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NFL QB Index: Ranking all 62 starting QBs of the 2021 NFL season

This is the final, post-Super Bowl rankings of every quarterback who started a game this season -- based on play from the 2021 regular season and the playoffs. Here are my rankings, Nos. 1-62.

Rank
1
Tom Brady
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · Year 22

2021 stats: 19 games | 67.2 pct | 5,916 pass yds | 7.3 ypa | 46 pass TD | 13 INT | 81 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 5 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 2 | 2019: 14 | 2018: 10 | 2017: 1 | 2016: 1 | 2015: 3 | 2014: 2 | 2013: T-4


Our man has been busy since we last checked in. He helped to blow out the Eagles, worked for 55 minutes against the Rams without enough time to throw, led a frenetic late comeback, and then he retired. (Probably.) His two-year run in Tampa proved his arm never diminished and that he could excel in a bombs-away offense built around throws that would be low-percentage in mortal hands. No quarterback has ever left the game playing this well, and he’s 44 years old. 

Rank
2
Aaron Rodgers
Green Bay Packers · Year 17

2021 stats: 17 games | 68.9 pct | 4,340 pass yds | 7.8 ypa | 37 pass TD | 4 INT | 101 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 4 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 1 | 2019: 7 | 2018: 5 | 2017: 11 | 2016: 3 | 2015: 9 | 2014: 1 | 2013: T-4


The fact that Rodgers has won four MVPs and made just one trip to the Super Bowl is a reminder that nothing is promised for youngsters like Joe Burrow, Josh Allen and Justin Herbert, no matter how brilliant they are individually. Rodgers contributed to his team falling in January this year with a conservative, sometimes confused effort against the 49ers. Rodgers would be crazy to leave Matt LaFleur, because the last two seasons have been among the sharpest of Rodgers' career, improving his efficiency without sacrificing his moments of inspired brilliance.

Rank
3
Josh Allen
Buffalo Bills · Year 4

2021 stats: 19 games | 64.5 pct | 5,044 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 45 pass TD | 15 INT | 897 rush yds | 6 rush TD | 9 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 5 | 2019: 18 | 2018: 32


I will go to my grave believing the 2021 Bills would have won the Super Bowl if they'd won the coin toss in Kansas City. That's mostly because Josh Allen was playing quarterback at a level in those two playoff games I've never seen before. Combine those outings with his Week 14 comeback effort against the Bucs and his Week 16 destruction of the Patriots, and it's clear that Allen's highs this season were higher than anyone else's. Backing up his breakout 2020 season in this fashion was incredibly impressive.

Rank
4
Justin Herbert
Los Angeles Chargers · Year 2

2021 stats: 17 games | 65.9 pct | 5,014 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 38 pass TD | 15 INT | 302 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 1 fumble


2020 final ranking: 9


Herbert's sensational Week 18 against the Raiders feels like five years ago. The same is true for Herbert's overtime thriller against the Chiefs. It's not his fault the Chargers' defense blew both games, and it's not his fault that his ranking slipped from No. 3 to No. 5 here because others shined in the playoffs. Try to divorce each quarterback from his surroundings, evaluate their responsibilities and judge on the results. I can't bring myself to rank Herbert's 2021 any lower than this. 

Rank
5
Matthew Stafford
Los Angeles Rams · Year 13

2021 stats: 21 games | 67.7 pct | 6,074 pass yds | 8.2 ypa | 50 pass TD | 20 INT | 85 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 5 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 13 | 2019: 9 | 2018: 16 | 2017: 8 | 2016: 8 | 2015: 19 | 2014: 17 | 2013: 13


Stafford got a smidge too much credit during a regular season in which his week-to-week consistency didn't match his numbers. Now Stafford is weirdly not getting enough credit for elevating in the playoffs. That was easily his best four-game stretch of the season. It came against three challenging NFC defenses and without two top wideouts and his tight end by the second half of the Super Bowl. 


Yes, there was the drop by 49ers cornerback Jaquiski Tartt. But Stafford cut way down on his turnover-worthy plays (only one per game) and hit a way higher percentage of big-time throws in the playoffs. If he played that well through the regular season, he'd have contended for MVP. Instead, he'll have to settle for knowing he played his absolute best in the moments that mattered most. I struggled to sort out the QB ranks from Nos. 3-7, and Stafford gets extra credit for playing so well in the playoffs. 

Rank
6
Joe Burrow
Cincinnati Bengals · Year 2

2021 stats: 20 games | 69.9 pct | 5,716 pass yds | 8.6 ypa | 39 pass TD | 16 INT | 149 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 5 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 18


Burrow's wild ride is another reminder of how impossible it is to evaluate quarterbacks. His worst three-game stretch of the season may have been his final three playoff games, yet he was simultaneously the main reason his Bengals kept playing, notching their first two road playoff wins in franchise history. His arm strength and processing both took huge leaps in Year 2. The offensive line made the position nearly unplayable in the postseason, and Burrow needed to be perfect on Super Bowl Sunday. He wasn't, but that doesn't change how far he came this season.

