NFL Quarterback Index 2022: Ranking the Best Passers in the Game

NFL Quarterback Index 2022

We’re fully in the rankings season of the NFL calendar, and quarterbacks were the logical next step after I’ve ranked offensive lines, secondaries, and receiving corps in recent weeks. This article will be updated throughout the upcoming season each week, and this list provides a baseline for the start of the season. As we get new games to digest, I’ll be updating these rankings with a short-term bias and a reactive mindset as that’s the most fun, but for now, these rankings are primarily based on 2021 performance.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

#1: Tom Brady

Tom Brady’s retirement was short-lived as he returns to the field this season for his age-45 campaign. Brady showed no signs of slowing down last year as he led the league in PFF’s Wins Above Replacement metric (WAR). Brady also ranked second in EPA (118.5), second in QBR (68.1), and led the NFL with a career-high 5,316 passing yards. The Buccaneers have reshuffled their offensive line with Ali Marpet and Alex Cappa departing, but Brady had the lowest time to throw in the league last year, so it hardly matters as he gets rid of the ball so quickly. The Buccaneers also have Chris Godwin recovering from an ACL injury and Russell Gage replacing Antonio Brown. That all seems like external noise, however, as there’s no reason to expect the best quarterback of all time to slow down even at age 45.

Green Bay Packers

#2: Aaron Rodgers

We’re set up for a fascinating litmus test this season as Aaron Rodgers, the two-time reigning MVP and four-time First-Team All-Pro passer, will enter this year without fellow All-Pro wideout Davante Adams. Rodgers had the highest touchdown rate and lowest interception rate of all full-time starters last season, and he ranked first in passer rating and QBR. Rodgers only threw four interceptions all season, and his 2% turnover-worthy play rate ranked third-lowest in the league per PFF. Rodgers’ offensive line wasn’t as good last season as he’s grown accustomed to with David Bakhtiari missing the entire year, and improved play upfront should be very beneficial. Losing Adams would be a blow to any quarterback, but Rodgers should still be among the league’s best.

los angeles rams

#3: Matthew Stafford

In his first season in Los Angeles, Matthew Stafford had a mind-meld with Sean McVay and Cooper Kupp that allowed the Rams’ offense to ascend to new heights. Stafford’s 17 interceptions were less than ideal during the regular season. Still, it reflected his aggressiveness in pushing the ball downfield, which was made up for with a league-leading 1,272 passing yards on throws of 20+ yards downfield. Stafford posted a career-high 132.7 passer rating against the blitz last year, which could be due for some regression. However, he ranked seventh in EPA, sixth in passer rating and fifth in QBR, and that efficiency should carry over to next season. With a Super Bowl championship under his belt, Stafford deserves to be in the conversation with the top passers in the league.

Buffalo Bills

#4: Josh Allen

Josh Allen’s 2021 season wasn’t quite as elite as his breakthrough 2020 campaign, but he still ranked sixth in big-time throw rate as he made plenty of huge plays. His overall 5.7% big-time throw rate jumped to 9.2% when he was pressured as he constantly made defenses pay for bringing extra bodies into the box. Allen was also a massive weapon on the ground as he moved the chains with a run 62 times through the regular season and playoffs, the most among quarterbacks. Allen won’t ever challenge to be the most accurate quarterback in the NFL. Still, his accuracy has come a long way since he entered the league, and his dual-threat ability mixed with elite deep-ball playmaking makes him uniquely challenging to defend against.

Kansas City Chiefs

#5: Patrick Mahomes

The 2021 season was fascinating for Patrick Mahomes as defenses seemed to figure out how to slow him down more than ever before. His 7.6-yard aDOT was the lowest of his career by a solid margin. He threw a career-high 13 interceptions and had a career-worst 98.5 passer rating. Mahomes also had a career-worst 3.3% big-time throw rate that ranked below Sam Darnold and Taylor Heinecke. Now, Mahomes will attempt to bounce back without all-world receiver Tyreek Hill. To be fair to Mahomes, he still threw the lowest rate of uncatchable passes per PFF, and his accuracy was excellent despite his downfield playmaking being much more limited. We’ll learn a lot about Mahomes this season without Hill by his side as the Chiefs shift to a more balanced offensive approach.

