The first week of real football action is at hand as the NFL’s preseason schedule starts in full gear on August 9. As we close out our rankings series, today marks the transition to the backfield, and rankings for all 32 NFL team’s quarterback and quarterback situation. Coinciding with our quarterback rankings, PFF’s fantasy football expert Jeff Ratcliffe has also simultaneously released his Fantasy QB Rankings for the 2018 season as well.
One thing of note, some of these rankings are predictive of the future signal-caller, forecasting a rookie first-round pick who should likely garner playing time over a veteran as the season progresses.
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Our top-graded quarterback for the last two years, Brady is in the midst of the best stretch of his career despite heading into his 41-year-old season. He’s the most accurate quarterback in the league over the last two years (No. 2 in 2017), and he’s ranked in the top five in big-time throw percentage each of the last three years while still taking care of the ball and ranking in the top five at avoiding turnover-worthy plays.
When healthy, Rodgers is right up there among the best quarterbacks in the league. He’s graded at 90-plus in four of his last eight seasons, including a 91.4 grade in 2016 that ranked third int the league. Rodgers is as good as it gets at making the big-time throws while avoiding turnover-worthy plays, a good combination when defining elite status for a signal-caller.
Last season was not as bad as the stats would indicate while 2016 may not have been as good as the MVP stats showed, but Ryan is a consistent, top-tier quarterback. He ranked third last year with an 88.3 grade and second in 2016 with a 92.2 grade, and the story of last year was his ranking first at avoiding turnover-worthy plays while finishing 14th in interception percentage (poor interception luck).
The counting stats took a hit last season, but Brees was as efficient as ever on a throw-for-throw basis. He had the best accuracy percentage in the league, both overall and at the 20-plus yard level. Brees is still more than capable of carrying a team and his 89.5 overall grade ranked second among quarterbacks last season.
Wilson has showed incredible year-to-year consistency since entering the league, annually ranking as one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Last year was his most volatile season of his career, as he ranked fourth in big-time throw percentage, but only 22nd at avoiding turnover-worthy plays, a number that wasn’t reflected in his 11 interceptions which finished on the low side given his performance. Still, WIlson is a special playmaker with the ball in his hands.
After a slight step back in 2016, Roethlisberger bounced back to rank fifth among quarterbacks with an 86.5 overall grade last season. He’s been a consistent top-5 to top-10 performer for the majority of his career and he’s capable of carrying a passing game with his ability to make big-time throws, both from within and outside of structure.
While Luck didn’t take a snap last season, he’s one year removed from the best season of his career, a 90.4 overall grade that ranked fourth in 2016. Luck has always been able to make the special throws as he consistently ranks among the league’s best in big-time throw percentage, but 2016 represented his best year at taking care of the ball as he ranked fifth at avoiding turnover-worthy plays.
After an excellent 2013 season, Rivers slowly started a decline over the next three years, perhaps in part due to a terrible offensive line situation. He bounced back nicely last season, grading at 80.4 overall to rank ninth in the league. He was one of the league’s most accurate passers in the short (0-9 yard) range and he’s still a solid intermediate passer (10-19-yard range), ranking eighth in PFF grading last season.
Wentz had a breakout 2017 season, grading at 84.9 overall, good for sixth in the league before going down to a knee injury. He had the second-highest percentage of big-time throws and also ranked second in accuracy percentage on tight-window throws.
Stafford has improved over the last 2.5 years and he finished No. 9 in our grades in 2016 (81.4) and 12th last season (78.6). At his best, Stafford looks the part of top-three quarterback, making special throws both inside and outside of structure, however it’s his week-to-week consistency that keeps him from the top echelon of quarterbacks. Stafford was not as good as his 99.3 passer rating suggested last season as he led the league with 16 dropped interceptions while adding a number of poor fumbles that didn’t show up on the stat sheet.
