QB Index, Week 1: Patrick Mahomes begins as unanimous No. 1

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  • By Ali Bhanpuri, Tom Blair, Gennaro Filice and Dan Parr NFL.com
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Over the past six seasons, Gregg Rosenthal authored the QB Index -- a weekly ranking of starters at the NFL's most important position. But in the league's 100th season, this file's originator has decided to take his talents to Game Picks, thus passing the QBI torch to a ragtag group of his editors: Ali Bhanpuri, Tom Blair, Gennaro Filice and Dan Parr.

Throughout the 2019 campaign, each of these four QB watchers will provide their individual rankings of the starting signal-callers, 1-32. Then, through the power of mathematics, we'll average out the results from all four ballots and ... Voila! The QB Index is (re)born.

NOTE: The individual rankings of each writer are listed in every QB blurb. As the season progresses, the pecking order will increasingly rely on 2019 performance alone, which means the deck will constantly reshuffle. But this week, without any fresh regular-season tape to evaluate, the hierarchy reflects the unique QB evaluations of each ranker entering a brand-new season.

1
Patrick Mahomes
QB
Kansas City Chiefs

Individual rank: AB (1) | TB (1) | GF (1) | DP (1)

2018 stats: 16 games | 66.0 pct | 5,097 pass yds | 8.8 ypa | 50 pass TD | 12 INT | 272 rush yds | 2 rush TD

Bhanpuri: Expectations for the reigning MVP are sky high and yet don't feel remotely out of reach. Admit it, a part of you is legitimately surprised any time a Chiefs drive doesn't end with seven points and some silly celebration. Easy consensus on this one.

2
Aaron Rodgers
QB
Packers

Individual rank: AB (2) | TB (2) | GF (2) | DP (2)

2018 stats: 16 games | 62.3 pct | 4,442 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 25 pass TD | 2 INT | 269 rush yds | 2 rush TD

Bhanpuri: We learned last season that the great, all-powerful Aaron Rodgers can throw a bad pass. In fact, he missed two (!) wide-open Packers receivers downfield against the Cardinals in Week 13. I mean, they were bad, bad balls. ... So what if the other 595 led to nearly 4,500 yards, 25 touchdowns and just two (!!) picks? I speak for all Chicagoans when I say A-a-Ron is most definitely slipping entering his age-35 season.

3
Russell Wilson
QB
Seahawks

Individual rank: AB (4) | TB (3) | GF (3) | DP (6)

2018 stats: 16 games | 65.6 pct | 3,448 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 35 pass TD | 7 INT | 376 rush yds | 0 rush TD

Bhanpuri: Wilson set Seahawks records in passing touchdowns (35) and passer rating (110.9) last season as he guided an unheralded cast of Seattle playmakers back to the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons. He was so unbelievably efficient in 2018 that he became the first and only quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 35 touchdowns in fewer than 475 attempts. (He needed just 427!) This ranking certainly doesn't feel like his ceiling this season.

4
Tom Brady
QB
Patriots

Individual rank: AB (5) | TB (5) | GF (4) | DP (3)

2018 stats: 16 games | 65.8 pct | 4,355 pass yds | 7.6 ypa | 29 pass TD | 11 INT | 35 rush yds | 2 rush TD

Bhanpuri: Back in the 2000s, when I was a college student in Boston, I used to argue with any and all Pats fans that Peyton Manning was better than Tom Brady. Those were the days ... back when TB12 could fit all his Super Bowl rings on one hand. Is the 42-year-old future Hall of Famer as crisp as he was 10 years ago? Hell, even two years ago? No, he's not. But if the game's on the line in Week 1 with two minutes to play, how many guys on this list would you rather have under center than the 14-time Pro Bowler? Exactly.

