Few people will argue that the quarterback position is not only the most important position on the football field, but perhaps the most singularly important position in all of sports. In the NFL, a team is only as good as their quarterback, and their future is totally predicated on how far their quarterback can lead them.
That?s what led us to rank all the starting quarterbacks at the end of Week 12 of the 2017 NFL season, from worst to first:
32. Deshone Kizer, Cleveland Browns ? It?s not Deshone Kizer?s fault that he was the ?consolation prize? for the Cleveland Browns, after they (inexplicably) traded out of the opportunity to draft Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson in successive years. It?s also not his fault that the Browns decided to draft Kizer and start him right away, despite the fact that the strong-armed Kizer was still more of a ?thrower? than a ?passer,? and needed years of development before he was truly ready to start in a meaningful NFL game. Unsurprisingly, Kizer has the worst passer rating of any quarterback on this list, has the lowest completion percentage of any starting quarterback in the NFL right now, and has thrown more interceptions than any quarterback in the league.
31. Brock Osweiler, Denver Broncos ? There?s a reason why former NFL General Manager Michael Lombardi continues to refer to Brock Osweiler as ?the heist? ? it?s because over the last season-and-a-half, he isn?t worth anything close to the $16 million per year average that he was once signed to, by the Houston Texans. Houston saw enough of Osweiler that they decided to dump him after just one year. After a cup of coffee in Cleveland, Osweiler returned to Denver, where he?s continued to stink up any joint he plays in. He?s thrown four interceptions in his last three games, and finished with a quarterback rating (QBR) of less than 28 in two of those three games. Unsurprisingly, the Broncos lost by 25 or more points in two of those three games as well.
30. Brett Hundley, Green Bay Packers ? When the Green Bay Packers drafted Brett Hundley in the 2015 NFL Draft, he was basically put in the best situation for someone in his situation. The athletic quarterback out of UCLA was still raw and needed time to develop, which led to him dropping to the 5th round of the draft. That gave him time to learn behind the great Aaron Rodgers, biding time until he was ready to start. But when Rodgers went down with a season-ending broken collarbone injury this season, Hundley came in and looked even worse than many rookies have. His 5.95 yards per attempt this year is the second lowest among all starting quarterbacks, as is his 63.3 passer rating. His 153 yards passing per game is the worst in the NFL.
29. C.J. Beathard, San Francisco 49ers ? While many teams in the 2017 NFL Draft saw C.J. Beathard from the University of Iowa as a late-round developmental prospect, the San Francisco 49ers though enough of him to where they traded up in the 3rd round to go get him. After inserting him into the starting lineup midway through the 49ers? week 6 game against the Washington Redskins, Beathard has had his ups-and-downs, as expected for any mid-round rookie starting in the NFL. In four starts this year, he?s thrown five interceptions, and has a QBR of just over 35. However, the one thing going for him is that he led the 49ers to their first win of the year.
28. Mitch Trubisky, Chicago Bears ? The Chicago Bears shocked fans, and a whole lot of NFL teams, when they moved up to the #2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft to select quarterback Mitchell Trubisky from the University of North Carolina. Trubisky was a streaky gunslinger with above-average arm strength, who played in a spread offense in Chapel Hill; in other words, he was going to need plenty of time to adjust to the NFL game. But the Bears ended Trubisky?s ?redshirt? season after Mike Glennon played horribly as the team?s starting quarterback. Trubisky hasn?t necessarily been that bad this year, but that?s because the Bears aren?t asking him to do very much. In six games this year, he has only four touchdown passes, and averages only 165 yards passing per game, which is the 3rd lowest average in the NFL.
27. Blaine Gabbert, Arizona Cardinals ? We all know that Blaine Gabbert is going to go down as one of the biggest busts in recent NFL Draft memory, after being taken with a top 10 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft (one pick ahead of J.J. Watt). But Gabbert has still managed to carve out an NFL career for himself as a journeyman backup quarterback. As the third-string guy in Arizona, he?s now the starter for the Cardinals, after the team lost Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton to long-term injuries. He threw for three touchdowns ? along with two interceptions ? in his lone start this year, against the Houston Texans.
26. Joe Flacco, Baltmore Ravens ? The Baltimore Ravens have a 5?5 record through 10 games this year, but almost none of their five wins this year have anything to do with the performance of Joe Flacco. If he?s not the worst non-rookie full-time starting quarterback in the NFL, we?d be hard pressed to determine who?s worse than him. In 10 games this year, he?s thrown for more than 250 yards only once, and he?s thrown an interception in seven of those 10 games this year. He has more interceptions thrown (11) than games played this year overall. Given how much the Ravens are paying him, he?s easily the most overpaid ? and overrated ? NFL quarterback this year.
