Where Tom Brady ranks among NFL QBs right now

Neil Hornsby evaluates where Tom Brady ranks among the NFL's best QBs entering the 2015 season.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Where Tom Brady ranks among NFL QBs right now

Where do I currently rank Tom Brady among all NFL quarterbacks? The simple answer is third.

Of course, it’s far more complicated than that, especially when you consider that in our PFF rating system, which measures how good every NFL player is right now based on his production, Brady ranks sixth. But while this might seem unusual for the founder of a football data company to say, Brady’s value is tied up in more than just his measurable production.

Let me explain. When middle linebacker Antonio Pierce was coming to the end of his career with the Giants, he was a shell of his former self when it came to on-field production. In his last full season (2008), he graded out as the worst middle linebacker in the league — and his team still brought him back. Why? Because he was the only person who could get the defense lined up properly.

No, I’m not saying Tom Brady is Antonio Pierce. (I can already see the exasperated comments of those who skim through this.) I’m saying he means more to the Patriots than his measurable on-field production

In those pure production terms, he is our sixth-rated QB in the NFL. His ability in the short passing game is still unmatched, but he now struggles with inside pressure more than most quarterbacks, and his deep arm is now in the bottom-third among starting QBs (29th of 38 ranked players on throws over 20 yards).

But Brady’s leadership and intangibles are close to unmatched throughout the league, and that combined with his still-effective skill set makes him the third-best quarterback in the NFL, in my opinion.

So, who is above Brady? I only have two players:

1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers: It’s early, but if I extrapolate out what we’ve already witnessed — we’ve only ranked him outside the top five once in the last five years (when he was injured), he has been No. 1 overall during that timespan — he will certainly go down as the best quarterback I’ve ever seen. He simply has no significant weakness.

2. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: He is the only player in the NFL who regularly plays better when pressured (QB rating of 112.2) than when given a clean pocket (98.4). To be clear, as that 98.4 rating shows, he’s still very good when given time to throw, but his ability to evade defenders and make big plays is unparalleled in the NFL.

Those just below Brady:

4. Drew Brees, Saints: While his overall production is truly excellent, his recent penchant for making awful decisions at bad times (his interception when leading by six with 3:20 left in the Lions game last year springs immediately to mind) counts against him. 

5. Philip Rivers, Chargers: He’s another guy whose production is special, but, in his case is let down by poor patches that sometimes stretch to a full season (as in 2012). Last year it was from Weeks 9 through 15, with a hiatus against the Ravens in Week 13.

6. Peyton Manning, Broncos: His decline from Week 8 last year was far too steep to ignore. Many point to an injury against the Chargers in Week 15, but it started many weeks before that.

| PFF Founder

Neil founded PFF in 2006 and is currently responsible for the service to the company's 22 NFL team customers. He is constantly developing new insights into the game and player performance.

  • Riffle,Rod&Fly

    Well written and insightful. Brady still shows outstanding timing and accuracy in the short game but his greatest asset is leadership. He is the prototype of what an NFL leader looks like.

    Even if you don’t care for the Patsies, it’s easy to see why guys would want to play with him. Brady is always the first to celebrate with his teammates, he seems sincere on the sidelines and is a nagging, incessant motivator. He is the anti-Tony Romo as far as energy and leadership go.

    • Vitor

      Brees also has that intangible and is a better player than Brady, yet he’s behind in this list.

      • Riffle,Rod&Fly

        Brees does seem to have it. If we’re talking about an intangible in leadership, winning and consistency should matter a lot.

        PFF’s explanation of bad throws seems to suffice, although Brady hasn’t been very good in that regard recently. It has been going on for a few years now with Brees. They threw a lot more than was advisable during his record breaking runs. Any way, I agree with you. Brady should probably be behind Brees and Rivers if PFF is really adhering to the *Right Now* part of this list. Nobody really does that with the greats though.

  • Tim Edell

    Aaron Rogers the greatest QB you have ever seen??? Interesting

    • Trappin’ Freddie Jones

      “Best” and “Greatest” aren’t the same thing. If you can name a “better” QB than Rodgers, then go ahead.

      • Tim Edell

        I would take Brady, Montana, and Peyton to name a few. Everyone always thinks the active player is “THE BEST”. Is Trapping Freddie Jones a cartoon name?

        • Sam Doohan

          Those guys have a much larger body of work (and more rings). Sure, looking back at their whole careers you could argue that they achieved more in their time than Rodgers has in his, but Rodgers is in his absolute prime and has another maybe seven years to play. Yes, you can pick out single years where Brady or Manning or Montana were especially amazing, but Rodgers has been amazing every year for five years now. I’m a bit reluctant to say it (Steelers fan here) but Rodgers is better than just the best in the league now, he’s been the best in league for a long time.

        • bobrulz

          And sometimes people see the past through rose-colored glasses and forget that players from the past weren’t flawless either.

          Rodgers is absolutely comparable to the best QBs ever, I don’t think that should even be a debate. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen a QB with his combination of athleticism and football knowledge. He has an extremely high accuracy percentage and a high yards per attempt yet still a historically low interception rate, and just watching him play he can make every single throw in the book, some of which I couldn’t see anybody else in the league doing. On top of that he is not just a pure pocket passer, he can scramble for yards when he needs to and throw on the run very effectively.

