The quarterback landscape in the NFL has never looked better. That makes ranking all the starting QBs ahead of the 2020 season harder than ever before.
When looking at the very best right now from the 32 teams, there is an intriguing intersection of rising young superstars and highly accomplished veterans. That elite group is closely followed by several more efficient passers and high upside performers.
A good place to start is with the reigning Super Bowl and regular-season MVPs. Although what a quarterback has done in the recent past gets considerable weight for where he ranks, as usual, this is a forward-thinking list that focuses more on upside for the upcoming season.
Here are Sporting News’ newest offseason rankings, from No. 1 to No. 32, based on who would start for each team if the season started now:
NFL quarterback rankings 2020
1. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
Mahomes went from the league’s most dangerous and prolific QB to becoming its most clutch with his incredible closing performance to beat the 49ers in Super Bowl 54. He battled through a knee injury to come back faster than most would to keep up his special all-around play. With one ring on hand and still only 24, Mahomes is the new premier face of the NFL.
2019 stats: 4,031 yards passing, 26 TDs, 5 INTs, 8.3 yards per attempt, 105.3 rating, 218 yards rushing, 2 TDs.
2. Lamar Jackson, Ravens
Jackson passed and ran his way to an unprecedented dual-threat season and at 23, is helping to push the NFL into a razzle dazzle era at the position with Mahomes and others. Jackson fell a little short in the playoffs, but he also lifted a limited receiving corps that should only get better and there’s more explosiveness in the backfield to further facilitate his dominant work on the ground.
2019 stats: 3,127 yards passing, 36 TDs, 6 INTs, 7.8 yards per attempt, 113.3 rating, 1,206 yards rushing, 7 TDs
3. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Wilson made it eight straight seasons of durably starting and never having a losing year in the NFL. He led the Seahawks to an 11-5 record, just falling short of returning to take the NFC West title. He continues to lead and deliver with his big arm. At 31, Wilson has plenty left as the ultimate QB to bridge the old and new schools.
2019 stats: 4,110 yards passing, 31 TDs, 5 INTs, 8.0 yards per attempt, 106.3 rating, 342 yards rushing, 3 TDs
4. Drew Brees, Saints
Brees missed five games with a thumb injury in 2019 or otherwise he would have been a strong MVP candidate based on his projected numbers. After the recent playoff disappointments in different forms, he is bound to pass the Saints back into NFC title contention again with another excellent season at 41, one that very well could be his last.
2019 stats: 2,979 yards passing, 27 TDs, 4 INTs, 7.9 yards per attempt, 116.3 rating
5. Tom Brady, Buccaneers
His GOAT-ness with the Patriots carries some weight, even if his last of 20 seasons with New England was one of his career’s worst. His potential to be vintage GOAT in Tampa Bay carries a lot more. There was little real final support from the Patriots, with an inconsistent running game, limited receiving help and an injury-riddled offensive line. The Bucs offer Brady all the tools for a massive rebound, including a QB-friendly system that will set up more big plays while also re-raising him back to expert efficiency.
2019 stats: 4,057 yards passing, 24 TDs, 8 INTs, 6.6 yards per attempt, 88.0 rating
6. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Rodgers saw himself being relieved of the big winning burden in the first year under Matt LaFleur. The running game provided plenty of pop and scoring, and the rebuilt defense came up big often. Rodgers can do more to resemble his past production, despite having some weakened pass protection and not getting needed receiving corps upgrades. Jordan Love’s drafting gives A-Rod a sneaky extra chip on the shoulder to prove he can still deliver at a high level with his improv being accepted more in the system.
2019 stats: 4,002 yards passing, 26 TDs, 4 INTs, 7.0 yards per attempt, 95.4 rating, 183 yards rushing, TD
7. Deshaun Watson, Texans
Watson, still only 24, has put it all together well with his ability to make any play whenever necessary with his arm and legs. Credit Bill O’Brien for letting Watson do his off-script things, including his version of a checkdown being either extending a play or taking off running. Watson has proved his smarts in reading defenses to match his athleticism. Now we’ll see what happens without his go-to guy DeAndre Hopkins and how he can adjust to a remixed receiving corps.
