2021 NFL Quarterback Rankings
Written by Gabe Collura on August 29, 2021
Image courtesy of Pro Football Focus
The NFL regular season is just around the corner! We get our first taste of regular season action Thursday, September 9 where the Dallas Cowboys will take on the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Several teams drafted or acquired new talents at quarterback in the offseason. I’ve decided to rank all 32 projected starting quarterbacks in the NFL for the upcoming season. These rankings are heavily based on last year’s performance, while rookies are judged based on their preseason performance. Here we go.
32) Daniel Jones, New York Giants
2020 Stats: 2,943 yards, 11 TD, 10 INT
Jones has not been the answer for the Giants as they continue to search for the next franchise talent post-Eli Manning. Posting a near 1:1 touchdown to interception ratio is unacceptable, especially for the sixth overall pick just two years ago.
31) Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
2020 Stats: 1,061 yards, 6 TD, 4 INT
I think a lot of people were surprised to see the Eagles select Jalen Hurts with a second-round pick in the 2020 Draft. That moment was likely the writing on the wall for Carson Wentz, who would head to Indianapolis just a year later.
Hurts is certainly the best quarterback Philly currently has, but that really isn’t saying much. I have little faith in Jalen Hurts’ decision making and overall ability to play the quarterback position in the NFL. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gardner Minshew at some point this season.
30) Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
2020 Stats: 1,814 yards, 11 TD, 5 INT
Tua is just too much of a project at this point. The Dolphins really struggled to move the ball way too often with him at the helm. I will say, he was coming off major injury one year prior, but the NFL (believe it or not) is far more difficult than the SEC. I could see a bounce back year, but I wouldn’t count on it.
29) Mac Jones, New England Patriots
2020 Stats (Alabama): 4,500 yards, 41 TD, 4 INT
It’s borderline dangerous to have Mac Jones this low. I am prepared to watch him go on to become the next Patriot great, because he seems a bit too perfect for New England.
As for his play, he’s an accurate pocket passer that put up gaudy numbers in a historic Alabama offense last year. That certainly won’t translate to the NFL immediately, but he has some serious potential. He’s a rookie. You must earn your rank.
28) Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers
2020 Stats: 2,208 yards, 9 TD, 11 INT
We all know how abysmal the Jets were last season. That’s not ALL Sam Darnold’s fault, but he simply wasn’t good. He’s a guy that still has plenty of skill, and I do think a change in scenery is just what he needed.
It is worth noting that the Jets did close to nothing to get Darnold any offensive help. Zach Wilson has been relatively spoiled. Oh well.
27) Zach Wilson, New York Jets
2020 Stats (BYU): 3,692 yards, 33 TD, 3 INT
This dude is just fun to watch. I don’t believe he was the second-best quarterback in this year’s draft, but he oozes talent. As the NFL slowly shifts toward dual-threats running the show under center, the Jets stay ahead of the 8-ball with Wilson.
He’s fast, he’s got a cannon for an arm and he’s intelligent with the football in his hands. If the Jets can keep him upright, they have a star. Again, he’s a rookie.
26) Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers
2020 Stats (1 game at NDSU): 149 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
Another ridiculously talented rookie slots in near the basement of the rankings. I am confident in most of these guys, but we have yet to see them play regular season NFL football.
Trey Lance is awesome. He’s another dual-threat quarterback, something Kyle Shanahan can go to TOWN with. His offense is already run-heavy, so why not add a field general that can run too?
25) Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
2020 Stats (Clemson): 3,153 yards, 24 TD, 5 INT
A lot of the rankings I look at have Lawrence as a top-15 quarterback in the league already. That is blasphemous to me. There’s no denying he’s the best prospect we’ve seen at the position in years, but again, HE’S A ROOKIE.
Now that we’ve cleared the air, Trevor Lawrence is likely going to be a superstar. What more is there to say? He does everything the right way. I only doubt Urban Meyer’s tenure in Jacksonville, which could hinder his development.
