Nothing is more critical to success and failure at the NFL level than quarterback play. While even the best quarterbacks in the league can’t completely carry a squad devoid of talent to the promised land, the best in the game elevate the talent around them to the furthest extent.
Ranking them is like trying to decide between lima beans or cauliflower. It’s a lose-lose situation, and you’re just splitting hairs between two mediocre things. Nobody likes those vegetables, and nobody likes rankings.
TL;DR: The list is fluid, so let’s have some fun with it.
2023 QB Power Rankings
32) Zach Wilson, New York Jets
We can at least agree with this one, right? Whether you’re an eye-test Eeyore or an analytics anarchist, it’s hard for any other quarterback to rank at the bottom of this list.
31) Justin Fields, Chicago Bears
All the promise we saw a year ago and the additions the Bears made to their team have meant next to nothing for Justin Fields and Chicago’s offense. It’s not clear yet whether or not Fields will succeed at the NFL level, but it is crystal clear that his success will not come with the Chicago Bears. He’s struggled, but they have failed him.
30) Bryce Young, Carolina Panthers
No matter how mentally prepared a player may appear coming from college, there are no guarantees. Look no further than Bryce Young, the first-overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, being outplayed by his backup, long-time NFL QB Andy Dalton. It may not happen every week, but the Alabama Heisman winner has looked overwhelmed early on.
29) Joshua Dobbs, Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals didn’t even have Dobbs’ jersey in their team store. That changed after the backup QB just beat one of the best teams in the NFL. In fact, his efficiency played a significant role in the victory. The journeyman QB missed only four of his 21 attempts, and one of those misses came on a drop over the middle of the field from his tight end.
28) Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers
No matter how you slice it, Kenny Pickett and the Steelers’ offense have not been good enough so far. The offensive line stinks, and Matt Canada is Matt Canada. Independently of that, Pickett has not shown the strides that many expected him to make going into Year 2, despite underwhelming as a rookie.
He needs to clean up the operational side of his game a lot. He currently doesn’t have the physical skill set to overcome his mental woes.
27) Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
“But if forced to drop back and pass, things could get ugly for Tannehill and the Titans’ passing offense,” PFN wrote of Tennessee’s signal-caller in the season preview QB rankings. “He can certainly play the famous ‘heck it, DeAndre Hopkins is out there somewhere’ game, but how sustainable is that?”
The Titans gained fewer than 100 yards against the Cleveland defense and produced just six first downs, one of which came on a penalty. In perfect conditions, we’ve seen Tannehill prosper, but these are far from ideal conditions that he’s operating in. Take away play-actions and force him to operate in the traditional dropback game, and things will go poorly.
26) Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints
“Are you saying you’d rather have Jameis Winston starting for your football team than Ryan Tannehill?”
Yes. The last time we really saw Winston was when he was 5-2 in 2021 and playing the best ball of his career. Not beating out Andry Dalton a season ago was a stain on his résumé, but his talents as a passer persist. Let’s see what he can do with multiple good receiving options at his disposal — even if he has a turnstile at left tackle.
25) Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos
Are Russell Wilson and Sean Payton actually going to work out? The Broncos’ offense has found a way to let Wilson create and push the ball downfield at a high rate, and defenses seem to be unable to defend against it so far. Still, Denver is currently winless, and unlike last season, it hasn’t been Wilson’s fault.
24) Anthony Richardson, Indianapolis Colts
Richardson hasn’t played much in the NFL, but it’s clear already that talent will not be an issue for the young quarterback. It also helps to have someone like Shane Steichen in his corner. He is an offensive-minded coach and knows how to get the most out of a young, athletic passer.
23) Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns
While it’s still too early to talk about Watson’s turnaround, he is coming off his best game as a Cleveland Brown, and it came against a defense that should be one of the more feared units in the league. The former Texan completed 27 of 33 passes for 289 yards and 2 TDs, which makes for a nice day at the office. He looked more controlled against the Titans.
22) Baker Mayfield, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Things went south for Mayfield and the Buccaneers in Week 3 against the Philadelphia Eagles. He avoided having a completely horrendous outing, but he was unable to take advantage of a weak Eagles defense up the middle in the passing attack. His 44% success rate currently ranks 21st in the league.