Rank
7
Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs · Year 5

2021 stats: 20 games | 67.3 pct | 5,896 pass yds | 7.6 ypa | 48 pass TD | 16 INT | 498 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 10 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 3 | 2019: 2 | 2018: 1 | 2017: N/A


This is a ranking based on this season alone. If I was picking one quarterback for next season, the next five seasons or the next 10 seasons, I'd take Mahomes. But this was an uneven Mahomes campaign. It was less of a roller coaster for the regular season (like Josh Allen's) and more consistently ragged, mostly efficient ball with a few too many turnovers early and too few big plays, until the end. Let's talk about that end.


Mahomes entered the Matrix for 10 nearly flawless playoff quarters, and then he became the primary reason the Chiefs self-immolated in the AFC Championship Game. He was set to reach another level, and I could not be more surprised by how suddenly and swiftly he fell.

Rank
8
Kyler Murray
Arizona Cardinals · Year 3

2021 stats: 15 games | 68.3 pct | 3,924 pass yds | 7.6 ypa | 24 pass TD | 12 INT | 429 rush yds | 5 rush TD | 13 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 10 | 2019: 13


Kyler would have fallen in the rankings more for his playoff performance, but there weren't logical candidates to jump him. Still, there is a big dropoff from the top seven at the position this year. Murray was as good as any quarterback through seven weeks, but his play was sporadic after he missed three games with an ankle injury. It often felt as if the Cardinals relied on Murray to create incandescent plays on his own; otherwise, the offense got stuck in quicksand. It's clear the team is not thrilled with Murray's maturity, and the feeling is probably mutual.

Rank
9
Dak Prescott
Dallas Cowboys · Year 6

2021 stats: 17 games | 67.8 pct | 4,703 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 38 pass TD | 11 INT | 173 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 15 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 16 | 2019: 11 | 2018: 18 | 2017: 20 | 2016: 7


Dak's play sunk after a Week 6 calf injury, but his struggles ran deeper than the injury. "I wouldn't say it lingered as long as people gave me the excuse of it," Prescott said on The Rich Eisen Show during Super Bowl week. "I went through a period of time during the season where I just didn't play my best ball."


After Prescott's fast start to the season, his inaccuracy and tentative play made for one of the most inexplicable stories in the entire league. He still mixed in enough boffo games to finish with strong stats, but the bar is higher for Prescott, considering his teammates.

Rank
10
Derek Carr
Las Vegas Raiders · Year 8

2021 stats: 18 games | 67.2 pct | 5,114 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 24 pass TD | 15 INT | 147 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 14 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 12 | 2019: 16 | 2018: 22 | 2017: 21 | 2016: 5 | 2015: 10 | 2014: N/A


Carr's sluggish end to the regular season mostly continued in the playoffs, where he dropped back 58 times to gain 282 net passing yards against the Bengals in a wild-card loss. There were a few awareness issues in the game, like throwing short of the goal line with the season on the line. Still, Carr solidified his standing as a borderline top-10 starter. He pushed the ball downfield more without making more mistakes. That trendline of year-end rankings above is hard to miss.

Rank
11
Russell Wilson
Seattle Seahawks · Year 10

2021 stats: 14 games | 64.8 pct | 3,113 pass yds | 7.8 ypa | 25 pass TD | 6 INT | 183 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 6 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 6 | 2019: 3 | 2018: 6 | 2017: 5 | 2016: 9 | 2015: 4 | 2014: 8 | 2013: 6


That's two straight up-and-down seasons for a player who had previously been a model of consistency. After last season's second-half swoon, Wilson was unspectacularly efficient early this season, missed three starts, suffered through the worst month of his career and then finished strong. The missed games and slump knocked him down three spots or so, but he played like a top-10 quarterback to begin and end the season. 

Rank
12
Ryan Tannehill
Tennessee Titans · Year 10

2021 stats: 18 games | 67.0 pct | 3,954 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 22 pass TD | 17 INT | 282 rush yds | 7 rush TD | 10 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 8 | 2019: 7 | 2018: 30 | 2017: N/A | 2016: 24 | 2015: 26 | 2014: 13 | 2013: 14


Tannehill's Divisional Round performance wasn't quite as bad as I remembered upon rewatching, but it did sour an otherwise rock-solid season. He held the ball too long and threw late after staring down a receiver on his last interception, a shortcoming that has plagued him throughout his career. It doesn't surprise me the Titans are standing strong behind him as their starter. Even if there are limitations, Tannehill made his teammates better this year, especially one of the worst pass-blocking offensive lines in football. 