24) Justin Fields, Chicago Bears
2020 Stats (Ohio State): 2,200 yards, 22 TD, 6 INT
I hope you’ve caught some Bears preseason football in the last few weeks, because then you’d understand why Fields is the highest ranked rookie. Now, the “Honestly, it felt a little slow to me” comment was understandably the cause of some backlash, but it looked like he was telling the truth.
Fields is yet ANOTHER dual-threat quarterback in this league, and he’s got all the makings of a superstar as well. He is accurate, athletic and efficient. I’d be surprised if they throw him to the wolves against the Rams week one, but he will play much of the season for Chicago.
23) Teddy Bridgewater, Denver Broncos
2020 Stats: 3,733 yards, 15 TD, 11 INT
Bridgewater is an above-average thrower of the football with decreasing mobility. Knee injuries haven’t helped the cause, but the former first-round pick can still play at a high level. He filled in nicely for Drew Brees a couple seasons back, and Carolina was at least decent with Teddy under center. It is a tough division though.
22) Jared Goff, Detroit Lions
2020 Stats: 3,952 yards, 20 TD, 13 INT
I don’t care that Jared Goff made a Super Bowl. I also don’t care if you think it’s too cliché: Jared Goff is a system quarterback. He was a first OVERALL pick. To be frank, he’s had a disappointing career to this point. He doesn’t have many options to throw to in Detroit, either. Buckle up Lions fans, it’s going to be another rough year in the Motor City.
21) Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington Football Team
2020 Stats: 2,091 yards, 13 TD, 8 INT
Here’s a guy we all love. The Harvard product “Fitzmagic” had a productive year in Miami last season, and he proved to all of us that he can still play. I’ll never understand the Dolphins’ decision to bench him. At age 38, he’s on the last legs of his career, but the NFC East is a very weak division. He has solid options too, such as Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel.
20) Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints
2020 Stats (Third String, all things considered): 75 yards
Where do I begin with Famous Jameis? There is quite a bit to unpack. I urge you to not forget this guy led the NFL in passing yards two years ago and had LASIK surgery the following offseason. If you’re unaware of what that means, the dude couldn’t see. Impressive.
Michael Thomas’ relations with the Saints are up in the air, and the offense looks a tad weak. However, Jameis Winston can still play solid football, and he can help the Saints compete. Maybe he can help them “Eat some W’s.” If you know, you know.
19) Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
2020 Stats: 2,688 yards, 13 TD, 5 INT
I hope Joe is happy with the selection of Ja’Marr Chase. He’ll rarely be upright to get the ball Chase’s way.
On a real note, we all saw the unreal season the 2019 LSU Tigers had, and Joe Burrow was in large part the reason for that success. However, he’s coming off a serious knee injury (Torn ACL) and playing in one of the toughest divisions in football. I truly hope he is able to stay healthy. He is truly electric when he’s at 100%.
18) Carson Wentz, Indianapolis Colts
2020 Stats: 2,620 yards, 16 TD, 15 INT
I’m sure I don’t need to remind you Carson Wentz will be reunited with Frank Reich in Indianapolis, but it’s a fun tidbit in case you forgot. With Reich as the offensive coordinator in Philadelphia, not only was Carson Wentz an MVP-caliber player, but the Eagles also won a Super Bowl. Yes, Nick Foles was the quarterback for the playoff run, but it still happened!
Clearly Wentz and Reich work well together. If he can find his 2017 form again, the Colts defense plays at the level they are capable of and the running game remains solid, Indy can compete in the AFC at a championship level.
17) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
2020 Stats: 3,803 yards, 33 TD, 10 INT
Big Ben has been a team-first guy this offseason, which the Steelers really needed him to be. His restructured contract paired with the release of All-Pro guard David DeCastro allowed the team to sign Melvin Ingram. It will also eventually pay for a TJ Watt extension, which won’t be cheap. Worth it.