5
Philip Rivers
QB
Chargers

Individual rank: AB (3) | TB (6) | GF (5) | DP (7)

2018 stats: 16 games | 68.3 pct | 4,308 pass yds | 8.5 ypa | 32 pass TD | 12 INT

Bhanpuri: Rivers enters his 16th NFL season fresh off one of the best campaigns of his career. His play was so inspired last year that I spent the summer raving about a potential MVP-caliber season for the 37-year-old passer en route to a Super Bowl appearance. But that was before Melvin Gordon's holdout reached such extreme levels, Russell Okung landed on the non-football illness list (keeping him out for at least the first six weeks of the season) and all-world safety Derwin James' foot injury earned him a spot on IR. Rivers will need to sustain top-five QB play throughout the season if he wants to hear his name announced at both NFL Honors and Hard Rock Stadium in early February.

6
Matt Ryan
QB
Falcons

Individual rank: AB (7) | TB (4) | GF (6) | DP (5)

2018 stats: 16 games | 69.4 pct | 4,924 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 35 pass TD | 7 INT | 125 rush yds | 3 rush TD

Bhanpuri: In nearly any other season, Ryan's production last year would've warranted serious MVP consideration. But a 7-9 Falcons record doomed the four-time Pro Bowler. Seriously, just take a second to marvel at the stat line above. With a healthy Devonta Freeman, a revamped offensive line and the best set of receivers in the league, the Falcons' franchise QB has everything he needs for another elite campaign.

7
Drew Brees
QB
Saints

Individual rank: AB (6) | TB (7) | GF (9) | DP (4)

2018 stats: 15 games | 74.4 pct | 3,992 pass yds | 8.2 ypa | 32 pass TD | 5 INT | 22 rush yds | 4 rush TD

Bhanpuri: Brees has set the bar so high for what we expect from him that even 36 total touchdowns and the highest single-season completion percentage in NFL history still weren't enough to quiet concerns toward the end of last season (his 18th) that his play was falling off. I'm very much convinced the 40-year-old has plenty left in the tank to put persistent pressure on defenses (via Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas and Jared Cook) and navigate the Saints all the way to Miami.

8
Deshaun Watson
QB
Texans

Individual rank: AB (8) | TB (9) | GF (8) | DP (10)

2018 stats: 16 games | 68.3 pct | 4,165 pass yds | 8.2 ypa | 26 pass TD | 9 INT | 551 rush yds | 5 rush TD

Bhanpuri: When it comes to Watson, his critics always cite his penchant for holding the ball too long and his league-leading sacks taken (62 in '18) as justification for not placing him where he belongs: among the top 10 QBs in the league. The four of us have collectively had enough of that. The third-year pro's ability to extend plays and make something out of nothing is precisely what makes him such a versatile and dangerous operator under center. The Texans' offense is far better today than it was a week ago; and in this exercise, next year doesn't matter as much as next week. I'd be surprised if the former Clemson star didn't rank among the top six by midseason.

9
Carson Wentz
QB
Eagles

Individual rank: AB (12) | TB (10) | GF (7) | DP (8)

2018 stats: 11 games | 69.6 pct | 3,074 pass yds | 7.7 ypa | 21 pass TD | 7 INT | 93 rush yds | 0 rush TD

Blair: It feels slightly unfair to ding Wentz for missing the past two postseasons with injury, but until he actually appears in the playoffs, it will be tough to shake the nagging doubts about his reliability during the most important portion of the NFL calendar. That said, this slot is actually roughly in line with his numbers when healthy over the past two seasons combined: Among players with 16-plus starts and 600-plus attempts in that span, Wentz ranks a bit lower than ninth in yards per game (11th, with 265.4) and completion percentage (15th, with 64.7) and higher in touchdown percentage (third, with 6.4) and passer rating (fifth, with 102.0).

