The NFL is a quarterback-driven league and those drivers of the offensive explosion have never been better. The league has a current great balance between established elite QBs and young superstars with dazzling dual-threat skill sets.
That’s why it remains a fun but also challenging exercise for The Sporting News to rank the starting quarterbacks in the NFL again in 2022.
The rules are the same: Past performance carries good weight, but there’s more of an emphasis on upside and projections for the upcoming season. Looking to the near future, here’s looking forward to more than half the league having special talent at the most important position.
While the haves at quarterbacks are loaded, the have-nots have some work to do to get their passer/runner to be considered in the upper echelon. Based on projected starters for ’22, here’s how TSN stacks them up against each other, 1-32:
NFL POWER RANKINGS: Bills look Super Bowl-serious at top; 49ers, Broncos, Eagles on the rise
Allen didn’t have the most efficient passing numbers by most metrics last season, but the jaw-dropping eye test says he has become the position’s most dominant all-around force with his big arm and powerful athleticism. He is still putting it all together at age 26 and there’s every good reason for him to be the new NFL MVP favorite.
2021 key stats: 4,407 passing yards, 36 passing TDs, 15 INTs, 92.2 passer rating, 63.3 completion percentage, 60.7 ESPN QBR, 6.8 yards per attempt, 763 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs
Going into his Age 27 season, Mahomes’ production and performance floor remains a dream ceiling for most of his contemporaries. He’s adjusting to passing life without Tyreek Hill along with a change in his coaching staff, but he’s right in his prime to carry his pass-first offense in a different way.
2021 key stats: 4,839 passing yards, 37 passing TDs, 13 INTs, 98.5 passer rating, 66.3 completion percentage, 62.2 ESPN QBR, 7.4 yards per attempt, 381 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs
Rodgers, who turns 39 in December, is a model of super-efficiency after winning NFL MVP back-to-back for the first time in his career. He has brilliantly settled into Matt LaFleur’s RPO offense. Rodgers will be undergoing another big adjustment without Davante Adams and with another remixed receiving corps but expect the typical elite play.
2021 key stats: 4,115 passing yards, 37 passing TDs, 4 INTs, 111.9 passer rating, 68.9 completion percentage, 69.1 ESPN QBR, 7.8 yards per attempt, 101 rushing yards, 3 rushing TDs
Brady has lived up to his promise to play through 45 after his brief retirement, realizing he has at least one more special season left in Tampa Bay with which to chase a final Super Bowl ring. He will do it without Bruce Arians, Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown, adjusting to big receiving corps changes and missing center Ryan Jensen. Brady has been a more prolific GOAT in the end, defying age better than anyone else in NFL history.
2021 key stats: 5,316 passing yards, 43 passing TDs, 12 INTs, 102.1 passer rating, 67.5 completion percentage, 68.1 ESPN QBR, 7.4 yards per attempt
Herbert’s first two fantastic seasons have set a new standard for complete young quarterbacks. He’s an accurate and adept aggressive downfield passer while using the right dash of incredible size and athleticism. Like Allen, Herbert has a fair chance to win his first MVP soon and join Mahomes, Rodgers and Brady in that exclusive club. Herbert is set up for a monster Year 3 in the second year of the same offense, this time with big team success attached to it.
2021 key stats: 5,014 passing yards, 38 passing TDs, 15 INTs, 97.7 passer rating, 65.9 completion percentage, 65.6 ESPN QBR, 7.5 yards per attempt, 302 rushing yards, 3 rushing TDs
Burrow made everyone forget about the torn ACL that cut short his rookie season by delivering on his No. 1 overall pedigree in Year 2, boosted by reuniting with go-to wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. He was unleashed in the downfield passing game and showed the top-flight arm, accuracy, toughness and intangibles, all the way through much of the Super Bowl.
2021 key stats: 4,611 passing yards, 34 passing TDs, 14 INTs, 108.3 passer rating, 70.4 completion percentage, 54.3 ESPN QBR, 8.9 yards per attempt, 118 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs
Prescott came back well from his own devastating 2020 injury to live up to his contract extension. He has gotten into a complete groove with Kellen Moore’s offense and the Cowboys have adjusted the personnel around him to play even better to his strengths. Dak gives Dallas a Super Bowl-worthy passer; it just needs more from the rest of the team to get there.
2021 key stats: 4,449 passing yards, 37 passing TDs, 10 INTs, 104.2 passer rating, 68.8 completion percentage, 54.6 ESPN QBR, 7.5 yards per attempt, 146 rushing yards, rushing TD
Wilson will turn 34 in November as he meets the challenges of playing out of Seattle for the first time in his career. Wilson handled his first true injury adversity well and remained efficient in line with his career consistency. His age and the newness of the situation may not bring the same upside, but he definitely gives the Broncos an all-around boost at the position they haven’t had in a long time.