Rank
13
Kirk Cousins
Minnesota Vikings · Year 10

2021 stats: 16 games | 66.3 pct | 4,221 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 33 pass TD | 7 INT | 115 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 12 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 15 | 2019: 8 | 2018: 13 | 2017: 10 | 2016: 13 | 2015: 11 | 2014: N/A | 2013: N/A


Cousins' year-end rankings are consistent. (This is the third time he's finished exactly 13th.) His streaky play within seasons is anything but steady. Just when Cousins had the cognoscenti talking up one of his best years, the Vikings asked Cousins to be more aggressive down the stretch, and he struggled. 

Rank
14
Lamar Jackson
Baltimore Ravens · Year 4

2021 stats: 12 games | 64.4 pct | 2,882 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 16 pass TD | 13 INT | 767 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 6 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 7 | 2019: 1 | 2018: 23


Lamar looked like an MVP candidate through five weeks, then hit the roughest stretch of his career, including four missed games. Ravens GM Eric Decosta said in January they are working at "Lamar's pace" on a new contract in "an unusual negotiation," because Jackson is representing himself. It feels like a matter of when, not if, Jackson gets his money. 

Rank
15
Matt Ryan
Atlanta Falcons · Year 14

2021 stats: 17 games | 67.0 pct | 3,968 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 20 pass TD | 12 INT | 82 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 11 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 14 | 2019: 12 | 2018: 8 | 2017: 9 | 2016: 2 | 2015: 15 | 2014: 9 | 2013: 11


Ryan is in decline, but a competent offensive line would help to slow it down. He can still move well enough in the pocket, makes good decisions and hits his targets. This may not sound exciting, but it's good enough for him to remain a league-average starter.

Rank
16
Mac Jones
New England Patriots · Rookie

2021 stats: 18 games | 67.3 pct | 4,033 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 24 pass TD | 15 INT | 147 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 7 fumbles


I never understood the narrative that the Patriots weren't asking Mac Jones to do much. If anything, the cautious Patriots staff's willingness to ask a lot was one of the defining traits of Jones' rookie season. He was running a hurry-up offense while throwing the ball 40 times in the rain against Tom Brady by Week 4. Immediately stepping in as a league-average starting quarterback on over 600 dropbacks is usually a sign of great things to come. Jones needs to get stronger, but that's attainable. His already-excellent pocket movement and accuracy are harder to learn. His ceiling looks higher than most analysts expected, Kyle Shanahan excluded.

Rank
17
Jalen Hurts
Philadelphia Eagles · Year 2

2021 stats: 16 games | 60.6 pct | 3,402 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 17 pass TD | 11 INT | 823 rush yds | 10 rush TD | 10 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 23


Hurts saving his worst start of the season for the playoffs knocks him down a few spots. He held the ball, didn't see the field and didn't shoot straight against the Bucs. That doesn't erase the gains that came in his other 15 starts, where his pocket passing took a huge step forward. His running ability gives him a high baseline, and he's a solid starting quarterback at worst, which is quite a find for a highly criticized second-round pick.

Rank
18
Teddy Bridgewater
Denver Broncos · Year 8

2021 stats: 14 games | 66.9 pct | 3,052 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 18 pass TD | 7 INT | 106 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 1 fumble


2020 final ranking: 29 | 2019: 19 | 2018: N/A | 2017: N/A | 2016: N/A | 2015: 24 | 2014: N/A


If I was to guess Teddy's numbers for the season before it started, they might have looked like the stats above. He did his job, and the formula could have worked, if the Broncos' defense didn't struggle to get off the field, sinking to 21st in DVOA. Teddy finished seventh in EPA/CPOE composite, a sign he was accurate and picked up a lot of unflashy first downs. He's the new median for the Dalton Scale, a balm for any team that wants to improve its quarterback play to average. 

Rank
19
Carson Wentz
Indianapolis Colts · Year 6

2021 stats: 17 games | 62.4 pct | 3,563 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 27 pass TD | 7 INT | 215 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 8 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 35 | 2019: 10 | 2018: 14 | 2017: 3 | 2016: 25


The Colts built an above-average offense around Wentz's limitations, but his throw-to-throw inaccuracy and inconsistent decision-making made his 2021 season a lot worse than his counting numbers indicate. It's a bad sign for Wentz’s future if Frank Reich gives up on him.

Rank
20
Jimmy Garoppolo
San Francisco 49ers · Year 8

2021 stats: 18 games | 66.8 pct | 4,345 pass yds | 8.4 ypa | 22 pass TD | 15 INT | 56 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 8 fumbles


2020 final ranking: T-30 | 2019: 15 | 2018: N/A | 2017: 12 | 2016: N/A | 2015: N/A | 2014: N/A


Only Jimmy G could reach the NFC Championship Game and see his ranking fall. He didn't have a PFF grade above 70 in his last five starts, with three big-time throws and 13(!) turnover-worthy plays in that span. It wasn't always like this. If the 49ers had 2017 or 2019 Jimmy G playing for them this year, they might just have won the Super Bowl.

