The quarterback position is the most important one in football, and perhaps in all of the American sports. Thus, they are the biggest names in the NFL.
And because they are so big, a popular thing to do is to compare and rank them, fair or not. The best passers bring different values to their respective teams and get the job done in different ways, so you cannot always say one is better than the other because there are a lot of factors to take into account.
But this season, there is a clear top echelon of quarterbacks who are putting up impressive numbers while being the reason for their teams’ success. But, to the surprise of almost everyone, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are not among them because they have not been playing like the elite quarterbacks we know them to be.
Eleven games is a healthy sample size to judge on, so here are the NFL’s top-five quarterbacks through 12 weeks of play. The list is fluid, taking into account the whole season’s body of work and recent play.
5. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers/Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
This is cheating because it technically means six quarterbacks for five slots. But, you’re splitting hairs with these two signal-callers and the one at number four. It’s too close to call because both Rivers and Wilson are having excellent seasons so far, and career years in some regard. Career seasons for two likely Hall-of-Famers.
Rivers is third in the NFL with a 115.7 passer rating and fourth in passing touchdowns. He is top ten in passing yards and owns an elite 69.5% completion percentage.
The veteran is tied for a career-low 1.7% interception rate and is en route to have just his third single-digit interception season. And the stamp on such a great season thus far came this past weekend when he rebounded from a disappointing Week 11 game against the Denver Broncos and responded beautifully.
He set the NFL record of consecutive passes completed to begin a game (25), and helped lead his 8-3 Los Angeles Chargers to a dominating 45-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
As good as Rivers has been, Russell Wilson has been right there with him. He only averages 230.1 passing yards-per-game, but that has to do more with the Seattle Seahawks’ offensive philosophy, which is a reason he has flown under-the-radar. They are a run-first team which is why the 29-year-old has only attempted 309 passes all season long. That puts him all the way down at 25 in pass attempts.
But their strong running game has made life easier for Wilson, making him more efficient in his “limited work.” He is among the league leaders in yards-per-pass attempt and is third in Average Completed Air Yards, according to Next Gen Stats.
He has an excellent 25 to five touchdown to interception ratio, and his 112 passer rating is top five and would be a career-best if it stood.
All Wilson does is make plays, and his late-game heroics against the Carolina Panthers once-again reminded us of how elite, but underappreciated, the Seattle quarterback is, and why the Seahawks are in playoff contention.
4. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
No one knew what to expect from Andrew Luck this season because of the shoulder surgery he had last season. And the season did not start off great for him, even being subbed out for a play because he didn’t have the arm for a Hail Mary throw.
It appeared as though we would never see the same Andrew Luck again- the Andrew Luck who had “best quarterback in the NFL” written all over him. But how much has changed since the Indianapolis Colts’ dreadful start to the season.
He is second in the NFL in passing touchdowns and top ten in passing yards. The 29-year-old is riding an eight-game streak with at least three passing touchdowns, which makes him one of only three players, according to Pro-Football-Reference, to ever accomplish such a thing. The other two? Tom Brady and Peyton Manning at their peaks.
During this stretch, Luck has 27 touchdowns (most in the NFL) to just seven interceptions and a 111.1 passer rating. And during the Colts’ five-game winning streak, the Stanford alum has an otherworldly 129.6 passer rating, 16 touchdowns, and just three picks.
He may be the fourth-best quarterback on this list, but he’s second to most in the MVP race by epitomizing the ‘Valuable’ in the ‘Most Valuable Player.’
3. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
When you take a quarterback number one overall, you have expectations of him becoming a franchise signal-caller- one who can lead you to a Super Bowl eventually. But, realistically, you cannot expect him to become one of the elite quarterbacks in the league.
And that is what Jared Goff has become. His rookie season was a wash because of horrid coaching. The 24-year-old has gone from bust to legitimate MVP candidate in two seasons and is on the brink of joining the NFL’s elite echelon.
He is fourth in passer rating, fourth in touchdowns, fourth in passing yards, and among the best at throwing it downfield. He isn’t a system quarterback that merely dinks-and-dunks like his doubters will try to make you believe. He is third in yards-per-pass-attempt and fourth in Average Completed Air Yards.
Goff has made some of the best throws of the entire season and has done so consistently. His accuracy and anticipation are nearly unmatched, as are his nerves under pressure.
A lot of his completions are absolute dimes that beat good coverage, and a lot of them are on downfield throws. Goff leads the NFL with four game-winning drives this season, most recently in the shootout with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Todd Gurley may be the core of this elite offense, but Goff is the pulse of it. He’s a vital reason that the Rams are tied at 10-1 for the league’s best record. Hard to ask for much more from your quarterback.
2. Patrick Mahomes, Kansan City Chiefs
What more can be said about the 23-year-old phenom that hasn’t been said already? He leads the league with 37 passing touchdowns and a 9.5% touchdown rate through 11 games and has added two more on the ground. He is second in passer rating and is on track to crack 5,000 passing yards and 50 touchdowns, which is rarified air.
With the weapons at his disposal, Mahomes has set the NFL ablaze and turned the Kansas City Chiefs into arguably the best offense in the league. There’s no doubt, however, that he’s the most exciting player in the league and has turned the Chiefs into the most exciting offense to watch.
He was the MVP frontrunner for much of the season but has recently been overtaken by…
1. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
If everything stands and continues, the 39-year-old Brees will have put together the single greatest statistical season by a quarterback ever. Even better than Aaron Rodgers’ all-time great 2011 MVP year.
Brees is top ten in passing yards, which is the “worst” of his accomplishments this year. The NFL’s most accurate quarterback ever is back at it again, completing 76.4% of his passes this year, which would be the highest ever in league history.
Brees leads the NFL in yards-an-attempt and is third in touchdown passes at 29. His 127.3 passer rating would trump Rodgers’ 122.5 from 2011, in large part to his otherworldy 29:2 touchdown to interception ratio.
He is the leader of the NFL’s arguably most potent offense and best team. The Saints are Super Bowl favorites because of their quarterback.
It’s crazy to think that the future Hall-of-Famer has zero MVP awards; a Super Bowl-caliber year would be a great way to end that drought. It wouldn’t be a lifetime achievement award because it would be immensely deserved. He’s simply been the most elite quarterback this year, hands down.