2021 key stats (with Seahawks): 3,113 passing yards, 25 passing TDs, 6 INTs, 103.1 passer rating, 64.8 completion percentage, 54.7 ESPN QBR, 7.8 yards per attempt, 183 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs
Jackson took some lumps as a passer while missing five games last season. B=but there were some concerns around him with the offensive line and traditional running game. The Ravens also made sure to remix the receiving corps to tailor better to him. Jackson looks better and healthier than he has in couple of seasons and should perform more like the MVP he was in 2019 as he plays for his second contract. The rushing is always there. The passing is set up to be a top asset again.
2021 key stats: 2,882 passing yards, 16 passing TDs, 13 INTs, 87.0 passer rating, 64.4 completions, 50.7 ESPN QBR, 7.5 yards per attempt, 767 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs
Stafford proved to be perfect fit for Sean McVay’s downfield passing game, providing a big arm and execution upgrade over Jared Goff. He tapped into his usual prolific self, balancing out tying for the league lead in interceptions. At 34 with his first Super Bowl ring, he is on the right team to rack up more needed accolades. That can help him make a late Hall of Fame push
2021 key stats: 4,886 passing yards, 41 passing TDs, 17 INTs, 102.9 passer rating, 67.2 completion percentage, 63.8 ESPN QBR, 8.1 yards per attempt
Watson sat out all of the 2021 season with the Texans with the cloud of off-field concerns hovering over him, which led to his six-game suspension (for now) while rebooting his career in Cleveland. When looking at where he was last saw him on the field, the numbers had started to put him in “the best young QB in the league” conversation. There’s no question he can be as great as anyone if he can put it all together again after a long layoff on a new team.
2020 key stats: 4,823 passing yards, 33 passing TDs, 7 INTs, 112.4 passer rating, 70.2 completion percentage, 63.7 ESPN QBR, 8.9 yards per attempt, 444 rushing yards, 3 rushing TDs
Carr cooled off a bit after his two most efficient NFL seasons with offensive skill injuries and line shakiness taking away from his support. He should feel rejuvenated playing with college go-to guy Davante Adams to add to his weapons and benefit from a more dynamic system under new coach Josh McDaniels. It can add up to Carr’s best play coming at 31.
2021 key stats: 4,804 passing yards, 23 passing TDs, 14 INTs, 94.0 passer rating, 68.4 completion percentage, 52.4 ESPN QBR, 7.7 yards per attempt
Murray worked on being more pass-efficient and much less run-dependent in his third season and it was met with mixed results. He still is one of the most dangerous all-around QBs and his confident mind-set should motivate him to live up his contract. But not having DeAndre Hopkins for a significant stretch will hurt, much like it did in 2021, with some skepticism over the Marquise Brown reunion.
2021 key stats: 3,787 passing yards, 24 passing TDs, 10 INTs, 100.6 passer rating, 69.2 completion percentage, 57.3 ESPN QBR, 7.9 yards per attempt, 423 rushing yards, 5 rushing TDs
Cousins benefits from one of the better receiving corps fueled by Justin Jefferson, a great supporting rushing attack with Dalvin Cook and an improving offensive line. He also now gets a more innovative offensive-minded head coach in Kevin O’Connell. He remains in a favorable position to get more out of big arm and has reached an efficient plateau, but that still caps him in the middle with limited big-game results.
2021 key stats: 4,221 passing yards, 33 passing TDs, 7 INTs, 103.1 passer rating, 66.3 completion percentage, 52.3 ESPN QBR, 7.5 yards per attempt
Hurts still has plenty of room to grow as a passer and needs to do it soon for him to get complete trust as Philadelphia’s now and future franchise QB. The Eagles should get back to opening up the passing game with new top wideout A.J. Brown after leaning heavily on the run last season. Hurts’ big year in that latter capacity was key in leading them to the playoffs.
2021 key stats: 3,144 passing yards, 16 passing TDs, 9 INTs, 87.2 passer rating, 61.3 completion percentage, 48.5 ESPN QBR, 7.3 yards per attempt, 784 rushing yards, 10 rushing TDs
There’s a wide range out of outcomes for the promising second-year QB in replacing Jimmy Garoppolo as the full-time starter, but it’s difficult not to lean super positive. Lance’s natural arm and athletic skill set is off the charts and profiles well with prototypical size. He also is in a friendly offense with a reliable traditional running game, sturdy line and versatile weaponry under Kyle Shanahan. The only question is inexperience at 22 and just how developed Lance can prove to be in short order.