Chargers Logo

#6: Justin Herbert

Justin Herbert is on his way to becoming arguably the best quarterback in the NFL with elite arm talent, unreal discipline and vision, and top-notch accuracy at all three levels. While Herbert’s elite efficiency under pressure as a rookie regressed last season as predicted, it hardly mattered as he improved in most other areas. He takes care of the ball at a staggering rate for a young quarterback with a league-low 1.6% turnover-worthy play rate. He also led the NFL in EPA at 120.3 and had a top-five PFF grade from a clean pocket and under pressure. At just 24 years old at the start of next season, Herbert is far from a finished product after two seasons in the NFL, and his trajectory could be one of a future Hall-of-Famer. The only reason he isn’t even higher on this list is a lack of playoff experience.

Cleveland Browns

#7: Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson’s off-field situation could keep him from playing this year, but I’m ranking him as though that’s not an issue for the time being. Despite not playing with a true alpha receiver, Watson’s 2020 numbers were on par with the top quarterbacks of last season – his 70.2% completion rate would have ranked second, and his 112.4 passer rating would have ranked first. He also threw for a 7.4% big-time throw rate per PFF and only had seven interceptions to his 33 touchdowns. Watson did all that with one of the league’s worst rosters in 2020, and the situation awaiting him in Cleveland is a massive improvement. While Watson’s calling card has often been making plays out of structure, the Browns’ elite offensive line will immensely help his overall efficiency.

Cincinnati Bengals

#8: Joe Burrow

In his first entire season as a starter, Joe Burrow was elite across the board. He ranked first in completion percentage (70.4%), second in passer rating (108.3) and second in big-time throw percentage (6.4%) among qualified passers. He was also PFF’s top-graded quarterback for the season. After struggling with deep-ball efficiency in his first season, he improved mightily with 13 touchdowns to five interceptions on passes of 20+ yards downfield last year. Burrow’s elite accuracy all over the field, timing, and anticipation make him a lethal passer. With Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd comprising the best receiving corps in the NFL, the team’s offensive line massively improved, and high-quality coaching from Zac Taylor, Burrow should be back near the top of the league in several metrics next year.

Arizona Cardinals

#9: Kyler Murray

While his volume-based metrics don’t suggest Kyler Murray is one of the best passers in the NFL, his efficiency was remarkable last season. Murray led the NFL with a staggering 8.1% big-time throw rate per PFF and was the only full-time starter to surpass 6.5%. He also had the fifth-best adjusted completion rate at 77.5%. On deep passes of 20+ yards downfield, PFF tracked him with a league-leading 43.6% big-time throw rate and a 117.2 passer rating, the third-best in the NFL. That elite season came despite an extended absence from DeAndre Hopkins, uncreative play-calling from Kliff Kingsbury, and a mediocre offensive line. The Cardinals haven’t done enough to support Murray on his rookie contract, but it’s not hard to see that he’s one of the best talents at his position.

https://twitter.com/cartierkamm/status/1437229894274928647

Denver Broncos

#10: Russell Wilson

As he has done for the past few years, Russell Wilson started last season on fire before faltering down the stretch after a gruesome finger injury. Wilson finished the year uncharacteristically ranked just 25th in adjusted completion percentage – he had been top ten in each of the prior three years in that regard – and will likely trend back towards his early-season clip from last year before the finger injury. Wilson has thrived under pressure over the past few years, and while his career-high passer rating against the blitz in 2021 is flagged for regression, his off-schedule playmaking will remain a significant strength. Wilson finished with a league-leading 10.2 aDOT and a stellar 6.1% big-time throw rate, and the Broncos are ready to #LetRussCook in 2022.

Baltimore Ravens

#11: Lamar Jackson

The Ravens were one of the most injured teams in the NFL last year, and that extended to Jackson, who missed five games. When he played, he put up a career-high 240.2 yards per game, but he had the highest interception rate of his career and the lowest touchdown rate since his rookie season. Jackson saw blitzes on a career-high 36% of plays last year, and it was effective as he had a well below-average passer rating against the blitz. Jackson’s accuracy also nosedived last season as he ranked just 22nd in adjusted completion percentage among qualified passers per PFF. A healthier offensive line and run game will boost Jackson’s effectiveness, but it’s difficult to envision him returning to his 2019 MVP form.