10
Ben Roethlisberger
QB
Steelers

Individual rank: AB (9) | TB (11) | GF (10) | DP (9)

2018 stats: 16 games | 67.0 pct | 5,129 pass yds | 7.6 ypa | 34 pass TD | 16 INT | 98 rush yds | 3 rush TD

Blair: In Le'Veon Bell's first five years with the Steelers, Pittsburgh ran the ball on 39.6 percent of offensive plays. Without Bell on the field last season, that figure dropped to 32.6 percent, while Roethlisberger led the NFL in throws (675), passing yards (5,129) and interceptions (16). Now, Bell and receiver Antonio Brown are gone, replaced by the younger (and, presumably, more pliant) James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Roethlisberger is 37. Will he continue to be one of the league's more prolific quarterbacks? Or is a slowdown coming?

11
Baker Mayfield
QB
Browns

Individual rank: AB (10) | TB (8) | GF (11) | DP (11)

2018 stats: 14 games | 63.8 pct | 3,725 pass yds | 7.7 ypa | 27 pass TD | 14 INT | 131 rush yds | 0 rush TD

Blair: The O-line and some potential natural regression are a concern. But Mayfield's already gone through some hiccups as a rookie, suggesting he has the ability to weather bumps in the future. And until we see him on the field again in regular-season action, the most relevant data points are Mayfield's numbers in the eight games with Freddie Kitchens as offensive coordinator: 68.4 percent completion rate, 281.8 yards per game, 19 TDs, 8 INTs, a passer rating of 106.2 and a 5-3 record. And now Mayfield's got Odell Beckham Jr. to throw to.

12
Jared Goff
QB
Rams

Individual rank: AB (11) | TB (12) | GF (12) | DP (12)

2018 stats: 16 games | 64.9 pct | 4,688 pass yds | 8.4 ypa | 32 pass TD | 12 INT | 108 rush yds | 2 rush TD

Blair: With money in the bank and last season's second-best offense largely back intact -- and with Cooper Kupp returning to health -- life figures to be pretty good for Goff in 2019. Now he just has to make us all forget about how he threw for zero scores, one pick and a passer rating of 57.9 in Super Bowl LIII.

13
Cam Newton
QB
Panthers

Individual rank: AB (13) | TB (13) | GF (13) | DP (13)

2018 stats: 14 games | 67.9 pct | 3,395 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 24 pass TD | 13 INT | 488 rush yds | 4 rush TD

Blair: When last we saw him, Superman was not at the peak of his powers, limited by an ailing shoulder that ultimately required him to undergo his second shoulder surgery since March 2017. Newton enters 2019 with a new throwing motion and, supposedly, a different mindset. It will be interesting to see how the 2015 MVP, who has topped 700 rushing yards three times and scored 10-plus rushing touchdowns twice, transitions to middle age. Provided he stays healthy.

14
Kirk Cousins
QB
Vikings

Individual rank: AB (15) | TB (17) | GF (15) | DP (14)

2018 stats: 16 games | 70.1 pct | 4,298 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 30 pass TD | 10 INT | 123 rush yds | 1 rush TD

Blair: Only seven people have thrown more touchdown passes than Cousins (111) in his four seasons as an NFL starter -- and only seven people have thrown more interceptions than him (46) in that span. The pressure might increase heading into Year 2 of his fully guaranteed contract, but it seems like we know exactly what Cousins is at this point: A reliable quarterback who won't always transcend the limits of his supporting cast.

15
Dak Prescott
QB
Cowboys

Individual rank: AB (16) | TB (16) | GF (14) | DP (17)

2018 stats: 16 games | 67.7 pct | 3,885 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 22 pass TD | 8 INT | 305 rush yds | 6 rush TD

Blair: Prescott, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal, will surely follow Ezekiel Elliott on the money train at some point. And why shouldn't he? His numbers might not be jaw-dropping, but they don't need to be -- especially now that Elliott is back in the fold. You likely already know that Prescott ranks second in the NFL with 32 QB wins since entering the league, but did you also know that his passer rating in that span (96.0) is better than Ben Roethlisberger's (95.2), Alex Smith's (95.0), Jared Goff's (94.0) and Carson Wentz's (92.5)?