Rank
21
Jameis Winston
New Orleans Saints · Year 7

2021 stats: 7 games | 59.0 pct | 1,170 pass yds | 7.3 ypa | 14 pass TD | 3 INT | 166 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 2 fumbles


2020 final ranking: N/A | 2019: 22 | 2018: 20 | 2017: 17 | 2016: 15 | 2015: 20


If Jameis stayed healthy enough to make more than seven starts, he probably would have finished in the top 15, and the Saints probably would have finished in the playoffs. He erred on the side of being too conservative under Sean Payton, just starting to loosen up before the injury. My guess is the Saints aim higher than bringing Winston back, but they could do worse.

Rank
22
Tua Tagovailoa
Miami Dolphins · Year 2

2021 stats: 13 games | 67.8 pct | 2,653 pass yds | 6.8 ypa | 16 pass TD | 10 INT | 128 rush yd | 3 rush TD | 9 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 28


I am trying not to let Tua's final month completely eradicate what came before it. Tagovailoa proved he was an NFL starting quarterback in his second season, which is no small feat for a player with physical limitations. He was drafted into a chaotic situation and is the only quarterback who is jealous of Joe Burrow's offensive line. Like Alex Smith, Tua will mostly win at the margins and needs the right coach to maximize his strengths. Mike McDaniel looks like that right coach.

Rank
23
Jared Goff
Detroit Lions · Year 6

2021 stats: 14 games | 67.2 pct | 3,245 pass yds | 6.6 ypa | 19 pass TD | 8 INT | 87 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 9 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 22 | 2019: 20 | 2018: 7 | 2017: 15 | 2016: 32


Goff made do with a rag-tag group of receivers led by fourth-round rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown and a bunch of castoffs. A strong offensive line and aggressive coaching staff give Goff a chance to improve in his second season with the Lions, but he's settling into a career as a starter just below the Dalton Line. If Goff is your guy, the search continues for The Guy.

Rank
24
Daniel Jones
New York Giants · Year 3

2021 stats: 11 games | 64.3 pct | 2,428 pass yds | 6.7 ypa | 10 pass TD | 7 INT | 298 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 7 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 24 | 2019: 23


Nothing validated my take that Jones was playing better than his numbers showed quite like watching the Giants try to play without him. It's impossible to overstate how poor his protection and coaching have been, and he's shown enough flashes for me to believe he could be an average starter. Whether he can be better than that is the question the Giants need to answer.

Rank
25
Baker Mayfield
Cleveland Browns · Year 4

2021 stats: 14 games | 60.5 pct | 3,010 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 17 pass TD | 13 INT | 134 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 6 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 11 | 2019: 24 | 2018: 12


Mayfield's year-end rankings reflect a career that has ping-ponged between incredible promise and sub-mediocre play. Mayfield hasn't proven he can lift his surroundings, and he couldn't compensate for his limitations in his fourth season, which were often mental as well as physical. Unlike, say, Kirk Cousins or Ryan Tannehill, it's hard to say which Mayfield will show up in a given week or season. It's tough to build a team around a player like that.

Rank
26
Tyler Huntley
Baltimore Ravens · Year 2

2021 stats: 7 games | 64.9 pct | 1,081 pass yds | 5.8 ypa | 3 pass TD | 4 INT | 294 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 4 fumbles


2020 final ranking: N/A


Huntley's sour finish in close losses to the Rams and Steelers shouldn't distract from his strong body of work in four starts and two relief outings as a second-year player. He's already one of the best backups in football and may develop into a mid-tier starter elsewhere, like Tyrod Taylor once did when he left Baltimore.  

Rank
27
Taylor Heinicke
Washington Football Team · Year 6

2021 stats: 16 games | 65.0 pct | 3,419 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 20 pass TD | 15 INT | 313 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 7 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 37 | 2019: N/A | 2018: N/A | 2017: N/A | 2016: N/A | 2015: N/A


Heinicke probably won't get another season with 15 starts. Then again, I never would have guessed Heinicke's spiritual father, Ryan Fitzpatrick, would have three seasons as a primary starter after turning 33. Like Fitzpatrick, Heinicke's self-belief creates a lot of big plays for both his team and the opposition.

Rank
28
Justin Fields
Chicago Bears · Rookie

2021 stats: 12 games | 58.9 pct | 1,870 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 7 pass TD | 10 INT | 420 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 12 fumbles


The tools are there. He ran more than expected, and his deep accuracy came as advertised. Missing five starts down the stretch was disappointing, but he's going to be learning a new offense in 2022 anyhow. Wasting a year with Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace was predictable, but I'm just as high on Fields now as I was on draft day.