Oakland Raiders

#12: Derek Carr

In a season mired by off-field controversy and a midseason coaching change, Derek Carr was a steadying force who deserves a ton of credit for leading his team to the playoffs. With a new coaching staff, the addition of Davante Adams, and the return to health of Darren Waller, Carr could produce a career year in 2022. Carr finished the year ranked seventh in big-time throw rate, although he led the league for much of the year while Henry Ruggs III was in the lineup. Carr was one of the most accurate passers in the NFL last season with a 77.9% adjusted completion rate (fourth-best), and with the improved system and weapons supporting him, he should put up fringe top-ten numbers this year.

Dallas Cowboys

#13: Dak Prescott

One of the more under-reported injuries last season was Dak Prescott’s right calf strain suffered in Week 6, as there was a clear delineation of his performance declining following that injury. Of course, he was also recovering from the gruesome broken ankle from the previous year. Despite the injury issues, Prescott still ranked third in the NFL in passer rating. He finished with the fourth-best passer rating under pressure at 84.3, and he’ll need to rely on that efficiency as the offensive line lost La’el Collins over the offseason. Prescott could also take a step back after losing Amari Cooper, his favorite target in the red zone who had the highest passer rating when targeted of any of the team’s wide receivers last year.

https://twitter.com/PFF_Fantasy/status/1407003016205541377

Minnesota Vikings

#14: Kirk Cousins

Kirk Cousins is a problematic evaluation as his intangibles are lacking, and he doesn’t have nearly the caliber of athleticism of some elite modern quarterbacks. However, he’s highly accurate and finished with the fourth-best adjusted completion rate last year at 77.6%. The Vikings have brought in a new head coach in Kevin O’Connell, the former Rams’ offensive coordinator. He should help modernize the offense and make Kirk Cousins an even more efficient passer. Cousins earned the top play-action passing grade in the league from PFF, and that should be even more of an element of the Minnesota offense this season. Cousins struggles under pressure compared to his 116.7 passer rating from a clean pocket which ranks second in the NFL, so the modernized offense should help tremendously.

New Orleans Saints

#15: Jameis Winston

Before his season-ending ACL injury, Winston had registered some of the best numbers of his career with 14 touchdowns to just three interceptions through seven games. He led the Saints to a 4-2 record in the six games he finished. However, Winston’s accuracy was still problematic, with a 59% completion rate that ranks fourth-worst among projected 2022 starters. To be fair to Winston, his stable of receivers was incredibly underwhelming last season. The additions of Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry, along with the expected return to health of Michael Thomas, will be monumental for his efficiency. Winston ranked fourth in QBR and seventh in passer rating in his limited appearances last season. It will be fascinating to see how the balance between his gunslinger tendencies and the Saints’ preferred game management approach will play with a much-improved receiving corps.

https://twitter.com/br_betting/status/1429961230278553611

New England Patriots

#16: Mac Jones

The most productive quarterback in last year’s rookie class, Mac Jones proved many doubters wrong with his highly efficient season. Jones took great care of the football as he had the seventh-lowest turnover-worthy play rate per PFF. He also finished with the fourth-lowest rate of uncatchable passes and performed admirably well under pressure, where he had the 12th-best passer rating in the league despite lacking mobility. The question for Jones now becomes upside. It starts with the deep ball, where he must do better than the 24th-best passer rating and 22nd-best completion percentage on passes of 20+ yards downfield. With one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, Jones doesn’t need to be a prolific passer under pressure to be successful. Still, his lack of mobility and deep-ball velocity might relegate him to game manager status.

