Everyone and their mother has a list ranking NFL quarterbacks. For the record, my mom loves Peyton Manning.
So, here's a list with a twist. We're ranking the divisions based on their collection of QBs, from best to worst. One other important detail that needs to be stressed: While history serves as a backdrop, this ranking is based on my projections for these signal-callers in 2019.
It's rather interesting to look back at last year's version of this list. The quarterback position is stronger than ever in many ways, thanks in part to the emergence of young stars. In other ways, it's become akin to a closer in baseball -- there seems to be more performance variance year to year than ever. What will Jimmy Garoppolo look like in 2019? Jared Goff? Cam Newton? Josh Allen? There are new coordinators, new coaches and new systems. It all adds up to tons of excitement!
Last year after perusing my list, NFL Media colleague and former Colts great Reggie Wayne suggested on NFL Network that I might have been distracted by binge-watching a TV show when I was asked to put the rankings together. Let the record show I did return to watching "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" after I finalized this year's edition.
NOTE: Quarterbacks listings within each division are presented alphabetically by team. I picked the QB for each club based on whom I expect to make the biggest mark on the season.
1) AFC WEST
This is the only division that features two of the league's five best quarterbacks (Mahomes and Rivers). Mahomes is majestic, and last year's MVP season (5,097 yards and 50 TD passes!) was just the beginning for him. He's a flat-out superstar. Rivers is still playing like a Hall of Famer at 37 years old. I think Carr is going to thrive in his second season with Jon Gruden. With massive upgrades to his weaponry -- he'll be throwing to trade acquisition Antonio Brown and free-agent signee Tyrell Williams, and now he has the top back in this year's draft, Josh Jacobs, running the ball for him -- I'm expecting big things from him in 2019. Flacco holds the last rung in this division, but he is a former Super Bowl MVP and has a chance for a career renaissance in Denver. Mahomes and Rivers carry this division to the top, though.
2) NFC WEST
This group came close to being No. 1 on the list. Wilson was rightly rewarded for his greatness this offseason. He elevates the play of everyone around him, and now he's the league's highest-paid player. Goff was an MVP candidate for the first few months of last season. Not so much after that, but the throws in New Orleans during crunch time of the NFC Championship Game remind me of how great he can be under Sean McVay. I'm still drinking the Jimmy G Kool-Aid, especially with offensive mastermind Kyle Shanahan calling the shots. If Garoppolo, coming off the ACL tear that ended his 2018 season in Week 3, is healthy, the Niners are going to surprise a lot of people. Good news: The health reports on his knee coming out of OTAs this week were positive. Murray is going to sizzle in Kliff Kingsbury's offense with his Patrick Mahomes-like arm talent. There is excellent depth among the starters in this division.
3) NFC NORTH
The Aaron Rodgers "I can be coached" tour is going to be real and spectacular. Count on it. He's healthy, and I expect his union with first-year head coach Matt LaFleur will help him remind everyone that he's still one of the best in the game. Trubisky has made major progress in his first two seasons, and he'll take another step forward in his second season working with offensive whiz Matt Nagy. I feel like Cousins and Stafford fall somewhere in the range of eight to 16 in the QB rankings each year. There will be many moments of genius, and moments that leave you shaking your head, for both.
4) AFC NORTH
While the Freddie Kitchens promotion to head coach feels like a shotgun marriage, there's no doubt that Mayfield is a young star. Baker thrived under Kitchens when he took over as offensive coordinator at the midway point last season, and I expect Mayfield to flourish even more now that Odell Beckham Jr. has been paired with his old LSU running mate, Jarvis Landry, in the Cleveland receiving corps. Mayfield is plenty accurate, and he has the "it" factor that can be so hard to find. I think he'll have an MVP-caliber season while leading Cleveland to the playoffs. Big Ben still hasn't stopped talking about Antonio Brown, and he's going to miss his former go-to guy on game days. Ben is still great, although he's down a tick from his Hall of Fame-caliber play. I am a believer in Jackson as a winner and runner, and I expect him to improve as a passer. First-round pick Hollywood Brown will help him, especially if Jackson does indeed show some growth as a thrower. Prediction: First-year Bengals head coach Zac Taylor will help Andy Dalton have the best season of his career.
5) AFC EAST
Brady, he of six championship rings, is the GOAT and continues to do GOAT things. He gives this division a big lift, but I'm a big fan of the second-year quarterbacks in this group. I get that these youngsters have a ton to prove, so, yes, I'm going out on a limb here by placing them ahead of a much more accomplished group in the NFC South. As for those super sophomores, Darnold has everything you want in a big-time quarterback. Adam Gase is the right guy to help him realize his potential, and the addition of Le'Veon Bell is a huge deal for his development. I'm already on the record with my prediction that Allen and the Bills will break through in 2019. I loved how Buffalo supported him in free agency with help at receiver and on the offensive line. Yes, Allen's cannon arm is the truth. It's wild to see Rosen joining 2018 draft classmates Darnold and Allen in this division, too. The talent around the former Cardinal is weak right now, but I'm still a big believer in his skill set.
6) NFC SOUTH
I know, I know. You're probably wondering why a group with two former MVPs (Ryan and Newton) and an all-time great (Brees) isn't higher on the list, but hear me out. Winston is one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL, with a knack for throwing the ball to the other team. Newton is a great player when healthy, but his arm strength and accuracy were diminished in the second half of last season, and now he's coming off of his second shoulder surgery in less than two years. Newton says he feels great, but Carolina's selection of former West Virginia QB Will Grier in Round 3 of this year's draft was smart and telling, as the team clearly felt a need to add better insurance. Now, I love Ryan. I also like seeing Dirk Koetter back calling plays for Atlanta, as he did from 2012 to '14; the Falcons' offense ranked in the league's top eight in two of those three seasons. Bolstering the offensive line with two first-rounders in the draft? I love that, too! Drew Brees is still playing like Drew Brees, even as Sean Payton smartly leans on the running game. However, the questions about Newton and my doubts about Winston drag this division down a bit.
7) AFC SOUTH
Luck proved last season that he's all the way back from his shoulder woes. He's an MVP candidate heading into 2019. I'm high on Watson, too, as he enters his third season. He has a knack for the moment. Here's hoping he gets the pass protection he needs (sacked a league-high 62 times last season). Foles is a major upgrade at the position for the Jags in both tangibles and intangibles. I know he's better than Blake Bortles, but am I allowed to wonder if the Foles magic will last for a full season now that he's tasked with performing from Day 1 instead of stepping in down the stretch? I'm still waiting for Mariota to even out his play. It's make-or-break time for the former No. 2 overall pick, whose rookie contract is due to expire after the season.
8) NFC EAST
It was an absolute no-brainer to put the NFC East at the bottom of the list. Eli hasn't performed to the standard of a legit starting NFL quarterback in years, and in no universe was Daniel Jones worthy of the sixth overall pick in the draft. I think Haskins is going to be great one day. The talented rookie from Ohio State could use some time to develop, but I won't be surprised if he beats out Case Keenum for the starting job before the season, because Keenum is still Keenum (more so the guy we saw in Denver than the one in Minnesota). Wentz oozes talent, but he needs to prove he can stay healthy. When my guy Dak, who has yet to join the upper echelon of signal-callers, enters as the surest bet in the division, well, you can see why the East comes in last.