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
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...
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.
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.
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.