Ranking the NFL’s top 10 QBs

Steve Palazzolo updates the top 10 QB rankings after Week 1, and goes in-depth on some of the most compelling performances.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Ranking the NFL’s top 10 QBs


Every week this NFL season we will be updating you on the top 10 quarterbacks in our PFF rating system, which takes into account every QB’s production over the last two seasons, with weighting towards more recent play. In essence, it answers the question of how good a player is at this very moment.

Here we rank the top 10, and also give you an in-depth look at the three most compelling QB performances of the weekend (OK, there’s no Marcus Mariota, but Sam Monson has that very well covered here): Ryan Tannehill, Nick Foles and Andrew Luck.

  1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, 94.0

This week was a typical sharp performance from Rodgers that saw him complete 18-of-23 passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns, with a couple of his best throws being negated due to penalties.

  1. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints, 89.4

It was a different look for the Saints offense this week, as the short passing game took center stage. 78 percent of his 355 yards came after the catch, a league-high for Week 1.

  1. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers, 87.8

Overshadowed by Brady’s performance, Roethlisberger carried the Steelers offense with an impressive display throwing the deep ball as he completed four of eight attempts (one drop) for 139 yards and an accuracy percentage of 62.5 percent.

  1. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers, 85.5

Like Brees, it was a pretty statistical effort thanks to Rivers’ wide receivers and some shoddy coverage by the Detroit Lions. Of his 404 passing yards, 300 of them came after the catch.

  1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots, 85.1

The defending Super Bowl MVP looked sharp against an overmatched Steelers defense, finishing with an accuracy percentage of 83.9 percent and our second-highest grade of the week at +4.2.

  1. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos, 83.9

Sunday looked a lot like Manning’s last outing back in January, where downfield throws were hard to come by. Throw in a clear discomfort in the pocket leading to a rare four sacks, and this is not the Manning we’ve come to know. He completed only 2-of-8 passes for 33 yards on throws beyond 10 yards in the air.

  1. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys, 82.3

Yet another conservative approach, Romo averaged only 4.4 yards per target, third-lowest in the league, but he ran the offense efficiently before putting together a spectacular final drive to lead the Cowboys to an improbable victory.

  1. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons, 81.6

A strong performance was marred by two head-scratching decisions that led to interceptions, but Ryan jumped aboard the Julio Jones Train to 288 passing yards while only getting pressured on 19 percent of his dropbacks, second-lowest in the league.

  1. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks, 81.5

On the other hand is Wilson, who had to face the dominant St. Louis Rams defensive line that whooped Seattle’s front five. Wilson made some plays with his legs, but he was inconsistent as a passer and stuck to the short passing game as 33 of his 41 attempts were thrown within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.

  1. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs, 80.0

In classic Alex Smith fashion, he finished the week with no big-time throws, but also didn’t have a turnover-worthy play, so he ran the offense efficiently enough to lead the Chiefs to victory. His first TD pass to TE Travis Kelce was a beauty, while his second was a gimme – expect even more Kelce in Kansas City’s future.

What the stats missed: Ryan Tannehill really struggled versus Washington

Every week we’ll dive into some of the plays that shaped the statistical landscape around the league.

Remember, the NFL’s version of passer rating is a great way to define a passing offense (quarterback plus receivers, pass protection, quality of opposing pass defense, etc), but it often lacks context when assigning the number to a quarterback’s performance.

Even advanced stats miss a lot of the context and nuance that goes into a quarterback’s performance, but our PFF grades are able to sort through every throw of the week to give an accurate depiction of QB play.

Miami’s Tannehill finished with a respectable passer rating of 93.5 versus the Redskins, but he was lucky to do so. When breaking down the tape, he got away with two extremely poor decisions that should have resulted in easy interceptions for the Washington defense, but neither defender was able to make the play; in fact, one of them ended up as a 10-yard completion. If these two plays were picked as they should have been and plugged into Tannehill’s stat line (acknowledging that other stats would change as well, but for the sake of context), his passer rating would drop from 93.5 to 64.6. That number would paint a much different, and more accurate, depiction of Tannehill’s performance on Sunday.

This clip from Sunday’s game explains the situation well.

On the other hand, Tennessee Titans rookie QB Marcus Mariota lit up the stat sheet, and while it was an impressive debut, our own Sam Monson touched on why those numbers were inflated.

What to make of Nick Foles

While I picked the Rams to upset the Seahawks, I’m still not a believer in QB Nick Foles as a top-end option, though he was very impressive on Sunday. He’s still not the statistical marvel that saw him post a 119.2 passer rating in 2013, a number largely attributed to Chip Kelly’s offense, good work by his playmakers and a little luck, but Foles came through with some big throws against the Seahawks, including perhaps the biggest of the entire week when he dropped a touch pass right into WR Stedman Bailey’s arms in overtime. It still remains to be seen if he can do it on a week-to-week basis for the Rams, but with their fearsome defensive line, Foles’ consistency is the key to their ability to make an NFC West push.

