Justifying my QB Tier-Maker Decisions

Hello again everyone! Welcome to our huddle today.
A few days ago, we posted on our homepage, as well as on our Twitter account (@HusseysHuddle), a tier-ranking of the NFL’s current projected starting quarterbacks just before the draft. Some placements may have raised a few eyebrows, which is why today we will briefly explain each selection as well as defining the tiers that we chose. We will start at the top and work down!

Disagree with any of our selections? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Tier 1: Superstars

Quarterbacks in this tier have next to nothing working against them. In today’s NFL these are extraordinary athletes at the peak of their powers, exhibiting qualities that raise the play of their teammates. Further, to be this far up the list a superstar quarterback must have a ounce of “special” in their game.

Patrick Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs

Easiest placement on this list. While Alex Smith had a great career in KC, the Chiefs offense truly has exploded ever since Mahomes took the reigns in 2018. Mahomes exhibits everything a team could dream for in a quarterback, but perhaps what separates him from nearly all his peers is his unmatched instincts. He captured his first Super Bowl title this past season and is just getting started. 

Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks

Wilson was not in this tier early on in his career but continued to improve every single season to reach the top of his profession. Wilson, 31, is still truly a dynamic athlete who is remarkably durable, never missing a start since 2012. Wilson is most importantly a playmaker, constantly displaying excellent decision-making ability.                             

Deshaun Watson Houston Texans                         

In three years with the Texans, Watson has truly defined how invaluable a superstar quarterback can be. He has led the Texans to division titles in both of the past two seasons despite there being more well-run teams in his division. There are many special abilities that stick out about the Texans signal-caller (his trademark improvisations on scrambles), but the most special trait he has displayed over his first three seasons has to be his toughness, on and off the field. Watson has been sacked more than any NFL quarterback over the past two years. 

Lamar Jackson: Baltimore Ravens                       

The NFL’s reigning MVP deserves a spot near the top of our list. Jackson has truly transformed a Ravens franchise that has been mostly known for their defensive prowess throughout their history. What separates Jackson from the quarterbacks in the next tier is simply his one-of-a-kind athleticism that makes the Ravens offense arguably the most unique in the NFL to defend. His talent creates space for other members on the Ravens offense to shine. 

Tier 2: Franchise Guys                                              

Franchise quarterbacks are the model of consistency. They are everything the superstar exhibits with the exception of some dynamic element that we discussed in the tier above.  Either that, or there is some weakness in their game that takes their overall value down a notch. Still, franchise quarterbacks are capable of winning Super Bowls in any given season if they are surrounded by sound supporting casts.  

Aaron Rodgers: Green Bay Packers                     

The placement of Rodgers might be controversial to some, given that he has arguably been the best regular season quarterback over the past decade. However, in recent years when watching Packers games it is evident that he does not elevate his teammates with the same consistency that he used to. While his numbers might blow many away–particularly his shiny TD-INT ratio–it is evident that Rodgers has been more reluctant to take risks that he used to be able to take with ease. Despite this, Rodgers is still fantastic, coming off another Pro-Bowl season while leading the Packers to the NFC Championship game. He is at the very top of the franchise quarterback tier. 

Drew Brees: New Orleans Saints                          

Brees was injured for a six game stretch this past season but returned with a bang late in the regular season, throwing for 27 touchdowns despite his prolonged absence. What keeps Brees from the top of this exercise is the limitations that have been best illustrated at the end of each of his past two seasons. In 2018, his play tailed off in the last month of the season, throwing for 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions across 4 games. This past season, the drop-off did not take place until the Saints wildcard game against the Vikings, where the Saints were arguably more effective when gadget player Taysom Hill entered the game. Ultimately, what holds Brees back just slightly is his declining arm strength on passes traveling deep down the field. 

Tom Brady Tampa Bay Buccaneers                       

Tough to find a place to place Brady, given his 2019 swan-song with the Patriots. The GOAT has been the model of consistency and greatness during his time in the NFL, constantly elevating teammates that average quarterbacks simply wouldn’t. However, last season might have showed a few cracks in the armour, as Brady, who had a skeleton crew at skill positions, couldn’t elevate teammates to the same degree we have been used to. It is to be expected, given that Brady is now 43. Now the legend finds himself on a loaded roster in Tampa Bay where we will get a better of idea of where his current abilities rest. Given the ever-increasing importance of mobility at the quarterback position, Brady is lagging behind the pack, yet has always made up for it before with quick, accurate decisions. We will see if it is enough as the quarterback changes area codes. 