2019 stats: 3,852 yards passing, 26 TDs, 12 INTs, 7.8 yards per attempt, 98.0 rating, 413 yards rushing, 7 TDs
8. Dak Prescott, Cowboys
Prescott broke out as a prolific passer and also maintained his efficiency thanks him being allowed to let loose more in Kellen Moore’s passing offense. Moore is back with help from new offensive-minded head coach Mike McCarthy. Prescott will get his long-term deal and reward Dallas immediately with another top season. Prescott, who turns 27 in late July right after he’s likely to be paid. also knows he’ll have Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb around for a while to help him keep getting the ball nicely downfield.
2019 stats: 4,902 yards passing, 30 TDs, 11 INTs, 8.2 yards per attempt, 99.7 rating, 277 yards rushing, 3 TDs
9. Matthew Stafford, Lions
Stafford was headed to a career-best 2019 season in the first half before a back injury derailed it in the second half. He is one of the best transformation stories in the NFL, going from a big-armed gunslinger to a more efficient and better decision-making complete passer. The No. 1 overall pick in 2009 is only 32 and has plenty more fine years left in him, for now meshed with the ideal offensive coordinator in Darrell Bevell.
2019 stats: 2,499 yards passing, 19 TDs, 5 INTs, 8.6 yards per attempt, 106.0 passer rating
10. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
Roethlisbeger played in a little more than one game before his right elbow injury ended his season in Week 2. With the QB mess that followed in Pittsburgh which ultimately cost a team with an elite defense the playoffs, there’s no doubt Big Ben’s big impact was appreciated more in his absence. The future Hall of Famer can’t drop past here going into his age 38 season, where mostly missing the physical wear and tear of 2019 can help rejuvenate him. Consider Roethlisberger led the league in passing yardage in 2018.
2019 stats: N/A
11. Carson Wentz, Eagles
Wentz had one very important stat in 2019 — he played all 16 games with Nick Foles no longer in Philly. Wentz’s assets of physical toughness and mental grinding were on full display in willing the Eagles to the playoffs, despite their offense being quickly depleted of receiving options. At 27, with reloaded weapons, there’s promise Wentz can return to his 2017 MVP candidate form if healthy.
2019: 4,039 yards passing, 27 TDs, 7 INTs, 6.7 yards per attempt, 93.1 rating, 243 yards rushing, TD
12. Kirk Cousins, Vikings
Cousins didn’t need to throw as much with Minnesota’s highly successful run-heavy offense, and he never threw the ball better. When he needed to bring the big pass plays, he did, showing off his signature zip. Most important, his much-improved high efficiency got the Vikings to the playoffs. Going into his age 32 season, he has the challenge of adjusting to a new offensive coordinator and new, rookie starting wideout in Justin Jefferson.
2019 stats: 3,603 yards passing, 26 TDs, 6 INTs, 8.1 yards per attempt, 107.4 rating
13. Matt Ryan, Falcons
Ryan had to readjust to the aggressive downfield passing game of Dirk Koetter five years later and there were some lumps with that, as he was sacked 48 times and didn’t have much of a running game on which to lean. Ryan still made the most of things with Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Austin Hooper, who’s now replaced with Hayden Hurst. At 35, there might be some arm decline but he’s proved to be sharp in a second year of a system.
2019 stats: 4,466 yards passing, 26 TDs, 14 INTs, 7.3 yards per attempt, 92.1 rating
14. Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers
Those who knocked Jimmy G all the way through Super Bowl 54 in comparison to Mahomes went to extremes. Garoppolo is definitely in a QB-friendly system, one that helped Ryan become NFL MVP four years ago. But Garoppolo executes a vast playbook smartly behind a sturdy line, plays well off a strong running game and can make all the throws necessary to help his receivers make big plays before and after the catch. Garoppolo is not a caretaker by any means and the 49ers should remain confident with him at the helm, still only at 28.
