As a part of our partnership with ESPN, this is a part of a story that was originally published on ESPN+ and can be viewed in its entirety here with your ESPN+ subscription — Ranking top NFL quarterbacks under age 25: How Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray and other young QBs stack up
The NFL is stacked with amazing quarterback talent under the age of 25 — players who are only getting better. While Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes have aged out of this group, quarterbacks such as Kyler Murray, who is the No. 1 reason why the Arizona Cardinals are the NFL's only undefeated team, have stepped in to fill the void. Murray will battle the seemingly ageless Aaron Rodgers and his Packers on Thursday night with the nation watching.
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When looking at the four quarterbacks who have pulled away from the rest of the pack, each has an elite trait that has propelled him to early NFL success. Justin Herbert‘s cannon-like arm and Joe Burrow‘s pinpoint accuracy have given them a high floor, while the mobility of Lamar Jackson and Murray give them a pièce de résistance against NFL defenses.
Using player grades developed by PFF, we ranked the top 15 quarterbacks under 25 years old (at the time of publication), starting with Jackson. Who are the top youngsters under center? Some are already stars, but at least a few QBs not currently starting for their teams are also listed.
Career PFF grade: 86.3
2021 grade: 85.4
Most importantly, he is a much better passer than he gets credit for. After all, a quarterback doesn't win the MVP award without being a real passing threat. And he has been even better this season, as his accuracy rate within the 10-to-19-yard range went from 42.7% in 2019 to 51.2% in 2021.
Career PFF grade: 85.7
2021 grade: 86.8
Herbert edges Murray for the second spot on the list because he has two straight years of great quarterback play. His arm enables him to stand out from the crowd, and his ability to use every ounce of that right arm — even when under pressure — is special. His 77.1 grade under pressure is the fourth-highest in the league since 2018.
Career PFF grade: 80.8
2021 grade: 86.5
Murray is the highest-graded passer under pressure since 2018. And he has taken his game to the next level this season, which is why the Cardinals sit as the league's only undefeated team.
Murray always was thought of as a running quarterback with a big arm, but that wasn't necessarily true in 2019 and 2020. This season, he has been unstoppable outside of the offense's structure. Murray's 91.2 grade on plays outside of structure is the highest in the league, and it's up from 60.1 in 2020 and 39.9 in 2019. He's finally playing like he did at Oklahoma.
Career PFF grade: 82.4
2021 grade: 86.4
Burrow has bounced back from the torn ACL that ended his 2020 season to lead the Bengals to the top of the AFC North through seven weeks. He is a smart quarterback who is incredibly accurate, which shows up in every charting metric at PFF. The LSU Heisman winner is fourth in accurate throw rate this season among quarterbacks with at least 100 passes. His 62.4% accurate pass rate is just barely behind Murray's at 65.2%.
Career PFF grade: 77.2
2021 grade: 77.2
The Giants might have lost more games than they have won with Jones at quarterback, but he has quietly put together a nice resume so far. The Duke product has 14 games graded above 70.0 — although the Giants are just 10-23 with him as the starter. It's possible a Giants move away from coach Joe Judge and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett might be the best option moving forward for Jones and the team.
Career PFF grade: 82.5
2021 grade: 82.5
Jones has done an excellent job leading the Patriots' offense in his first year as the starter. He is 25th in average depth of target, so he is not firing difficult downfield shots often. However, Jones has been accurate. His completion rate (70.5%) is the fourth-best in the league. After not hitting a pass beyond 20 yards in Weeks 4 and 5, he has cranked it up in his past two starts — throwing five deep completions for 190 yards and two scores. That bodes well for the Patriots going forward.
Career PFF grade: 56.8
2021 grade: 56.8
Career PFF grade: 70.7
2021 grade: 79.1
Hurts has grown leaps and bounds after being forced into action early in an attempt to salvage the Eagles' awful 2020 season. He has improved his 56.2 overall grade in 2019 to 79.4 grade this season. He has seen the most improvement in his play in situations where he doesn't have the benefit of screens, run-play options (RPO), play-action dropbacks or rollouts, recording three games with grades above 89.0 within those confines — and his 78.6 grade is 14th in the league.
Career PFF grade: 72.0
2021 grade: 80.9
Tagovailoa has struggled since entering the NFL, but it's not all his fault. The Dolphins have put together a woeful offensive line unit in front of him. Nevertheless, even when isolating QB performance, Tagovailoa just hasn't performed very well. He has been average, which is below expectation for a high first-round pick. Within the confines of the Dolphins' scheme, he might look competent because only 49% of his dropbacks do not have an RPO, a screen, a rollout or a play-action attached to it — the highest in the league.
Field Yates and Matthew Berry discuss why picking Tua Tagovailoa but not playing him in Week 8 might be a smart move.
Career PFF grade: 49.3
2021 grade: 49.3
11. Zach Wilson, New York Jets
Career PFF grade: 59.5
2021 grade: 59.5
Career PFF grade: 59.0
2021 grade: 59.0
Fields, Wilson and Lance have had rough starts to their careers. The Bears' offensive line can't protect Fields. Wilson is having a hard time playing against real competition. And Lance has looked lost at times.
Fields lands slightly ahead of Wilson because when Fields has the time to throw, he's more accurate. The QB from Ohio State has a 6.5% advantage in terms of accurate throw rate. Wilson shows off his arm talent a few times a game but needs to do a better job anticipating throws over the middle of the field. With Lance, the 49ers have adapted their offense to look like the Ravens due to Lance's running ability — however, he needs to be more accurate when coach Kyle Shanahan asks him to drop back.
Career PFF grade: 63.1
2021 grade: 61.8
14. Drew Lock, Denver Broncos
Career PFF grade: 61.3
2021 grade: 50.8
Career PFF grade: 55.0
2021 grade: 55.0
Hard to know much about Mills, as he has been thrown to the fire on one of the worst rosters in professional sports. The Texans were not supposed to win any games this season, and after a surprise win to start the year against the Jaguars, they haven't.