Lamar Jackson put together a historic campaign to win MVP honors in his first full season as the starter
As much as the NFL changes, one thing seems to stay the same — quarterback remains the most important position. After all there's a reason that 12 of the past 13 league MVPs have been quarterbacks.
However, what has changed is that youth is being served at quarterback. Patrick Mahomes has already been named a league and Super Bowl MVP even though he's entering just his fourth season. Lamar Jackson, who is just 23 years old, put together a historic 2019 campaign both running and throwing the football on his way to being named MVP. So it should come as no surprise that they are in the top tier at the position.
But that doesn't mean that elder statesmen like Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady are necessarily past their prime, especially considering the signal-caller considered the GOAT is eager to chase another Super Bowl ring with his new team.
While every team is not settled at the quarterback position looking ahead to the upcoming season, there are plenty of talented options scattered throughout the league. Look no further than the fact that Cam Newton, the 2015 MVP and No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, is still looking for a team after being released by Carolina earlier this offseason.
Plenty of attention will be focused on the class of 2020 headlined by No. 1 pick Joe Burrow, who is expected to start right away for Cincinnati, it's way too early to include him or Tua Tagovailoa or any other rookie in this list.
Athlon's player rankings are just one of the features that appear in the 2020 Pro Football magazine.
2020 NFL Quarterback Rankings
1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City
The 2018 NFL MVP and reigning Super Bowl MVP dropped a bit in efficiency last season due to injury, but he still threw 26 touchdowns to just five interceptions during the regular season and 10 TDs to two picks in the postseason when he was fully healthy. With most of Kansas City’s Super Bowl starters returning to the team, expect Mahomes’ 2020 to more closely mirror his 50-touchdown 2018.
2. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Since his rookie season of 2012, only Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers have thrown more regular-season TD passes than Wilson’s 227. No QB who’s played through that entire era has a higher touchdown rate than Wilson’s 6.0 percent, but he remains mysteriously underutilized — he ranks 11th in the era in attempts with 3,777. Had he been in a pass-heavy offense, we’d have to rewrite recent QB history.
3. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Jackson’s limitations as a passer came up in Baltimore’s divisional playoff loss to the Titans, but his MVP season, in which he set the single-season rushing record for a quarterback, was no fluke. Jackson came of age last season in Greg Roman’s diverse offense, and given another offseason of development, he should continue to refine his game to great effect
4. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Last season, Brees led the league in combined regular-season and postseason passer rating at 114.3, completed 74.7 percent of his passes and threw 28 TDs to five interceptions despite a receiver group that consisted of Michael Thomas and very little else. The Saints gave him Emmanuel Sanders in free agency, which can only help one of the greatest of all time.
5. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
At press time, the Cowboys had not found a way to present Prescott with a long-term contract to his liking. Right now, the team is on the hook for over $31 million in cap space for Prescott with the franchise tag, and he should have a more interesting offense if new head coach Mike McCarthy can shed some of the predictability that helped end his tenure in Green Bay. Re-signing Amari Cooper helps.
6. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
Watson goes into the season with a receiver group of Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller V and Kenny Stills at the top. If Cooks and Fuller can transcend their recent injury issues, that’ll take some of the sting out of the awful DeAndre Hopkins trade. If not, Watson may wonder how he’s supposed to elevate what’s around him. Losing 168 targets and 119 catches (the second most in the NFL last season in both categories behind Michael Thomas’ 188 and 156) is a problem no matter how you slice it.
7. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
His 10-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in October and 8–2 ratio in December showed how well Rodgers could perform when he had a positively schemed passing game. The selection of Rodgers’ heir apparent Jordan Love in the first round (26th overall) adds a new level of intrigue. It’s not that head coach Matt LaFleur and GM Brian Gutekunst are shoving Rodgers out the door, but there appears to be a door for the first time.
8. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Brady told Al Michaels halfway through last season, “I’m the most unhappy 8–0 quarterback in football.” That had everything to do with Brady’s lack of weapons, which has been corrected with his move to Tampa. With Mike Evans and Chris Godwin (our fourth- and sixth-ranked receivers) as his primary targets, Brady looks to have a career rebirth at 43.
9. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Roethlisberger didn't make it through the second game before an elbow injury ended his most recent campaign and while there are questions about how the 38-year-old will bounce back, he led the league with 5,129 passing yards in 2018. The six-time Pro Bowler is an established winner in both the regular season and playoffs and is in the top 10 in career passing yards (56,545) and touchdown passes (363). While he's likely nearing the end of his career, Roethlisberger has earned the benefit of the doubt for this exercise.
10. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
The 2019 campaign marked the first time Wentz was able to finish a regular season since his rookie year of 2016. Wentz completed 63.7 percent of his passes (including the postseason) and threw 27 TDs to seven interceptions despite a receiver group that was almost comically impacted by injuries. Of course, there’s a reason the Eagles selected Jalen Hurts in the second round.
11. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
12. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
13. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
14. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
15. Philip Rivers, Indianapolis Colts
16. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
17. Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
18. Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders
19. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
20. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
21. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
22. Daniel Jones, New York Giants
23. Sam Darnold, New York Jets
24. Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers
25. Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints
26. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami Dolphins
27. Gardner Minshew II, Jacksonville Jaguars
28. Cam Newton, New England Patriots
29. Nick Foles, Chicago Bears
30. Andy Dalton, Dallas Cowboys