We’re 13 weeks into the season, and it’s time to take a look at our quarterback rankings based on the grading. Don’t forget, actual quarterback production, even advanced statistics, are very much driven by playmakers, pass blocking, play-calling and opposing defenses. The PFF system is focused on isolating the quarterback’s play as much as possible. If a quarterback is graded higher than his stats, he’s likely not receiving much help in his current ecosystem, while the opposite is true for quarterbacks who are grading lower than the stats would indicate. When both match up, it’s a much easier explanation, but context is key when evaluating quarterback performance.
Wilson has consistently ranked among the top five to eight quarterbacks, but he’s taken his game to a new level this season. He leads the league with 34 big-time throws while posting the lowest percentage of turnover-worthy plays, a combination that is reserved for the best of the best. He has the third-highest grade on throws of 10-plus air yards and the No. 2 grade on passes thrown between one and nine air yards, showing that he is making plays to all levels of the field. Wilson’s combination of big-play ability while still taking care of the football has been unmatched so far this season.
It’s been more of the same from Brees since returning from injury, as he leads the league with an adjusted completion percentage of 83.9 to go with the lowest percentage of turnover-worthy plays (1.2%). Brees has not been pushing the ball down the field, however, as his average depth of target of 7.1 is third-lowest in the league, and he only has six completions on throws of 20-plus air yards, but the short and intermediate game has been incredibly efficient as he rarely misfires up to 20 yards.
The Ravens have built their entire offense around Jackson’s dynamic athleticism, but it’s his improvement as a passer that has separated their offense into the league’s best. Jackson has seen his adjusted completion percentage jump from 66.7% last year (38th out of 39 qualifiers) to 76.7% this year, good for 10th in the NFL. He’s rushed for 615 yards on designed rushes alone, a number that would rank 18th in the NFL in rushing by itself, but add in his 362 yards on scrambles and Jackson ranks eighth in the league in rushing. It all adds up to a PFF rushing grade of 87.8 that is the clear leader among quarterbacks.
Few quarterbacks have matched Watson's high-end games, but he has two duds in there that are dragging the grade down (Week 4 vs. Carolina, Week 11 vs. Baltimore). Watson still ranks fifth with an 85.1 overall grade, but he’s in Wilson territory (91.6 grade) sans the two poor outings. The inconsistency comes from Watson’s big-play style that has led to his sixth in big-time throw percentage, but he’ll often try to do too much and that’s led to his ranking only 23rd at avoiding turnover-worthy plays (3.8%).
After a slow start to the season that saw Cousins ranking dead last in PFF grades after two weeks (31.0 overall grade), Cousins has been fantastic, leading the way with a 92.1 overall grade. He’s taken to the new system that is getting him out of the pocket on designed bootlegs, and his 618 yards outside the pocket are second only to Wilson. Cousins also ranks second in overall adjusted completion percentage at 81.8%. He’s on pace to post the highest PFF grade of his career.
Prescott has played well this season, though a combination of strong route-runners and good scheming has aided in their ascent to one of the five most efficient passing attacks in the league. He’s already set a career-high with 907 yards on deep (20-plus air yards) passes, good for second in the NFL and he ranks fourth in adjusted completion percentage on those throws. Overall, Prescott has improved as much as any quarterback in the league from last year to this season, increasing his percentage of positively-graded throws by 4.7% (third-highest in NFL) and decreasing his negatives by 2.1% (third-best in NFL).
There’s little doubt that Brady is playing at a lower level than he has in the past, but his overall body of work this season isn’t as bad as the stats would indicate. He was the highest-graded quarterback in the league after three weeks, but he’s dropped to middle-of-the-pack since Week 4, a concerning trend that coincides with numerous miscommunications and inconsistency from a subpar supporting cast in New England. On the year, Brady has seen a 3.4% decrease in his positively-graded throws, a sign that there are either fewer opportunities or missed opportunities when looking beyond the sticks to move the chains.