2019 stats: 3,978 yards passing, 27 TDs, 13 INTs, 8.4 yards per attempt, 102.0 rating
15. Ryan Tannehill, Titans
Those numbers below were ridiculous for 12 games, leading to Tannehill’s best NFL season at age 31. After not finding the right system as a starter in Miami, go figure he got it as an elevated backup in Nashville. His athleticism was a factor again playing off the dominant power running of Derrick Henry and proved that deep balls continue to be unfair knock on him with his exceptional downfield passing off play-action. There should be some natural regression from his supersub status, but he was too good short-term for the Titans not to keep for the long term.
2019 stats: 2,742 yards passing, 22 TDs, 6 INTs, 9.6 yards per attempt, 117.5 rating, 185 yards rushing, 4 TDs
16. Philip Rivers, Colts
After an efficiency resurgence with Anthony Lynn, there’s no doubt Rivers went back into a slump of questionable decisions in 2019, leading to plenty of mistakes, forced or otherwise. making him the Jameis Winston of the AFC. Rivers now gets his first fresh start with a new NFL team at 38. Frank Reich had a great influence on Rivers as a Chargers’ assistant, and there’s hope he can get him back on track on a team providing much better offensive line support. Rivers doesn’t need to gun-sling as much on an effective running team and he also will benefit from the team’s key rookie reinforcements, Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr.
2019 stats: 4,615 yards passing, 23 TDs, 20 INTs, 7.8 yards per attempt, 88.5 rating
17. Baker Mayfield, Browns
To say Mayfield had a major sophomore slump is a understatement. The Browns tried to become a forced fancy passing team with Freddie Kitchens and it didn’t work, given the strength lied in the running game. Now for starters, both go-to wideouts Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry will be a lot healthier. New offensive-minded coach Kevin Stefanski will help Mayfield with favorable and more comfortable play-action opportunities, mixing up three-receiver and two-tight end sets with the newly acquired Hooper. The bookend pass protection also will be miles better with Jedrick Wills and Jack Conklin. If Mayfield doesn’t break out in Year 3, at age 25 with this support, then Cleveland can really start to worry.
2019 stats: 3,837 yards passing, 22 TDs, 21 INTs, 7.2 yards per attempt, 78.8 rating
18. Josh Allen, Bills
Allen still was very reliant on his running with his big strong frame last season, but with a remade offensive line, two new wide receivers (John Brown, Cole Beasley), tight end help and a dynamic young back (Devin Singletary), he flashed more as a passer and came into his own as an leader with a trip to the playoffs. Now Allen gets Stefon Diggs and Zack Moss to join what’s a sudden deep array of weapons, a 180 from his rookie year. As her turns 24 in July, the support and the Mayfield-like expectations are there for Allen to make the complete jump.
2019 stats: 3,089 yards passing, 20 TDs, 9 INTs, 6.7 yards per attempt, 85.3 rating, 510 yards rushing 9 TDs.
19. Kyler Murray, Cardinals
Murray and Kliff Kingsbury proved to be the right philosophical fit as Arizona anticipated. Murray, similar to Allen, relied much on his legs, only with a more limited receiving corps and a running game that hit its stride only late with Kenyan Drake. Murray now gets the edge of Hopkins, with Larry Fitzgerald in a more ideal complementary role and better health for the many young wideouts behind them, led by Christian Kirk. The Cardinals also kept their left tackle D.J. Humphries, and bookended him with Josh Jones. Watch out for Murray matching Mayfield with the much-anticipated Sooner boom of No. 1 overall.
2019 stats: 3,722 yards passing, 20 TDs, 12 INTs, 6.9 yards per attempt, 87.4 rating, 544 yards rushing, 4 TDs.