16
Matthew Stafford
QB
Lions

Individual rank: AB (17) | TB (15) | GF (17) | DP (15)

2018 stats: 16 games | 66.1 pct | 3,777 pass yds | 6.8 ypa | 21 pass TD | 11 INT | 71 rush yds | 0 rush TD

Blair: Only four quarterbacks started 16 games and threw for less than 4,000 yards last season: Case Keenum (3,890), Dak Prescott (3,885), Russell Wilson (3,448) and Stafford (3,777). Stafford's yards-per-attempt figure also dipped below 7 for the first time since 2012. Can new Lions coordinator Darrell Bevell jump-start the career of the former No. 1 overall pick?

17
Lamar Jackson
QB
Ravens

Individual rank: AB (18) | TB (14) | GF (16) | DP (19)

2018 stats: 16 games | 58.2 pct | 1,201 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 6 pass TD | 3 INT | 695 rush yds | 5 rush TD

Filice: The hardest guy to place on this list because he's essentially playing a different position than his signal-calling brethren -- at least, from what we saw last season. The fleet-footed Jackson didn't take the starting reins in 2018 until Week 11, yet still set a single-season QB record with 147 carries.

18
Derek Carr
QB
Raiders

Individual rank: AB (14) | TB (18) | GF (18) | DP (18)

2018 stats: 16 games | 68.9 pct | 4,049 pass yds | 7.3 ypa | 19 pass TD | 10 INT | 47 rush yds | 1 rush TD

Filice: Head coach-quarterback is among the most highly scrutinized relationships in all of sports, and when it comes to matchmaking intrigue in 2019, Jon Gruden- Derek Carr is the AFC's answer to Matt LaFleur- Aaron Rodgers. One year into GruCarr (or should their power-couple name be Carrden?), it's unclear whether this is a long-term fit. Will the marriage make it to Vegas next season? Carr purchasing Sin City property right next to Gruden's house could be a positive sign. Or the ultimate jinx. One thing's for sure: Antonio Brown's daily soap opera isn't helping Carr's cause.

19
Nick Foles
QB
Jaguars

Individual rank: AB (19) | TB (19) | GF (22) | DP (16)

2018 stats: 5 games | 72.3 pct | 1,413 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 7 pass TD | 4 INT

Filice: The Blake Bortles era in Jacksonville produced a half-decade of ghastly offensive football. Since 2014, when this franchise surprised everyone by taking Bortles third overall, the Jaguars rank near the bottom of the league in points per game (28th), yards per game (28th), passing yards per game (25th) and turnovers (29th). Thus explains the four-year, $88 million stab on Foles. Can the 30-year-old QB and his new/old coach John DeFilippo recreate the Super Bowl magic they made in Philly?

20
Jimmy Garoppolo
QB
49ers

Individual rank: AB (21) | TB (21) | GF (21) | DP (21)

2018 stats: 3 games | 59.6 pct | 718 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 5 pass TD | 3 INT | 33 rush yds | 0 rush TD

Filice: It feels like Jimmy G's been a household name for years -- because he kind of has -- but the guy's still only started 10 NFL games. He has the contract ( a $137.5 million pact signed last offseason) and the QB-friendly coach (Kyle Shanahan) -- now it's time for a full season of production. August provided a series of concerning developments -- five straight picks in practice, the 0.0 passer rating in Denver -- but Garoppolo chalked it up to preseason experimentation. We'll see.

21
Sam Darnold
QB
Jets

Individual rank: AB (22) | TB (20) | GF (19) | DP (24)

2018 stats: 13 games | 57.7 pct | 2,865 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 17 pass TD | 15 INT | 138 rush yds | 1 rush TD

Filice: Darnold's rookie campaign was a roller-coaster ride that finished on the upswing. After missing three games with a foot injury, the No. 3 overall pick posted promising numbers in four December outings, completing 64 percent of his throws with a 6:1 TD-to-INT ratio and a 99.1 passer rating. Praise for the 22-year-old quarterback was bursting from Florham Park all offseason, and a strong preseason only increased the buzz.