Rank
29
Ben Roethlisberger
Pittsburgh Steelers · Year 18

2021 stats: 17 games | 64.6 pct | 3,955 pass yds | 6.1 ypa | 24 pass TD | 10 INT | 4 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 12 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 20 | 2019: 37 | 2018: 9 | 2017: 2 | 2016: 10 | 2015: 5 | 2014: 3 | 2013: 5


Big Ben's playoff outing was typical of his season. The final box score doesn't look bad, but his limitations and desire to throw as fast as possible made the Steelers' offense incredibly limited. The opposite was true for most of his career, with few players accomplishing more while holding on to the ball, waiting for a big play to emerge. Just look at those year-end rankings from 2013 to '17; Ben was a consistent top-five quarterback during a loaded era at the position.

Rank
30
Taysom Hill
New Orleans Saints · Year 5

2021 stats: 12 games | 58.2 pct | 978 pass yds | 7.3 ypa | 4 pass TD | 5 INT | 374 rush yds | 5 rush TD | 2 fumbles


Amidst all the hype, the backlash, and the backlash to the backlash, Hill has shown steady progress. He's an NFL quarterback now, which is no small feat. His per-game rushing value ranks with any starting quarterback. His passing and decision-making have improved, even if he can't throw down the field. It doesn't surprise me Hill averaged 7.3 yards per attempt, and the Saints won four of his five starts because he stresses defense, even as he stresses Saints fans. He's a legitimately tricky backup to deal with, which is more than anyone except Sean Payton should have expected.

Rank
31
Davis Mills
Houston Texans · Rookie

2021 stats: 13 games | 66.8 pct | 2,664 pass yds | 6.8 ypa | 16 pass TD | 10 INT | 44 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 5 fumbles


Mills outplaying the top-three picks in the 2021 draft as a rookie is either a sign of great things to come or will look insane in a decade. The floor on Mills has definitely been raised; he's an NFL quarterback and possibly a starter. The ceiling is also intriguing, because his physical gifts are obvious. This is not Mike Glennon.

Rank
32
Trevor Lawrence
Jacksonville Jaguars · Rookie

2021 stats: 17 games | 59.6 pct | 3,641 pass yds | 6.0 ypa | 12 pass TD | 17 INT | 334 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 9 fumbles


Lawrence was unable to overcome his brutal surroundings, and the flashes of his elite talent were too rare until his great Week 18 capper. I'm not that worried about Lawrence because he still looked the part of a talented NFL quarterback. The bigger concern is whether the Jaguars and Doug Pederson can get the surroundings right.

Rank
33
Andy Dalton
Chicago Bears · Year 11

2021 stats: 8 games | 63.1 pct | 1,515 pass yds | 6.4 ypa | 8 pass TD | 9 INT | 76 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble


2020 final ranking: 25 | 2019: T-30 | 2018: 17 | 2017: 26 | 2016: 17 | 2015: 6 | 2014: 18 | 2013: 20


Dalton has played roughly 2,000 snaps in the last three years, finishing with a PFF grade between 65 and 70 each season. This is who he is: a high-end backup who will rise and fall based on his teammates and the opponent, same as it ever was. 

Rank
34
Jacoby Brissett
Miami Dolphins · Year 6

2021 stats: 10 games | 62.7 pct | 1,283 pass yds | 5.7 ypa | 5 pass TD | 4 INT | 70 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 6 fumbles


2020 final ranking: N/A | 2019: 27 | 2018: N/A | 2017: 28 | 2016: N/A


The tiniest hill I'm ready to die on is that Brissett's 2021 was much better than the numbers showed. The Dolphins' offensive line made football unplayable. Brissett managed to move the ball, even if it was agonizingly slow. His passing grade on PFF was good for 15th out of 38 qualifiers, just below Patrick Mahomes and two spots ahead of Russell Wilson. I don't always agree with PFF, but seeing this grade made me feel less alone in the world.

Rank
35
Josh Johnson
Baltimore Ravens · Year 7

2021 stats: 10 games | 62.7 pct | 1,283 pass yds | 5.7 ypa | 5 pass TD | 4 INT | 70 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 6 fumbles


2018 final ranking: N/A | 2013: N/A


Watching Johnson play football this season made me angry that he didn't get more opportunities in his career. On a per-snap basis, he made more impressive throws than the rest of the Jets quarterbacks. Then he was put back on the practice squad. He put together his first two 300-yard games despite making only one start! He played clean, aggressive football in his start for the Ravens and finished 13th(!) out of 54 quarterbacks in PFF's grading among quarterbacks with 50 dropbacks. How does a quarterback this talented and heady struggle to find even backup roles for a decade and a half? Johnson deserves better.