21) Desmond Ridder, Atlanta Falcons
The young Falcons QB has a lot of fans among those who study quarterbacking in depth. He’s been operationally strong since his college days, and he has more than enough athletic ability to create plays. Still, his inconsistencies in his decision-making and accuracy have kept him from elevating his play to where Arthur Smith needs it to be for the offense.
20) Sam Howell, Washington Commanders
Howell threw four interceptions against the Buffalo Bills and looked generally awful against a very talented defense. Still, we’ve already seen that the high-end potential of Howell is a legitimate franchise passer. Some of the throws he made in Week 2 were as inversely insane as his interceptions in Week 3.
19) C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans
C.J. Stroud looked lost in the sauce in his first preseason outing as a professional quarterback. Since then, he’s looked fantastic, and his rapport with fellow rookie Tank Dell has been a treat to watch so far early in their rookie seasons.
CJ Stroud has a passer rating of 143.2 when targeting Tank Dell.
— DJ Bien-Aime (@Djbienaime) September 26, 2023
Stroud is producing in a legendary fashion through three NFL games, despite playing behind a makeshift offensive line with what is, on paper, a lackluster group of weapons.
18) Mac Jones, New England Patriots
Jones has a higher success rate than Kansas City Chief QB Patrick Mahomes or Jacksonville Jaguar QB Trevor Lawrence through three weeks, but there is absolutely no juice on the Patriots’ offense to help him out. Plus, he won’t have made many fans after his shenanigans a week ago against the Jets.
Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner said after the game against the Patriots that Mac Jones hit him in the “private parts.”This video sent from a league source is a closer view. pic.twitter.com/UTayhuu6iB
— Dianna Russini (@DMRussini) September 25, 2023
Jones might be a limited QB with a history of questionable actions on the field, but he’s whipsmart and won’t shy away from taking downfield shots when the option presents itself. He’s a good fit for Bill O’Brien’s offense.
17) Jimmy Garoppolo, Las Vegas Raiders
“Jimmy G” remains inside of the top 10 in success rate, but he is making some horrific mistakes through three games. Despite a four-interception day from Howell, it is Garoppolo who has the most picks in the NFL through three weeks. He is already a limited player who can almost only operate from a stable platform inside of the pocket.
16) Daniel Jones, New York Giants
Jones is in such a horrific situation at the moment that he’s quickly becoming underrated once again. The young QB has practically nothing going right for him, yet he’s surviving, even if he can’t thrive.
MORE: PFN NFL Top 100
He’s also been thrown to the wolves with his bad offensive line by facing the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers in two of the first three weeks.
15) Jordan Love, Green Bay Packers
The successor to Aaron Rodgers still resembles a young quarterback looking for his footing at the NFL level, but his flashes have been outstanding, and his arm talent is clear as day. HC Matt LaFleur and the young Packers playmakers are helping Love succeed, but his natural arm talent allows him to push the ball into intermediate windows with relative ease.
14) Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
Stafford is an extremely gifted passer. Although arm angles and no-look passes aren’t necessarily new, his flair for those dramatics has left its mark on the next generation. Still, his gunslinger mentality can also get him into trouble, as it did on his first interception against the Bengals on first-and-10.
Logan Wilson picks off Stafford!
— NFL (@NFL) September 26, 2023
Stafford played well against a fantastic 49ers defense, and the Ram’s offense hummed against an underwhelming Seattle passing defense. However, their veteran QB must do a better job of protecting the ball if this young team wants to remain competitive in a 17-game season.
13) Jared Goff, Detroit Lions
Goff could be described as Jimmy Garoppolo, but without the horrible mistakes and possibly more athleticism. The Lions QB toted the rock five times against the Falcons and gained three whole yards and a touchdown in the process.
While his streak without an interception ended against Seattle, the streak showed just how well Goff was taking care of the ball in Detroit’s offense. He’s currently eighth in EPA and success rate and a CPOE of 5.6, which also ranks eighth.
12) Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
Kirk Cousins might be playing some of the best football of his career, but a few bad decisions and an underwhelming defense have the veteran QB staring at an 0-3 record. While his traditional passing stats are a bit inflated compared to how efficient the passing attack has been, he is still looking sharp.
11) Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers
Is Brock Purdy a better quarterback than Matthew Stafford in a vacuum? No, but the second-year quarterback is in an outstanding offensive situation, and he is making the most of it. The Thursday Night Football game against the Giants wasn’t his cleanest outing, but it showed a lot of his character.