          His ONLY weakness is that he gets sacked more often than you would like to see from an elite QB. Part of it is offensive line, part of it is his play style, but it’s not bad enough to be a major net negative.

          • Tim Edell

            I definitely would say Rogers is the best QB, without a doubt, in the NFL right now. And he may someday be considered the greatest to ever play the position. But to say he is the greatest QB ever with a 6-5 postseason record is getting a little ahead of ourselves junior.

          • Kurt

            If you’re stuck on judging him in the postseason, how about the fact that he’s got the 3rd highest post season QB rating in NFL history?

            Only a fool would judge an individual player with a team metric, junior.

          • Tim Edell

            I’m sure you love Andy Dalton too prick??

          • Vitor

            Of course, because his team record is all his fault…

          • bobrulz

            I didn’t say he was the best, just that he was in discussion as being the best.

            And let’s not start talking about postseason records here. So tired of that argument. Football is a team game.

  • Andrew Dempsey

    Um, Andrew Luck?

    • Jack


    • King Pelé


  • Brit

    Brady hasn’t won anything in a season where he didn’t cheat.

    • Richard Wood

      you’re a pos and i would LOVE to slit your throat

    • NameNames

      4 Super Bowls, greatest QB of all time, supermodel wife – I’d say Brady has won EVERYTHING!

      • NYC Craig

        Except when facing the Giants boy.

    • Paulvr


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    • Gordon Paesani


    • RealNiggaPatsfan

      Keeping hating hoe patriots destroy your bum ass team.

  • TichoB

    Aaron Rodgers is the greatest QB I have ever seen too. I’ve never seen any athlete as consistently excellent as Rodgers. Maybe Tiger Woods at his peak. 98% of the QB’s who have played in the NFL would settle to have one or two games in a career that resembles Rodger’s typical game. His mechanics and quick release are as good as anyone’s ever and his accuracy is like no one ever. You watch guys like Brady or Brees or Manning and they will miss guys, sometimes badly, with awful throws. Usually a few a game. Rodgers will only have a handful of those in an entire season.

    • terry welsh

      Nah, I rate him number 6 or 7 just like the players and coaches do. Get a little pressure on him he dies. Look at what Detroit did to him the last few years. They had half their team out with injuries and still beat up on him, and then he would cry like a baby.

    • Blake Williams

      Ever watched Dan Marino?

      • TichoB

        Yes. Rodgers is more accurate and has a bigger arm and Rodgers is highly mobile.

    • Deej59

      I’m watching Rodgers from the other side of this recent rivalry (Seattle), and I have to agree. I’m in my 50s, so I’ve been watching QBs for about 50 years. I don’t remember anyone who played the position better, including Marino or Elway. Andrew Luck has a chance to surpass him by career’s end, but he’s got his work cut out for him.

  • PackMan27

    This is why I love PFF’s rankings – Peyton Manning doesn’t get a free trip to the top 5 based on his career record. These guys have the guts to put Rivers ahead of him because, simply put, he’s better right now.

    • terry welsh

      He should.

    • Jimmy Gallagher

      no peyton looked like he was in noticeable decline last year and he just said he can’t feel any of his fingers on his throwing hand. put 2 and 2 together

      • anon76returns

        He also said he couldn’t feel any of his fingers on his throwing hand in 2012 and 2013, when he was easily PFF’s #1 graded QB. I believe he also might have set a TD record or three over that time.

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        • TheNameGame

          nerve damage is fo life

  • John Bowman

    where is Andrew Luck in all this????…you kidding here?

  • John Bowman

    ps…Brit, check out yourteamcheats.com ………very instructive!

    • Riffle,Rod&Fly


    • BigSteelThrill

      Hackjob website. Pats fans pushing propaganda. If you look at their thread building the site the flatly admit to it. Its way to skewed to read anything on that page,

      • Riffle,Rod&Fly

        There is still a lot of old dirt that’s been swept away on there. Most of it is first person admissions. I do wonder to what extent small market teams were just able to just stay out of the news more easily.

      • Jimmy Gallagher

        awe big steel don’t wet your pants they made an intelligent statement. i know thats not up your ally.

        • BigSteelThrill

          Ive been part of the creation thread for yourteamcheats since its onset. Its pure propaganda, unapologetic-ally so.

  • 49erGary

    He has a weakness alright… That Defense (and special teams).
    Dude would have half a dozen rings by now if those two facets step up.

  • Vitor

    With all the respect, Neil, but no way Brees is behind Roethlisberger and Brady. He indeed made some bad decisions on late games last year, but the fact that the matches and the campaign weren’t lost by that time – with those horrible defense/OL/receiving corps besides Graham and injured Crooks – is a proof of how valuable Brees was to NO. In my opinion, I don’t have a doubt that Ben and Tom would do worse in those situations. Your own PFF passing grade acknowledges that (2nd, behind only Rodgers).

  • Taylor Christian Vance

    PEYTON MANNING WAS INJURED BEFORE WEEK 15!!!! This is the second time you guys have ignored this bit of information.

  • Jo Mama

    Is this site a parody produced by SNL? Brady is the greatest QB ever period. Anyone denying that must also believe the moon is fake ( one of the most googled questions ever ) On real greatest QB lists of all time Rodgers isn’t in the top 10. He’s a one and done nobody.