22
Mitchell Trubisky
QB
Bears

Individual rank: AB (20) | TB (23) | GF (25) | DP (20)

2018 stats: 14 games | 66.6 pct | 3,223 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 24 pass TD | 12 INT | 421 rush yds | 3 rush TD

Filice: Fresh off a sophomore season that saw Trubisky make his first Pro Bowl after helping the Bears earn their first division title since 2010, the young quarterback remains something of a mystery. How much is Mitch, and how much is Matt Nagy's savvy scheming? Well, this is the same line of questioning Jared Goff faced after his second season (and first campaign under Sean McVay). One year later, Goff received the most guaranteed money in NFL history, a whopping $110 million.

23
Kyler Murray
QB
Cardinals

Individual rank: AB (24) | TB (25) | GF (20) | DP (22)

2018 stats: N/A

Filice: At the outset of last September, Murray was a professional baseball player taking a one-season sabbatical on the gridiron, while Kliff Kingsbury was a sub-.500 college coach sitting on an outrageously hot seat. Jump-cut to today, and these two comprise one of the most compelling storylines in the NFL. Sure, Colts-Bolts is juicy, but let's be honest: Lions-Cardinals is the most enticing feature in the late batch of games this Sunday. And it has nothing to do with the team wearing Honolulu Blue.

24
Andy Dalton
QB
Bengals

Individual rank: AB (23) | TB (22) | GF (23) | DP (28)

2018 stats: 11 games | 61.9 pct | 2,566 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 21 pass TD | 11 INT | 99 rush yds | 0 rush TD

Filice: Many moons ago, the Around The NFL Podcast -- which features aforementioned QB Index OG Gregg Rosenthal -- cooked up the Dalton Scale. The concept is that Andy Dalton is the prime meridian of NFL quarterbacks: If your QB's better than Dalton, you officially have a franchise quarterback; if your guy's worse than Dalton, you don't. The Dalton Scale's quirk is that the line of demarcation between QB competence and QB impotence always fluctuates with Dalton's present standing. So, does the Dalton Scale remain relevant here, with the Red Rifle ranked 24th at age 31, fresh off an injury-marred campaign and multiple seasons removed from his most recent Pro Bowl nod? Well, that's debatable -- but the fact that you have to scan the quarterbacks listed above and seriously ponder the question is a testament to the league's current QB depth.

25
Jameis Winston
QB
Buccaneers

Individual rank: AB (26) | TB (28) | GF (24) | DP (25)

2018 stats: 11 games | 64.6 pct | 2,992 pass yds | 7.9 ypa | 19 pass TD | 14 INT | 281 rush yds | 1 rush TD

Parr: While the hiring of Bruce Arians led to an offseason of hopeful headlines for Winston and the Bucs' offense, there's plenty of reason to believe this match wasn't made in heaven. One stat that sticks out like a W no one wants to eat: Since Winston entered the league as the first overall pick in 2015, no QB has more giveaways (76). That's the opposite of tasty. If Arians can't help him make better decisions, this might be his high point on the QB Index in 2019.

26
Josh Allen
QB
Bills

Individual rank: AB (29) | TB (24) | GF (26) | DP (26)

2018 stats: 12 games | 52.8 pct | 2,074 pass yds | 6.5 ypa | 10 pass TD | 12 INT | 631 rush yds | 8 rush TD

Parr: Take a second-year QB who was more impressive as a runner than a passer during his rookie season. Add in some cautious optimism along with a heavy dose of healthy skepticism, and boom, you end up 26th on the list. There's no doubt the supporting cast for Allen has been upgraded, but is he ever going to be an accurate enough thrower to make a heroic climb up this board? He ranked last in completion percentage (52.8), 32nd in passing yards per game (172.8), 32nd in TD-to-INT ratio (0.83) and 32nd in passer rating (67.9) among 33 qualifying QBs last season.

