Ranking The NFL’s Starting Quarterbacks Ahead Of The 2019 Season
NFL pre-season starts in August and the regular season kicks off Sept. 5.
The first official snaps of football season are only weeks away, and that means we’re finally starting to get an idea of what each NFL team will look like come kickoff. When it comes to predicting which teams will have the most success during a new season, you typically don’t have to look much further than their starting quarterback.
We looked around the entire league at the QB situation for every team heading into the 2019 NFL season, and let’s just say that some have it better than others. To assess each team’s starting quarterback, we looked at their average stats for the past three seasons — or fewer in the case of newer players, from Pro Football Reference — and ranked them from worst to best. The QB at the top of our ranking for the 2018 season ended up winning the Super Bowl, so it clearly matters what your passer has shown he can do.
Where did your team’s quarterback land?
32. Ryan Fitzpatrick / Josh Rosen — Miami Dolphins
As of publication time, the Miami Dolphins still hadn’t announced who their starting quarterback would be for the 2019 season. We do know it will be down to two guys with varying degrees of experience: Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen. Fitzpatrick, one of the most seasoned journeymen in the game, has started 21 games since 2016, averaging 3,531 yards and 21 touchdowns per 16 games, which looks decent, but when you consider his average passer rating has been 82.2 in that time, it’s rough. Meanwhile, Rosen, who was a rookie with the Arizona Cardinals last season, had a pretty bad season, ending up with just 2,278 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 13 games started.
Either way, it doesn’t look stellar in the pocket for Dolphins fans.
31. Josh Allen — Buffalo Bills
We set the bar low for rookie Josh Allen in 2018 — ranking him dead last among all starters — and he didn’t exactly prove us wrong. In 11 games as a starter, Allen threw for 172.8 yards per game, finishing the year with 10 touchdowns thrown, 11 interceptions and a passer rating of 67.9, all of which is truly dismal.
Allen wasn’t much of a passing threat but he did prove to be a dynamic rusher, running for an average of 52.6 yards per game and contributing eight touchdowns with his legs.
30. Sam Darnold — New York Jets
Similar to Josh Allen, we set the bar low for Jets rookie Sam Darnold in 2018, and he mostly played down to expectations. In 13 games as a starter, Darnold threw for 220.4 yards per game and finished with 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions thrown.
His season passer rating of 77.6 was pretty awful, but it was slightly better than Allen’s, and having a stud like Le’Veon Bell in the backfield as his starting running back this season will undoubtedly help Darnold’s numbers and confidence.
29. Jimmy Garoppolo — San Francisco 49ers
The 2018 season was one of bitter disappointment and heartbreak for 49ers fans and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. After tearing his ACL in the third game of the year, he missed the rest of the season but is expected to be ready to open the 2019 season.
A career backup, Garoppolo has started only 10 games since 2016, but he’s been pretty impressive, going 8-2 as a starter and maintaining a 97.8 passer rating in those games. In those three games last year, Garoppolo averaged 239.3 passing yards per game. Hopefully, coming back from the injury won’t hinder his effectiveness, but it remains to be seen.
28. Andy Dalton — Cincinnati Bengals
The shine has certainly dulled on Andy Dalton in recent years. After a streak of playoff appearances with the Bengals, the team has been dismal in the past three seasons, with Dalton maintaining an 18-24-1 record as a starter since 2016. However, his stats have been respectable in that time, with the Red Rifle averaging 3,755 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions thrown per 16 games played.
The 2018 season didn’t do much to inspire Bengals fans to continue rooting for Dalton, though, as he averaged just 233.3 passing yards per game in an injury-shortened season. Maybe having a new head coach in Zac Taylor will rejuvenate Dalton in 2019.
27. Case Keenum / Dwayne Haskins — Washington Redskins
The only other team that’s still undecided as to its 2019 starting quarterback is the Washington Redskins — but their decision looks a whole lot more exciting than the one the Dolphins face.
After 2018 starter Alex Smith saw his career possibly ended with a brutal leg injury, the team now has veteran journeyman Case Keenum and rookie Dwayne Haskins to lead the way. Both have pretty strong pedigrees, with Keenum throwing for a career-best 3,890 yards as Denver’s starter in 2018, even if his touchdown-to-interception ratio leaves something to be desired. Meanwhile, Haskins was a monster at Ohio State, throwing for 4,831 yards, 50 touchdowns and eight interceptions as a Heisman finalist in 2018.
26. Kyler Murray — Arizona Cardinals
Speaking of outstanding college seasons, incoming Arizona Cardinals rookie Kyler Murray won the Heisman trophy in 2018 for his exciting play at Oklahoma. He finished the season with 4,361 passing yards, 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions thrown, leading arguably the nation’s most thrilling offense.
