NFL Quarterback Rankings: The Second Tier
4. Josh Allen
There was never a question about the arm talent of this guy, and we saw flashes of that from the very start, but the steps he has taken from his rookie campaign to Year 2 and especially coming into this season have been incredible.
A lot of Allen’s accuracy problems had stemmed from the fact that his footwork varied too much and to get a little more into the mechanics – the way he locked his front foot. This year he has become so much better at rotating through all the way to his target and that has taken his consistency to a whole new level. The addition of Stefon Diggs has also done wonders for his ability to hit on downfield throws, where he is now on the same level as the three guys in front of him, with 23 passes of 20-plus yards – tied for fifth-most in the league.
Despite connecting on less than half his passes in their matchup against the Chiefs – in part due to the wet conditions -- Allen is still completing over 67 percent of his throws, as he has improved his percentage by six and now 8.3 respectively from years one to three. And he is second to only Russell Wilson with 16 passing TDs compared to four INTs.
Allen hasn’t received a ton of help, as his receivers are tied for the third-most drops in the league with 14 and if you take away the quarterback’s production as a runner, whether it’s as a dangerous scrambler or even running QB sweeps, the Bills would be averaging just 68.3 rushing yards per game – which would clearly be last league-wide.
I know people want to knock him down because of losing these last two games, but the Titans and Chiefs have one combined loss, Buffalo had put up 27+ points in every game through four weeks and Allen is still number one in QBR (87.0), just edging out the guy who just beat him in Mahomes. And no team is converting on third downs at a higher rate than the Bills (56.2%).
5. Lamar Jackson
Coming off a season where he was named unanimous league MVP and broke all kinds of records, it was expected that Lamar would take a step back. Through the first two weeks, I thought he actually improved as a true pocket passer, with the ability to quickly process information and throw his receivers open with tremendous ball-placement.
In that big Monday night matchup with Kansas City, the perception of fans completely shifted, as he was held to under 100 passing yards and the Ravens were never really in that game. And he is still growing in his recognition of defenses and finding solutions on the fly, while in that game in particular he got too much into hero ball mode and bailed on the pocket, but Iet’s not forget this guy is still only 23 years old and he has taken leaps and bounds from when we first saw Baltimore’s coaches manage him as a rookie being thrown into the fire mid-season.
I expect him to continue to grow as a deep ball thrower. He absolutely drills guys over the middle to convert on third downs and he is the most dangerous runner of the ball in all of football. The Ravens organization made a conscious decision to build an offense around this young man when they drafted him and the results have been phenomenal when he hasn’t faced Kansas City. Against everybody else, they are 24-1 in the regular season.
So far this season, only two quarterbacks, who have started three full games, are averaging less than Lamar’s 189.2 passing yards per game (Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garoppolo) and completing his completion percentage (63%) and yards per attempt (7.0) have gone, but 10 TDs versus 2 INTs as a passer is still great and he is on par with last year as a runner, averaging 6.9 yards per carry and reaching the end-zone twice.
6. Deshaun Watson
After a slow start against three elite teams in the Chiefs, Ravens and Steelers, Deshaun has really picked things up, throwing for just under 1,000 yards and nine TDs over these last three weeks, with two picks in the Jaguars game that both could have easily been caught by his receiver.
I know Brandin Cooks stepped up these last two weeks and Will Fuller has looked good outside of the one game he was injured for, but you can tell that Deshaun is missing DeAndre Hopkins to some degree. The Texans would absolutely have one more win, if it was Nuk high-pointing the ball in the end zone versus Minnesota at the end of that one and they were a two-point conversion away to also seal this past game against the Titans.
Only Carson Wentz and Joe Burrow have been sacked more than Watson so far (19 times), the offensive scheme hasn’t created a lot of open receivers for the Texans QB either and hasn’t gotten much help from the run game either, as the rest of the team has combined for just over 400 yards on the ground on more than 100 attempts. Maybe more so than any other quarterback, the offense goes as far as Deshaun takes them.
He is the most elusive quarterback in the league right now. He might not be as strong as a Josh Allen or as fast as a Lamar Jackson, but in terms of having guys slip off him and finding a way to escape the rush in order to create something off script, this is the guy. Deshaun is tied with Russell Wilson in yards per attempt (8.9), second in air yards per completion (8.1) and his 27 completions of 20+ yards are the most league-wide. Unfortunately it has only led to win so far, largely because the defense is giving up 30 points a week. I mean his passer rating 138.9 last Sunday in Tennessee was the highest ever for a losing team.
7. Kyler Murray
We might not get the MVP talk for Kyler anymore that I heard after the first couple of weeks, but this guy is a superstar already. His passing numbers are still pretty up and down on a weekly basis and he threw three of his six picks in that Lions game, but he has completed at least 65 percent of his passes in every game until this past Monday night, when it only took a couple of big completions to easily win at Dallas.