Rank
36
Trey Lance
San Francisco 49ers · Rookie

2021 stats: 6 games | 57.7 pct | 603 pass yds | 8.5 ypa | 5 pass TD | 2 INT | 168 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 0 fumbles


Lance warmed up in both of his starts, playing better in the second halves. He ran well and hit more big plays than Jimmy Garoppolo. The perception is that he struggled as a rookie, but the numbers above paint a more nuanced story. I can't help but wonder what the 49ers would have done if he started more games, and I can't wait to see him after another offseason in Kyle Shanahan's system.

Rank
37
Gardner Minshew
Philadelphia Eagles · Year 3

2021 stats: 4 games | 68.3 pct | 439 pass yds | 7.3 ypa | 4 pass TD | 1 INT | 21 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble


2020 final ranking: 34 | 2019: 25


Minshew played almost exactly as expected in two spot starts, lighting up the Jets with short passes and competing well against pressure while playing with backups against the Cowboys starters in Week 18. He's a high-end backup.

Rank
38
Trevor Siemian
New Orleans Saints · Year 6

2021 stats: 6 games | 57.4 pct | 1,154 pass yds | 6.1 ypa | 11 pass TD | 3 INT | 20 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 3 fumbles


2020 final ranking: N/A | 2019: 55 | 2018: N/A | 2017: 31 | 2016: 22 | 2015: N/A


Siemian finished with 200 dropbacks and ended up 25th out of 38 qualifiers in PFF's passing grades, ahead of Baker Mayfield, Jared Goff, Taylor Heinicke and the top two picks in the last year's draft. The magic may run out without Sean Payton, but Siemian's career went from nearly over to "solid backup option" again.

Rank
39
Colt McCoy
Arizona Cardinals · Year 12

2021 stats: 9 games | 74.7 pct | 740 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 3 pass TD | 1 INT | 37 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 4 fumbles


2020 final ranking: T-48 | 2019: 50 | 2018: N/A | 2017: N/A | 2016: N/A | 2015: N/A | 2014: N/A | 2013: N/A


The Cardinals went 2-1 in McCoy's starts, with convincing wins against the Seahawks and 49ers sandwiched around a blowout loss to the Panthers. Football is weird. McCoy proved he can still execute the game plan and play with a lead, even providing a few big plays.

Rank
40
Geno Smith
Seattle Seahawks · Year 9

2021 stats: 5 games | 68.4 pct | 702 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 5 pass TD | 1 INT | 42 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 1 fumble


2020 final ranking: N/A | 2019: N/A | 2018: N/A | 2017: N/A | 2016: N/A | 2015: N/A | 2014: N/A | 2013: 31


Geno's first extended stretch as a starter since 2014 went just fine, with conservative play-calling in tight losses to the Steelers and Saints coming before a near perfect game against the Jaguars. Staying competitive against tough defenses and beating down the bad ones will usually keep a backup quarterback employed for a long time.  

Rank
41
Cam Newton
Carolina Panthers · Year 11

2021 stats: 8 games | 54.8 pct | 684 pass yds | 5.4 ypa | 4 pass TD | 5 INT | 230 rush yds | 5 rush TD | 4 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 32 | 2019: 40 | 2018: 15 | 2017: 16 | 2016: 16 | 2015: 1 | 2014: 14 | 2013: 8


Cam can still run well, but not well enough to make up for an increasingly limited passing profile. He was an emergency pickup, and his only saving grace was that he played a bit better than the guy the Panthers gave up major picks and money for who practiced with the team all offseason.

Rank
42
Sam Darnold
Carolina Panthers · Year 4

2021 stats: 12 games | 59.9 pct | 2,527 pass yds | 6.2 ypa | 9 pass TD | 13 INT | 222 rush yds | 5 rush TD | 9 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 36 | 2019: 26 | 2018: 24


While these rankings aren't a science, a quarterback's average start is a guiding principle. Some weight is given to players who start more games, but there's just no question that Darnold's average 2021 start was below the level of backups like Trevor Siemian, Geno Smith and Andy Dalton. Darnold's struggles with pressure and going through reads have only grown worse during his time as a pro.

Rank
43
Zach Wilson
New York Jets · Rookie

2021 stats: 13 games | 55.6 pct | 2,334 pass yds | 6.1 ypa | 9 pass TD | 11 INT | 185 rush yds | 4 rush TD | 5 fumbles


In nearly half of his starts, Wilson was a primary reason his team wasn't competitive. He improved down the stretch, but most of that improvement came down to one terrific game against the Bucs. He did not throw with consistent confidence, even though his arm is outrageous, and finishing the season with a 7-for-20 performance against the Bills left a sour aftertaste. This is a massive offseason for the former No. 2 overall pick.

Rank
44
Cooper Rush
Dallas Cowboys · Year 4

2021 stats: 5 games | 63.8 pct | 422 pass yds | 8.9 ypa | 3 pass TD | 1 INT | -8 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble


2020 final ranking: N/A | 2019: N/A | 2018: N/A | 2017: N/A


Hard to do much better as a backup than going 1-for-1 in quality starts. Rush pushed the ball down the field in a win over the Vikings to great success and with a bit of good fortune. It weirdly may have been the high point of the Cowboys' season.

