No single position in football has a greater influence on a team’s success (or failure) than the quarterback. There’s no disputing that. But which signal-caller is the best? That’s where the great quarterback rankings debate emerges. With modern-day analytics and a good old-fashioned eye test, I look to answer that very question with these QB Power Rankings.
2021 QB Power Rankings
I pride myself on not overreacting from one week to the next. Yet, this list deserved a shake-up. Not that my latest QB rankings were far off, but once Russell Wilson was displaced, it was more apparent than ever that my top-five required an overhaul.
Sure, it’s hard to argue any player over the excessively gifted Patrick Mahomes. However, the proof has been in the pudding in 2021. Mahomes is struggling. Couple that with an expansion in young playmakers around the league — especially in the AFC — and change is inevitable.
With an abundance of talented young quarterbacks around the NFL, guys like Mahomes, Wilson, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers will need to do more to preserve their standing among the league’s top signal-callers. No longer will I be misled by past accomplishments. It’s a “what have you done for me lately?” league. And these QB Power Rankings will share that same sentiment.
NOTE: PFN’s QB Power Rankings of 2021 include player statistics from the current season. Rank among all starting QBs shown in parentheses. Stats/analytics include: Games played (GP), passing yards per game (YPG), completion percentage, average air yards per completion (CAY), passing touchdown percentage per attempt (TD%), interception percentage per attempt (INT%), rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns.
2021 QB Power Rankings | 1-16
After five weeks, here’s how things look from top to bottom.
1) Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens ⇑7
Season: 5 GP | 303.8 YPG (5th) | 67.1% (T-10th) | 8.6 avg CAY (1st) | 4.8 TD% (17th) | 1.8 INT% (T-14th) | 341 rush yards (1st) | 2 rush TDs (T-4th)
It’s as if Lamar Jackson enjoys getting off to slow starts to better showcase his abilities in comeback fashion. Last week, I noted his growing effectiveness from the pocket and a diminishing reliance on play action. This week, I’m here to say he’s not just my top-ranked QB, but he’s stringing together a better season than he did in 2019 — when he won league MVP.
2) Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ⇑3
Season: 5 GP | 353.4 YPG (1st) | 66.2% (14th) | 6.0 avg CAY (T-15th) | 6.7 TD% (6th) | 0.9 INT% (4th) | 36 rush yards (21st) | 1 rush TD (T-8th)
If it weren’t for Jackson’s Monday night heroics, Brady would be this week’s top quarterback. Against a seemingly tough secondary and football mind, Brady dumped on the Dolphins’ defense to the tune of 411 passing yards and 5 touchdowns. Believe it or not, Sunday marked the first time in Brady’s career where he threw for 400 yards and 5 scores.
3) Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals ⇓1
Season: 5 GP | 302.4 YPG (6th) | 75.2% (1st) | 6.0 avg CAY (T-15th) | 6.1 TD% (T-10th) | 2.4 INT% (20th) | 110 rush yards (T-9th) | 3 rush TDs (T-2nd)
Kyler Murray slips a bit as he was finally held in check by a dialed-in 49ers defense. Despite missing a few big plays and being ineffective on scrambles, Murray still managed a winning effort. During the past two weeks, he’s also taken better care of the football as the Cardinals remain undefeated.
4) Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs ⇓3
Season: 5 GP | 298.0 YPG (7th) | 69.2% (7th) | 5.3 avg CAY (25th) | 8.2 TD% (2nd) | 3.1 INT% (T-24th) | 153 rush yards (5th) | 1 rush TD (T-8th)
It’s safe to say Mahomes has been surrounded by some of the league’s best playmakers, as well as one of the NFL’s top play designers. For that reason, we’ve often ignored his propensity to play outside of sound fundamentals and mechanics. Now, with an outmatched front and porous defense, Mahomes’ mistakes are magnified — leading to a drop in this week’s QB Power Rankings.
5) Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams ⇓2
Season: 5 GP | 317.4 YPG (3rd) | 68.0% (9th) | 7.6 avg CAY (5th) | 7.0 TD% (5th) | 1.7 INT% (T-12th) | 14 rush yards (28th) | 0 rush TDs (T-19th)
Matthew Stafford overcame some poor throws, failed scoring opportunities, and a banged-up finger to pull out a win in Seattle. Thursday night marked the first time this season that Stafford was unable to throw multiple touchdowns. But it wasn’t for lack of chances. The Rams’ offense struggled on late downs and inside the 20-yard line on a night they gained a season-high 476 yards.
6) Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Season: 5 GP | 273.6 YPG (10th) | 73.9% (2nd) | 5.7 avg CAY (T-17th) | 7.9 TD% (3rd) | 1.8 INT% (T-14th) | 60 rush yards (T-16th) | 0 rush TDs (T-19th)
Once again, the Cowboys’ offense opened and closed with the run game. Of course, Dak Prescott did some eating of his own. He completed nearly 70% of his 32 pass attempts for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns in a blowout win over a division rival. It was Prescott’s first 300-yard outing since Week 1. The highly effective passer has now thrown 10 scores and just 1 interception over the past three weeks.
7) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Season: 5 GP | 248.2 YPG (21st) | 65.6% (T-15th) | 5.6 avg CAY (T-21st) | 6.1 TD% (T-10th) | 1.8 INT% (T-14th) | 8 rush yards (30th) | 1 rush TD (T-8th)
If you’re going to make mistakes, make them early. That was the case for Rodgers, whose lone interception came in the first quarter of Sunday’s game against the Bengals. From there, he’d get hot. Targeting Davante Adams 16 times on the day, Rodgers wound up throwing for 344 yards along with his 421st and 422nd career touchdown passes — placing him fifth on the all-time list.
8) Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers ⇑1
Season: 5 GP | 315.2 YPG (4th) | 67.1% (T-10th) | 5.7 avg CAY (T-17th) | 6.3 TD% (T-8th) | 1.4 INT% (T-7th) | 60 rush yards (T-16th) | 1 rush TD (T-8th)
Justin Herbert is putting together an MVP-caliber year in just his second season in the NFL. He’s attacking secondaries with the grit of a wily vet. Furthermore, his end-of-game play is outstanding, and his arm talent is elite. Herbert registered his 11th 300-yard game on Sunday, topping Dan Marino and Mahomes for the most 300-yard games by a passer in their first two seasons. He’s passed both of them with 12 games to go.
9) Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills ⇑2
Season: 5 GP | 274.0 YPG (9th) | 62.3% (24th) | 7.8 avg CAY (T-3rd) | 6.6 TD% (7th) | 1.1 INT% (6th) | 188 rush yards (4th) | 2 rush TDs (T-4th)
Not only is Josh Allen big, strong, and athletic, but he’s played some outstanding football in sketchy weather. If you’re unaware, Western New York boasts some of the sketchiest weather. For that reason, Allen and the Bills appear primed for another AFC championship tour. Following a slow start to 2021, Allen is back shaking tacklers and delivering deep dimes.
10) Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders
Season: 5 GP | 321.0 YPG (2nd) | 63.9% (21st) | 6.5 avg CAY (9th) | 3.9 TD% (20th) | 2.0 INT% (17th) | 29 rush yards (23rd) | 0 rush TDs (T-19th)
Whether hung up on Week 4’s tough loss or the distractions encompassing coach Jon Gruden, Derek Carr does not appear to be the same guy he was in the first few weeks of the season. After averaging 401 passing yards through the first three games, Carr has averaged half that (201) the past two weeks. This whole thing has devastating collapse written all over it.
11) Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings ⇑1
Season: 5 GP | 279.2 YPG (8th) | 69.6% (6th) | 5.7 avg CAY (T-17th) | 5.2 TD% (T-13th) | 1.0 INT% (5th) | 41 rush yards (20th) | 0 rush TDs (T-19th)
While Kirk Cousins hasn’t been playing turnover-free football as of late, he’s been clutch under center. The oft-maligned signal-caller came up especially big Sunday during late-down situations and with the game on the line. Sure, it was against the Lions, but Cousins bounced back one week after being stunned by the Browns’ defense. Next up? The Panthers.
12) Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals ⇑7
Season: 5 GP | 253.8 YPG (18th) | 71.7% (3rd) | 6.4 avg CAY (T-10th) | 7.6 TD% (4th) | 4.1 INT% (28th) | 24 rush yards (25th) | 0 rush TDs (T-19th)
Even though Sunday did not go as planned, Joe Burrow makes a significant jump in the QB Power Rankings. Burrow played well at times but showcased several boneheaded decisions. Regardless, the Bengals have proven a tough out in 2021. And that has a lot to do with who’s under center.
13) Teddy Bridgewater, Denver Broncos
Season: 5 GP | 236.0 YPG (24th) | 69.8% (5th) | 7.0 avg CAY (8th) | 4.7 TD% (18th) | 0.7 INT% (3rd) | 57 rush yards (19th) | 0 rush TDs (T-19th)
After being knocked out of last week’s contest with an apparent concussion, Teddy Bridgewater returned to the football field. Maybe he shouldn’t have. While the stat line was respectable, most of his production came late with the game out of reach. Instead, Bridgewater appeared out of sync from the get-go. Maybe being another week removed from getting his bell rung will do him good.
14) Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans ⇑1
Season: 5 GP | 250.2 YPG (19th) | 63.6% (T-22nd) | 5.6 avg CAY (T-21st) | 3.5 TD% (23rd) | 1.7 INT% (T-12th) | 130 rush yards (7th) | 1 rush TD (T-8th)
With the loss of Russell Wilson atop the QB Power Rankings, some quarterbacks were bound to move up by default. Such is the case for Ryan Tannehill. On Sunday, Tannehill attempted a mere 22 passes, dropping back just 25 times as the Titans held the lead for much of the afternoon. Despite the limited action, Tannehill was under duress all day. However, he’d endure to total 217 yards and 1 score.
15) Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns ⇑2
Season: 5 GP | 248.0 YPG (22nd) | 66.9% (12th) | 5.4 avg CAY (T-23rd) | 2.8 TD% (28th) | 1.4 INT% (T-7th) | 67 rush yards (14th) | 1 rush TD (T-8th)
For the third time in his career, Baker Mayfield led his offense to at least 42 points in a losing effort. No quarterback has done so more than once. Nonetheless, Mayfield looked better than the past two weeks where he constantly misfired, appearing bothered by a left shoulder injury. But the greater concern lies with injuries to his offensive line, as Mayfield was offered little time to operate late in Sunday’s loss.
16) Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons ⇑5
Season: 5 GP | 266.4 YPG (13th) | 69.1% (8th) | 4.8 avg CAY (29th) | 4.9 TD% (16th) | 1.5 INT% (T-9th) | 26 rush yards (24th) | 0 rush TDs (T-19th)
After a fantastic day across the pond, Matt Ryan finds himself in the upper half of this week’s QB Power Rankings. I know it was the Jets, but Ryan has been on the up and up these past couple of weeks. He’s now thrown multiple scores in four straight contests, boasting 8 touchdown passes and no interceptions the last three weeks.