27
Marcus Mariota
QB
Titans

Individual rank: AB (28) | TB (29) | GF (27) | DP (23)

2018 stats: 14 games | 68.9 pct | 2,528 pass yds | 7.6 ypa | 11 pass TD | 8 INT | 357 rush yds | 2 rush TD

Parr: A career that appeared to be clearly on the ascent coming off a playoff win a couple years ago has slipped into an underwhelming abyss. Mariota has a career record of 27-28. He's compiled a TD-to-INT ratio of 24:23 over the last two seasons combined. This all just screams "meh." Can the son of a billionaire, a new slot receiver, a second-round pick and the pressure of a contract year get the juices flowing again?

28
Joe Flacco
QB
Broncos

Individual rank: AB (25) | TB (26) | GF (29) | DP (29)

2018 stats: 9 games | 61.2 pct | 2,465 pass yds | 6.5 ypa | 12 pass TD | 6 INT | 45 rush yds | 0 rush TD

Parr: John Elway might have given his team a minor upgrade under center by acquiring Flacco and jettisoning Case Keenum in the offseason. Positive vibes about a rejuvenated Flacco emanated from Denver this summer, but it's hard for us to get excited about a 34-year-old who hasn't finished a season as a full-time starter with a passer rating above a decidedly unimpressive 83.5 since 2014.

29
Jacoby Brissett
QB
Colts

Individual rank: AB (27) | TB (30) | GF (28) | DP (27)

2017 stats: 16 games | 58.8 pct | 3,098 pass yds | 6.6 ypa | 13 pass TD | 7 INT | 280 rush yds | 4 rush TD

Parr: Brissett has by far the smallest sample size to judge among the last five QBs on this list, and his new starting gig is a million times better than his last one in that his coaching staff and supporting cast are better equipped to help him succeed. The ceiling may not be that high here, but no one should be surprised if Andrew Luck's replacement starts trending toward the middle of the pack.

30
Eli Manning
QB
Giants

Individual rank: AB (30) | TB (27) | GF (30) | DP (30)

2018 stats: 16 games | 66.0 pct | 4,299 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 21 pass TD | 11 INT | 20 rush yds | 1 rush TD

Parr: Daniel Jones' scorching preseason performance turns up the heat even more on Eli heading into his age-38 season. It seems like it's just a matter of months (or weeks?) before the sixth overall pick out of Duke gets his shot, because Manning, even if he continues to play efficient ball, is working with declining skills and a diminished supporting cast. Not exactly a recipe for a renaissance.

31
Case Keenum
QB
Redskins

Individual rank: AB (32) | TB (31) | GF (31) | DP (31)

2018 stats: 16 games | 62.3 pct | 3,890 pass yds | 6.6 ypa | 18 pass TD | 15 INT | 93 rush yds | 2 rush TD

Parr: I think it's fair to say Keenum would be in the basement here if not for his 2017 magic carpet ride. He didn't have the talent to overcome the Broncos' shortcomings last season, and it doesn't seem fair to expect much better from him on a team with a missing left tackle, a concussed tight end and no wide receivers that have sniffed a 1,000-yard season.

32
Ryan Fitzpatrick
QB
Dolphins

Individual rank: AB (31) | TB (32) | GF (32) | DP (32)

2018 stats: 8 games | 66.7 pct | 2,366 pass yds | 9.6 ypa | 17 pass TD | 12 INT | 152 rush yds | 2 rush TD

Parr: Fitzpatrick is a great story that most everyone enjoys. He's a national treasure, of sorts. He'll provide a spark, completely sputter out, and then do it all over again. It's just too bad that it will be as difficult as ever for him to fulfill that role with Miami dumping assets as it plays for 2020 and beyond. I fear for the beard.

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