It’s been a small sample, but Garoppolo has had an excellent start to his career, particularly an 86.6 overall grade that ranked fourth in the NFL last season. He had the highest percentage of positively-graded throws in 2017, despite ranking only 39th in big-time throw percentage. Garoppolo also did a fine job of taking care of the ball with the fifth-lowest percentage of turnover-worthy plays.
Prescott took a step back after an outstanding rookie season, in part due to his supporting cast regressing around him. In his two years in the league, he’s shown that he can take care of the ball, ranking in the top-10 at avoiding turnover-worthy plays in both seasons, however it may be time for the Cowboys to throw the ball down the field more often as Prescott has ranked in the bottom three in deep pass attempts despite ranking 15th in adjusted completion percentage on deep passes in 2016 and fifth last year.
Last season was a disappointment for Carr after he finished No. 5 in PFF grades in 2016 (85.3). He had the highest turnover-worthy play percentage of his career (4.2 percent), while not supplementing the mistakes with big-time throws (ranked 35th out of 41 qualifiers). Carr remains high in the rankings due to his strong 2015 and 2016 seasons in which he executed a high percentage of big-time throws while avoiding the big mistakes that marred his 2017 campaign.
The stats have always been a bit better than Cousins’ actual performance, generally an indicator that his supporting cast has helped to elevate his numbers. Still, Cousins has been a solid quarterback the last three years, finishing 15th in 2015 and 10th in 2016 before dropping to 20th last season. He’ll have another strong set of receivers in Minnesota, and his aggressiveness down the field should allow the Vikings’ pass game to take the next step in 2018.
Coming off the best season of his career, Smith was more aggressive in 2017 and it paid off as he led the league in adjusted completion percentage (54.8), yards (1,344) and touchdown (12) on deep (20-plus yard) passes. He did this while still maintaining his usual level of good decision making, finishing third at avoiding turnover-worthy plays. He could move up on the list if he can duplicate last year’s performance, which to this point has been an anomaly.
It’s been an odd career for Mariota whose PFF grade and traditional stats have rarely matched up. Last year was his worst statistically, but his best career grade at 76.2 overall, good for 14th in the NFL. Mariota had terrible interception luck last season as his 16 picks don’t match up with his No. 8 ranking at avoiding turnover-worthy plays. He owns the No. 5 PFF grade in the red zone since 2015.
Newton shaved two yards off his average depth of target last season (11.0 in 2016, 9.0 in 2017), leading to his lowest percentage of big-time throws in years (3.3 percent, 32nd out of 41 qualifiers). At his best, Newton can make special throws with his plus arm strength, however the great plays also come with the caveat that he’s not an accurate down-to-down passer (improved to 24th in ball-location metrics last season). His throw-for-throw volatility has led to one outstanding season (2015) surrounded by a career of average to good performances, including his 2017 season in which he ranked only 25th in PFF grades at only 68.7 overall.
It was quite the turnaround for Goff last season, improving from a 42.9 overall grade as a rookie to 2016 to a 15th-ranked 75.6 grade in 2017. There’s still plenty of room for improvement as Goff’s 98.5 passer rating (including the playoffs) was inflated due to his playmakers and a favorable scheme, but he also improved to rank 12th in big-time throw percentage and 13th at avoiding turnover-worthy plays.
A highly-volatile passer throughout his career, Winston had the second-highest percentage of positively-graded throws last season but also ranked 36th out of 41 qualifiers at avoiding turnover-worthy plays. He’s capable of carrying a passing offense due to his ability to throw with anticipation and drive the ball down the field, but he must cut down on the mistakes that have plagued his first three years in the league (and his last season at Florida State). On the bright side for Bucs fans, quarterbacks with Winston’s profile have shown capable of putting it all together in one-season stretches (Carson Palmer, Cam Newton), so a top-notch season could be in the cards at some point.