20. Joe Burrow, Bengals
Is this too bullish on Burrow as a rookie No. 1 overall pick who hasn’t played a down in the NFL? No, not really, when you consider he put up the best passing season in major college football history and also did it with plenty of pleasing pro-style attributes of arm, smarts, toughness and mobility. Burrow is joining a good offensive-minded coach in Zac Taylor on a team that is loaded with front-line skill talent and will have an improved offensive line with Jonah Williams healthy at left tackle.
2019 stats: N/A
21. Jared Goff, Rams
Goff, has played in a Super Bowl and got his mega second contract but now seems to be at a career crossroads at only 25. There was nothing standing out from last season and now there’s a remix in the offense without Brandin Cooks and Todd Gurley. Goff has proved to be a highly dependent QB. As Sean McVay’s system broke down a bit because of injuries and other reasons, Goff didn’t bring it up like a elite passer would. Just four years after he went No. 1 overall, the league seems packed with newer, shinier models with real team-carrying upside.
2019 stats: 4,638 yards passing, 22 TDs, 16 INTs, 7.4 yards per attempt, 86.5 rating
22. Daniel Jones, Giants
Jones has officially taken the torch from Eli Manning. He gave the Giants some pretty typical above-average rookie production in 2020, also using his athleticism to help support it. Now Jones must adjust to a new offense, with Pat Shurmur and Mike Shula gone and and Jason Garrett bringing more of slow-tempo, run-oriented ways. While Saquon Barkley is the centerpiece, Jones has plenty of receiving help from the wideouts, tight ends and Barkley. He should be more efficient with his attempts going down as he absorbs the system.
2019 stats: 3,027 yards passing, 24 TDs, 12 INTs, 6.6 yards per attempt, 87.7 rating, 279 yards rushing, 2 TDs
23. Drew Lock, Broncos
Finally, John Elway and Denver have found a young potential franchise QB they like vs. going the veteran bridge route. Lock has all the classic physical tools, including athleticism, and he also has the right makeup and moxie to be the long-term face of the Broncos. Lock’s offensive line needs a little moore boosting, but the Broncos loaded up at the skill positions with Melvin Gordon, Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler joining Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant, Lock also has to adapt in Year 2 like Jones with Shurmur’s 11 personnel scheme.
2019 stats: 1,020 yards passing, 7 TDs, 3 INTs, 6.5 yards per attempt, 89.7 rating,
24. Sam Darnold, Jets
Darnold has been in two offenses early, too, going from Jeremy Bates to the Adam Gase-Dowell Loggains collaboration. Darnold’s early bout with mononucleosis put him behind on his second-year on-field progress, not showing the upside of Jackson or Allen and slumping more than Mayfield. The receiving upgrades of Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims will allow him to transition into more of an adept downfield passer vs. dinker and dunker. It’s still a mystery if Darnold can truly click in Gase’s system, makng this a critical swing year for him, too, given his level of pro talent.
2019 stats: 3,024 yards passing, 19 TDs, 13 INTs, 6.9 yards per attempt, 84.3 rating
25. Derek Carr, Raiders
When one considers Carr, 29, didn’t get an on-field boost from Antonio Brown, the YPA and efficiency were rather impressive. But the reason Carr is around here is concerns about making Las Vegas’ offense a lot more explosive. The Raiers drafted Henry Ruggs III for him, pushing for that needed increase in big plays. There’s a sense Carr might be at his ceiling at 29 as another passer to file under “highly dependent.”
2019 stats: 4,054 yards passing, 21 TDs, 8 INTs, 7.9 yards per attempt, 100.7 rating
26. Teddy Bridgewater, Panthers
Bridgewater’s 5-0 stint as Brees’ injury replacement guaranteed he would get a starting gig again somewhere in 2020. The 2014 first-rounder is reunited with Joe Brady, a former Saints assistant whose latest handiwork was Burrow at LSU. Although also efficient like Carr, his draft classmate, the key for Bridgewater at 27 is consistently finding a way to make big plays downfield, a must in an offense with D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson and Curtis Samuel.