The dink-and-dunk Pittsburgh offense last season was miserable to watch. Ben was throwing upwards of 50 passes a game on occasion, and the run game was obsolete. While his arm and mobility have shown their age in recent years, he can still play a high level of football. Matt Canada’s new offense will give him a much more Ben Roethlisberger style of offense.
16) Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
2020 Stats: 4,581 yards, 26 TD, 11 INT
Matt Ryan is another guy who can still compete despite his age. He finished 4th in the league in passing yards last season. Not bad.
The loss of Julio Jones and apparent need for a running back will seriously hurt the Falcons’ ability to compete as a team, but that lack of success certainly won’t be a result of their quarterback’s play.
15) Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders
2020 Stats: 4,103 yards, 27 TD, 9 INT
I’m a proud member of the “I still believe in Derek Carr” club. He’s a very talented thrower of the football and he has enough mobility to get himself out of trouble. The Raiders wide receiver room is FILLED with speed and skill, and Carr has the pleasure of throwing to Darren Waller, who is a top tight end in the NFL.
Once again, the AFC West is a tough, tough division.
14) Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
2020 Stats: 4,265 yards, 35 TD, 13 INT
That 13 number in the interceptions column is actually a rarity for Captain Kirk. That 13 number is a career high, a number he also posted in 2017 with Washington. He has always been a fabulous protector of the football.
He’s got impressive targets to throw to this season as well, with the likes of Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. Dalvin Cook is pretty good too. The Vikings offense is going to do big things this season. I can’t say the same for the defense.
13) Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
2020 Stats: 1,856 yards, 9 TD, 4 INT
As you may know, Dak’s numbers are so low due to the gruesome ankle injury he suffered in Week 5 last season. Before that, he was on an unbelievable pace statistically. He led the league in passing yards four weeks AFTER his injury.
If we’re being real, the Cowboys should run away with the NFC East this year. Their offense is light years ahead of the others in the division, and they filled up some substantial holes on defense in the offseason. If Dak can stay healthy, Dallas is in great shape.
12) Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
2020 Stats: 3,971 yards, 26 TD, 12 INT
Electric would be a tame way to describe Kyler Murray’s skillset. He is truly one of my favorite players to watch week in and week out. I scoffed when he was selected first overall back in 2019, but I admit I was very wrong in doing so.
Murray’s big upside is his elusiveness and pure athletic ability. That’s not to mention his big arm thanks to a background in baseball. While his 5-foot-10 frame isn’t necessarily ideal, he sure makes it work. Arizona also has Deandre Hopkins at receiver. He’s decent.
11) Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
2020 Stats: 3,563 yards, 26 TD, 8 INT
Baker Mayfield really surprised me last season. Isn’t it amazing what can happen with some coaching consistency? That’s the thing, he’s only going to get better. With the roster they have on paper, Cleveland can compete for a Super Bowl as soon as this season.
With the Browns’ run heavy offense featuring Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, Baker Mayfield isn’t leaned on too heavily to be the centerpiece of the offense. He is expected to make big throws when the Browns need them, and he’s shown he can do that. His accuracy and strength make him a talented thrower, and he has the athleticism to get by.
10) Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
2020 Stats: 4,084 yards, 26 TD, 10 INT
It’s about time Matt Stafford escaped the clutches of Detroit. I have wanted to see Stafford play for a team where his true talent can flourish for a long time now. Inglewood is the perfect place to make that happen.
Stafford has one of the strongest arms in the league. He can flick the ball 60 yards downfield like it’s nothing. The Rams have the defense and now the quarterback to potentially reach another Super Bowl.
9) Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
2020 Stats: 2,757 yards, 26 TD, 9 INT
Lamar Jackson is a lethal athlete. His legs move at the quarterback position like how Mike Vick’s did. However, he is severely limited by his ability to throw the football. Did he deserve the MVP in 2019? Absolutely. He played out of his mind. Will he ever reach that level of play again? I say no.