If he can pull off half of what he was able to do on a weekly basis in college at the NFL level, he’ll start to rocket up this list as the games go by.
25. Lamar Jackson — Baltimore Ravens
Say what you want about Lamar Jackson’s passing game — it’s pretty dreadful — but he had such a remarkable rookie season that he was able to lead the Ravens to the playoffs and force the trade of a Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
Jackson only started seven games in 2018, taking over for Joe Flacco, but the Ravens went 6-1 in those games, partly behind his eccentric style of play. Primarily a running QB, Jackson rushed for nearly 700 yards in 2018, compared to just 1,201 passing yards. If he’s able to keep defenses guessing again and keep himself from getting hurt, Jackson could see himself vaulting up this list come next season.
24. Jameis Winston — Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It seems like Jameis Winston is poised to finally live up to all the talent he’s shown at various times during his NFL career so far. An injury shortened his 2019 season to just nine games but in that time, he was averaging a career-best 272 yards per game, coupled with a passer rating of 90.2, which is better than his career average. As the Bucs starter since 2016, Winston has averaged more than 4,200 yards per 16 games played, along with 26 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
23. Marcus Mariota — Tennessee Titans
Injuries have long been an issue for Marcus Mariota, and they kept him sidelined for three games during a disappointing 2018 season. In the 13 games he started for Tennessee, he averaged a career-worst 180.6 passing yards per game and a poor touchdown-interception ratio. He’s shown flashes of brilliance in the past few seasons, however, averaging 3,340 passing yards per 16 games played since 2016. Mariota’s passer rating of 88.7 during that time leaves room for improvement, but if he can stay healthy, he’s shown he’s capable of leading a run to the playoffs.
22. Joe Flacco — Denver Broncos
For the better part of 10 years, Joe Flacco was one of the NFL’s most consistent starting QBs, leading the Ravens to several deep playoff runs and a Super Bowl victory. His time there ended after the 2018 season, but Denver inherited one of the game’s most capable veterans.
His numbers have deflated in recent seasons, but since 2016, Flacco has averaged more than 3,800 yards per 16 games, despite a harsh passer rating of 82.6 in that stretch. In 2018, his 273.9 yards-per-game average was the second-best such mark of his career. Maybe a new team will see him back to his old ways.
21. Nick Foles — Jacksonville Jaguars
It’s finally time for Nick Foles to shine on his own. After years as one of the best backups in the game — including leading the Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl win from the bench — he now gets to be a full-time starter in Jacksonville.
Foles has only started nine regular-season games since 2016, but he’s been brilliant in them, with his teams going 7-2 and Foles posing an average passer rating of 92.8. In five games as the Eagles starter in 2018, he averaged a career-best 282.6 yards per game. Let’s see if he can do it for a full season.
20. Mitchell Trubisky — Chicago Bears
As the Bears starter since 2017, Mitchell Trubisky has been pretty exciting to watch, averaging more than 3,300 yards per 16 games played, even if his average of 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions thrown in that span is a little less thrilling.
The 2018 season saw him at his best yet, leading the Bears to a playoff spot and landing him in his first Pro Bowl. He finished the year with a 95.4 passer rating, throwing for 3,223 yards, 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 14 games as a starter.
19. Derek Carr — Oakland Raiders
The Raiders were a colossal disappointment in 2018, but Derek Carr still showed flashes of why he still has so many fans in Oakland. He finished the season with a career-best 4,049 passing yards, even though his 19 touchdowns were a career low. He’s averaged 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions thrown per 16 games played since 2016, which shows he takes care of the ball. The addition of Antonio Brown for the 2019 season, arguably the best wide receiver in football, is bound to help Carr’s numbers even more.
18. Eli Manning — New York Giants
Plenty of people in New York might disagree with Eli Manning being ranked this high, but a simple look at his recent numbers shows he’s still better than many of the NFL’s starting quarterbacks. Since 2016, the veteran passer has averaged more than 4,000 yards and 22 touchdowns per 16 games played.
The 2018 season, while yet another disappointing one for the Giants, saw Manning putting up his best numbers since his 2015 Pro Bowl campaign. He finished the year with 4,299 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, the latter of which was his best mark since 2008. Plenty of teams would love to have production like that.
17. Matthew Stafford — Detroit Lions
Matthew Stafford still hasn’t been able to prove himself as a great playoff passer, but he’s certainly shown he can do it in the regular season. He’s averaged 4,183 yards, 25 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions per 16 games played since 2016.