While Watson tore up the league from a statistical standpoint, he finished 26th in PFF grade at 68.1 and 16th at 75.4 if you remove a disastrous Week 1 game in relief against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The second number is a fair assessment of his play as he certainly showed a knack for the special plays, leading the league with a big-time throw percentage of 7.5, however he also ranked 33rd at avoiding turnover-worthy plays and his overall throw-for-throw accuracy ranked only 37th out of 41 qualifiers. It’s reasonable to expect Watson to improve as a player while experiencing a huge statistical regression.
Taylor has been an underrated starter in his three years at the helm in Buffalo, though he’s landed on the conservative end of the spectrum over the last two seasons. He ranked only 33rd in big-time throw percentage, though he finished second at avoiding turnover-worthy plays, a recipe for keeping his team in games and relying on the defense. His conservative nature does lead to his taking too many sacks, often his own fault.
Bradford has quietly played well in his last two full seasons (2015 and 2016); however, injuries have always been a concern throughout his career. He lasted only a game and a half last season, playing one spectacular game against the Saints in Week 1 before injuring his knee and hobbling through a rough half of football against the Bears. Despite being an accurate passer, Bradford lands on the conservative end of the spectrum which can be maddening given his ability to make in-structure plays at a high level.
Dalton has consistently ranked in the middle of the pack among quarterbacks with his best year coming in 2015 (81.5 grade ranked eighth). Like most mid-tier signal callers, he’s dependent on his supporting cast in order to maximize his production, though he’s quietly one of the best “seam” throwers in the league and last year he ranked ninth in big-time throw percentage. He needs to cut back on the poor decisions as he finished 26th at avoiding turnover-worthy plays.
Tannehill missed last season due to injury, but when healthy, he’s been a consistent mid-tier performer. He finished 16th in the NFL with a 74.1 overall grade in 2016, though he did rank second in the league in big-time throw percentage. It was a volatile season for Tannehill who had far too many blatant mis-reads of underneath coverage, all evening out to a middle-of-the pack performance.
Expectations are high for Mahomes who had a strong showing in his only NFL start, last year in Week 17. He makes special throws, both inside and outside of structure, but the big question will be how many poor decisions he can avoid along the way. In 2016 at Texas Tech, Mahomes ranked second in the nation in big-time throws, but also second in turnover-worthy throws, perhaps an indication of a volatile style that will lead to plenty of fireworks given the explosive playmakers in Kansas City.
Trubisky graded at 66.4 as a rookie, good for 29th in the NFL. He wasn’t asked to do much in Chicago’s offensive scheme, though his No. 10 grade on third down is a reason for optimism moving forward. A new system is expected to accentuate Trubisky’s strengths which include his ability to throw on the run and throwing accurately in the short and intermediate game.
It’s been an up and down career for Bortles who changed his game in 2017 to match the ball-control offense and strong defense employed in Jacksonville. He generally did a better job of taking care of the ball, checking down more than all but three quarterbacks in the league, though he still put the ball in harm’s way when called upon to carry the passing offense. His adjusted completion percentage of 72.0 was the highest of his career, though it coincided with the lowest average depth of target of his career (8.3).
Manning improved his game last season despite the Giants having a far-worse season, grading at 68.9 overall, good for 22nd in the league. He had his second-lowest percentage of big-time throws since 2006, and he posted the best turnover-worthy play percentage since 2011 despite ranking only 27th in the league. At this point in his career, Manning needs to be elevated by his supporting cast, and playing with a subpar offensive line and revolving door of playmakers has not helped his production. He did rank fourth in tight-window accuracy percentage last season, though that’s a number that tends to fluctuate from year to year.
There’s not enough of a career track record to rank Keenum any higher on this list, but he was excellent last season, grading at 81.4 overall (eighth). He did a nice job of taking care of the ball, ranking seventh in avoiding turnover-worthy plays, and he was fantastic at avoiding sacks as he was sacked on only 10.3 percent of his pressured snaps, second-best in the NFL. There are some concerns with Keenum leaving the favorable conditions of throwing in a dome to the league’s best group of playmakers, but if he can duplicate last year’s performance, the Broncos got a steal in free agency.
