Ranking the 2018 Quarterbacks from 1 to 50

By Jason Lisk

Now that the NFL Draft is over and free agency is done, we have a good idea of what the quarterback situation will be like for each team. So here at the Big Lead, we used a group effort to rank the quarterbacks for 1-50 for the upcoming season, considering everyone on a roster plus free agents. Eight writers submitted their individual rankings and these are the composite results (and yes, there were plenty of differences of opinion–the individual rankings are below).

These rankings are for 2018 only, taking into account whatever the individual wanted to consider, from health, past production, age, teammates, and system. So these are not projections of the next 3-5 years.

All the commentary is mine, but the rankings are a collaboration.

-Jason Lisk

#1 Aaron Rodgers

Are we collectively too generous with Aaron Rodgers? We saw how much of a difference he made last year when the Packers had to play without him. He will turn 35 years old this year and is coming off a season where he missed 9 games. If he plays the full 16, he is the best in the game.

#2 Tom Brady

Still going strong at age 41. Older quarterbacks have fallen off a cliff suddenly, but it’s foolhardy to bet against Tom Brady.

#3 Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson led the NFL in touchdown passes last year and was the primary weapon on the ground with a struggling Seattle running game. He may have to do just as much this year, and is turning 30, an age when plenty of quarterbacks have made a leap.

#4 Drew Brees

For the first time since 2010, Drew Brees averaged less than 300 passing yards a game, and his 23 passing touchdowns were his lowest since 2003. Still, he was highly efficient and led the NFL in completions, while the team relied on its rejuvenated running game with Alvin Kamara more. I was the lowest on Brees accounting for his age, and the potential for decline we’ve seen at this same point with many Hall of Famers, but he is still one of the best.

#5 Matt Ryan

Just one year removed from winning league MVP, Matt Ryan is still only 33 and capable of another big year in 2018 in an offense that should be among the league’s best.

#6 Carson Wentz

How will the recovery from the knee injury go? Carson Wentz was an MVP candidate in just his second year in the league a year ago, and his health may determine if he can duplicate those numbers for the defending champs in 2018.

#7 Jimmy Garoppolo

We are collectively bullish on Jimmy Garoppolo despite less than 10 career starts, as he was inside the top 10 in all but one ranking. He’s got a career yards per attempt of 8.3 on 272 career passes, and his teams are 7-0 in games he has started.

#8 Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger is suddenly rejuvenated and wants to play 3-5 more years. It doesn’t hurt getting to play with Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Juju Smith-Schuster and a great line.

#9 Philip Rivers

Philip Rivers continues to get it done, and the franchise move did not impact his production. He’s now 6th all-time in passing touchdowns.

#10 Matthew Stafford

Matthew Stafford has led the NFL the last two seasons in game winning drives, and has kept the Lions in playoff contention both years. He’s turning 30 and seems to be entering his prime. Can he make a leap like Matt Ryan did two years ago?

#11 Derek Carr

Derek Carr regressed last year after a 2016 season that saw Oakland reach the playoffs. His connection with Jon Gruden and whether he progresses will likely determine how he is viewed gong forward.

#12 Cam Newton

#13 Kirk Cousins

Kirk Cousins couldn’t get paid in Washington, so now he gets to throw to Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen in Minnesota. Cousins has been over 7.5 yards per attempt in each of his three full seasons as a starter.

#14 Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson took the league by storm before tearing his ACL, throwing 19 touchdown passes in 7 games. If he can rebound and be fully healthy by opening day, he should exceed this ranking.

#15 Jared Goff

#16 Andrew Luck

My colleagues are far more confident in Andrew Luck returning fully healthy than I am. No doubt that if you guaranteed his healthy return he would be higher on this list, but he still hadn’t thrown a football in April, more than 15 months after he last played in an NFL game.

#17 Dak Prescott

Dak Prescott regressed in 2017, and will have some new receivers this year. We’ll get to see whether the truth is closer to 2016 or somewhere in between how things went a year ago.

#18 Marcus Mariota

#19 Alex Smith

Alex Smith is now in Washington, after producing career-best numbers of 8.0 yards per attempt and 26 touchdown passes. Can he come close to duplicating that success again?

#20 Jameis Winston

My colleagues were far more down on Jameis Winston than I, with four having him outside the Top 20. He’s still only 24 and averaged 7.9 yards per attempt while the Bucs finished 2nd in passing first downs in 2017.