Rank
45
Tyrod Taylor
Houston Texans · Year 11

2021 stats: 6 games | 60.7 pct | 966 pass yds | 6.4 ypa | 5 pass TD | 5 INT | 151 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 3 fumbles


2020 final ranking: T-48 | 2019: N/A | 2018: N/A | 2017: 18 | 2016: 18 | 2015: 16 | 2014: N/A | 2013: N/A


Tyrod's star-crossed career continued. He played six sensational quarters, got hurt and struggled when he returned two months later in four mostly ugly starts.

Rank
46
Nick Foles
Chicago Bears · Year 10

2021 stats: 1 game | 68.6 pct | 250 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 1 pass TD | 0 INT | 8 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble


2020 final ranking: 40 | 2019: 39 | 2018: N/A | 2017: N/A | 2016: N/A | 2015: 33 | 2014: 20 | 2013: 9


Nick Foles started one game for the Bears, leading one of the best game-winning drives of the season with an array of improbable throws in a comeback win in Seattle. Don't bury this man yet!

Rank
47
Drew Lock
Denver Broncos · Year 3

2021 stats: 6 games | 60.4 pct | 787 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 2 pass TD | 2 INT | 53 rush yds | 2 rush TD | 2 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 33 | 2019: 29


Lock was better than his stats showed in three late-season starts, avoiding the haywire decisions that plagued his 2020 campaign. He didn't get much help from his receivers or offensive line. If he plays like that moving forward, he can settle in as a quality backup. 

Rank
48
Case Keenum
Cleveland Browns · Year 9

2021 stats: 7 games | 65.3 pct | 462 pass yds | 6.4 ypa | 3 pass TD | 1 INT | 22 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble


2020 final ranking: N/A | 2019: 34 | 2018: 27 | 2017: 14 | 2016: N/A | 2015: N/A | 2014: N/A | 2013: N/A


Keenum helped the Browns win both of his starts, a Thursday night game against the Broncos and a Week 18 start against the Bengals' backups. After both games, I wondered about a door No. 2 where Baker Mayfield was benched for the season because of his shoulder injury, and whether that door would have led the Browns to the playoffs.

Rank
49
Jordan Love
Green Bay Packers · Year 2

2021 stats: 6 games | 58.1 pct | 411 pass yds | 6.6 ypa | 2 pass TD | 3 INT | 27 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 3 fumbles


2020 final ranking: N/A


Between the preseason and 62 regular-season pass attempts, we got a better feel for Love as a pro this year. It was a lot. A lot of wow throws, a lot of misses, a lot of turnover-worthy plays, a lot of confusion and a lot of raw potential. He still looked like a rookie, which isn't the greatest sign.

Rank
50
Mike White
New York Jets · Year 3

2021 stats: 4 games | 66.7 pct | 953 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 5 pass TD | 8 INT | -1 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 0 fumbles


2020 final ranking: N/A | 2019: N/A


Mike Whitemania was one of those weeks that feels like a fever dream in retrospect. An injury on Thursday Night Football against the Colts and a crash landing against a good Bills defense ended the fun, although benching White for Joe Flacco the next week felt harsh. White is now entering his fifth season, and his 400-yard outing against the Bengals could keep him in the league for five more.

Rank
51
Joe Flacco
New York Jets · Year 6

2021 stats: 2 games | 64.3 pct | 338 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 3 pass TD | 0 INT | 3 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble


2020 final ranking: 46 | 2019: 33 | 2018: 26 | 2017: 25 | 2016: 21 | 2015: 18 | 2014: 11 | 2013: 16


It’s depressing that Flacco has a strong case as the best Jets quarterback on a per-start basis in back-to-back years. His lone start in 2021 was professional and one of the best performances we saw against a frenzied Dolphins defense down the stretch.

Rank
52
P.J. Walker
Carolina Panthers · Year 2

2021 stats: 5 games | 54.5 pct | 362 pass yds | 5.5 ypa | 1 pass TD | 3 INT | 13 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 3 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 55


The Matt Rhule Panthers are 2-0 in P.J. Walker starts and 8-23 with anyone else under center. While correlation doesn’t equal causation here, Walker looked far more comfortable in his one start this season (against the Cardinals) than during his handful of relief outings. 


Rank
53
Mason Rudolph
Pittsburgh Steelers · Year 4

2021 stats: 2 games | 60.3 pct | 277 pass yds | 4.8 ypa | 1 pass TD | 1 INT | 53 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 0 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 44 | 2019: T-48 | 2018: N/A


His one start was the 16-16 tie against the Lions, a game I watched to the very end on NFL Game Pass on a Wednesday morning in mid-November just so I could confidently tell you months later that Rudolph wasn’t very good. He threw hot when he needed touch and missed too many open throws for a conservative player. My doubts about whether that morning was time well spent are similar to my doubts about the Steelers seeing Rudolph as an important part of their future.