Matt Ryan: Atlanta Falcons                                     

Ryan, a former NFL MVP, has been a model NFL franchise quarterback ever since being drafted in 2008 by the Falcons. While not the most physically talented player in terms of arm strength or mobility, he has always been able to produce year-in and year-out due to above average field awareness and accuracy. The only slight on Ryan is that his team success during his career has come in peaks and valleys, dependent on the talent level around him. Atlanta faces a crucial year in 2020 and will need Ryan to play at his best. 

Carson Wentz: Philadelphia Eagles                    

Might be controversial to put the Eagles passer this high, but in the estimation of this sports writer he has earned it. Wentz’ talent just pops off the screen when watching Eagles games. Even when he is having an off game, it is evidenced in the way he moves that all the potential in the world is there for him to become a superstar quarterback, with his rare combination of size, arm strength and escapability from the pocket. Wentz likely would have captured the 2017 MVP award had he not torn his ACL in the third to last week of that season, while this past season he carried the worst group of receivers in the league to a division title. What keeps Wentz at the franchise guy tier is the lack of certainty regarding his health, and the consistent play that comes from a player remaining healthy. We will know much more about Wentz after a 2020 season that the Eagles appear well positioned for in the NFC East. 

Jimmy Garoppolo: San Francisco 49ers              

I took some heat on Twitter for putting Jimmy G too high, but given what was on display last season it is justified. The 49ers with Garoppolo under-center jumped from 2 wins in 2018 to 13 in 2019, marking one of the largest turn-arounds in NFL history. Garoppolo was the missing ingredient, returning after missing 2018 with a torn ACL. While falling in the Super Bowl and having some questionable decisions at times, it is important to remember that this was the quarterback’s first full season as a QB1. What raised him above others below him on this list was his performance during the high-stakes duel with Drew Brees and the Saints at the Superdome last season, where he came into his own, throwing 349 yards and 4 touchdowns in a crucial win for the Niners. 

Kyler Murray: Arizona Cardinals                          

Admittedly, this may be a bit of a projection given that Murray just finished his rookie season. Still, its unquestionable what he displayed in his first season with the Cardinals, proving Arizona correct for showing former QB Josh Rosen the door after one year. Speaking of Rosen, a comparison of just how poorly his lone season went in the dessert and how Murray’s debut went really illustrates what type of player the former #1 pick can become. He displays great touch on his passes, while also having elite athletic traits. When watching him this past season, I saw flashes of Russell Wilson in Kyler’s game, with his ability to scramble, making the defense uncomfortable while also having the awareness to avoid big hits. Given the small sample size he cannot be put any higher but from what I’ve seen he has clearly shown more special qualities than those in the below tiers. 

Ben Roethlisberger: Pittsburgh Steelers            

Hard to find a spot for Big Ben, who missed nearly all of last season with a torn ligament in his throwing elbow. Now 38 coming off a major injury, it is fair to wonder his place in the current NFL landscape. To his credit, the last time he was healthy he threw for over 5000 yards and 34 touchdowns in 2018. Putting him in the franchise guy tier made the most sense given his superb track record as the Steelers starter, but it is anyone’s guess how much the injury will hinder his throwing ability. 

Tier 3: Average but Consistent                               

This group of quarterbacks are guys you can win plenty of games with, but have displayed a clear ceiling throughout their career. Much of their success is dependent on having a great supporting roster to reach their highs, but due to the stability they bring to their teams they will rarely sink too low in any given year. While others in the “inconsistent” tier may actually have more natural talent, it is more important in the NFL today to have consistency at the quarterback position. 

