- Football is back!
- To celebrate, we ranked every starting quarterback in the league heading into the 2019 season.
- Breaking the list into tiers ranging from “elevated backups” to “dynasty quarterbacks,” it’s easy to get a sense of the current state of the position and where the future might lead.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
It’s possible there’s no position in sports is more important to a team’s success than that of an NFL quarterback.
A great quarterback can elevate an average team to Super Bowl champions, while a middling performance from an average quarterback can doom their teammates, regardless of how strong their supporting cast may be.
This year, the quarterback position is as intriguing as ever, with nearly all 32 teams starting a player they have faith in, from proven veterans playing out their final seasons, to up and coming young players looking to have a breakthrough year like Patrick Mahomes had through 2018.
Below we’ve ranked the quarterback of every team in the league heading into the 2019 season. We took into account things like age, situation, and past performance, but the most weight was given to one simple question: which player would you be happiest to have leading your team through the year?
Our list is broken into tiers to give you a better idea of where exactly every player falls.
Tier 8: Elevated backups
Members: Jacoby Brissett, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum
Why they’re here: Only three teams in the league had legitimate questions surrounding who would be the starting quarterback heading into the season. These are the players that won the job.
32. Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis Colts
Primary backup: Brian Hoyer
2019 outlook: After the shocking retirement of Andrew Luck, backup Jacoby Brissett will step into the starting role for the Indianapolis Colts this season. Brissett first took the reins for the Colts during the 2017 season which Luck missed due to injury, and lead the team to a disappointing 4-12 record.
While he’s undoubtedly improved in the past few seasons, he’ll have big shoes to fill in Luck’s absence and will have to fight through a crowded AFC South field to contend for a spot in the postseason.
31. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami Dolphins
Primary backup: Josh Rosen
2019 outlook: Ryan Fitzpatrick has once again found a starting job, this year with the Miami Dolphins. Fitzpatrick wowed the NFL world with his “Fitzmagic” games to start the year with the Buccaneers, but then the magic faded when Jameis Winston returned from suspension.
Fitzpatrick is one of the best backups in the league and has proven his ability to fill in as a starting quarterback well. However, he is hardly a long-term solution to the Dolphins’ woes at the position. That role will either be filled by Josh Rosen or whichever player the Dolphins select with what is expected to be an early first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
30. Case Keenum, Washington Redskins
Primary backup: Dwayne Haskins
2019 outlook: The Washington Redskins had a brutal stretch of quarterback luck in 2018, losing both Alex Smith and Colt McCoy to devastating injuries and leaving the team rudder-less. This year, newly-signed Case Keenum will begin the season under centre, with rookie Dwayne Haskins waiting in the wings to take over when the time is right.
Keenum proved his ability to step up as a quarterback in 2017 when he led the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship before falling to the Eagles. Unfortunately for him, his supporting cast in Washington is far less impressive than that which surrounded him during that career year.
Tier 7: Nearing the end
Members: Eli Manning, Joe Flacco
Why they’re here: Two players that are notably past their prime. While they still might have some good football left in them, it’s unclear how much longer they will be the top man on the depth chart.
29. Eli Manning, New York Giants
Primary backup: Daniel Jones
2019 outlook: According to New York Giants owner John Mara, Eli Manning starting all 16 games this year would be “ideal.”
The career-Giant brought two Super Bowl rings to the franchise, but he hasn’t played well the past two seasons. The solid performance of rookie Daniel Jones through the preseason has some wondering if the changing of the guard will happen sooner rather than later.
Manning will have the starting job to start the season, but should the team get off to a similarly rough start as they did in 2018, Jones might step in for the second half of the year.
28. Joe Flacco, Denver Broncos
Primary backup: Brandon Allen
2019 outlook: Joe Flacco joined the Denver Broncos in the offseason after 11 seasons as the starting quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens.
It’s tough to see Flacco as much more than a placeholder until the Broncos can find their next franchise quarterback. At 34 years old, he could still have a few good seasons left in him. However, barring something utterly brilliant from Flacco this year, expect the Broncos to draft a quarterback early in one of the next two drafts.
Tier 6: Prove it or lose it:
Members: Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Jimmy Garoppolo, Derek Carr
Why they’re here: Four players with high expectations that have not yet been met. Whether signed to a big deal or looking for one in the coming offseason, these players have plenty to prove during the 2019 campaign.
27. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Primary backup: Blaine Gabbert
2019 outlook: Jameis Winston is entering the final year of his rookie contract. The Buccaneers will have to decide whether they want to invest in him as the future of their franchise or start fresh with a new quarterback.