Rank
54
Tim Boyle
Detroit Lions · Year 4

2021 stats: 5 games | 64.9 pct | 526 pass yds | 5.6 ypa | 3 pass TD | 6 INT | 13 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble


2020 final ranking: N/A | 2019: N/A | 2018: N/A


That famous Boyle arm strength everyone talks about didn’t show up in three steadily improving regular-season starts. Against Atlanta and Seattle, Boyle looked like someone who would stick around for at least a few more years. 

Rank
55
Nick Mullens
Cleveland Browns · Year 4

2021 stats: 1 game | 66.7 pct | 147 pass yds | 4.9 ypa | 1 pass TD | 0 INT | 0 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 0 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 42 | 2019: N/A | 2018: 28


Mullens started against the Raiders for a short-handed Browns squad in a game just before Christmas with major playoff implications. He was up for the challenge, even if the Browns ran an extremely conservative offense. Mullens is the ideal backup quarterback: He’ll give you a shot. 

Rank
56
Garrett Gilbert
Washington Commanders · Year 4

2021 stats: 1 game | 64.5 pct | 194 pass yds | 6.3 ypa | 0 pass TD | 0 INT | 0 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble


2020 final ranking: 51 | 2019: N/A | 2018: N/A


For the second straight year, Gilbert looked better than expected in an emergency start that he had little chance of winning. 

Rank
57
Sean Mannion
Minnesota Vikings · Year 7

2021 stats: 1 game | 64.5 pct | 194 pass yds | 6.3 ypa | 0 pass TD | 0 INT | 0 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble


2020 final ranking: N/A | 2019: 53 | 2018: N/A | 2017: N/A | 2016: N/A | 2015: N/A


There were a lot of surprising starting quarterbacks in crucial prime-time games late in the season, like when Mannion replaced Kirk Cousins on Sunday Night Football in Week 17. Mannion didn’t do that much wrong in the game, but the game was a reminder why Cousins’ market value is more $30 million per year. 

Rank
58
Brandon Allen
Cincinnati Bengals · Year 6

2021 stats: 6 games | 50.0 pct | 149 pass yds | 4.4 ypa | 2 pass TD | 0 INT | -1 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble


2020 final ranking: 47 | 2019: T-48 | 2018: N/A | 2017: N/A | 2016: N/A


Only 31 quarterbacks have started at least one game in each of the last three seasons. Brandon Allen is one of them. 


Rank
59
Ryan Fitzpatrick
Washington Commanders · Year 17

2021 stats: 1 game | 50.0 pct | 13 pass yds | 2.2 ypa | 0 pass TD | 0 INT | 2 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble


2020 final ranking: 21 | 2019: 17 | 2018: N/A | 2017: N/A | 2016: 28 | 2015: 14 | 2014: N/A | 2013: N/A


Fitzpatrick suffered a life-changing hip injury after throwing just six passes in Washington. It’s a huge bummer if his otherwise joyous career ends this way, although it hasn’t changed him too much. Nine teams and 17 seasons after breaking in as a seventh-round pick under Mike Martz in St. Louis, Fitzmagic left a legacy unlike any other quarterback of his generation.  


Rank
60
Mike Glennon
New York Giants · Year 9

2021 stats: 6 games | 53.9 pct | 790 pass yds | 4.7 ypa | 4 pass TD | 10 INT | 33 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 6 fumbles


2020 final ranking: 45 | 2019: N/A | 2018: N/A | 2017: N/A | 2016: N/A | 2015: N/A | 2014: N/A | 2013: 22


Benching Glennon for Jake Fromm made the Giants' offense worse, so there’s that. After 40 starts stretched over eight seasons, Glennon is probably out of opportunities. His teams have won only once in his last 13 starts, dating back to 2017.


Rank
61
Ian Book
New Orleans Saints · Rookie

2021 stats: 1 game | 60.0 pct | 135 pass yds | 6.8 ypa | 0 pass TD | 2 INT | 6 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 0 fumbles.


Book, a fourth-round pick in 2021, recently said he hoped to compete to start for the Saints in 2022. I wouldn’t expect a player to say anything less, and I wouldn’t expect it to happen unless this offseason goes seriously wrong for the Saints.

Rank
62
Jake Fromm
New York Giants · Year 2

2021 stats: 3 games | 45.0 pct | 210 pass yds | 3.5 ypa | 1 pass TD | 3 INT | 65 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 2 fumbles


2020 final ranking: N/A


The Jake Fromm State Farm jokes were tired after a few hours, and then there wasn’t much left to talk about. Fromm may best be remembered as the guy Joe Judge asked to perform a QB sneak from a jumbo formation on third-and-9. 

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