Top 25 quarterbacks heading into the 2021 NFL season

Top 25 quarterbacks in the NFL for the 2021 season | 15-1

Let’s take a look at the remaining top quarterbacks for the 2021 season. Who’s No. 1?

15. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

No matter his production, Baker Mayfield deserves mention simply for leading the Cleveland Browns to the playoffs. He did more than just hand the ball off as part of the NFL’s best backfield.

Mayfield regularly stretched the field with success, ranking second in average air yards per completion (7.4) while protecting the football in the process. Heading into his second season under head coach Kevin Stefanski, the expectations are high, but Mayfield appears able. And all the commercial ad work seems validated at this point.

14. Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers

Right away, you’re going to say Justin Herbert deserves to rank higher. While that debate is welcomed, allow me to explain. Just as one season doesn’t define Wentz’s career, neither will Herbert’s 2020 explosion force me to overhype his sophomore season.

First of all, he was damn good. There’s no doubt about it. As a rookie, Herbert was top five in yards per game and top 10 in interception percentage. He broke several NFL rookie records and should only get better. On the other hand, history tells us he’ll probably come back to earth a bit (see Mayfield’s 2019 season). With that said, Herbert taking a step back still puts him ahead of half of the league.

13. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Even after the departure of Julio Jones, Matt Ryan will be playing catch with Calvin Ridley and freak-of-nature tight end Kyle Pitts. Although I find Ryan’s play to be more middle of the pack these days, he gets a preseason boost in my rankings as I sense his production will make a big jump in 2021. Despite getting up there in age, Ryan is still capable of putting together elite performances.

12. Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders

Another underappreciated quarterback in the NFL is Derek Carr. First of all, this guy’s on-target percentage was the best in the league last season. He could stand to take a fumble prevention course, but he’s done well to limit interceptions. I could go on and on with the analytics to justify ranking Carr a top 10 quarterback in the NFL, but unfortunately, getting to the playoffs in 2021 would say more.

11. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans

Since leaving the Dolphins, Ryan Tannehill has been one of the league’s most efficient football players, ranking fifth in on-target percentage in 2020 and top 10 in most crucial analytics. While his yards per game have remained identical to his first six seasons, his completion percentage has grown nearly five percent (62.8 to 67.3).

In just 28 games under coach Mike Vrabel, Tannehill’s touchdown percentage has drastically improved (4.2 to 7.2), and he’s cut his interception rate by 35%. The proof is in the pudding for arguing Tannehill as a top 10 NFL quarterback in 2021.

10. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

Kyler Murray may have played in every game of 2020, but he wasn’t at full strength. Nevertheless, the former Heisman Award winner still managed to rush for the second-most yards and touchdowns of any NFL quarterback.

Early on, Murray even appeared to have a case for NFL MVP before it became clear something was amiss. Regardless, Murray improved nearly every phase of his game from Year 1 to 2, and I expect an MVP-caliber season in Year 3.

9. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams

Last year, I ranked Matthew Stafford three places higher before the 2020 season. And we all know how that ended. So, why go to the well a second time?

In short, now that Stafford is out of Detroit and in the hands of coach Sean McVay in Los Angeles, I expect big things from this quarterback in 2021. And it’s not all wishful thinking.

Don’t forget that Stafford comes with stellar ability. In 12 seasons, he’s started all 16 games nine times, throwing for 4,000 yards or more in eight of those instances. Not to mention, he’s never thrown fewer than 20 touchdown passes when playing a full year. When healthy, he’s top 10 at the position.

8. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

Talk about remaining healthy. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott put up video game numbers before succumbing to a right ankle injury in Week 5 of last season. His 371.2 yards per game would’ve not only been the highest among all NFL quarterbacks but more than 55 yards beyond that of the next closest passer.

Sure, I didn’t expect that output to be sustained given the Cowboys’ tendency to play from behind and even into extra quarters. Yet, there’s no denying Prescott was playing like a top-10 QB in this league before season-ending surgery.

7. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

As one of the more difficult NFL quarterbacks to prepare for, Lamar Jackson again rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2020, notching his first postseason victory in the process. It’s guys like Jackson that are reshaping the way the NFL views dual-threat quarterbacks in 2021.

Since Jackson’s arrival on the scene in 2018, the Baltimore Ravens have been Super Bowl contenders despite falling short. Yes, his 2020 season was not as prolific as 2019, but with some added weaponry, the expectations are for Jackson to make a big jump in his passing prowess — making him nearly impossible to stop.

6. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady will be the only archaic quarterback prototype from here on out. Nonetheless, he’s been shredding defenses for 20-plus years despite rushing for an average of 3.5 yards per game. Not only is athleticism not Brady’s strong suit, but his arm isn’t even his greatest asset.

It’s his mental acuity that is top-notch. From a sheer awareness and preparation standpoint, there’s no better quarterback in 2021. There’s a reason this guy has more Super Bowl rings than all other players on this list combined.

5. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

In 2020, Josh Allen improved exponentially from his first two seasons in the NFL. He added nearly 100 passing yards on a per-game basis. Concurrently, Allen increased his touchdown rate and decreased his turnovers.

What’s more impressive is that Allen didn’t just have elite performances here and there. The three-year signal-caller out of Wyoming was doing it week-in and week-out. Of course, his postseason performance left much to be desired, but I anticipate further improvement in that area. Just another example of a player with all the traits developing on the fly.

4. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

Deshaun Watson is a curious case given his blatant candor for wanting out of Houston. Add to that dozens of serious allegations, and it’s tough to know how his 2021 season will play out. All that I can tell you is if Watson does play football for anyone this fall, he’ll be top five at the position. Watson turns just 26 years old in September and is coming off a career year. Barring suspension or off-field dealings, Watson is entering his prime.

3. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

To most people’s dismay, I placed Russell Wilson atop my list last year. For the first half of the season, I looked like the guy who purchased three Bitcoin back in 2013. But that all came crashing down.

Wilson closed out the final nine games of 2020 with a pedestrian 14:7 touchdown-to-interception line after tossing 26 scores in the first seven games. Despite a late-season slump, the 10-year vet has yet to miss a start since being drafted in 2012. He’s averaging 3,772 yards a year and has not thrown fewer than 20 touchdowns at any point in his career.

2. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

If you believe Patrick Mahomes is the NFL’s top quarterback heading into 2021, I won’t argue with you. It’s too close to call. Mahomes has led the Kansas City Chiefs to three consecutive AFC West crowns, two conference titles, and one Super Bowl win in three seasons. Not only has Mahomes become one of the NFL’s best players, but he’s also transformed the way franchises value the quarterback position today.

Mahomes possesses elite arm talent and an ability to extend plays — a highly coveted set of traits for the position. Furthermore, he immediately catapulted the Chiefs into perennial Super Bowl contenders, creating a short leash for all young quarterbacks league-wide. In essence, teams are parting ways with new signal-callers in as little as 1-2 seasons if they don’t prove half as good as Mahomes.

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Similar to Watson, Aaron Rodgers’ future is anyone’s guess. With recent news surfacing around his desire to leave Green Bay, Rodgers could follow in Brady’s footsteps, remain a Packer, or call it quits. Who knows? For the purpose of this exercise, let’s assume he suits up this season.

While Rodgers has been one of the best at the position for more than a decade, recently, he’s proven better. At 37 years old, he is fresh off his most efficient season as a pro, completing more than 70% of his throws for a personal best 48 touchdown passes and a league-high touchdown rate of 9.1%.

Sure, both Rodgers and Mahomes yielded to a feisty Buccaneers’ defense late in the year, but Rodgers proved the more difficult of the two to contain.

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