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Quarterback tiers, midseason update: Patrick Mahomes rising — Eli Manning, well, you know

Let’s update our quarterback rankings

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Well, we are back.

After dropping some quarterback tiers before the start of the season, it is time to revisit these groupings based on 2018 performance. Now remember the methodology involved with these: Consider them more “power rankings” than pure rankings based on performance. (And yes, I’m dropping this in at the start so be forewarned, Kansas City Chiefs fans). Remember too, the focus is upon the tiers for each player, and not so much the rankings within each tier.

Besides, I’m sure you’re all going to agree.

Tier 1 - The Elite. Best of the Best

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

“Where’s Mahomes?”

He very well might get into this group in the near-future, but for now we’re going to slot him at the top of Tier 2 with the arrow pointing way up. But this gives us a chance to focus on two veterans who are having very strong seasons: Drew Brees and Philip Rivers. Brees is setting records almost weekly, but we are seeing him make plays with both his quick release and deadly accuracy, but also with his play-strength and athleticism. His game against the Baltimore Ravens is a prime example of his excelling in the latter two traits. As for Rivers, he is currently second in the league in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt with a mark of 9.40, behind only Ryan Fitzpatrick, whose number might drop if he remains the starter in Tampa Bay. His touchdowns, touchdown percentage and quarterback rating put him in the top five this season in every category, and it is time to talk about him a bit more I think.

You will notice that with Rivers coming up, a name dropped out. Good thing I’m not traveling home for Thanksgiving...

NFL: Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Tier 2 - The Elite-ish

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles

Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

This group sees the biggest expansion, thanks to some players moving up (Mahomes and Watson) and one big name dropping a bit (Brady). We can start with the New England Patriots’ signal-caller. From a pure trait-based perspective the veteran QB is showing minimal signs of slowing down. But the production has dropped a bit, and he has throw seven interceptions so far this season, although two in particular were more due to plays from his teammates than anything else. With a strong second half Brady slides back into the top tier, but based on what we have seen so far he drops.

The story of the 2018 NFL season seems to be Mahomes, and with good reason. He seems to be capable of rewriting record books and the Chiefs’ offense seems unstoppable at times. His lightening-quick release and arm talent make him such a difficult quarterback to defend. Other young signal-callers, such as Wentz and Watson, indicate that the league might be in good hands with the next generation of passers.

Ryan is quietly having another impressive season, with 15 touchdowns to his name against just two interceptions. If he keeps at this pace he might join some other quarterbacks in moving to the upper tier, and Falcons fans probably will argue that he should be there already.

After a slow start, Andrew Luck seems to be rounding back into his pre-injury form. Early concerns about his lingering shoulder injury and his ability to throw downfield have been eased in recent weeks, and he has throw 11 touchdowns over his last three outings. One problem? Those three outings were against the New York Jets, the Buffalo Bills and the Oakland Raiders.

Tier 3 - Next Men Up?

Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

Alex Smith, Washington Redskins

Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

This middle tier saw the biggest shrink in numbers when contrasted with the preseason tiers, thanks to players moving up, injuries, and players moving down. Goff and Smith are the two players most likely to move up by the time we revisit the rankings, especially Goff, who is posting very impressive numbers. Dalton is quietly having a very strong season, but the one thing holding him back right now is the turnovers. His eight interceptions, and an interception percentage of 2.7 percent, are not great numbers.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Miami Dolphins
Mitchell Trubisky
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Tier 4 - Moving Day

Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears

Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

Case Keenum, Denver Broncos

Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars

Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders

Some interesting names in this group. Fitzpatrick’s production has been astronomical, and he still leads the league in ANY/A with an almost-unheard of 10.18. Whether he looks more like the quarterback we saw in Weeks 1 and 2, or the QB we saw in Weeks 3 and 4, upon his return to the starting role remains to be seen. Trubisky is a fascinating case study. There are those who want to write him off already and make the case that his production is due to a high number of screens and gadget plays such as fly sweeps or shovel passes that count as touchdown passes, but inflate his number. Others look at this season as more of an extended rookie campaign, given that it is his third-straight year in a new offense. I am in more of the latter camp, and think there are some very positive developmental signs to go with some areas that need to be improved, such as accuracy when he needs to reset his feet in the pocket. In my opinion the arrow is pointing up for him.

As for Keenum, Bortles and Carr, those arrows seem to be pointing in the opposite direction.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
Eli Manning
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Tier 5 - Rookies and More

Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

Sam Darnold, New York Jets

Eli Manning, New York Giants

Nick Mullens, San Francisco 49ers

Brock Osweiler, Miami Dolphins

Nathan Peterman, Buffalo Bills

We can start with the three rookies. Rosen, Mayfield and Darnold have all had their ups and downs, but for me Rosen has shown the most flashes in terms of being “NFL-ready.” Yes, the three are all lagging when it comes to completion percentage, and they could benefit from some more talent around them, but fan bases of all three teams should be optimistic about their futures.

Speaking of futures, the search might be underway in New York for a new starter for the Giants. Justin Herbert? Kyle Lauletta? A trade? Given what we have seen, it looks to be time to prepare in New York for life after Eli.