A very popular argument among NFL fans has to do with the quarterbacks: who are the best? Which team’s quarterback is superior? Whom would you trust to win one game if you had to?
We have no expectation that this list will settle any such arguments, but it’s still fun to debate. Which quarterbacks are the best? Who means the most to their team? Here are the top 15 signal-callers in the NFL.
15) Jared Goff, Rams
A breakout 2017 has ensured that Goff is regarded as one of the NFL’s rising young stars at the quarterback position. He threw for 3,804 yards and 28 touchdowns to just seven interceptions in his 15 games, a massive improvement from a promising but uneven rookie season. Expectations are higher than ever for his third NFL year, where he’ll guide an offense that will be expected to contend for a Super Bowl.
14) Andrew Luck, Colts
Luck was a top-ten quarterback before his most recent shoulder injury cost him all of 2017. Now, the question becomes how the 28-year-old will come back after a yearlong absence. The early reports are good, but we won’t really know for sure until we see him in a game situation. What we do know is that Luck, at peak performance with a solid team around him, is capable of 4,000 yards and upwards of 30 touchdowns. He could certainly move up on this list with a fully healthy year.
13) Deshaun Watson, Texans
Watson offered up a tantalizing glimpse of what he could be during his brief injury-shortened cameo with the 2017 Texans. There, he threw for 19 touchdowns in just seven games and added 269 rushing yards and two touchdowns with his legs. An ACL injury is a scary one, but Watson is expected to be healthy for the season. Hopefully he can pick up where he left off.
12) Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers
How much can you derive from five games, all of which were ultimately meaningless as far as playoff contention goes? The simply fact is Garoppolo did, in fact, win all five of them, throwing for 1,560 yards in the process. He’d prefer to get his touchdowns up and his interceptions down, but you can’t argue with results. The 2018 season, the first where he will be the undisputed franchise quarterback of a team, will be a major test for him. He looks like he has the credentials to meet the challenges.
11) Cam Newton, Panthers
On one day, Newton can look lost at the quarterback position and throw inaccurate passes. Other weeks, he looks like the best quarterback in the league, a dual-threat dynamo not unlike the man who won the MVP award going away in 2015. Newton can be frustrating, but he’s still an immense talent who was responsible for 28 total touchdowns in a playoff season in 2017.
10) Kirk Cousins, Vikings
Cousins put up consistently excellent numbers in Washington, but never played on a team that was expected to challenge for a Super Bowl. That changes in 2018. Cousins has been brought in to bring the Vikings over the top, and he has all the weapons he could ask for to make it happen. This is a guy who nearly put up a 5,000-yard season two years ago, and he’s a pretty safe bet for at least 25 touchdowns. That consistency is vital, and it’s what Minnesota will be counting on.
9) Philip Rivers, Chargers
Even though Rivers is getting older, he’s still producing at a very high level. He’ll be in search of his sixth consecutive 4,000-yard season this year, and he cut his interceptions significantly in 2017. The Chargers have a very talented offensive unit with Rivers at the head of it. As long as he stays healthy, he should have no trouble returning to the neighborhood of 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns.
8) Matthew Stafford, Lions
Though the Lions have yet to taste playoff success with him at quarterback, Stafford has been the marker of consistency since 2011. He hasn’t missed a game, has surpassed 4,000 yards every season, and has led the NFL in game-winning drives in three of the last four seasons, with a remarkable eight in 2016. He’s not regarded as a truly elite quarterback, and will likely need to find playoff success to move into that bracket, but he’s still been excellent for Detroit.
7) Matt Ryan, Falcons
Ryan’s resume looks an awful lot like Stafford’s but with a Super Bowl appearance tacked on. Even after a relative down year in 2017, Ryan is a consistently high-quality passer with a career 95-63 record. In ten playoff games, he’s thrown 20 touchdown passes to just seven interceptions. Expect another very strong season in 2018, especially with the Falcons adding Calvin Ridley to their receiving corps.
6) Carson Wentz, Eagles
Wentz might have won league MVP had he not torn his ACL and LCL late in the season, costing him three regular season games and the Eagles’ playoff run. In his 13 starts, he was at 33 touchdowns to just seven interceptions and was probably on his way to a 4,000-yard season had he played in all 16 games. Expectations will be very high for him in 2018, though he may be a bit rustyupon his return.
5) Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
Roethlisberger has pondered retirement on occasion, but it’s certainly not because the game has passed him by. 2017 saw him throw for 4,000 yards for the first time since 2014, as the Steelers went 12-3 in his starts. He’s been very successful in the playoffs, going 13-8 in the postseason. With a very talented roster around him, there’s no reason to believe his numbers will slip much at all in 2018.
4) Drew Brees, Saints
The things that Brees does are amazing at any age, but it’s even more incredible when you consider that he’ll be 39 when the 2018 season kicks off in September. It’s telling when over 4,300 yards feels like a step down, but New Orleans balanced the offense a bit more last season, which allowed Brees to be sharper with the ball. His touchdown passes dropped, but his eight interceptions were his lowest-ever tally as a New Orleans Saint. The tradeoff was worth it — his 72 percent completion rate was a career-best.
3) Russell Wilson, Seahawks
As the rest of the Seahawks get older around him, Wilson only seems to get better. He threw 34 touchdown passes in 2017 and ran for three more, fell just short of 4,000 yards, and was a dark-horse MVP candidate for a while. He’s an excellent passer and has dual-threat ability that makes him unique among NFL quarterbacks. He’s good enough to keep Seattle competitive even as the Legion of Boom splinters for good.
2) Aaron Rodgers, Packers
You need only compare the records of the Packers with and without Rodgers in the lineup to know how vital he is to the team. When the two-time MVP started for them last season, they were 4-3 — not great, but a winning record that could have been improved upon. Without him, Green Bay went a miserable 3-6. Rodgers seemed well on his way to another outstanding season before his collarbone injury cost him most of it. If healthy, he’ll have Green Bay firmly in the playoff conversation again.
1) Tom Brady, Patriots
Now 41, you’d have logically expected Brady to start slowing down. It simply hasn’t happened. He’s stayed healthy, led the NFL in attempts in 2017, and threw for 4,577 yards with 32 touchdowns. He had a flawed Patriots team within a drive of a second-consecutive Super Bowl title despite a defense that struggled, especially in the big game. He’s still the best, and as long as he’s playing, the Patriots will have a chance to win it all. It’s as simple as that.