Kirk Cousins: Minnesota Vikings                          

Cousins is one of the more scrutinized players in football and it is hard not too see why. By and large he has been a very productive passer throughout his time in Washington and Minnesota, and even has made the Pro-Bowl twice, including last season. Still, Kirk has built up a reputation as a player that simply has not played his best with the spotlight on, as evidenced by his 0-9 All-Time record as a starter on Monday Night Football. Cousins however is a guy that could potentially jump a tier with a strong performance in 2020 as he builds off a strong overall season this year where he led the Vikings to a playoff victory in the Wildcard Round. Still, today he ranks near the top of our third tier of quarterbacks. 

Matthew Stafford: Detroit Lions                          

Stafford is the most talented of this tier in terms of physical ability. The former #1 pick all the way back in 2009 has been with Detroit for over ten seasons but has been haunted by many of the same ghosts as Cousins. Stafford has led the Lions to the playoffs on three occasions, but has been dealt an immediate exit each time. While he hasn’t always had the best supporting players, when you have the talent that the Lions QB has, you eventually expect some sort of breakthrough that simply just hasn’t occurred year after year. Stafford is undoubtedly a good starting NFL quarterback but rarely has he shown the consistency in big games to prove he is a great one. One concerning aspect going forward for Stafford is his health, with an ailing back injury casting a shadow over his recent seasons. 

Dak Prescott: Dallas Cowboys                                

Prescott is a hot topic of debate among NFL fans, and coming off his best statistical season only adds to the debate. How good is he? Well, in my view, a very high-floor, lower-ceiling NFL quarterback. Dak’s best ability is his availability, never missing a start since being drafted by Dallas. However, he never quite elevates the players around him to the extent that others in the above tiers do. Nothing about Prescott’s game stands out, though he does everything at a roughly average NFL level. One problem that some use against him is that he has a great supporting cast, including one of the best offensive lines in football. Inevitably, it is reasonable for the Cowboys to expect more from a talented roster and it really speaks volumes as to why the team has been reluctant to give Prescott the security of a long-term contract.

Jared Goff: Los Angeles Rams                                

Let’s just start by saying that Goff gets plenty of disrespect in NFL fan circles for a guy that started in the Super Bowl just over a year ago. Now, let’s unfortunately feed that narrative. While Goff has been extremely productive at times with the Rams, it becomes glaringly obvious when he is outmatched in a game. A moment that sticks out when thinking about Goff is a game during his strong 2018 season where he encountered the Chicago Bears and completed less than 50% of his passes and threw four interceptions. In that game, the running game was completely taken away from him forcing him to lead the offense on his own. Whenever the Rams have asked Goff to do this, he has usually struggled. Last season, when the Rams running game was at its worst, Goff was at his worst, which raise red flags. Further, though Goff does have good accuracy, he is a player that requires premium pass-protection in order to be successful due to his limited mobility. All this is to say that Goff is a good NFL quarterback but he needs significant surrounding help in order to succeed (like other players remaining on this list). 

Derek Carr: Las Vegas Raiders                              

Though he hasn’t reached the heights of appearing in a Super Bowl, Carr has plenty in common with Goff. He has good accuracy, generally makes good decisions, but has significant limitations, such as his mobility. Carr is also one of the more cautious throwers in the league, often opting for check-down throws instead of pushing it down the field. He is by no means a bad quarterback, but he simply struggles to standout from the pack skill-set wise and doesn’t have the track record of success that players in the other tiers have displayed. 

Teddy Bridgewater: Carolina Panthers              

A lot of unknown here for the position of Bridgewater, who hasn’t been a full-time starter since 2015. He filled in remarkably for Drew Brees this past season in New Orleans, going undefeated in 6 starts. Bridgewater has always been very accurate, boasting a career 65% completion percentage but has never thrown touchdowns in large volume or been much of a threat as a runner. He is the prototypical high-floor quarterback that a team can rely on for consistent but not spectacular production. I’m excited for his opportunity as the distributor in the Panthers offense. 

Ryan Tannehill: Tennessee Titans                       

Oh the classic contract year performance. Tannehill was a revelation coming in for a benched Marcus Mariota last season, having a career season in leading the Titans on a strong playoff run. Tannehill showed off his sneaky athleticism along with an unexpected willingness to toss it deep that was illustrated in his 9.6 yards an attempt. It made all the sense in the world to bring him back to Nashville, with the Titans rewarding him with a hefty 4-year contract. Now, one must wonder if Tannehill, a long-term average NFL starter, can maintain the production from his breakout season. One big question that is looming: will Tannehill be able to play at this level if RB Derrick Henry has a dip in production next season? Under the increased weight of a new contract, Tannehill will be pressed to duplicate his success. Ultimately, last year was so much of an outlier that I cannot justify putting him in tier 2. 

Tier 4: Inconsistent                                                   

It is unbelievable the talent level we see today from the quarterback position in the NFL. Some of the most talented players, such as some in this tier, have elite talent but never can piece it together on a game-to-game, season-to-season basis. Players in this tier are here for a few different reasons. One is that most have fatal flaws that they have yet to get under control. The second reason is that we just haven’t had enough of a sample size yet, and the evidence we do have so far is simply mixed. Still, many of these guys have the requisite talent to win games in the NFL but do not have the consistency that NFL teams crave. Let’s briefly talk about strengths and weaknesses of all in this tier. 

Phillip Rivers: Indianapolis Colts                         

It was difficult to put Rivers in this spot, but he played his way into this tier last season. Rivers, 38, has long been one of the quality starters in the NFL but in recent years his flaws have unfortunately been exposed. Rivers still completes a great percentage of passes, is durable as they come and brings a competitive edginess to the field. On the other hand, he has often displayed reckless decision-making (20 interceptions in 2019), and is a complete statue in the pocket. The Colts are hoping to get the best side of Rivers in 2020, but will need to delicately build an offense around his strengths to be successful. 

Josh Allen: Buffalo Bills                                            

It is easy to see why the Bills brass has invested so much around Allen given his strong arm and freakish athleticism. He even led the Bills to a playoff appearance last season. However, his flaws hold him back. Allen has struggled to throw the ball with consistent accuracy from one game to the next, while also often being careless with the football, best illustrated by his 16 fumbles in 2019. 

Baker Mayfield: Cleveland Browns                      

Two different experiences the last two seasons for Mayfield, who captured the Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2018 before falling back to earth this past season. When at his best, he is an extremely confident and accurate thrower of the football. Yet as the case with other members of his own 2018 Draft class, he has struggled with turnovers and finished second in the NFL last season with 21 interceptions. He also is not the most athletic player, which puts more onus on the aspects that are supposed to be his strengths. He has plenty to prove in his third year in the league. 

Sam Darnold: New York Jets                                  

Darnold has likewise shown tremendous promise during his first two seasons but has yet to put it all together. The Jets organization has largely done Darnold no favours in regards to his development with a poor offensive line and no true established receiving threats. Still, he has performed admirably leading the Jets to multiple victories down the stretch last season. Darnold needs to cut down on his few high-risk throws a game to significantly improve his consistency and move up this chart. 

Daniel Jones: New York Giants                            

Even the most adamant of Jones haters must have been pretty impressed with how he performed during his rookie season, tossing 24 touchdowns in 13 games. He displayed much better pocket presence and field vision than many expected. However, the reason why he finds himself down here on the list for now are: (1) lack of sample size, and (2) his evident fumbling issue. In fact, Jones led the NFL in fumbles with 18 to go along with his 12 interceptions. To improve he must learn, like many young quarterbacks, the value of taking care of the football. Though I will say that I have more faith in Jones doing so than any other player in this tier. 

Drew Lock: Denver Broncos                                  

There is simply not nearly enough NFL evidence to evaluate Lock at this point, having started only 5 games. He did look very competent during those starts and led his team to victory in four of them. Lock’s strengths coming out of Missouri mostly centered around his top-grade arm talent with weaknesses scouts pointed to including his footwork and his decision-making. He should be an interesting case study this upcoming season as Denver appears to be a dark horse pick for many analysts. 

Ryan Fitzpatrick: Miami Dolphins                        

Fitzpatrick is infamous for the amount of NFL teams he has started for, so at this point it is safe to say he isn’t anyone’s franchise quarterback. He is, however a spark plug, and has shown this in various stops across his career. He actually played one of the very best seasons last season in Miami, throwing for 20 touchdowns and over 3500 yards with a non-existent running game. He is a likely candidate to be replaced by a young signal-caller in the draft but he is a capable back-up that Miami will certainly hold onto for next season.