The Titans’ offense has been rejuvenated under Tannehill, who ranks eighth with an 82.8 overall grade. Using actual pass location on each throw, Tannehill ranks second in accuracy percentage at 67.3% and he has the highest percentage of positively-graded throws in the league as well as the fourth-highest percentage of big-time throws (5.2%). If there’s a complaint, it’s his No. 17 ranking at avoiding negatively-graded throws, and the high percentage of positives indicates that some regression is likely on the way, but Tannehill’s performance has thrust the Titans right back into the playoff conversation.
It’s been an up-and-down season for Rodgers, who bounced back nicely on Sunday after posting the worst game of his career in Week 12 against the 49ers (37.9 overall grade). Rodgers has had two high-end performances (Weeks 6 and 7) that have helped aid in his No. 9 overall ranking, but he ranks just 16th in the league outside of those two games. Rodgers has done his usual fine work creating big-play opportunities (sixth in big-time throw percentage) while avoiding turnover-worthy plays (1.7% is third-best in the league), but he ranks just 27th in positively-graded throws. He’s still leaving more plays on the table than what we saw when he was truly at his best earlier in his career.
Prior to the injury, Stafford was having one of the most fascinating seasons, as he’d increased his average depth of target by over four yards PER THROW, the highest jump we’ve ever seen since 2006. It was showing up in a big-time throw percentage of 7.2% that is still highest in the NFL, but it also showed up in the second-highest percentage of negatively-graded throws. It was true, old school gunslinger Stafford, as he drove the ball down the field to his quality playmakers, and it added an explosive element to Detroit’s passing attack.
While the stats are still gaudy (107.7 passer rating, 20 touchdowns, two interceptions), there’s been some regression in Mahomes’ game after his incredible MVP season a year ago. His negatively-graded throws have increased by 5.2%, highest in the league, though he’s still peppering the field with his usual helping of big-time throws (5.7% ranks third). A big part of the regression may be due to multiple injuries (both to Mahomes and his playmakers) as well as a pass-blocking unit that has dropped from fifth to 13th in the league. Mahomes remains one of the most electric passers in the NFL, but his overall efficiency has taken a step back since last season (ranks 22nd in avoiding negatively-graded throws).
After starting the season with strong grading that wasn’t matching the box score due to a high percentage of drops on his best throws, Wentz has struggled in recent weeks, grading at 60.6 since Week 7 (29th in NFL). He’s still zipping big-time throws at a high rate, ranking ninth at 4.6%, but he now has the 14th-highest percentage of turnover-worthy plays, mostly due to poor ball security in the pocket. Wentz also has the 13th-highest percentage of negatively-graded throws to go with the seventh-highest percentage of positives. That volatility, combined with numerous injuries, has led to the inconsistency that we’ve seen from Philadelphia’s passing game.
Carr has thrown the ball well this year, and he has the second-lowest percentage of negatively-graded throws in Oakland’s short passing attack. They could stand to be more aggressive, especially since Carr has the arm and touch to attack at all levels of the field. Instead, Carr has the second-lowest average depth of target in the league at 6.9, and that’s led to his ranking just 17th in percentage of positively-graded throws. He has the ninth-best passing grade at 80.5, but his 32.2 rushing grade is the worst in the league, in large part due to a poor goal-line fumble against the Packers.
It’s been another impressive season for Fitzpatrick, who used his aggressive style to put up big numbers a year ago with the Bucs. This year, he’s helped elevate an overmatched Dolphins team to three wins. Fitzpatrick is generally on the highest end when it comes to turnover-worthy plays, but he’s 10th-best at avoiding them so far this season while still posting the 12th-highest percentage of positively-graded throws.
While everyone loves to draw a line in the sand to determine when an aging quarterback has “lost” it, the reality for Rivers is that last year was his best since 2010, and this season we see him playing more at his 2015-16 level. That level is more of a middle-of-the-pack signal-caller who is more than capable of making plays down the field (11th in big-time throw percentage), but there have been far too many careless decisions. Rivers has the fifth-highest percentage of turnover-worthy plays (4.9%). There may be a decline in zip from his early years, but this isn’t an unfamiliar story in Rivers’ career, and it’s too early to write him off as “washed up.”
