskins, Redskins
Part of Dwayne Haskins’ problem last season was the fact that Jay Gruden did not want him to be the starter, causing the game plan to not play to his strengths. But regardless, Haskins had a pretty mediocre rookie season. It could all change with a new coach and a full offseason to prepare, but we’ll have to wait and see. It doesn’t help Haskins that Alex Smith could be coming back from his brutal leg injury in 2018, because if Smith is healthy and Haskins messes up, he might lose his chance to start.
28. Daniel Jones, Giants
Another quarterback that was put into a pretty terrible situation, Daniel Jones has made the most of a Giants roster that has virtually no receiving talent. But even so, you would’ve expected the Giants to finish better than 4-12 in the worst division in the league. Jones has a ways to go before he can be considered a legitimate starter, but if the Giants start building around him, he has a shot.
27. Mitch Trubisky, Bears
It’s unclear whether Mitch Trubisky or Nick Foles will be starting the season for Chicago, but either way, I’d rank them around here. Trubisky has shown flashes of being a solid starter in his three years, even making the Pro Bowl in 2018. But he’s been dealing with injuries and has not shown a willingness to scramble as much as someone with his speed probably should. I don’t think Trubisky is as bad as people say, but this season is likely his last chance to prove he’s worthy of a starting spot.
26. Jared Goff, Rams
Jared Goff (and the Rams) fell off a cliff in 2019 and questions are starting to arise about whether or not he’s a good team leader. He’s able to throw the ball relatively well, throwing for 4,600+ yards in the last two seasons, but he threw 10 fewer touchdowns and 4 more picks in 2019 than the season before. Worst of all, Goff lost his safety net in Todd Gurley this offseason, meaning he’s going to have to become the star of the offense. This season should tell us a lot about Goff’s ability to lead a team.
25. Derek Carr, Raiders
Listen, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Derek Carr deserved to win the MVP in 2016. Yeah, come at me. But that’s not the point. After that season that was foiled by a broken leg, Carr has not been the same. The Raiders bounced back last year after a terrible start to Jon Gruden’s campaign, but Carr’s numbers barely improved. There’s a reason the Raiders signed Marcus Mariota in the offseason.
24. Kirk Cousins, Vikings
Kirk Cousins is a fine quarterback. His season-to-season statistics are relatively consistent, but his big flaw is his lack of ability to win big games. Cousins has only won 10 games in a season once, in 2019, but that season heavily relied on running back Dalvin Cook. Yes, the Vikings are winning games with him, but his poor showings against big opponents (specifically the Packers) and in nationally broadcast games are a detriment to the team.
23. Drew Lock, Broncos
I struggled a bit with this ranking. On one hand, Drew Lock only played five games last season and his stats weren’t anything spectacular. But on the other hand, the Broncos vastly improved their offense in the offseason, giving him a lot of great weapons. I’m excited to see what Lock can do in this league, but for now, I haven’t seen enough of him to put him higher on this list.
22. Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins
I’m assuming Tua is going to start over Fitzmagic, and I think he should. I’m not as hot on Tua as some other people are, but I do think he gives the Dolphins the best chance of winning games. His talent is obvious, he can throw the ball incredibly well, but his big downside is his injury history. We haven’t seen him play a single pro game yet, so ranking him is kind of a shot in the dark, but I think this is right about where he’ll fall.
21. Dak Prescott, Cowboys
Dak, you’re not worth $40 million. You’re barely worth $15 million. While 2019 was by far his best season, Dak’s best skill is still handing the ball off to Zeke. Maybe Jason Garrett was holding him back, who knows, but I’d be surprised if he really improves much this season. Either way, in such a weak division, Dak is good enough to take the Cowboys to the playoffs.
20. Carson Wentz, Eagles
Carson Wentz has a body made of glass, but when he’s not injured, he’s shown real skill throwing the ball. Nick Foles might have won the Super Bowl in Philly, but Wentz’s great season was what led them there. He has some room to improve, but his stats are pretty impressive when you consider who he’s throwing to.
19. Sam Darnold, Jets
As much as I make fun of Sam Darnold and the Jets, he’s a good enough quarterback. He’s not great yet, but he hasn’t gotten a ton of help from receivers, running backs, blockers, defense, or even coaches. Darnold won’t be losing the starting job anytime soon, since he’s by far the best option in New York, but he needs to step up his game if he wants to be able to make the playoffs.