So far in his career, Winston has shown flashes of being a potentially great starter. But those moments have been muted by poor decisions on and off the field. Depending on how he performs this year, Winston could become another staple quarterback in the league, or flame out of a starting job entirely.
26. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
Primary backup: Ryan Tannehill
2019 outlook: Much like Winston, Marcus Mariota is entering his final year under contract with the Titans and looking to prove he’s worth a big contract in the coming offseason.
With the injury of Andrew Luck, the AFC South is open for the taking, and a division title could set Mariota up for a massive deal.
25. Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
Primary backup: Nick Mullens
2019 outlook: Jimmy Garoppolo’s stint in San Francisco began with much fanfare, including a huge $US137 million contract for five years of service that included $US74 million in guarantees.
But after injuries knocked him out for the 2018 season, Garoppolo now has to prove once again that he’s the right man for future of the 49ers. In his absence, rookie Nick Mullens played admirably, and after a less-than-stellar start to the preseason for Garoppolo, there was some concern as to whether San Francisco’s investment in the former heir-apparent to Tom Brady was a mistake.
The 49ers have a potential out in his contract in the 2020 offseason, but a solid year from Garoppolo could put all of those concerns to rest.
24. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
Primary backup: Mike Glennon
2019 outlook: Derek Carr is now three years removed from his near-MVP season in 2016 which was derailed in the final stretch of the regular season by a broken fibula. Since then, Carr has been good, not great, with 2018’s paltry total of just 19 touchdowns marking a career-low.
This year, Carr should be better suited to return to form thanks to the additions of wide receivers Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams. While Carr isn’t necessarily at risk of losing his job, he has plenty to prove before he’s once again considered one of the up-and-coming stars of the league.
Tier 5: Steady hand at the wheel
Members: Andy Dalton, Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins, Nick Foles
Why they’re here: This foursome will not carry a team on their brilliance, but they do enough to steer a team towards the best version of itself. When surrounded with talent they are dangerous, when they need to do it all on their own, less so.
23. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Primary backup: Ryan Finley
2019 outlook: Andy Dalton is now entering his ninth season as starting quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals, and has still yet to win a playoff game.
But despite the lack of postseason success, Dalton has been a reliable player for the Bengals, averaging 3,500 yards passing and 24 touchdowns a year.
If Cincinnati is looking for a change of pace, there’s a chance they eventually move on from Dalton as the Ravens did with Joe Flacco last year. But as things stand, Dalton has as firm a grasp on his job as any quarterback in the league.
22. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Primary backup: Josh Johnson
2019 outlook: Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions had a disappointing 2018 season, failing to reach 4,000 yards passing for the first time since 2010.
That said, with another year of experience for head coach Matt Patricia, it’s easy to imagine a better campaign on the horizon.
21. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
Primary backup: Sean Mannion
2019 outlook: The 2018 Minnesota Vikings barely missed the postseason, losing their final game of the regular season to the Chicago Bears 24-10 to drop their record to 8-7-1.
Some placed the blame on the shoulders of Kirk Cousins, who was charged with taking the Vikings to the next level after signing an unprecedented fully guaranteed three-year contract worth $US84 million. However, the numbers show that Cousins wasn’t the problem in Minneapolis.
Cousins threw for 4,298 yards, 30 touchdowns, and just 10 interceptions, and completed a career-high 70.1% of his passes. If the Vikings can recapture the magic that carried them to the NFC Championship in 2017, Cousins should help them be a threat in the NFC.
20. Nick Foles, Jacksonville Jaguars
Primary backup: Gardner Minshew
2019 outlook: After two years of proving himself a capable postseason starting quarterback and one Super Bowl MVP award, Nick Foles finally landed on top of the depth chart after signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
While Foles hasn’t started more than 10 games in a season since 2015, he’s shown time and time again that he can keep pace with some of the best quarterbacks in the sport. How his skills will mesh with the Jaguars offence remains to be seen.
Tier 4: Young and promising
Members: Kyler Murray, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Mitchell Trubisky
Why they’re here: With only five years of NFL experience between them, these players have done enough to merit a higher spot on this list just yet, but have shown enough flashes of brilliance to believe they might elevate to the next level over the course of 2019.
19. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
Primary backup: Brett Hundley
2019 outlook: The top overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Kyler Murray is a rising star in the league. However, it’s unclear how much success he and first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury will have in their debut season together in Arizona.
Murray is a special talent who could have an immediate impact for the Cardinals, but it feels more likely that it takes a year or two before things start to click in Arizona as a whole. The Cardinals won’t mind though – the team is committed to Murray for the long haul.
18. Sam Darnold, New York Jets
Primary backup: Trevor Siemian
2019 outlook: Sam Darnold had an up-and-down rookie season in 2018, looking every bit the quarterback of the future for the Jets one week and then looking lost on the field in his next outing.