The 2018 season, though, was one of Stafford’s worst, with him throwing only 21 touchdowns (his worst tally since 2012), 236.1 yards per game (his worst mark since 2010) and finishing with fewer than 4,000 total passing yards for the first time since 2011. If he can pass as consistently as he did before 2018, then 2019 could be a good year for him.
16. Cam Newton — Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton played through nagging injuries in 2018 while still putting up some of his best numbers yet, especially as a passer. Despite only starting 14 games, he ended up with 3,395 passing yards, which nearly matches his 16-game average of 3,629 yards since 2016. His 24 touchdown passes were his most since 2015, despite missing those games, and his average of 242.5 yards per game was his best since 2011.
Panthers management would love to see him stay in the pocket and avoid injuries — so maybe those passing numbers will continue to climb.
15. Carson Wentz — Philadelphia Eagles
While he’s been overshadowed by injuries and his own backup’s performance at times, Carson Wentz has proven himself to be one of the game’s most reliable starting QBs.
He’s averaged more than 4,000 passing yards per 16 games played as a starter since 2016, as well as 28 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions thrown. Those are outstanding numbers, and it’s really just his injuries that keep him from climbing higher. His average of 279.5 yards per game and his 102.2 passer rating from last season were career highs.
Now that Nick Foles is gone, Eagles fans are hoping Wentz can stay healthy and keep those numbers up for a whole year.
14. Baker Mayfield — Cleveland Browns
The sample size has been small, but if Baker Mayfield can continue to do what he accomplished through 13 games as a starter in 2018, he’ll vault even higher on this list in future seasons.
The rookie QB’s stellar play gave Cleveland Browns fans something they hadn’t felt in years — hope. In those 13 games, he led the Browns to a 6-7 record on the strength of averaging 266.1 passing yards per game and 27 touchdowns. The 3,725 yards he finished with was better than some passers who played a full 16 games. The addition of Odell Beckham Jr. to his list of targets should make him look even better.
13. Deshaun Watson — Houston Texans
We’ve only seen one full season of what Deshaun Watson can do as a starter — but it was a thrilling introduction.
In 2018, he led the Texans to the playoffs and landed himself in the Pro Bowl. He finished the year with 4,165 passing yards, 26 touchdown passes and just nine interceptions, making for a season-long passer rating of 103.1. Since 2017, he’s also averaged 570 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns per 16 games played, making him one of the most unpredictable QBs a defense can face.
If Watson can stay healthy and keep up those numbers, he’ll easily climb this list before the 2020 season.
12. Kirk Cousins — Minnesota Vikings
Kirk Cousins has been incredibly consistent as a starter for the past few seasons, even if it hasn’t led to a ton of wins for his teams.
He’s got a 23-23-2 record as a starting QB since 2016 but has contributed 4,436 passing yards per 16 games played, along with 16-game averages of 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. While the Vikings underperformed as a team in 2018, Cousins was again strong under center, giving them a career-best 30 touchdown passes and a season-long passer rating of 99.7.
Is he worthy of being one of the highest-paid players in NFL history? That depends on who you ask.
11. Dak Prescott — Dallas Cowboys
There’s arguably no NFL job that comes with more pressure than starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, and Dak Prescott has been pretty stellar in that role. He led them to the playoffs in 2018 with a year that saw him hit career highs in total passing yards (3,885) and yards per game (242.8). On top of that, he contributed 28 total touchdowns and a passer rating of 96.9.
Prescott has been very consistent since 2016, averaging 22 passing touchdowns and eight interceptions per 16 games played during that span. Being blessed with Ezekiel Elliott in his backfield undoubtedly gives Prescott an edge many other QBs wish they had.
10. Andrew Luck — Indianapolis Colts
Injuries have limited Andrew Luck in several recent seasons, but 2018 proved yet again what he’s capable of if he stays healthy.
Luck posted a career-best passer rating of 98.7 for the 2018 season, leading the Colts to the playoffs and earning a Pro Bowl selection in the process. The 4,593 passing yards and 39 touchdown passes he contributed were among the league’s best numbers, but he’s long been a touchdown machine.
Since 2016, no other quarterback has averaged more touchdown passes per 16 games than Luck’s 36.
9. Ben Roethlisberger — Pittsburgh Steelers
The 2019 season could be a rough one for Big Ben, since he managed to lose both Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell in the same offseason. But in his lengthy career, Roethlisberger has proven himself time and time again as one of the game’s most consistent passers. In fact, since the 2016 season, no NFL quarterback has averaged more than Roethlisberger’s 4,693 passing yards per 16 games played.