2021 key stats: 603 passing yards, 5 passing TDs, 2 INTs, 97.3 passer rating, 67.7 completion percentage, 33.4 ESPN QBR, 8.5 yards per attempt
Ryan was far removed from his 2016 NFL MVP level in his final season in Atlanta. He showed some decline in arm strength and the efficiency wasn’t there with limited all-around support. He needed a welcome change of scenery and got it at 37. The Colts were thrilled to get him for their run-heavy offense to raise their talented young receiving corps. The vibes with Frank Reich and Marcus Bradley have been great so watch out for a significant rebound.
2021 key stats (with Falcons): 3,968 passing yards, 20 passing TDs, 12 INTs, 90.4 passer rating, 67.0 completion percentage, 46.1 ESPN QBR, 7.1 yards per attempt
Winston has gotten some worthy buzz for Comeback Player of the Year coming off suffering his major knee injury (torn ACL). He made the successful transition to efficient passer with good work under Sean Payton and without Payton, has been treated as the unquestioned successor for Drew Brees (for now). The Saints worked to keep their offensive line intact and raised the big-play quotient in their receiving corps with Chris Olave joining Michael Thomas. Winston has the support to have a nice second career and he’s still only 28.
2021 key stats: 1,170 passing yards, 14 passing TDs, 3 INTs, 102.8 passer rating, 59.0 completion percentage, 64.4 ESPN QBR, 7.2 yards per attempt
Tannehill was the ideal passer to rev up the play-action game with his arm and athleticism playing well off Derrick Henry’s dominant power running. Although Tannehiill continued to do some good running of his own, he lost his way with Henry missing a good chunk of 2021. He might have hit his ceiling as a dependent QB and at 34 after more playoff disappointment, there might be a transition to seeing what Malik Willis can do soon in Tennessee.
2021 key stats: 3,734 passing yards, 21 passing TDs, 14 INTs, 89.6 passer rating, 67.2 completion percentage, 55.9 ESPN QBR, 7.0 yards per attempt, 270 rushing yards, 7 rushing TDs
Jones has receiving high praise from Bill Belichick for good reason: He “did his job” well enough as a rookie while trying to grasp a complex, diverse offense to lead the team into the playoffs. His gritty, cerebral young leadership draws worthy parallels to a young Brady playing off the defense and running game. The big stats might be limited for a while, but there’s no question New England has found its new long-term answer.
2021 key stats: 3,801 passing yards, 22 passing TDs, 13 INTs, 92.5 passer rating, 67.6 completion percentage, 50.9 ESPN QBR, 7.3 yards per attempt
At a glance, Wentz’s lone season in Indianapolis didn’t seem terrible, but where he let the team down (and what was a developing issue in Philadelphia) was trying to do much and not playing contained when needed within the offensive system. For the Commanders to get the best out of him, they need to have some leeway for that while getting him refocused to better use his big arm in the downfield passing game. Locking up Terry McLaurin and drafting Jahan Dotson are big means toward that end.
2021 key stats (with Colts): 3,563 passing yards, 27 passing TDs, 7 INTs, 94.6 passer rating, 62.4 completion percentage, 54.7 ESPN QBR, 6.9 yards per attempt, 215 rushing yards, TD
It’s not an exaggeration to say Tagovailoa is facing a make-or-break third season in the NFL in terms of being healthy and efficient and showing the upside tied to his first-round pedigree. He’s far behind 2020 draft mates Herbert and Burrow in all capacities. Tagovailoa must take advantage of a superior system with new offensive-minded coach Mike McDaniel, improved weapons (Chase Edmonds, Tyreek HIll, Cedrick Wilson) and better pass protection. He should be set up for a successful around but falling flat would say he’s not the right franchise QB.
2021 key stats: 2,653 passing yards, 16 passing TDs, 10 INTs, 90.1 passer rating, 49.7 ESPN QBR, 6.8 yards per attempt, 128 rushing yards, 3 rushing TDs
Fields had a rough rookie season with no good plan for him under offensive-minded coach Matt Nagy. That is changing quickly with new play-caller Luke Gentry, who brings some helpful RPO concepts from LaFleur and the rival Packers. Fields will get more chances to put together his arm and athleticism, as being given more freedom to run will also help his passing growth.
2021 key stats: 1,870 passing yards, 7 passing TDs, 10 INTs, 73.2 passer rating, 58.9 completion percentage, 26.4 ESPN QBR, 6.9 yards per attempt, 420 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs
Lance and Tagovailoa are getting buzz for operating in similar QB-friendly systems, but Wilson has some of the same benefits to make the most of his arm and athleticism, too. The Jets upgraded Wilson’s offensive line, wide receivers and tight ends more to the liking of coordinator Mike LaFleur. Wilson can start to develop into the flat-out dynamic playmaker with great confidence and full health in Year 2.