#21 Patrick Mahomes

I think Patrick Mahomes will hit the ground running and was impressive both in the preseason and in his one start a year ago, and the Chiefs’ coaching staff had enough confidence to trade away Alex Smith. Four of our writers had him outside the Top 25. A year ago, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz were not thought of the same way they are now. We’ll see who’s right on one of the most divisive picks this year.

#22 Case Keenum

Case Keenum had his career year last year coming off the bench in Minnesota. Can he follow it up now that he has been paid and moved to Denver?

#23 Nick Foles

Last year’s starting quarterback in the Super Bowl gets into our top 25 this year. He’ll provide a solid option if Carson Wentz isn’t healthy to start the year, and will get his chance to start again sooner or later.

#24 Eli Manning

Will Eli Manning rebound in 2018 with the return of Odell Beckham and the addition of Saquon Barkley? Our panel is divided on how much he has left.

#25 Mitchell Trubisky

Mitchell Trubisky did not put up great stats as a rookie, but the Bears’ receivers were decimated a year ago. They’ve upgraded to an offensive-minded coach in Matt Nagy and added receiving weapons, and we’ll see if Trubisky can break out like Goff and Wentz a year ago.

#26 Josh Rosen

Rosen edges out Darnold as the rookie with the highest expectation for success in year 1.

#27 Sam Darnold

Darnold gets rated ahead of Josh McCown by our group, but will probably start the year behind him.

#28 Blake Bortles

Disrespect or realism when it comes to Blake Bortles? He had a bounce back year and the Jaguars reached the AFC Championship Game a year ago.

#29 Andy Dalton

The Bengals did not add any competition for Dalton, who averaged the lowest net yards per attempt of his career last season.

#30 Tyrod Taylor

Tyrod Taylor gives the Browns a veteran option to start if they want to bring Baker Mayfield along slowly.

#31 Joe Flacco

Joe Flacco averaged 5.7 yards per attempt a year ago at age 32, and has not been over 7.0 yards per attempt since 2014. There’s a reason they drafted Lamar Jackson.

#32 Baker Mayfield

Mayfield will try to justify to the #1 overall pick status in Cleveland, but may not have to start right away.

The Rest:

#33 Sam Bradford – he’s the man in front of Rosen in Arizona at the moment, but health has been a big issue. No guarantee he comes back and is able to play.

#34 Ryan Tannehill – he’ll try to rebound after missing 2017 season, and turns 30 in August.

#35 Josh McCown – he was pretty good a year ago for the Jets, before getting hurt. Can lightning strike twice?

#36 Jacoby Brissett – Brissett has his flaws but cemented his status as a top backup last year playing for Indianapolis after a late trade. That season likely earned him a decade earning checks as a top backup and occasional starter in the league.

#37 Brian Hoyer – Hoyer’s probably one of the better veteran backup options out there.

#38 Teddy Bridgewater – can he come back from the gruesome knee injury? It would be great to see.

#39 Colin Kaepernick – yes, he makes our list as one of the 50 best, even though it’s doubtful he is back in the NFL.

#40 Lamar Jackson – Lamar Jackson could play a role off the bench as a versatile passer and runner with a package of plays, and it’s not impossible that he takes over if Flacco struggles.

#41 Josh Allen – is Josh Allen ready to play? We’ve heard that he’s raw and will need to learn to harness his talent.

#42 A.J. McCarron – The Bills may be starting McCarron, but he doesn’t get much of a vote of confidence from our panel.

#43 Jay Cutler – Cutler could still serve as a high level backup or emergency starter, but he’s probably done this time around.

#44 Ryan Fitzpatrick – Fitzpatrick is still a competent backup, and did a decent job for three games in Tampa a year ago.

#45 Matt Cassel – Cassel turns 36 this month, and the last time he started a game where he averaged over 6 yards a pass and threw a touchdown pass was in November 2015, seven starts and nearly three years ago. But his name is synonymous with backup at this point.

#46 DeShone Kizer – Kizer wasn’t ready and really struggled in Cleveland last year, but he’s still only 22 and could use some seasoning behind Aaron Rodgers.

#47 Brett Hundley – the Packers fan did not have Hundley in his top 50. Listen to him.

#48 Trevor Siemian – Siemian was miscast as a starter in Denver, but has averaged 6.8 yards per attempt and thrown more touchdowns than interceptions, which makes him an above average backup.

#49 Mason Rudolph – Rudolph will get to play if Ben Roethlisberger gets hurt. There are worse situations to move into.

#50 Chad Henne – Chad Henne’s career yards per attempt is 5.8 and he hasn’t completed a NFL regular season pass in three years, but he’s a quintessential backup.

Here were the individual ballots: