Ranking the NFL's top 10 QBs
This week at Pro Football Focus, we are taking a look at the top 10 units at every position across the league. We’re going to start with the one position that is all about the individual player as opposed to the group, the quarterback position.
Always a lightning rod for discussion in debate, here are our picks for the top 10 quarterbacks in football right now. There’s more than one way to rank QBs, but I went the route of ordering them based on our new PFF ratings – a measure of how productive we project each QB to be this season based on their performance the past two years.
- Aaron Rodgers, Packers (92.7 PFF rating)
Perennially among our highest-graded passers in the league, Rodgers was No. 1 in the NFL last season. He had just two games in 2014 where he graded negatively as a passer, as he threw 42 touchdowns to seven interceptions in the regular season and playoffs combined. He graded negatively under pressure, though only slightly, but was still able to put up a positive grade against the blitz.
- Drew Brees, Saints (89.5)
Rumors of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. While some pointed to an up-and-down end to the 2014 season, and to his 17 interceptions, as an indicator that Brees was no longer one of the NFL’s top few QBs, it’s worth pointing out that his two highest-graded games of the year came in the final five weeks. He faces some challenges this season, with Jimmy Graham now on the Seattle Seahawks, but if his pass to Brandin Cooks on Saturday night was anything to go by, he’s in for another fine season in 2015.
- Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (87.2)
A player who probably doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves in a league with Rodgers, Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, Roethlisberger has managed to stay healthier in recent seasons, and delivered some outstanding performances to go with it. He forms one of the most potent QB-WR combos in the league with Antonio Brown — he had a quarterback rating of 119.5 when throwing to Brown last season, including 1,698 yards and 13 touchdowns.
- Philip Rivers, Chargers (85.6)
Like Roethlisberger, Rivers doesn’t always get the credit he deserves, though this is partly due to his subpar 2012 season in which it looked like he was on a very steep decline. He’s bounced back since, however, leading the league with an accuracy percentage of 78.7 percent in 2013. Obviously, the Chargers recognize how valuable he is as well, given his recent contract extension.
- Peyton Manning, Broncos (85.3)
Manning is an interesting quarterback to rank at this stage in his career. Were we purely looking at the second half of his 2014 season, he wouldn’t be close to the top five, but he is buoyed by a 2013 season in which he was one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Manning was our sixth-highest-graded quarterback through Week 8 of the 2014 season, but was just the 17th-highest graded from Week 9 onwards. How he responds in 2015 with new head coach Gary Kubiak will be key both for his place on lists like these and the Broncos’ Super Bowl hopes.
- Tom Brady, Patriots (83.7)
Brady was our highest-graded quarterback in the NFL from Weeks 5 to 13 last season, recovering from a shaky start (which included a really poor performance against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4) to have another stellar season. One cause for concern would be how we performed from Week 13 through the Super Bowl, but despite being very average for that stretch, he is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
- Tony Romo, Cowboys (83.3)
Often criticized for the Cowboys’ lack of postseason success, Romo is actually one of the best QBs in the league on a yearly basis. It’s hard to imagine where the Cowboys would be without him, and he was particularly effective in 2014. No QB in the league had more touchdown throws on deep passes.
- Matt Ryan, Falcons (83.0)
Another quarterback who seems to take an unnecessary amount of blame for his team’s lack of postseason success, Ryan is a top-10 NFL QB. He has benefited from having weapons like Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez around him during his time in Atlanta, but Ryan consistently performs well. He handled pressure well again in 2014, too, with an accuracy percentage of 69.4 percent on plays during which he was under pressure.
- Russell Wilson, Seahawks (82.1)
Wilson wasn’t a particularly good passer in 2014, ranking just 19th in passing grade. He made up for that with the second-highest rushing grade among quarterbacks, but his place in the top 10 is more than anything based off of his tremendous 2013 season. That’s when he had the eighth-highest passing grade, and again the second-highest rushing grade, while leading the league with an accuracy percentage of 48.3 percent on passes travelling 20 yards or more downfield.
- Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins (80.2)
Is he among the best five quarterbacks in the league yet? No, but Ryan Tannehill has quietly put himself in the top 10 with his play over the past two seasons. He was the sixth-most accurate QB in the league last year. Our sixth-highest graded passer in 2013, he dropped slightly to 10th this past season, but looks poised for a big year with the Dolphins and an improved supporting cast.