Despite the 49ers’ success, Garoppolo has been merely solid in his play and he’s put the ball in harm’s way far too often for a quarterback who has largely been playing with leads this season (14th-highest percentage of turnover-worthy plays). The game-by-game grades reflect Garoppolo’s inconsistency. He has five games with grades at 75.0-plus and three games with sub-50 grades, including both 49ers losses (Seahawks and Ravens). San Francisco’s offensive scheme has set Garoppolo up for success, and while he generally runs the system well, he must cut out the poor decisions and fumbles in the pocket.
We’ve certainly seen some regression from Mayfield after a promising rookie campaign that saw him finish eighth in overall PFF grade at 84.5. This season, he’s been uneasy in the pocket and seen a 3.9% decrease in big-time throw percentage, the biggest drop-off in the league. Mayfield is missing more throws than he did a year ago, and there are far too many instances where he and his receivers are still not on the same page, but his performance has not been as bad as his stats would indicate (14 interceptions are an unlucky total given his 15 turnover-worthy plays).
Minshew is back as the starter for the Jaguars and had quite the ride as a sixth-round rookie. He’s thrown the ball well, grading at 90.3 on throws of 10-plus air yards, good for 13th in the league. However, the turnover-worthy plays have started to creep up on him, particularly in the pocket where he’s held the ball too long at times and subsequently put it on the ground. Minshew has the 16th-highest percentage of turnover-worthy plays (3.6%), while ranking just 22nd in big-time throw percentage (3.4%).
Goff has taken a step back from his 2017-18 form, and it’s coincided with the Rams going from one of the best to one of the worst offensive lines in the league. It’s not all pressure that is doing Goff in, as he’s seen the fifth-highest increase in negatively-graded throws while posting the 10th-highest percentage of turnover-worthy plays (4.3%). After grading as a top-10 quarterback during the 2018 regular season, it’s been a concerning downtick in play from Goff since late last year, and his volatility (top-10 in both big-time throws and turnover-worthy throws) has led to a roller coaster of emotions for Rams fans this season.
20. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
We’re in the midst of Ryan’s worst season since 2009, as his 71.2 overall grade ranks 21st in the league. Turnover-worthy plays have been an issue as Ryan has the 11th-highest percentage at 4.1%, and rare territory with a higher TWP rate than rate of big-time throws (3.4% ranks 22nd). The big story for Ryan is his play under pressure. His 38.9 grade ranks 28th and he’s facing pressure on 40.2% of his dropbacks, good for the fifth-highest in the league. Being under constant heat, some of which is his own doing, has made for a rough season for Ryan.
If there’s one constant, it’s Winston ranking among the league leaders in both positively-graded throws (third) and negatively-graded throws (seventh-highest). Those two numbers lead to as many highs and lows as any quarterback in the league, especially when adding in a turnover-worthy play percentage of 5.1 that is fourth-highest in the NFL. Winston continues to create positive, chunk plays through the air, but poor decision-making has kept him from taking the next step in his development five years into his career.
There have been plenty of bright spots to Murray’s rookie campaign, though he’s coming off his worst grade of the season (27.2 overall, vs. Rams). Murray has taken care of the ball, ranking eighth-best at avoiding turnover-worthy plays and he’s showing off the elite rushing ability that made him a dual-threat nightmare in college (446 yards, 6.2 yards/carry). One area where Murray must improve is his penchant for taking sacks, as we’ve directly charged him with 19, by far the most in the league and five more than the next-closest quarterback.
After a slow start, Haskins has shown signs of life in recent weeks, particularly against the Panthers, though his stat line has not shown it. Haskins’ best throws fell incomplete last Sunday, including a “go” ball to rookie wideout Terry McLaurin and a well-placed end zone route over Luke Kuechly. Haskins has missed a high percentage of throws (fourth-highest percentage of negatives), but he’s avoided turnover-worthy plays at the third-best rate in the league, so that’s an encouraging sign for a rookie.
Dalton resides in the middle class of quarterbacks with the location of his standing very much dependent on those around him. This season, the Bengals have trotted out the worst supporting cast of his career, and Dalton has struggled behind quick pressure and inconsistent receivers. After QB Ryan Finley got the call to start for a few weeks, Dalton returned last week and led the Bengals to victory. Dalton has been at his best in the short and intermediate game, but Cincinnati has not been able to create big plays down the field and he ranks just 29th in big-time throw percentage (2.7%).