In 2018, he finished with career-high numbers in passing touchdowns (34) and passing yards (5,129), the latter of which led the league. He’s led the league in passing yards per game for three of the past five seasons, but we’ll see how much of that was Brown’s doing come 2019.
8. Russell Wilson — Seattle Seahawks
The 2018 season was yet another fantastic one for Russell Wilson.
He led the Seahawks to the playoffs and landed himself in the Pro Bowl yet again, thanks to career-best numbers in touchdown passes (35), interceptions (seven) and season-long passer rating (110.9). The fact that he threw for fewer than 3,500 yards, his worst mark since 2013, seemed to be immaterial.
Since 2016, Wilson has proven to be one of the most reliable QBs in football, averaging better than 3,800 yards and 30 touchdowns thrown per 16 games played in that span.
7. Jared Goff — Los Angeles Rams
Jared Goff had a banner year in 2018, leading the Rams to the Super Bowl and earning himself a Pro Bowl spot.
He had plenty of help from running back Todd Gurley, but Goff’s 4,688 passing yards and 32 touchdown passes certainly helped. He put up numbers that were virtually identical to Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers in 2018 but didn’t seem to get as much praise for his own play as his cross-town rival.
Since taking over as the Rams full-time starter in 2017, Goff has been consistent, but he still has some work to do to crack the top five of this particular list.
6. Patrick Mahomes — Kansas City Chiefs
No NFL player was more exciting in 2018 than Patrick Mahomes, who earned himself league MVP honors, a First-Team All-Pro selection and took the Chiefs to a playoff run.
In his only year as a starter so far, Mahomes threw for more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdown passes, the latter of which led the NFL. Couple that with the fact that he only threw 12 interceptions despite throwing plenty of gutsy passes and you’ve got pure magic at the quarterback position.
If Mahomes can be half as good in 2019 as he was in 2018, he’ll more than earn this spot on the list.
5. Philip Rivers — Los Angeles Chargers
Now we get into the category of truly elite NFL quarterbacks. Philip Rivers has been as consistent as they come for his entire career, but 2018 was special even by his high standards.
He led the Chargers to the playoffs and finished the year with a career-best passer rating of 105.5, on top of 4,308 passing yards, 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Since the 2016 season, Rivers has averaged 4,403 yards and 31 touchdowns per 16 games played, showing that those 2018 numbers were just business as usual.
4. Aaron Rodgers — Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers have been pretty horrendous the past few seasons, but Aaron Rodgers has been incredible as ever. He’s proven why he’s the best quarterback in history when it comes to taking care of the football, averaging a league-low six interceptions per 16 games played since 2016.
In 2018, he threw a mind-boggling two interceptions all season to go along with 25 touchdowns and 4,442 yards. Unfortunately, it only translated to six wins for the Packers, but you can’t ask for more reliable production from the QB than Rodgers has given them his entire career so far.
3. Matt Ryan — Atlanta Falcons
He doesn’t get as much press as some of the other elite QBs on this list, but Matt Ryan has been simply phenomenal under center for the past few years.
He’s thrown for at least 4,000 yards in every season since 2010, including at least 4,900 yards in two of the past three seasons. In 2018, he threw for 4,924 yards, 35 touchdowns and a career-low seven interceptions. Those numbers are just more of the same from Ryan, who’s averaged 4,654 yards, 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions per 16 games played since 2016.
Now, if the Falcons can get back to the playoffs in 2019, his insane production will feel worth something.
2. Tom Brady — New England Patriots
We ranked Tom Brady atop our list of starting quarterbacks heading into the 2018 season, and he proved us right by winning his sixth Super Bowl.
The 42-year-old passer simply continues to defy age, putting up an average of 4,540 passing yards and 32 touchdowns per 16 games played since 2016. In 2018, he landed in the Pro Bowl yet again, despite his season numbers dipping slightly below those averages.
There’s nothing to suggest Brady won’t have another incredible year in 2019, but we think this season belongs to another NFL veteran.
1. Drew Brees — New Orleans Saints
Many thought Drew Brees should’ve won the NFL’s MVP honors in 2018, and he would’ve more than earned it by having arguably the best year of his already storied career.
He took the Saints to the playoffs yet again on the strength of a league-best passer rating of 115.7, a category he’s finished higher than 100 in every season since 2014. Brees continues to be the most accurate passer in the game, finishing 2018 with a league-best 74.4 completion percentage.
Since 2016, he’s averaged at least 4,600 passing yards and 31 touchdowns per 16 games played, both of which prove he’s still one of the best to ever play football.