2019 stats: 1 ,384 yards passing, 9 TDs, 2 INTs, 7.1 yards per attempt, 99.1 rating
27. Gardner Minshew, Jaguars
Minshew had a more efficient rookie season than either Murray or Jones. He was fearless in throwing the ball over the field when getting his opportunities, and also used his legs well when needed. He did everything to earn a shot to fully start in Year 2, and it’s good in the change of offensive coordinator from John DeFilippo to Jay Gruden, Jacksonville is keeping West Coast principles. He will be helped by true receivers at both tight end (Tyler Eifert) and running back (Chris Thompson). No one should be shocked if Minshew proves his eponymous mania isn’t a fluke.
2019 stats: 3,271 yards passing, 21 TDs, 6 INTs, 7.0 yards per attempt, 91.2 rating, 344 yards rushing
28. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Dolphins
There was less Fitzmagic in Miami than actual steady play as the fine bridge QB. He was a key reason why they finished 5-11 after an 0-7 start, especially his locked-in connection with go-to wide receiver DeVante Parker. Fitzpatrick became a likeable leader in his latest stop and did some sneaky timely running, too. Fitzpatrick, reunited with his former Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey in the final of year of his contract, can remain good enough at age 37 to buy Tua Tagovailoa enough time to fully heal and develop a little to take over full-timel in 2021.
2019 stats: 3,529 yards passing, 29 TDs, 13 INTs, 7.0 yards per attempt, 85.5 rating, 243 yards rushing, 4 TDs
29. Dwayne Haskins, Redskins
Haskins took considerably more first-round lumps than Murray and Jones. He also had to wait a long time with Case Keenum serving as the bridge because it was pretty evident Jay Gruden wasn’t all in on him for the West Coast offense. The Scott Turner system of power running and deep throwing seems a little better suited to Haskins’ big-armed skill set. To that end, Haskins will need to beat out Kyle Allen, who already played for Turner, the Panthers QBs coach the past two seasons, also under Ron Rivera.
2019 stats: 1,365 yards passing, 7 TDs, 7 INTs, 6.7 yards per attempt, 76.1 rating
30. Tyrod Taylor, Chargers
Taylor didn’t see any real action for Lynn behind Iron Man Rivers but he did have a good year starting for the former Bills offensive coordinator in 2016. That time in Buffalo prompted Taylor’s signing as a high-end backup last season despite the shaky, short bridge stint behind Mayfield. Now he’s a good bet to start initially over rookie first-rounder Justin Herbert, adding the element of mobility along with a still very strong arm for his age 31 season.
2019 stats: N/A
31. Nick Foles, Bears
Here’s an easy way to sum up the 31-year-old’s career: When Foles has either been the starter or backup for the Eagles, he has delivered. When Foles has been either the starter or backup for the Rams, Chiefs and Jaguars, he hasn’t. With his collarbone injury in Jacksonville, he gave no return on a sizeable investment. Foles gets another shot in Matt Nagy’s offense, for which he played during his sole season in Kansas City. Foles is savvy enough to be a more viable starter than fading Mitchell Trubisky in Chicago, but that doesn’t mean the forecast will be anything close to as sunny as it was in Philadelphia.
2019 stats: 736 yards passing, 3 TDs, 2 INTs, 6.3 yards per attempt, 84.6 rating
32. Jarrett Stidham, Patriots
Go figure: the Patriots are confident replacing Brady with his rookie backup from 2019, which takes them from the highest level of quality and most-known QB quantity in the NFL of all time to the biggest mystery of 2020. The limited evidence from Stidham’s time at Auburn and pick-six relief stint last season both don’t suggest he will suddenly shoot himself into competent, reliable passing status. Now Stidham also needs to worry about beating out Cam Newton in training camp.
2019 stats: N/A
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