Flacco has gone from mid-tier quarterback to ranking 22nd in PFF grade last year and 26th in both 2015 and 2016. He has lost some of his aggressiveness as he had the third-highest percentage of checkdowns last season while posting a career-low average depth of target of 6.9. That led to Flacco ranking only 37th out of 41 qualifiers in big-time throw percentage. At his best, Flacco is driving the ball down the field and giving his receivers a chance to make plays, and being saddled with one of the worst groups of playmakers in the league has hurt Flacco’s production in recent years.
31. Josh McCown, New York Jets
When given an opportunity to start, McCown has been a roller coaster from a grading standpoint, peaking with an 86.5 overall grade in limited time in 2013. Last season, he was solid at 67.9 overall, good for 27th in the NFL with his No. 34 ranking in avoiding turnover-worthy plays being a big culprit for his grade.
McCarron has only a handful of starts under his belt in his career, grading at 65.1 in 2015 on his 186 dropbacks.
Rookie quarterback rankings
*2017 overall college grade, rank: 94.6 (1st)
It was difficult to find a way to slice PFF’s grades or numbers that didn’t show Mayfield as not just the best quarterback prospect in his draft class, but the best quarterback in the nation last season and the best we have seen come through the college landscape since we have been grading the FBS. Mayfield owns the best two single-season grades we have ever given to a college quarterback and was elite in almost any situation.
*2017 overall college grade, rank: 83.3 (20th)
We had Darnold as the No. 2 quarterback on our draft board behind Mayfield, and the Jets will likely have him starting very soon. Darnold has the NFL throws in his bag, as evidenced by his No. 2 ranking in big-time throw percentage last season, but he must cut back on the poor decisions and ugly fumbles that marred his redshirt-sophomore season. Still, Darnold showed a knack for making big plays in big spots, and he can do so both within the structure and while throwing outside the pocket.
*2017 overall college grade, rank: 82.4 (23rd)
Rosen ranked third on our quarterback draft board this spring and he may be the most polished passer in the draft class on intermediate (10-19 yard) throws. The question for Rosen is why he never put together a dominant season at UCLA despite having first-round tools and he must improve his decision-making after ranking 25th out of 38 draft-class quarterbacks in avoiding turnover-worthy plays.
*2017 overall college grade, rank: 88.8 (7th)
Jackson is a spectacular athlete who did most of his damage in the designed-run game in college and an ideal NFL scenario will have the Ravens tapping into that athleticism in order to keep defenses off balance. He is willing to sit in the pocket and go through progressions, ranking fourth among 10 draft-class quarterbacks in accuracy percentage when hitting his second read, however his overall accuracy must improve in order to maximize his potential as he ranked ninth when factoring actual ball location on every pass last season.
*2017 overall college grade, rank: 66.1 (T-99th)
The first thing mentioned about Allen’s game is his tools and there’s no denying his size, cannon for an arm and athleticism. He can make spectacular plays outside the pocket and that showed up in his 2016 season that put him on the map. However, accuracy and decision-making is a major concern for Allen who ranked only 36th in the draft class in adjusted completion percentage and 29th at avoiding turnover-worthy plays last season.
[For more information, grab the 2018 NFL Draft Guide with full profiles, three-year statistics and much, much more on Mayfield, and the rest of the rookie QB class.]
[Editor’s note: On the above rankings, only quarterbacks who played 150 snaps qualified for a ranking, those receiving an n/a did not play enough snaps in 2017 to qualify. College rankings are out of 150 FBS quarterbacks to take at least 150 snaps in 2017. QB Tier is from the 2017 QB Annual, clustering the NFL’s quarterbacks into tiers based on average grade per dropback and factoring in big-time throw percentage and avoidance of turnover-worthy throws.]