NFL Quarterback Rankings Week 3: Are Brady, Rodgers in decline? And is Brissett better than expected?

Our Week 3 quarterback rankings have familiar names at the top and a hint of hope for the Cleveland Browns. Plus, are two legends of the game still great?

Ranking quarterbacks is a difficult task, especially early in the season. Week 2 of the NFL season brought a number of emerging narratives crashing back down to earth, and it’s difficult to make heads or tails of teams that stumbled one week only to dominate the next. So too with quarterbacks, who can put together forgettable performances to begin the year only to emerge as potential stars next week.

2022 may have been the best example of that we’ve seen in years with so many breakout performances coming in Week 2, whether it was Aaron Rodgers reasserting his dominance over the NFC North, Tua Tagovailoa engineering an incredible comeback win against the Ravens, or Jalen Hurts demanding recognition after a lights-out performance on Monday Night.

NFL Quarterback Rankings | Week 3

But one of the more intriguing stories had to come from a quarterback who lost his game: Jacoby Brissett. Brissett’s performance against the New York Jets revealed a side to him that we haven’t seen in quite a while. Perhaps his best game since his first year in Indianapolis – in 2017 – Brissett demonstrated high-level quarterbacking without the corresponding statistics to back it up.

One touchdown with one interception usually isn’t much to write home about, especially with a blown lead at the end, but the context tells us much more — Brissett never saw the field after the Browns went up two scores and instead watched as kicker Cade York missed a critical extra point and the Browns special teams allowed the Jets to recover an onside kick.

He didn’t throw more than a touchdown but led four touchdown drives. He wasn’t just a passenger, either – his throws resulted in a first down 54% of the time, the highest of any quarterback in Week 2 by a good margin.

Leading the Browns to the opponent’s 4-yard line, 7-yard line, and 12-yard line just to see Nick Chubb run in a touchdown doesn’t diminish Brissett, whose sole interception came with 12 seconds left on the clock as the Jets played an umbrella coverage.

He showcased better decision-making, a faster processor, and his trademark mobility to keep the Browns ahead for almost the entire game, and if we continue to see this side of Brissett, we could have an interesting storyline lurking in the AFC North.

Until that happens, we won’t have much change in his status as we group the quarterbacks into tiers. While quarterbacks in one tier are ranked higher than quarterbacks in another tier, quarterbacks within tiers are not ranked.

It’s still a good bet that the ones at the bottom are at risk of losing their tier status while the ones at the top are close to ascending the ranks. Otherwise, these tiers are only meant to tell us of both the character and quality of the quarterback rather than which one is barely better than the other.

QB Rankings, Tier 1: Elite

Elite quarterbacks are self-explanatory. Teams build around them, fans tune in to watch them, and they win games through the sheer force of their talent. Games are almost never over when they’re at the helm.

Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

Josh Allen’s ascendance into elite quarterback play is one of the better stories the NFL has, and he’s followed it up with explosive performances in his fifth season. A threat to run or throw the ball, there aren’t many weaknesses to his game.

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

While the statistics might overstate Patrick Mahomes’ level of play thus far this season, that’s more a matter of splitting hairs than a serious statement that he’s not a perpetual MVP candidate. All great quarterbacks can create, but no one can create in as many ways as Mahomes.

Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers

Among elite quarterbacks, Justin Herbert seems to play the most effortlessly. He has a natural sense for how each play will play out and knows when and how to get the ball where it needs to be.

The fact that he has an incredible arm seems tertiary to his ability to identify how to use it. In some ways, he and Mahomes are two quarterbacks with similar physical skill sets but completely different styles of play.

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

Lamar Jackson has Michael Vick’s toolbox but landed on a team that knows how to use him while maturing his decision-making and improving his accuracy. It’s a deadly combination, and Jackson, who has been hovering in and out of elite status since his MVP season, has played like one thus far in 2022.

Tier 2: Over the Hill?

Quarterbacks in Tier 2 are primarily those who have demonstrated elite or near-elite level play in the past and could do so again but may be on the downside of their careers while putting together high-level but not overwhelming performances.

By the middle of the season, we may know enough but all of these quarterbacks that this tier could disappear entirely. For now, we’re watching and waiting.

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

With one dud and one stud game so far this season, Rodgers can put any doubts about his age or supporting cast aside with another stellar performance in Week 3. But he’s on watch now as someone who could throw up a historic performance at a moment’s notice or could fade as a strong but no-longer-elite quarterback

Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

There’s more to answer for with Brady than for Rodgers. Brady hasn’t had a breakout performance thus far, and the Buccaneers’ stellar defense has been steering the ship, but it wouldn’t shock anybody if Brady turned it up in critical moments throughout the season. Maybe adding Cole Beasley will help.

Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos

Russell Wilson has not been much of a rushing threat over the past several seasons, but he’s always been able to rely on his mobility to extend plays and open up new opportunities. To some extent, it seems like he’s lost his fastball. His pass protection is better than ever, but he’s not making big plays while still exposing the team to turnover risk.

Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams

The drama surrounding Stafford’s arm this offseason was an understated but persistent storyline that seems to be playing into the season itself. The normally decisive and creative quarterback has looked unsure at times, and it looks like his penchant for risky play is biting back at him.

Tier 3: On Alert

Quarterbacks who are “on alert” are either on their way into a secure franchise status or are playing themselves out of that status with worrisome play.

Like with Tier 2, we may dissolve this category midway through the season to create a middle ground between the game managers below these tiers and the elite players above these two tiers. For now, we’re looking at quarterbacks in transition.

Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles

The success of “upside” picks at quarterback like Allen, Jackson, and Herbert has changed the conversation in the NFL about what kinds of quarterbacks they should pursue and how to develop them.

Hurts might be a necessary addition to the conversation. After an impressive rout of the Vikings, we could see Hurts move up the list of viable franchise quarterbacks. While Jackson might be the next coming of Vick, Hurts could be the next coming of Cam Newton.

Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

Out from under the shadow of Urban Meyer, Trevor Lawrence has done an excellent job adapting to his supporting cast and putting his team in positions to win. He’s a creative player and an accurate passer that could make everything click once he plays a bit faster and adapts himself to structure.

Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

We’ll have to see if Murray once again suffers a midseason slump, but the early returns are dynamic and exciting. Murray seems to have more command of the offense and has done a better job playing the traditional quarterback game of calling protections, adapting the playbook, and throwing on time into holes in coverage.

At the same time, he retains his impossible-to-capture running style and busts out remarkable elusiveness and improvisational capability at key moments. It truly seems like he’s about to take the next step.

Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals

Unlike the other three quarterbacks in this tier, Joe Burrow is on alert for trending down. While his pass protection has been abysmal, he’s created his own problems by holding on to the ball without making good on that risk by making big plays. He doesn’t look very much like last year’s superstar.

Tier 4: Along for the Ride

Quarterbacks who are along for the ride are the players who aren’t dragging the team down with their level of play but also aren’t elevating those around them. To some extent, these quarterbacks almost seem interchangeable, though we should always be wary that styles make fights and each offense is a unique snowflake. These players mold themselves to the talent level of the team around them and win some games along the way.

Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins

It’s hard to knock Tagovailoa after his historic day, and another good performance might move him up the tier list. But for now, he’ll have to demonstrate on a more consistent basis that he’s moved past his tendency for management.

He’s benefited from some good luck when it comes to interceptions, so he’ll have to prove that he won’t put the ball in harm’s way and that he’s more than his fantastic supporting cast.

Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers

It’s almost a shame that a player as smart, handsome, and charismatic as Jimmy Garoppolo is also boring to watch. But it works. Garoppolo leads the league in expected points added per play (in a small sample size) and has worked well with the 49ers’ impressive receiving group and solid pass blocking. He’s made some big throws and has taken care of the football. He’s pushing the ball a bit more down the field, but don’t expect that to continue.

Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings

This tier seems tailor-made for Kirk Cousins, who has consistently produced high-level statistical play without much in the way of wins or big moments. He’s been in phenomenal systems with great supporting casts, but when his individual talent level has been put to the test, he hasn’t always answered the call. Perhaps in an NFL environment friendlier to system-types, he could have been a star.

Joe Flacco, New York Jets

Despite Joe Flacco’s history as a deep-thrower, his current gameplay style is well-suited for steadying the ship. He doesn’t throw interceptable passes, he doesn’t challenge tight windows, and he throws the ball away instead of taking risks. The downside is that he doesn’t make big plays (without serious blown coverage) or make up for deficiencies on the team.

Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks

It’s almost difficult to believe that the Geno Smith leading the Seahawks is the same one who stumbled with the Jets and backed up Eli Manning with the Giants. His style of play is similar, but the level of play is different: he’s playing quicker and with more accuracy –leading the league in completion rate over expected — all while generally taking care of the ball. He’s not taking too many deep shots and letting the skill players do all the work, but there’s nothing wrong with that given how well it’s going.

Carson Wentz, Washington Commanders

Not every player in this tier is a game manager, and the best example of that is Carson Wentz, who might be playing the most volatile brand of football in the NFL right now. It’s not really working out, but it’s not creating enormous disasters quite yet either.