Gardner Minshew: Jacksonville Jaguars            

Things began pretty well for the 6th Round pick in last year’s draft, coming in for an injured Nick Foles and throwing 9 touchdowns against only 1 interception in his first five NFL games. Then things began to unravel in Jacksonville with drama surrounding CB Jalen Ramsey and others around the team, casting a shadow over Minshew’s surprisingly strong season. He has aspects to work on, such as his ball security (13 total fumbles last season) or consistency in accuracy but my bigger concern for the sophomore is the environment around him. Jacksonville appears heading for a full-scale tear down after trading away many key contributors and Minshew might not have much left to work with when the dust settles for this upcoming season. Time will tell where he falls on this list going forward. 

Dwayne Haskins: Washington Redskins             

Haskins was appearing like a flat-out bust through his first few starts, but turned it on during the last month of the season. To be fair, one can’t hold it against Haskins, who clearly needed seasoning after starting for one year at Ohio State. Haskins will need to improve upon his pocket awareness and footwork if he is to succeed with his lack of foot speed. Overall, like Jones, Lock and Minshew, it is far too early to make any sort of evaluation on Haskins.  

Tier 5: Awaiting Replacement/Back-up               

We’ve seen many of these players start games in the NFL and we simply know that they just are not up to snuff when it comes to being an everyday starter. Most of these players are either waiting for draft day to be replaced or their existing team has brought in competition for them. There are often more of these quarterbacks in the NFL but not right now due to the sheer number of young quarterbacks present in the league today. 

Mitchell Trubisky: Chicago Bears                          

Unlike all the younger quarterbacks in the above tier, Trubisky has started plenty of games to give us a pretty clear idea of what we have as a quarterback. Though he had a decent second NFL season, Trubisky regressed significantly last year. The Bears have struggled to generate easy offense when he has been under-center, having to scheme up every yard and throw. Trubisky may become a solid back-up somewhere in the NFL but just doesn’t appear to have the instincts to be a full-time starter. The Bears brought in veteran Nick Foles in a trade this offseason, as Trubisky will attempt to make his last stand in Chicago. 

Andy Dalton: Cincinnati Bengals                           

More of a procedural selection, as the Bengals are soon to replace Dalton with assumed #1 overall pick Joe Burrow at the end of the month. Dalton ends a very respectable run as the Bengals lead-man, as he led Cincinnati to five straight playoff appearances from 2011 to 2015. However, his time with the Bengals will probably be best remembered for never getting past the Wildcard round. At his best he would have been a high-end tier 3 quarterback on this list but he has tailed off significantly the past two seasons. I would expect the Bengals to keep him around next season as a back-up. 

Tyrod Taylor: Los Angeles Chargers                     

As of right now, Taylor is slated to start for the Chargers, who many expect to take a quarterback in this month’s draft. Taylor has plenty of starting experience from his time with the Bills, where he effectively managed the offense for three seasons. Unfortunately, what became evident about Taylor during his time in Buffalo was that he had a very low-ceiling. His biggest flaw is also his biggest strength: he doesn’t take risks. While coaches have a comfort level with him since he won’t give the game away with turnovers, he also rarely takes the chances on tight-window, high-difficulty throws required to be an upper-tier starter in the league. At worst, Taylor is an elite back-up in the NFL and will likely have a long career doing so if he chooses. 

Brian Hoyer: New England Patriots                     

I was not about to find a spot for Jarrett Stidham after only 4 NFL passes, so we will evaluate Hoyer, whom New England brought back in Free Agency this offseason. This is Hoyer’s third go-round with the Patriots, having served as Tom Brady’s back-up on two previous occasions. This time, Hoyer will reportedly be battling Stidham for the starting position. Do not be surprised if Patriots Coach Bill Belichick opts to begin the season with the veteran, who has managed to stick around the league despite obvious limitations in his game. Hoyer turned in perhaps one of the worst playoff performances I have ever seen in the 2015 Wildcard round against the Kansas City Chiefs,  while a member of Texans. No team has trusted him to be their full-time starter since, signalling he is best deployed in a back-up, mentor role.