2021 key stats: 2,334 passing yards, 9 passing TDs, 11 INTs, 69.7 passer rating, 55.6 completion percentage, 28.2 ESPN QBR, 6.1 yards per attempt, 185 rushing yards, 4 rushing TDs
Lawrence, like Fields, can flush away his rookie season with a dysfunctional coaching staff featuring questionable offensive plans. Doug Pederson and Press Taylor can get him on track to take advantage of his immense physical skills as the weaponry and concepts have much better potential. A more complete passing game and a dedication to the running game are much improved Year 2 support systems for Lawrence.
2021 key stats: 3,153 passing yards, 12 passing TDs, 17 INTs, 71.9 passer rating, 59.6 completion percentage, 33.5 ESPN QBR, 6.0 yards per attempt, 334 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs.
Mayfield missed three games last season but the severity of his shoulder injury suggested he played a lot when he shouldn’t have. Parlaying into ineffective play, that spiraled into the Browns wanting to part ways and upgrade with Watson. The Carolina system doesn’t inspire all that much as the 2018 No. 1 overall pick tries to get back on track, but at least it offers some familiar concepts under Ben McAdoo.
2021 key stats (with Browns): 3,010 passing yards, 17 passing TDs, 13 INTs, 83.1 passer rating, 60.5 completion percentage, 35.1 ESPN QBR, 7.2 yards per attempt, 134 rushing yards, rushing TD
Goff dealt with a difficult displacement from the Super Bowl champion-bound Rams to replace Stafford in Detroit. He wasn’t that much different of a QB away from McVay, but it’s clear his ceiling has been hit and remains low with limited arm strength. He has one more below-average bridge year left despite a strong supporting cast.
2021 key stats 3,245 passing yards, 19 passing TDs, 8 INTs, 91.5 passer rating, 67.2 completion percentage, 39.5 ESPN QBR, 6.6 yards per attempt
Trubisky has a loose hold on the starting job as the veteran newcomer vs. rookie first-rounder Kenny Pickett and holdover backup Mason Rudolph. He used his time behind Allen in Buffalo well to get rebooted away from Nagy and Chicago. But despite his big arm and other good natural physical skills, there are still big questions about his accuracy and decision-making, tied some to skittishness in the pocket. He may not be long for his second No. 1 shot.
2020 key stats (with Bears): 2,055 passing yards, 16 passing TDs, 8 INTs, 93.5 passer rating, 67.0 completion percentage, 53.8 ESPN QBR, 6.9 yards per attempt, 195 rushing yards, TD
Mariota is hoping he will have a Winston-like rebound as a high 2015 draft pick while also getting a surprise new starting gig in the NFC South. He’s still only 28 and even though his last season in Tennessee was rough in being replaced by Tannehill, he put in some good work behind Carr for two seasons in Las Vegas. He does have good history with coach Arthur Smith, but he still feels like a bridge for rookie Desmond Ridder, who has more upside with his similar passing and rushing skill set.
“Danny Dimes” is running out of time to convince Big Blue he’s the franchise QB they still hope he can be. The mishmash of rushing and passing became a mess in the Pat Shurmur and Joe Judge eras. The Giants have provided him with the ideal offensive braintrust of Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka, known for working with Allen and Mahomes. Jones also could use some consistent support from healthy, deepder receivers, a healthy Saquon Barkley and a better line. Otherwise, the Giants will quickly move on from the 2019 No. 6 overall pick.
2021 key stats: 2,428 passing yards, 10 passing TDs, 7 INTs, 84.8 passer rating, 64.3 completion percentage, 41.5 ESPN QBR, 6.7 yards per attempt, 298 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs
Mills was an unexpected rookie starter in the wake of the Watson drama in Houston. He flashed a big arm in several games but was erratic and inefficient while not having all that much support beyond wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Although the Texans might have some feeling he can be the franchise answer, the reality is he feels more lame duck in 2022.
2021 key stats: 2,664 passing yards, 18 passing TDs, 10 INTs, 88.8 passer rating, 66.8 completion percentage, 35.5 ESPN QBR, 6.8 yards per attempt
This is assuming Lock can still beat out Geno Smith in Seattle after not beating out Teddy Bridgewater in Denver last season. Lock’s calling card has been a cannon arm, but there hasn’t been much in terms of accuracy, decision-making and confidence to go with it. Lock is a shaky young bridge at best, ready to take.a lot more lumps on his second team as the Seahawks also table franchise QB in 2022.
2021 key stats (with Broncos): 787 passing yards, 2 passing TDs, 2 INTs, 80.4 passer rating, 60.4 completion percentage, 23.4 ESPN QBR, 7.1 yards per attempt
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