Darnold had four games last year where he threw two or more interceptions, all losses for the Jets. If he can keep the ball a bit safer this season, New York might find itself back in the AFC playoff mix for the first time since 2010.
17. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Primary backup: Matt Barkley
2019 outlook: Josh Allen came into the league with the promise of his cannon-like arm sending receivers chasing vert routes into the sunset. But after returning from a mid-season injury, it was Allen’s legs that impressed more than any part of his game through the final six weeks of the season. Allen rushed for 90 or more yards in four of the last six games of the year, giving opposing defences another thing to worry about as they planned their coverages.
This year, Allen’s arm should be more of a factor once again, thanks to the Bills adding receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley in the offseason.
16. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Primary backup: Robert Griffith III
2019 outlook: Lamar Jackson’s rookie season was a great success in terms of results, taking over an leading the Ravens to six wins in their final seven games to sneak into the playoffs.
Unfortunately, Jackson fell apart under the bright lights of the postseason, completing just 14 of his 29 passes and taking seven sacks from the Chargers defence in a frustrating 23-17 loss.
With a full training camp taking reps as the starter, Jackson should be in a better position for success this season.
15. Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears
Primary backup: Chase Daniel
2019 outlook: While most of the credit of the Bears’ 12-4 season in 2018 went to their dominant defence, quarterback Mitch Trubisky was good enough to steer the ship for Chicago all year.
This year, he’s one of the most popular picks in Las Vegas to win MVP, despite having relatively long 40/1 odds at the award according to bookmakers. Regardless of whether or not he becomes the next great quarterback in the league, Trubisky has already proven that he has what it takes to lead a quality team to the postseason.
Tier 3: The next generation
Members: Jared Goff, Baker Mayfield, Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson
Why they’re here: The next generation of franchise quarterbacks, these players seem likely to be in it for the long haul with their respective franchises for better or for worse.
14. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
Primary backup: Blake Bortles
2019 outlook: After drafting Jared Goff with the first overall pick in 2016, the Rams decided to go all-in on his rookie deal for a shot at the Super Bowl. They made several expensive signings while they were saving money at the most critical position on the field.
The move paid off to a point as the Rams offence dominated the NFL last season en route to a Super Bowl appearance. However, they fell flat in the big game, mustering just three points against the Patriots.
This year, the time has come to pay up for Goff, with the Rams giving their quarterback a four-year, $US134 million extension including a record $US110 million guaranteed to keep Goff in Los Angeles through 2024.
Safe to say, the Rams are plenty happy with their quarterback situation at the moment.
13. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
Primary backup: Drew Stanton
2019 outlook: The Cleveland Browns squandered pick after pick on the next quarterback that could potentially turn around the fortunes of the NFL’s most beleaguered franchise. Now they finally appear to have gotten it right after selecting Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick in the 2018 draft.
Once the team cut ties with head coach Hue Jackson, Mayfield emerged as one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league through the second half of the season. With the addition of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the Browns offence won’t sneak up on any opponents this year. But if Mayfield can maintain his level of play, there might not be much that defences can do to stop him.
12. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Primary backup: Cooper Rush
2019 outlook: Dak Prescott looked rather lacklustre to start the 2018 season, but after the Cowboys traded for wide receiver Amari Cooper, the Dallas offence came alive.
Prescott led the Cowboys to victory in seven of their final eight games to win the NFC East, with an average quarterback rating of 102.9 over that stretch.
Dallas has already locked up running back Ezekiel Elliott for the foreseeable future with a massive $US90 million extension, and will likely lock in Prescott and Cooper soon to take advantage of what they see as a potential multi-year Super Bowl window for the franchise.
11. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
Primary backup: Josh McCown
2019 outlook: Carson Wentz’s young career has thus far been marked by magnificent play and untimely injuries. In two straight seasons, Wentz has put the Philadelphia Eagles on track to make a run in the postseason, only to fall to injury just weeks from the start of the playoffs.
With backup turned Super Bowl hero Nick Foles now starting in Jacksonville, Wentz will have to find a way to stay healthy to keep the Eagles in contention. But if the $US128 million extension he signed in the offseason in any hint, Philadelphia is confident he’ll figure it out.
10. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
Primary backup: AJ McCarron
2019 outlook: The Texans have gone all-in ahead of the season. A revitalized offensive line and new weapons Kenny Stills and Duke Johnson Jr. hope to provide quarterback Deshaun Watson with enough firepower to dominate their division and make a deep run in the postseason.
