NFL quarterbacks are arguably the most pressurized group of athletes in the world. No position gets spoken about or debated as much throughout an NFL season.
Quarterbacks such as Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott are used to the pressure. They are used to living in the spotlight, mainly because they are world-class players. Some NFL quarterbacks evade the spotlight due to several circumstances. They play for 'smaller' franchises or aren't the superstar players on their team.
These are the underrated NFL quarterbacks coming into 2021.
The most underrated NFL quarterbacks
#1 - Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
Initially, Tannehill arrived in Nashville as a backup to Marcus Mariota. After Mike Vrabel opted to bench Mariota, Tannehill grabbed the starters' job. His record as a starter in the last two years is 18-8 and he even led the Titans to the AFC Championship Game during the 2019 season.
Despite all this success, no one talks about Tannehill as an elite quarterback. Instead, all the focus falls on running back Derrick Henry. Ryan Tannehill is the king of underrated NFL quarterbacks.
His work alongside former offensive coordinator Arthur Smith elevated Tannehill from fledgling understudy to franchise quarterback. The former Dolphin is happy to let Henry take the spotlight while he methodically commands the offense. Tannehill is an intelligent decision-maker, owns a solid arm, and is incisive in the red zone.
He's not glamorous, but a 33-7 TD-INT ratio in 2020 is more than adequate. The veteran quarterback is an underrated yet superb NFL quarterback.
#2 - Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
Few quarterbacks have dealt with more pressure than Matthew Stafford did in Detroit. Anointed the savior, Stafford was expected to save the Lions after their 0-16 season. Sadly, it never worked out.
The Lions never won the NFC North, and Stafford never won a playoff game in 12 years. Due to the Lions being a small-market team with little success, the mainstream media ignored him.
Stafford was the natural heir to Brett Favre's gunslinger throne. The Georgia alum's arm velocity, leadership, and toughness were elite. Despite suffering many injuries and defeats in Detroit, Stafford can still sling the ball at an elite level. His performance in Chicago in 2020 at Soldier Field encapsulated his brilliance. Against a top defense, Stafford threw for over 400 yards and three touchdowns. It was a virtuoso game from Stafford.
After getting traded to the Los Angeles Rams in January 2021, Stafford now has the chance to shine on a national level. Only Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes are ahead of Stafford in the arm-talent stakes. Working with Sean McVay could see Stafford join the elite NFL quarterbacks list in 2021.
#3 - Derek Carr
Compile any list of NFL quarterbacks, and Derek Carr always gets forgotten. The Raiders quarterback is highly competent. Yes, he lacks the pyrotechnics of Mahomes and Rodgers, but Carr is a fine quarterback.
Last season, he proved to Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden that he is a franchise quarterback. 2020 was probably the best year of his career. Carr's play looked polished, and he was composed throughout the season. That composure and consistency get backed up by his QBR of 71.
Not only did Carr manage games systematically, but he also developed a mindset to push the ball down the field. Carr's intended average air yards per pass attempt of 8.1 was a significant increase over the 6.6 in 2019. If Henry Ruggs and Hunter Renfrow find space, Carr will continue to take shots downfield. Adding that to his arsenal could lift him away from the underrated NFL quarterbacks list.
#4 - Matt Ryan
It's bizarre that former MVP Matt Ryan is an underrated NFL quarterback.
But that is partly down to Atlanta's poor performance since the Super Bowl meltdown in 2017. The Falcons struggled to a 4-12 record in 2020. Whenever a team finishes with a top ten pick, they always get linked to a new quarterback. But not the Falcons, who know they have an elite quarterback in Ryan. Perhaps it is understandable that he is underrated.
Despite reaching the latter stages of his career, Ryan is not declining. His average yards per pass completion was 7.3 in 2020. That is on trend with the numbers he posted in 2019 and 2018. Ryan throws a pretty deep ball, and he excels in the fantastic indoor conditions of the Mercedes Benz Stadium.
Veteran NFL quarterbacks can shine in the latter part of their careers due to their wealth of experience. So much quarterback play happens in the head. Ryan's expertise lends him an advantage as he knows defenses inside out. His arm strength is not waning, and working under Arthur Smith could keep Ryan playing at the top level.
#5 - Jared Goff
Since 2016, Tom Brady and Jared Goff have the best win-loss record among NFL quarterbacks.
Goff has endured only one losing season in his career: 2016 when Jeff Fisher woefully coached him. Post that challenging year, Goff helped the Rams become legitimate contenders.
The unassuming Californian never shouts to hit the headlines. He's just a football player. Goff is immobile, not the strongest, and he did get his handheld by Sean McVay.
However, Goff is accurate, throws in rhythm, shines in play-action and can throw deep. The year he led the Rams to the Super Bowl, he developed a brilliant big-play relationship with Brandin Cooks. All NFL quarterbacks require weapons they have chemistry with. It surprised no one that Goff regressed without Cooks.
Moreover, Goff is mentally tough. He withstood the heat in New Orleans in the 2018-19 NFC Championship game to lead the Rams to an overtime win. He will start a new chapter in Detroit this upcoming NFL season after falling out with McVay. The 27-year-old quarterback will enjoy ownership of the offense and will have some speedy wideouts and an elite tight end to throw the ball to.
Goff's fundamentals are good, which is why he was drafted first overall. He must now embrace his new role in Detroit.