25. Sam Darnold, New York Jets
Since his last season at USC, Darnold has been extremely streaky, as he’s had short spurts as one of the highest-graded quarterbacks, but also similar stints on the bottom end. He’s in the middle of a good stretch of play after seemingly bottoming out on Monday Night Football against the Patriots in the “seeing ghosts” game. Darnold has the 10th-highest percentage of negatively-graded throws, but he’s also No. 13 in big-time throw percentage, so many of the high-end flashes are still there.
26. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Allen has improved in the short and intermediate game (passes in the 1-19 yard range), where his 85.5 passing grade is tied for fifth in the league. He’s meshed well with Buffalo’s new playmakers, but there’s still room to improve in two key areas. First, his 34.3 passing grade on throws of 20-plus air yards is the worst in the league by a wide margin as he’s completed just 27.7% of these attempts and it’s showing up in a big-time throw percentage that ranks just 37th out of 38 qualifiers (1.6%). He also must cut down on the turnover-worthy plays, as he has the 12th-highest percentage (4.0%). Allen always has playmaking potential due to his big arm and rushing ability, but it’s been the short passing game that is the story of his season to this point.
After an encouraging start to his career, Jones has settled in as one of the most volatile quarterbacks in the league. He ranks 19th in big-time throw percentage at 3.6%, and he’s had a number of beauties, but his No. 3 ranking in turnover-worthy play percentage (5.5%) looms large. He’s made ill-advised decisions, but it’s his pocket presence and subsequent fumbles that have been the biggest issue. Overall, there is some optimism that he can move the chains and cut down on the turnovers with a better group of playmakers, but like Winston, it’s an important part of his development if he’s going to be the future in New York.
It’s been a rough season for Trubisky, but he’s done his best work in recent weeks. He has the ninth-highest percentage of negatively-graded throws and he’s tied for 16th in turnover-worthy play percentage (3.6%), but those numbers aren’t far off from last year’s effort despite all of the Bears’ success in 2018. The difference this year is in a few areas, including Trubisky being unable to complement the poor passing attack with his legs as he did a year ago (rushing grade drop from 85.5 to 54.1). In addition, Trubisky has been charged with 14 sacks, second to only Murray. The last few weeks have been encouraging, but Trubisky still must hit on a higher percentage of his throws in order to solidify himself as the future in Chicago.
Another quarterback whose stats look better than the on-field performance, Brissett ranks 15th in passer rating at 93.5 but just 29th in overall grade. He has the fourth-lowest percentage of positively-graded throws and his big-time throw percentage ranks just 36th. Those numbers show that the good passing numbers have come from other areas, and that’s backed up by 53.9% of his yards coming after the catch, good for the fourth-highest figure in the league. Brissett has settled in as a solid game manager, but he must improve upon his 70.7 passing grade when throwing 10+ yards down the field (33rd in league).
Allen’s story is one of the biggest in the NFL this season as he took over for Cam Newton and injected some life into the Panthers' offense. Unfortunately, despite impressive velocity and the 17th-highest percentage of big-time throws, his No. 2 ranking in turnover-worthy play percentage (5.9%) is concerning. His volatility has shown up at the game level where he’s posted four game grades below 50.0 and two games above 76.0. That inconsistency leaves plenty of question marks about Allen’s future and he must cut down on the negatively-graded plays (eighth-highest in the NFL).
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It was a mixed bag for Lock’s NFL debut. He showed good touch and feel on his two touchdown passes, but he also missed some open throws and had a poor misread in the middle of the field for an easy interception.
Hodges is coming off his best game this season, as he showed excellent touch on his three big-time throws. He’s added more of a big-play element to the Pittsburgh offense since taking over for Mason Rudolph, posting a 66.4 passing grade during that time.
Blough started hot on Thanksgiving with a couple of big-time throws before missing a few throws and capping the afternoon with a turnover-worthy play late in the fourth. Overall, it was an intriguing debut for Blough who came in with low expectations.