Kyler actually is only 20th in the league with 7.3 yards per attempt despite being second with five completions of 40+ yards, with a lot of underneath stuff in that offense, and he easily leads the league with 380 passing yards off RPOs. With a guy his size, you don’t think of it that way, but the Cardinals QB has an absolute cannon.
The one thing we have seen defenses give Kyler some trouble with zone defenses, where he is forced to hold onto the ball so the rush can get home. However, he has contributed more than any other QB as a runner. Kyler has such quick feet and he is gaining ground with those short strides faster than you can imagine. That touchdown run against the Lions still sticks in my mind, when he hit the “doopsy doo” against the defender and that guy still doesn’t know what happened to him.
Right now, he is on pace for about 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground and averages an NFL-best 7.3 yards per rush (among players with 40+ carries). So far he has been responsible for 16 touchdowns overall, which is less than only three other guys in the league.
8. Tom Brady
I’m still going to give this 43-year old legend his respect, but there are guys other nipping at the heels of Brady.
The marriage between Brady and Bruce Arians’ offense has been quite smooth I would say, because he has produced some big plays off max-protect play-action, but also been able to go into shotgun and target his backs and tight ends more than you would usually in that type of system. The new-look Bucs had a rather shaky debut on offense and Brady threw two picks to go with his touchdowns in the season opener in New Orleans, but since then the GOAT has tossed 12 TDs compared to two INTs in these last five games (64.1 completion percentage overall). The reason those numbers haven’t been even better has been the health of his pass-catchers, as Chris Godwin has basically played one-and-a-half games, Mike Evans has been banged up all year and O.J. Howard was knocked out for the season in Week 4. Physically speaking, Brady still has a live arm, but he can’t drive the ball across the field like any of these other guys in front of him can (maybe outside of Ryan Tannehill), yet I like what I have seen from having around in the pocket and extending a few plays. As much as he wants to yell at teammates on the sidelines, No. 12 has not been perfect either, with two pick-sixes already and a really bad moment in a nationally broadcasted game on Thursday night two weeks ago, when he thought he still had another down. While I’m not sure how much difference that made, I’m annoyed that he wouldn’t own up to it. Still, no other team has dropped more passes than the Bucs (16) and Brady leads the NFL in what Pro Football Focus calls “big-time throws” (20).
9. Ryan Tannehill
I know this might be the least exciting name on this list so far, but Ryan Tannehill has played excellent football ever since replacing Marcus Mariota under center in the middle of last year. Over that stretch, the Titans have a 14-4 record (including postseason) and I just saw a graphic earlier this week that his numbers are right there with Patrick Mahomes.
Obviously I won’t put him in that same category, but the numbers have been outstanding once again this season – completing 70 percent of his passes for a career-high 273.6 yards per game and 13 touchdowns compared to two picks. And he has led a game-winning drive in four of Tennessee’s five games, with the other one being a blowout against the then-undefeated Bills.
Right now, he is third in passer rating and QBR, and even more impressive – he has done most of his damage without A.J. Brown in the lineup, who in his first game back against Buffalo gave Josh Norman the business and then scored twice on the Texans this past Sunday.
Tannehill has such a compact release and as much as I don’t like the term – he throws a really catchable ball, with pin-point accuracy on many occasions. The Titans want to run the offense through Derrick Henry, but their quarterback has turned into one of the premiere deep ball throwers in the game (tied for second in the league with five completions of 40+ yards), and those chunk plays combined with the steady rushing attack and the turnover differential is what has the Titans at 5-0.
And while he doesn’t run it a whole lot, we have seen that Tannehill is dangerous off bootlegs if you don’t keep contain on him or when he pulls the ball on zone reads (seven first downs + one TD on 15 attempts).
10. Ben Roethlisberger
I know Alex Smith actually getting back onto an NFL field is a Hollywood-like story, but in all seriousness, the Comeback Player of the Year award – taking actual play into account – should come down to Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers offense hasn’t been super impressive so far, but Roethlisberger is really starting to build a connection with his young group of pass-catchers. He is definitely on the decline physically, but Big Ben still can attack all areas of the field and extend plays at times.
The Steelers are still a perfect 5-0 with their longtime QB back from injury and they haven’t needed any of those blow-up games from Big Ben, but he is quietly completing a career-high 69.1 percent of his passes for an efficient 236 yards per game and 11 touchdowns compared to only one interception, with at this rate has him on pace for a personal best passer rating of 109.1.
Pittsburgh as a team right now is 9th in rushing yards per game, but a lot of those have come in order to close out games – they did so pretty much the entire second half against the Browns last week for example, when Ben only threw one pass in the fourth quarter – and it hasn’t helped Roethlisberger a whole lot in the play-action game, where he has less than 100 passing yards off it.
Ben has been getting the ball out of his hands as fast as any quarterback in the league (2.2 seconds on average), but once or twice a game when needed he can still shrug off a defender and we saw what a load he is last week against Cleveland, when he gained about three yards on a simple QB sneak to convert fourth down.Published 30 Oct 2020, 04:41 IST