That might be better for a big-play offense with contested catch mavens like a healthy Buccaneers squad rather than the YAC specialists in Washington, but they drafted Jahan Dotson for a reason. We’ll see if Wentz collapses later on like in Indianapolis, but it’s not bad football to watch.

Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders

Jon Gruden might not be fit to be a leader of men, but he really got more out of Derek Carr than any number of other offensive coordinators could. Carr seems to be fighting between the style of quarterback he was last year and the style of quarterback he’d been for most of his career.

Right now, neither is winning and the Raiders are falling swiftly behind their stacked division. This is an astounding supporting group, and if he can get the ball to them with more care without losing aggression, they could make waves.

Tier 5: Carried

Quarterbacks in this tier aren’t precluded from winning a good chunk of games, but the rest of the team will definitely be doing the heavy lifting while the quarterbacks try not to hold back the group too much. These quarterbacks won’t win many games with average teams, but they also won’t tank good rosters outright. At least on most days.

Mitchell Trubisky, Pittsburgh Steelers

After reviving his career in Buffalo, Trubisky has taken the role of a bridge quarterback in Pittsburgh, where there’s definitely meat still left on the bone when it comes to offensive production. Still, there don’t seem to be many looming disasters.

Matt Ryan, Indianapolis Colts

It would have been nice to put Ryan in Tier 3, but he’s just been a mess. Big turnover potential, no big plays, and ranked dead last in the league in expected points per play. He’s a smart quarterback, but his arm just isn’t cooperating.

Davis Mills, Houston Texans

Davis Mills is playing well above the level of his supporting cast, but that’s a low bar to clear. He’s got the style and moxie of a great backup quarterback who takes care of the ball. But if the Texans’ goal is to win games, they need someone who can win with aggressive styles of play.

Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints

When combining depth of target, big-time throw rate, and turnover-worthy play rate into one volatility measure, Jameis Winston laps the pack. He makes aggressive throws into tight windows, loves the deep ball, and slings it deep.

But that requires more than good receivers, it requires receivers good at winning contested catches and playing the deep game, something he had in Tampa Bay but not New Orleans. He’s fun to watch, unless you’re fan of his team.

Jacoby Brissett, Cleveland Browns

The Browns might have something in Brissett. If they do, we could see the uncomfortable but karmically appropriate quarterback controversy storyline play out in Cleveland.

Jared Goff, Detroit Lions

Against all odds, the Lions look like a good team in need of a good quarterback. They have Jared Goff, who at least isn’t sinking the ship.

Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans

Drafting Malik Willis was an interesting move for the Titans, who found ways to get elite performances from Ryan Tannehill. Now, it seems to make more sense, as Tannehill has been struggling without A.J. Brown while defenses have a better understanding of how to attack the McVay offensive system.

Mac Jones, New England Patriots

Mac Jones is a system quarterback who relies on accuracy and timing, something that served him well his rookie year. Right now, it looks like he has neither accuracy nor timing. As a young player, this could turn around quickly, but it’s been a disappointing follow-up season.

Tier 6: Liabilities

It’s hard to win games with Tier 6 quarterbacks who should be looking over their shoulder just as much as they’re surveying the field. Odds are, there’s another quarterback on the roster or on the trade market that could win more games for their team. Until those teams make those moves, however, they’ll be stuck with passers who can lose games that would otherwise be won.

Cooper Rush, Dallas Cowboys

It almost seems unfair to put Cooper Rush on this list, but he’s taken more snaps than Dak Prescott, so he gets the billing. Rush is an ideal player to have on the sideline or in the quarterback room, as he’s pretty intelligent and can identify holes in defenses or good matchups pretty quickly. But he doesn’t have the arm to get things going or the mobility to extend plays.

Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

There were moments in Justin Fields’ rookie year where we saw flashes of deep understanding and football intelligence. He’s still that player, but he doesn’t identify what he needs to as fast as he needs to. With more mobility and arm strength than accuracy and quick decision-making, the offense can fall apart – especially with poor pass protection and a worse receiver group.

Baker Mayfield, Carolina Panthers

There was a chance that Baker Mayfield’s struggles last year were injury-related, but he hasn’t demonstrated much improvement now that he’s healthy and in a different environment. He’s reasonably accurate with an underrated arm but gets spooked under pressure and doesn’t always know what he’s seeing.

Daniel Jones, New York Giants

There aren’t many quarterbacks who can be so careful with where they throw the football that nevertheless hold their team back with turnovers, but Daniel Jones’ fumbling problem is overwhelming and he doesn’t create big plays to make up for it. He’s a conservative quarterback that’s liable to produce bad field position for his defense at a moment’s notice.

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