25. Matt Moore, Miami Dolphins ? Perennial backup quarterback Matt Moore took over as the starter for the Miami Dolphins after Jay Cutler sustained a concussion in the Dolphins win against the New York Jets. But while many Dolphins fans hoped that Moore would jumpstart an offense that had badly stalled under Moore, he actually took the offense and made it worse. Moore looked awful against the Ravens, throwing for 176 yards and two interceptions ? both pick-sixes. While he did play well the following week against Tampa Bay?s porous secondary, it still wasn?t good enough to lead the Dolphins to a win against their cross-state rival.
24. Tom Savage, Houston Texans ? Tom Savage hasn?t exactly had a season that any other quarterback would envy. After he entered the 2017 offseason as the incumbent starter for the Houston Texans quarterback position, his team went out and drafted quarterback Deshaun Watson in the 2017 NFL Draft. After Savage emerged from the preseason as the starting quarterback, he was eventually benched for Watson, and the latter went on to explode for one of the most exciting rookie seasons by a quarterback ever. Then, Watson suffered a season-ending ACL tear, and Savage will bear the blame if the Texans miss the playoffs this season.
23. Eli Manning, New York Giants ? There?s no two ways about it: the sun is setting on the career of the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback. In 2017, Manning is on pace to finish with his second-worst passer rating and quarterback rating since 2007, and he?s already tied his career-high in fumbles just 11 games into the season. More importantly, he?s been as big a factor in the 1?10 record that his Giants are sporting as any, regardless of what his receiver situation may be. We might be getting to the point where the Giants will play rookie quarterback Davis Webb, to determine what the future of the team is at quarterback ? without Manning.
22. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ? Ryan Fitzpatrick is that quarterback who is stuck between being too good to be just a backup quarterback, but not really good enough to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. Although after his performance in 2016, it?s debatable as to whether we should think he?s good backup quarterback as well. He finished with a passer rating of 69.6 and a quarterback rating of 37.9, both of which were his worst since his rookie season. His 17 interceptions ? in only 14 games ? was not only the second-highest total of his career, but the third-highest toal in the NFL last season.
21. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars ? Don?t let the Jaguars? winning record fool you: they?re winning games in spite of the performance of Blake Bortles. In fact, in three of Jacksonville?s first five games this season, Bortles registered quaterback ratings of less than 58 in three of those games. He?s even thrown less touchdown passes than Aaron Rodgers, who hasn?t played in game since mid-October. Bortles is on pace to throw for the lowest interception total of his career, but it?s doubtful that he?s ever going to look like the quarterback who threw for 4,400+ yards and 35 touchdowns in 2015. That season was just a mirage.
20. Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis Colts ? Honestly, the fact that Jacoby Brissett is this high up on the list is noteworthy. We?re talking about a guy who was acquired by the Indianapolis Colts only days before the start of the 2017?2018 NFL season, and was tasked with replacing starter Andrew Luck at quarterback, while playing behind one of the most depleted offensive lines in the NFL. Brissett has absolutely had his share of struggles this season, but as the year has gone on, and as he?s gotten more experience (2016 was just his rookie year), he?s had moments where he looks like he belongs in this league.
19. Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills ? Despite the fact that the Buffalo Bills have gone 5?4 in the games that Tyrod Taylor has started at quarterback for them (after an offseason where they basically jettisoned Taylor?s entire pass-catching staff), the Bills decided to bench Taylor in favor of rookie Nathan Peterman for Taylor. That moved turned out to be such a disaster ? in the form of a 54?24 thrashing by the Los Angeles Chargers ? that the Bills went right back to Taylor for the next game. Still, it looks like Taylor and the Bills are likely to part ways after the 2017?2018 season is over this January.
18. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals ? Through the early parts of the season, it looked like Andy Dalton?s time in Cincinnati was coming to a close, and that it was just a matter of time before the Bengals parted ways with him during the offseason. Cincinnati had started the season with an 0?2 record, and couldn?t score a touchdown. But since Bill Lazor took over as offensive coordinator of the Bengals, in place of the fired Ken Zampese, Andy Dalton?s 16 passing touchdowns rank fifth in the NFL. The problem is, he?s still too in love with his checkdown passes; his 216 yards passing per game is good for 24th among all quarterbacks.
17. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers ? We might look back at Cam Newton?s MVP year of 2015 as something of a blip in the Matrix. After throwing 35 touchdown passes that year, over his next 25 games (between 2016 to the present), he has thrown only 34 touchdown passes. He threw only 10 interceptions in 16 games in 2015, and has now thrown 25 interceptions over the next 25 games. Whether it?s a function of Newton getting older, or a toll of all the hits he?s taken over the course of his career, he?s one of those guys who simply plays better than his stat line would indicate. He?s still one of those guys that opposing defenders and defensive coordinators hate going against, because of his combination of size and arm strength.
16. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders ? There might not be a more disappointing player on this list than Derek Carr. After signing an enormous contract extension in the offseason, Carr has come in and visibly regressed from his performance in 2016. Oakland?s passing offense has fallen out of the top 10 in the NFL, despite the fact that he has one of the very best duo?s at wide receiver in the league, and is playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL as well. Carr himself is currently on pace to throw a career-high 14 interceptions, and finish with the worst passer rating since his rookie season.
15. Josh McCown, New York Jets ? Josh McCown was simply supposed to be the veteran starter who could bide time for the New York Jets, before they could make a final determiation as to what quarterbacks they had on their roster, and perhaps what quarterbacks they need to look for in the 2018 NFL Draft. But a funny thing happened along the way: thanks to the help of offensive coordinator John Morton, McCown is having more than a serviceable season this year, helping put the Jets at a 4?6 record through 10 games. He has the same number of touchdown passes as Derek Carr, and averages more yards passing per game than Carr.
14. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys ? Dak Prescott is the NFL?s ?chicken or the egg? quarterback: have the Dallas Cowboys been playing so well because Prescott so seamlessly took over the reigns from the now-retired Tony Romo? Or is it because the rest of the team is so good that Prescott can coast off the talents of others. Right now, there?s plenty of arguments to be made for the latter, as without running back Ezekiel Eliott and left tackle Tyron Smith, Prescott has looked overwhelmed and stressed, when he?s not running around trying to protect himself on the field.
13. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans ? Marcus Mariota is one of the more confusing ? if not frustrating ? young quarterback prospects in the NFL, because he seems to be running in quicksand. In 2016, he battled injuries, and certainly advanced the trajectory of his career thanks to his 26 touchdown passes and 95.6 passer rating. But in 2017, he?s been dealing with nagging injuries, and has only thrown eight touchdown passes in nine games (versus 10 interceptions in that same span). His current passer rating for 79.9 for this year is well below the standard he set during the first two years of his career.
12. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams ? A year ago, we were already writing off Jared Goff as a draft bust, despite the fact that he was finishing up only one year in the NFL, and playing for a totally inept coaching staff. Now, with a brand new coaching staff led by wunderkind Sean McVay, Goff looks like a totally different quarterback, leading the NFC West-leading Rams. After throwing for only 1,089 yards in seven games as a rookie, Goff is on pace to throw for over 4,100 yards in his second year. While he still has a fair amount of development still needed, his career trajectory has undergone a total 180 since this time last year.
11. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs ? After his Kansas City Chiefs started out the season winning six of their first eight games, Alex Smith was firmly in the discussion for the early-season MVP race. In fact, through the first eight games of this year, Smith had thrown 16 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. And he was doing so with perhaps the worst group of wide receivers in the NFL. But Smith will always have to fight the stigma of being a game manager who lives on checkdowns versus higher-risk throws, regardless of the fact that his 8.03 yards per attempt this season is the 6th highest in the NFL (and a career-high for him).
10. Case Keenum, Minnesota Vikings ? Amazingly enough, not only Case Keenum go from a guy destined to be a career journeyman backup quarterback to one of the best starting quarterbacks in the NFL this season, but he did so by replacing his team?s starter and maybe even making them better. After the Vikings lost quaterback Sam Bradford to a season-ending knee injury, Keenum stepped in to the position and led Minnesota to seven-straight wins as the starter. Since the first day of October, Keenum has thrown for 11 touchdowns and five interceptions, averaging 245 yards passing per game. Those aren?t sexy numbers, and they belie just how well Keenum has played for Minnesota.
9. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers ? It?s fair to wonder if Ben Roethlisberger is getting a boost by virtue of his stacked receiving corps and solid offensive line. Over the past year or two, Roethlisberger has shown flashes of losing his fastball, and doesn?t quite seem like the same quarterback we?re used to seeing. Still, he?s leading a Steelers team that?s won eight of its first 10 games, and is still ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in passing yards per game. However, Roethlisberger is on pace to throw for 25 touchdown passes, which would be his lowest total for any season he?s played 15 or more games over the past 10+ years.
8. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons ? For anyone who thinks that offensive coordinators don?t really make a difference in how a quarterback performs, take a good look at what happened to Matt Ryan. He?s still a really godo quarterback, but he isn?t putting up anywhere near the same production now that Kyle Shanahan left Atlanta to take the head coaching position in San Francisco. Needless to say, Steve Sarkisian is not Kyle Shanahan. After averaging 309 yards passing per game last year, Ryan is averaging 256 yards per game, and is on pace to throw for 24 touchdown passes this year, compared to the 38 touchdowns he threw last year.
7. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions ? Matt Stafford has been one of the most productive passers of the last decade, but doesn?t get credit for being one of the truly elite quarterbacks in the NFL because he has yet to win a playoff game over the course of his career. But after throwing for 4,327 yards (good for 6th in the NFL) and 24 touchdowns last season, Stafford is on pace to throw for 4,378 yards and over 30 touchdowns this year. Entering Week 12 of the NFL season, only Carson Wentz, Tom Brady, and Russell Wilson has thrown more touchdown passes than Stafford. The question for Stafford will remain whether he can lead his team to a postseason victory.
6. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers ? After the Los Angeles Chargers started out the season with an 0?4 record, we all began wondering if the sun was setting on the career of quarterback Philip Rivers. But since that losing streak, the Chargers have gone 5?2, and Rivers has thrown 14 touchdown passes and only three interceptions over those seven games. During their Thanksgiving Day beatdown of the Dallas Cowboys, Rivers threw for 434 yards and three touchdowns, completing a ridiculous 81.8% of his passes. He?s currently seventh in the NFL at 268 yards passing per game, and should be one of the three quarterbacks to represent the AFC in the Pro Bowl after the season is over.
5. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins ? Kirk Cousins is another guy who many people view as an ?empty stats? player, because the Redskins have yet to win a playoff game with him under center, and because they seem to have a penchant for blowing games that they should win. But in 2017, Kirk Cousins is on pace to become just the eighth player to pass for 25 touchdowns, 4,100 yards, and 15 or less interceptions in three straight years. The only players who have done that are Dan Marino, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Matt Stafford, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady. Plus, he?s doing all of that after losing two 1,000 yard receivers in free agency this past offseason.
4. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints ? Don?t let the fact that the New Orleans Saints have become a more ?ground and pound? team, behind a duo of stud running backs and a young and ferocious defense, fool you into thinking that Drew Brees is anything close to washed up. If you want any evidence to the contrary, look at how he helped guide the Saints to a 15-point comeback win against the Washington Redskins in Week 11, with less than three minutes left in the game. Brees likely won?t finish the year with the most passing attempts in the NFL, which will break his streak of over a decade in leading in that category, but he?s still fourth in the NFL in average passing yards per game (278).
3. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks ? You could make the argument that no team in the NFL would be worse off if you remove their quarterback than the Seattle Seahawks. There might not be a quarterback in the NFL that singlehandedly puts the offense on his shoulders and makes it run like Wilson. Not only was Wilson third in the NFL in touchdown passes (21) entering Week 12 of the regular season, but he was second in the NFL in total touchdowns from the quarterback position (25). He?s also fifth in the NFL in total yards thrown this season; he?s on pace to throw for a career-high 4,481 yards.
2. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles ? If you were building a football team from scratch, and could choose any quarterback under 25 years old to be your new team?s cornerstone, there?s no question that Carson Wentz should ? or would ? be your top pick. Wentz has the size and strength of a young Ben Roethlisberger, and the ability to make throws when plays break down of Aaron Rodgers. If it weren?t for the guy who?s #1 on this list, Wentz would be the runaway MVP for the 2017 season, having led the Philadelphia Eagles to a 9?1 record through 10 games, and given the fact that he?s leading the NFL with 25 touchdown passes.
1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots ? To borrow from the great Ric Flair: ?to be man, you gotta BEAT the man.? Even though the New England Patriots look like they have one of their more vulnerable squads in comparison to years past, they?re still the presumptive favorites to win their conference, but also the Super Bowl. And, as always, Brady is the engine that powers this New England Patriots team. Entering Week 12 of the season, Brady leads the league in passing yards (3,147), average passing yards per game (315), and yards per attempt (8.28); he?s also 2nd in the NFL in touchdown passes (22). At 40 years old, he?s still as good as ever, showing little signs of slowing down. That?s why he?s the greatest of all time.
Originally written as a freelance opportunity for TheSportsDrop.com