Jackson can dominate a game with his running ability, but the Ravens have a very subpar offense when they are forced to rely on the passing game.
8) Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
2020 Stats: 3,819 yards, 33 TD, 7 INT
Ryan Tannehill is a great quarterback. Not good, great. I’ve mentioned several times in this article already that the NFL is now a dual-threat passer league, and Ryan Tannehill is just that. Not only was I shocked by his ability to throw the ball last season, but he is also a sneaky good athlete.
The Titans don’t even need a great season from Tannehill this year. If he’s decent to good, they’re a playoff team. Julio Jones, AJ Brown and Derrick Henry are featured players in their offense, to name a few.
7) Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
2020 Stats: 4,336 yards, 31 TD, 10 INT
How about the rookie year Justin Herbert had? Herbert’s 2020 campaign was one of the best rookie years put together by a quarterback of all time. Honestly, Herbert is everything you want in a quarterback. He’s big, has a strong arm, he can run and he takes care of the football.
Herbert showed tremendous poise his entire rookie year. Very rarely did he make any “rookie mistakes,” and he was extremely smart with every read, pass and play he made. He’s only going to improve from there.
6) Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
2020 Stats: 4,823 yards, 33 TD, 7 INT
Whether Watson will play this upcoming season remains to be seen. All the scandals and legal matters aside, the dude can BALL. He led the league in passing yards in 2020, and he kept the interceptions in the single digits. He did all he could to help Houston win games, but the team around him just isn’t good enough.
Watson is another flashy athlete. He’s not afraid to take a hit. Simply put, he’s a very impressive and complete quarterback.
5) Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2020 Stats: 4,633 yards, 40 TD, 12 INT
It really isn’t fair how dominant Tom Brady is. With a new system, new team, new coach, new scenery and new everything he found a way to win yet another Super Bowl. There isn’t a debate as to who the greatest player of all time is. TB12 holds that title.
Brady has always been accurate and smart with the ball. I swear, he sees the game in slow motion sometimes. At age 44, he’s still a top-5 quarterback in this league.
4) Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
2020 Stats: 4,212 yards, 40 TD, 13 INT
Russ was on an absolute tear to begin the 2020 season, and it looked like he would finally receive AT LEAST an elusive MVP vote. Admittedly, he slowed down by a considerable amount, but he still put together a great season.
There’s a lot of questions in Seattle this season, and Wilson would certainly like to answer with another Super Bowl. I doubt it happens, but he’s a guy who can take over at any moment and get flaming hot.
3) Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
2020 Stats: 4,544 yards, 37 TD, 10 INT
Josh Allen sure came out of nowhere, but clearly this is what the Bills expected from him when he was selected seventh overall in the 2018 draft. His accuracy has improved drastically since his first couple of seasons, and he is a great athlete.
The premier skill with Josh Allen is his arm strength. You’ve probably started to notice a trend with the great quarterbacks in this league. That trend is the uncanny ability to get the ball wherever you want, no matter how far. Josh Allen can do that and more.
2) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
2020 Stats: 4,299 yards, 48 TD, 5 INT
Aaron Rodgers put together one of the most impressive seasons in his decorated career in 2020. He was nothing short of dominant, posting league highs in touchdowns and total QBR while also having the fewest interceptions among eligible players.
There were some doubts as to whether Rodgers would even play this season or beyond, but he has reported to training camp and will be the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. It’s Super Bowl or bust this year for the Pack.
1) Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
2020 Stats: 4,740 yards, 38 TD, 6 INT
This is a no-brainer if there ever was one. It is widely agreed upon that Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback in the NFL, and he will go down as an all-time great.
He can do whatever he wants on the gridiron, and everyone knows it. Game planning to face Patrick Mahomes must be a total nightmare. I know I would hate to do it. Any arm angle or distance, Mahomes can make any throw, anytime. The Chiefs are looking for a third straight run to the Super Bowl in 2021.
Follow Gabe on Twitter @gabecollura for more sports content.