18. Joe Burrow, Bengals
Like with Tua, I wasn’t quite sure where to put Joe Burrow. Sure, he had a historic senior year at LSU, won the natty, won the Heisman, and was drafted first overall, but will he actually be good? Burrow is probably in the best position of any rookie quarterback this season, despite being on last season’s worst team. When they’re fully healthy, the Bengals have a surprisingly good offense. I think Burrow will make some splashes this year, but I don’t think I can reasonably put him higher than this without seeing him play a single NFL down.
17. Teddy Bridgewater, Panthers
In the five games that Bridgewater started last season, he let the league know that he was ready for another chance to lead a team. The Panthers gave him that chance, releasing Cam Newton to do so. I do think Bridgewater is a very good player, but I’m worried about a few things with him. Firstly, we haven’t seen him play a full season since 2015, so there’s no telling how well he’ll hold up over the course of 16 weeks. Secondly, even when he was healthy, he was unable to throw for more than 3,300 yards and 15 touchdowns, even when he took the Vikings to the playoffs. And at 28, he doesn’t have a lot of time to prove his value to Carolina.
16. Baker Mayfield, Browns
Baker Mayfield has a strange cycle that I’ve noticed. He plays well, gets over-confident, then plays not so well, gets dejected, then plays well again. The Browns by all means should have been a playoff team in 2019, but locker room conflict kept them from meshing on the field. The first step to results is making sure that the players don’t hate each other, which means Mayfield needs to step up and become more of a leader to cancel out some of the toxicity. The Browns probably should have drafted Lamar Jackson first overall two years ago, but I still think Mayfield has time to prove he wasn’t a mistake.
15. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
In all likelihood, this is Big Ben’s last season in the NFL. He was old and declining even before his injury, and now I think he’s back for one last ride. He has a freakish ability to stand in the pocket and take hits without going down, which will help Pittsburgh in a division with some of the best pass rushers in the league. I don’t think his season will be anything special, but he’ll make the Steelers contenders again.
14. Ryan Tannehill, Titans
I feel like it makes sense for Ryan Tannehill to be ranked towards the middle of this list. He brought the Titans back from the dead last season and nearly earned them a Super Bowl berth, but fell just short. He’s a fine passer, but the thing that impresses me most about him is his willingness to sit back and let Derrick Henry carry the team. Every quarterback wants stats, but in the playoffs last season, Tannehill showed that he wanted to win even if it meant essentially taking him out of the game plan. That is the mark of a great team player.
13. Philip Rivers, Colts
Sure, he had some struggles last year on a team with much better receiving talent. But now he’s on a team with a coach who knows what he’s doing and an offensive line that can actually block, which should lead to results. If TY Hilton stays healthy, all Rivers needs to do is throw the ball downfield and he’ll catch it. If he doesn’t...then that’s another story. Rivers is teetering on the edge of being Hall of Fame-worthy, and with not many seasons left in him, it’s now or never.
12. Josh Allen, Bills
I almost made this the cutoff for the next tier. Almost. But, while Josh Allen is the best Bills quarterback since Jim Kelly, he still needs to prove he can win when it matters. Buffalo has all but clinched the AFC East already, since none of the other teams are going to be that big of a threat. Once Allen shows that he can throw with more accuracy and make clutch plays, I’ll move him up. But until then, he stays here.
11. Matt Stafford, Lions
I’m taking a risk by putting Matt Stafford up this high. I don’t think the Lions are going to do well this season, but Stafford is the only thing keeping them afloat at this point. Outside of his injuries, he doesn’t have many downsides. He’s a lot like Drew Brees, in that he’s got all the stats to prove that he’s a great quarterback, but struggles in the wins department. I would take Stafford over a lot of other quarterbacks in this league, even at age 32.
10. Kyler Murray, Cardinals
Last season’s Rookie of the Year is poised for an even bigger year in 2020. The big difference in this offense was clearly the acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins–now that Murray actually has someone to throw to, he’ll be racking up stats. Add in the fact that he’s one of the speediest guys in the game, and it’s not hard to imagine him being so high on this list. The Cardinals have a legitimate shot of making the playoffs, despite their difficult division.
9. Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers
While there are some who don’t believe in Jimmy G, he did lead his team to a Super Bowl last year (and almost won). Just like it wasn’t fair to blame Matt Ryan for the blown 28-3 lead, it’s not fair to blame Jimmy G for this one. He lost Emmanuel Sanders and Marquise Goodwin as receivers, but they still have some very speedy wideouts that he can throw bombs too. Plus, never forget that he can lean on their running game when he needs to give himself a break. Don’t be surprised if the 49ers are a top 2 team again.
8. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Although Matt LaFleur might have alienated Rodgers with his...interesting first round draft pick, Rodgers is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Will he be amazing? No, of course not. He has nobody besides Davante Adams to throw to. But he’s still a good enough quarterback to lead his team to win a pretty mediocre division and has the potential to make some splashes. Last year, I called them the worst 13-3 team of all time. Let’s see if they can actually play like that this season.
7. Tom Brady, Buccaneers
You can never count Tom Brady out. Had he still been on the Patriots, I think I would have put him a few spots lower on this list. But while I don’t buy the hype surrounding the Buccaneers this season, I do think their offense is gonna be pretty crazy. Tom Brady will not be what he once was, that’s a given. But he has some great targets to throw to all around the field, from checkdowns to streaks. At the end of the season, he’ll be towards the top of the quarterback stat rankings.
6. Matt Ryan, Falcons
The Falcons have, to put it honestly, sucked since they scored their 4th touchdown in Super Bowl 51. But Matt Ryan is still a very good quarterback. He has two elite receivers to throw to, and even though he lost Austin Hooper in the offseason, I don’t think it will make much of a difference. The biggest problem for Ryan and the Falcons won’t be winning games this season as much as it will be beating the other two great teams in this division.
5. Drew Brees, Saints
Just for everyone reading, in my opinion, the gap between 6 and 5 is enormous. These top 5 quarterbacks are miles ahead of everyone else in the league right now. Drew Brees is coming off of a few mediocre years, statistically speaking, but he’s still looking as good as he did in 2011. He can throw the ball just as accurately and often as ever, and now that he has a good #2 option opposite Michael Thomas, he might break 5,000 passing yards for the 6th time in his career. The Saints have had struggles in recent playoff appearances, but this is likely Brees’ last chance at one more ring, so he has to leave it all out on the field.
4. Deshaun Watson, Texans
Despite Bill O’Brien making one of the stranger trades of the offseason, Watson still has elite talent. No DeAndre, no problem. He can throw to two of the best receiving backs in the game, or to two very underrated speedsters in Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks. Although he can’t run as well as Lamar, he still has enough mobility to extend plays when his blocking breaks down (which happens a lot). Watson was briefly in the MVP conversation last year, and I think that he will be again in the future, so long as he keeps up the level of play he’s been at.
3. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
In a lot of ways, Russell Wilson is very similar to Drew Brees. They have different styles of play, but both won one Super Bowl early in their career, have had trouble getting back since then, and have played at the top of the league nearly every season and have still never been the MVP. Of course, Wilson has plenty left in him, and I do believe he’ll make it over that hump someday. He’s never had any particularly elite receiving talent, and yet he’s still always one of the best. And in 2020, with competition in the division tougher than ever, I think he’ll step up big time.
2. Lamar Jackson, Ravens
I know, I know. Lamar won the MVP last year, why isn’t he #1? Yes, Lamar is great, but it just comes down to the one year of difference between him and Mahomes. If last season was a revenge tour for Lamar after being called a running back in his rookie year, this season is a victory lap. Everyone knows that the Ravens are one of the best teams in the league, and now they just have to prove that they can pull it off in big moments. Last season’s early end came down to inexperience. But the fact that Lamar was able to get them there speaks volumes about his talent both as a player and as a leader. I firmly believe that one of these top two quarterbacks is going to win MVP this year, and they might just win the Super Bowl too.
1. Pat Mahomes, Chiefs
I’m sure the top 2 isn’t a surprise to anyone at all. Mahomes had an amazing 2019 season and capped it off with his first of many Super Bowl victories. He’s on a fast track to the Hall of Fame already, so long as he can keep this blistering pace up over the next 15 seasons. Mahomes has one of the strongest arms in the NFL, if not the strongest, but his secret weapon is his almost hidden ability to run the ball himself. We don’t think of him as a scrambling quarterback, which is exactly why he can be so effective on the ground. He’s a threatening quarterback on a threatening team. For years to come, he’ll be at the top of the league.