How the Bills shut down Andrew Luck

The Colts’ Andrew Luck makes as many big-time throws as any QB in the league, but he often does so by waiting for plays to develop and holding the ball a little longer than most. The Bills offset that with a blitz-happy approach and Luck was forced to adapt. Last season, Luck‘s average time to throw was 2.83, but on Sunday, it was only 2.4 seconds — the lowest it’s been since Week 16 in 2013.

What does this mean? The Bills forced the ball out of Luck’s hands quicker than he would have liked, and credit him for making the adjustment rather than waiting for the pressure to get there. But clearly the Colts offense was out of sync, as they couldn’t create enough separation to make the quick passing game work.

QB stats of the week

-Only five of Tom Brady’s 34 dropbacks lasted 2.6 seconds or more. Expect even more of the quick passing game against the Bills’ blitz-heavy attack this Sunday.

-Peyton Manning was sacked on 30.8 percent of his pressured dropbacks, a ridiculously high number for him, and one to watch going forward.

-Even more impressive for Foles, he was pressured 54.8 percent of his dropbacks, second-highest in the league, but he finished with and accuracy percentage of 100 percent on his 15 attempts (12-for-15 with three throwaways).

-Of the 36 quarterbacks to attempt one deep pass (20+ yards in the air), only 15 of them had at least one completion this week. So over half of the NFL failed to complete one deep pass.

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • liberty61

    Whats up with Matthew Stafford?

  • blahblah…

    carson palmer??

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    • Upeo

      Palmer couldn throw 20 touchdown passes in a row with his teeth and they still wouldn’t mention him probably.

  • gary grimes

    seriously? Tannehill had a much higher “rating” than most QB’s on that list. Every QB has bad throws in a game that “could” have been picked off and sometimes and often that should have been picked. I’ll bet Tom Shady had at least one that “could of” or should of been picked but he didn’t drop off top 10 for that reason. Tannehill had a rough game but pulled out a nice drive when he had to and still made some very good throws. Your bias is ridiculous. Rate the QB’s using their actual results vs. what you think could of or should have happened.

    • gllmiaspr

      Gary: Big Dolphin and Tannehill fan but I am sorry because I do not understand your comment.
      1. “Tannehill had a higher rating than all but one QB on that list”. Do not see it. Brady, Big Ben, Alex Smith, Romo, Rodgers and Rivers all had higher QB ratings than Tannehill. If you are going by PFF rating all of the QB on the list had a higher rating.
      2. “Every QB has bad throws in a game”. True. But when the bad throws would have resulted in interceptions the PFF grading should reflect it. He was not marked down so much for the missed TD pass to Sims (-.5) as for the two would be interceptions he threw to Stills and Jennings. Both of those were pretty bad and he should not benefit form the fact that the DB dropped the balls.
      3. “Your (PFF) bias is ridiculous”. Actually PFF ranked Tannehill as the 5th best QB in 2013 when he had QB rating of 82 (24th in the NFL). You can accuse PFF of a bunch of things and I do not always agree with their grades. However anti Tannehill bias should not be one of them.
      There is a system to rate QB using actual results and it is called the NFL QB rating. Under the NFL Qb rating RT 93.5 rating would have been 13th and still missed the top 10.
      After watching the game live and on tape I agree with PFF on RT grades for that game. He will come back strong next week and end in the top 10.

      • gary grimes

        I see your points, problem is they weren’t just grading one game. It was the game plus the last two years. How they could drop TH so much from a couple bad throws in one game is ridiculous. That’s all.

  • Julie Crenshaw

    This rating system is so biased depending on the player…… and at the end of the day who cares what PFF rated them

    • John

      I do

  • Gregory Hutchinson

    Its true, Tannehill didn’t play all that well and he would be the first to tell you so. Stats can make it as if you did play better than what you really did or the opposite of. There are about 6 or 7 plays that he stunk it up and that’s a fact. Byt there have been and always will be a certain 3, 4 or 5 plays that can be the difference between a loss or a win and he got away with a few the other day. 2 of them plays were dropped ints, another 3 were inaccurate throws, a couple of sacks where he was trying to make something out of nothing and then a pass that was completed behind the line of scrimmage when he should have just threw the ball away as he should have done on them 2 sacks. On the 2 incompletions (1 to Simms, 1 to Stills), the one where he missed Simms in the endzone, in his defense, he was rolling to his left at the time which is hard on a right handed QB, but still should have been completed and 8xs out of 10 he probably would have completed it and the other , where he was rolling to his right which usually aint a problem for a right handed QB he was being chased hard out of the pocket on a broken down play. But his worst play of the day was missing a wide open Jarvis Landry late in the game with no pressure at all. And the 2 sacks and completed pass behind the line of scrimmage were just terrible decisions on his part. A few bad plays for sure, but its early in the year and he will only get better.

  • Izach

    I disagree with Alex smith not making any “big time” throws, the 1st kelce throw was big time in terms of being a good throw, also his 20 yard completion to maclin was a beauty and entirely on smith. That’s a throw he didn’t make last year. Also the big gain to maclin that was “juggled” on the sideline was a big time throw as well.

  • Starmesh23

    Brady only at 5? Noodle-armed Manning over Romo? PFF is really poor at QB evaluations.

  • Southwestern

    I’m new here and just have a quick question: Tom Brady has been generally viewed as mediocre here outside of the Moss years based on lack and quality of downfield passing correct?