When Watson can stay upright, he’s been great for the Texans. But injuries and questionable protection in front of him have made that easier said than done through his first two NFL seasons. With the addition of Laremy Tunsil to the Texans offensive line, Watson should have a bit more time to make his magic happen this season.
Tier 2: The old guard
Members: Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Drew Brees
Why they’re here: With every passing year, theses quarterbacks prove that age is just a number. While they all are nearing the end of their careers, they are playing some of the best football of their lives and could have another Super Bowl run left in the tank.
9. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Primary backup: Mason Rudolph
2019 outlook: While Patrick Mahomes garnered all of the attention for his breakout season last year, it was actually Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger that took home the 2018 passing title, throwing for a whopping 5,129 yards through 16 games.
Antonio Brown may be gone, but the Steelers offence seems ready to lean on the talents of JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, and Vance McDonald to replace his production.
8. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers
Primary backup: Tyrod Taylor
2019 outlook: Death, taxes, and Philip Rivers throwing for roughly 4,500 yards and 30 touchdowns. At 37, Rivers is still playing at an elite level.
While the Chargers offence still has a few holes to fill with the departure of receiver Tyrell Williams and running back Melvin Gordon holding out for a new contract, with Rivers under centre, Los Angeles is impossible to dismiss.
7. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Primary backup: Matt Schaub
2019 outlook: Alongside Rivers, Matt Ryan has also been one of the most consistent passers in the NFL over the past decade, having thrown for 4,000 yards or more for eight straight seasons heading into 2019.
With receiving savant Julio Jones still one of the most unstoppable players in the league and second-year Calvin Ridley running with him, the Falcons offence should be one to watch this fall.
6. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Primary backup: Jarrett Stidham
2019 outlook: Tom Brady continues to defy the laws of time, leading the Patriots to four straight Super Bowl appearances and three titles in the past five years.
At 42, Brady has by his own defined timeline just three or four seasons left at most, but until his game clearly takes a step backward and the Patriots start losing more than four or five games a year, it’s impossible to rank him any lower.
5. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Primary backup: Teddy Bridgewater
2019 outlook: Much like Brady, Drew Brees is too old to be playing as well as he does. And yet, despite his 40 years, Brees is undeniably still one of the best quarterbacks in the league today.
Last season was the first since 2006 that Brees failed to throw for 4,000 yards – a mark he missed by just eight yards, and would have reached had his services been needed in the final game of the season.
We don’t know how much longer Brees will be able to perform at such an elite level, but at least for the 2019 season, expectations are still high.
Tier 1: Dynasty quarterbacks
Members: Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes
Why they’re here: The centrepiece of their franchise and ready to win a Super Bowl ring this year and beyond.
4. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Primary backup: Kyle Allen
2019 outlook: Cam Newton recently told reporters that he “feels like a rookie again,” quelling some concerns about nagging injuries.
Newton credits his new vegan diet with his newfound youthful feelings, as well as quicker recovery times from injuries. Whether the improvements carry into the regular season remains to be seen. But Carolina and Cam are hoping they can avoid the dreadful streak of seven straight losses they suffered in 2018 to miss out on a playoff spot.
3. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Primary backup: Geno Smith
2019 outlook: Russell Wilson has long been one of the most reliable quarterbacks in the league since he took over the starting job in Seattle as a rookie in 2012. After signing a massive new deal in the offseason, it’s clear Wilson is committed to remaining a Seahawk for some time.
As for 2018, Wilson remains the one constant on a team that has changed a lot since his first run to the Super Bowl years ago. Wide receiver Tyler Lockett will be getting a lot of looks, as will rookie receiver D.K. Metcalf once he returns from injury.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Primary backup: Tim Boyle
2019 outlook: After a rocky final few years with former head coach Mike McCarthy, Aaron Rodgers is getting a change of support with incoming head coach Matt LaFleur and his new system.
Rodgers has undeniably been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL for the past decade, but the Packers have just one Super Bowl to show for it. At 35, Rodgers only has so many years left at the peak of his powers – hopefully, he and the Packers can make the most of them.
1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Primary backup: Matt Moore
2019 outlook: Patrick Mahomes is entering just his second season in the league as a starting quarterback, and might be more fitting to some as an “up-and-comer” if not for one undeniable fact: there is not a quarterback in football you would rather have leading your team for the next decade than Mahomes.
Mahomes’ MVP campaign in 2018 including a 12-4 record during which he became just the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns. Had a coin flip before overtime at the AFC Championship turned up tails, there’s a good chance it would have included a Super Bowl title as well.
Paired with scheming savant head coach Andy Reid, Mahomes has as bright a future as any quarterback we’ve seen in some time and all of the skills necessary to go down in history as one of the greats.
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