“Mr. Irrelevant” couldn’t push the ball downfield. He was consistently under pressure from a defense that felt like they were spamming the “Engage Eight” button on Madden. He remained steady and got the ball into the hands of his playmakers. Only the Miami Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa has a higher EPA mark, and his 51.8% success rate is good for sixth.
10) Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
Many Trevor Lawrence metrics come in around 10th, but a few wacky turnovers — and a few ugly ones — are killing the Jaguars’ EPA metrics. Jacksonville’s offense has struggled, but a bad offensive line and the tendency for them to shoot themselves in the foot has led to some unfortunate results.
9) Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
Remember that this is a power ranking that mixes talent and production together. This is not who we’d take in a draft if we were building a team from scratch.
Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ passing attack does not look great so far in 2023. Hurts ranks 22nd in EPA, and his success rate is only good for 25th. Additionally, he has been far less productive as a runner so far this season, aside from the automatic tush-push touchdowns.
8) Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
Burrow and the Bengals’ passing attack have not been good at all. The QB ranks 31st in success rate and 30th in EPA among 34 qualifying QBs. He also has the lowest CPOE of any QB in the NFL. It’s clear that his calf is hurting his game, but to what extent is it him, and to what extent is it the calf remains a mystery.
For now, Burrow has to slip in the QB rankings — even if he’s proven in the past that he’s one of the best in the game.
7) Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys’ loss against Arizona was embarrassing, but Prescott likely only wants one of his throws back. His decision to deliver the end zone interception was fine, but throwing it higher would have taken away the danger of the linebacker getting his hands up to make a play on the ball.
Still, Dallas’s passing attack needs to improve in the red zone. Prescott has never been particularly fond of red zone fades, and the Cowboys WRs have yet to catch a touchdown pass in 2023.
6) Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks
Geno Smith has been on an absolute tear over the past two weeks. The Seahawks’ aerial attack helped them beat Detroit on the road in Week 2, and Smith had another good day against the Panthers in Week 3.
Smith remains one of — if not the — most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL, relative to expectation, and he’s performing, despite being down both of his young offensive tackles.
5) Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
A 56% success rate would suggest that Lamar Jackson and the Ravens have turned a corner. That assumption would be mostly correct. He’s been an assassin through the air, but he still possesses the dreaded “doin’ too much” gene, particularly under pressure.
His ball security leaves a lot to be desired. Even though he has just one interception in 2023, he has really struggled in attempting physics-defying feats that end up with the ball on the ground.
4) Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert went 40 of 47 for 405 yards and three TDs against the Vikings, and the Chargers still did everything they could to “Charger.” Similar to his ranking on this list, Herbert is fifth in dropback EPA and in success rate.
He also happens to be a 6’6″, 240-pound rocket-armed QB, who can make every throw on the field while also operating at a high level mentally. Now, he must keep up this level of play without WR Mike Williams for the rest of the season.
3) Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
After playing like he’d downed an entire bottle of whisky before his opening-week matchup against the Wilson-led Jets, Allen has played clean football.
Few players are more unfair to defend against than Allen, who makes some of the most ridiculous throws you’ll see, and he seemingly does it weekly.
Commanders get pressure by using a call that the Pats and Dolphins have used on Allen and Co. Get the center to slide then pop out. But Allen extends the play and then – yeah. pic.twitter.com/1Nhg1gJAOO
— Erik Turner Cover 1 Jefe (@ErikJTurner) September 26, 2023
He’ll continue to make silly mistakes and turn the ball over, but he’ll usually provide elite production — even while accounting for mistakes.
2) Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
Tagovailoa could put up 100 points, and he still wouldn’t usurp Mahomes. But that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate what we’ve seen from the Dolphins’ passer. His accuracy and anticipation are his calling card, and the confidence he shows in his playmakers allows him to pull the trigger immediately in a progression.
While the deep ball may flutter and die at times, his anticipation on downfield throws can make up for the lack of high-end juice in his arm. Despite not possessing an Allen-level cannon, Tagovailoa remains as aggressive as anyone downfield.
1) Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
WR Rashee Rice, WR Justin Watson, WR Skyy Moore, and WR Marquez Valdez-Scantling are the primary pass catchers on the outside for Patrick Mahomes, and TE Travis Kelce sure is nice to have, but Kansas City is blowing defenses away with unrivaled speed like Miami. They win offensively because Andy Reid is outstanding, but mostly because Mahomes is an alien.