Carolina Panthers

#17: Baker Mayfield

The difference between Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield has been monumental throughout their respective careers, and the Panthers got a steal in their trade for the embattled former Browns’ starter. Mayfield had a bad 2021 – I’ll fully concede this. The torn labrum and lower-body injuries didn’t help, but the reports out of Cleveland describing him as a poor teammate and leader are troubling. Nonetheless, Mayfield was the 8th-best quarterback in the NFL in 2020 per PFF. In that season, he threw 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions with Jarvis Landry as his leading receiver and won the Browns their first playoff game since 2002. Perhaps most impressively, Mayfield had the third-best adjusted completion percentage on deep balls that season. As with most things in life, the truth probably lies somewhere between Mayfield’s 2020 and 2021 seasons, but if he can recapture more of that previous magic, the Panthers will have landed an absolute steal at the most important position in sports.

https://twitter.com/SideIineViews/status/1320462607195754497

Indianpolis Colts

#18: Matt Ryan

By the end of last season, Matt Ryan had finished with his lowest overall PFF grade since 2009. While it’s fair to assume he’s declining at age 37, it didn’t help that he was pressured on a whopping 40% of his plays in Atlanta. Behind a much better offensive line in Indianapolis, his solid accuracy should play much better. Ryan posted a well below average 77.1 passer rating when blitzed last season, which jumped to 95.2 with no blitz. Ryan ranked middle-of-the-pack in most accuracy metrics last year, but interestingly, PFF tracked him with more misses on high throws than low throws. That suggests that he consistently gave his receivers a chance to make a play on the ball, and that plays very well with a big-bodied Colts receiving corps headlined by Michael Pittman Jr.

Tennessee Titans

#19: Ryan Tannehill

While Tannehill is coming off his worst season with the Titans, it was impressive to see him lead his squad to the #1 seed in the AFC despite a revolving door of receivers and tight ends along with the injury to Derrick Henry. Tannehill was among the most accurate passers in the NFL last year, as PFF ranked him with the third-highest rate of accurate passes and the eighth-highest adjusted completion rate. However, Tannehill’s deep-ball passing fell precipitously as he went from ranked ninth in passer rating on passes 20+ yards downfield to just 28th last season. He also threw 14 interceptions, his most in a season since 2013, and the loss of A.J. Brown hangs over this team as their passing game will likely suffer.

https://twitter.com/Charlie_SZN/status/1391083076877529091

Philadelphia Eagles

#20: Jalen Hurts

From Week 8 on last season, the Eagles ran more quarterback-designed runs and option plays than any other team in the NFL, and that shift in strategy fueled their late-season surge to the playoffs. With the trade acquisition of A.J. Brown, the Eagles are banking on Hurts improving as a passer this season. Hurts was predictably excellent under pressure, as his overall PFF grade when pressured ranked second in the NFL. He was one of the few quarterbacks with a better passer rating when blitzed versus when not blitzed. However, Hurts ranked sixth-worst in passer rating and 11th-worst in adjusted completion percentage on passes of 20+ yards downfield per PFF. If Hurts can improve his accuracy, particularly on passes downfield, to league-average levels, he could catapult up this list by the end of next year.

Miami Dolphins

#21: Tua Tagovailoa

No quarterback has seen a more considerable improvement in their surrounding situation this offseason than Tua Tagovailoa. All-Pro wideout Tyreek Hill joins Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki in one of the best receiving corps in the NFL, and the offensive line should be much-improved with Terron Armstead and Connor Williams. New head coach Mike McDaniel should also unlock some untapped potential with Tagovailoa. Despite a minimal sample size, Tagovailoa led the NFL in adjusted completion percentage on deep passes of 20+ yards downfield. With the improved offensive line and scheme, he should get more opportunities to show off his arm talent this year. His turnover-worthy play rate was at 4.8%, the highest among all projected starters this year, but limiting his careless plays will come naturally with the improvements around him.

washington football team

#22: Carson Wentz

Not everything went according to plan for Carson Wentz with the Colts last season, especially after a solid start to the year in which PFF tracked him with just one turnover-worthy play through the first six games. However, he got worse as the weather worsened, and his paltry 6.4 yards per attempt against the Jaguars in Week 18 sealed his team’s fate in not making the playoffs. Wentz also ranked with the fourth-worst adjusted completion percentage among eligible quarterbacks per PFF. He performed admirably under pressure with the ninth-best passer rating at 77.0 and bounced back from a career-worst campaign in 2020, but he didn’t do enough to keep his job in Indianapolis as he joined his third team in three years.

https://twitter.com/PFF/status/1474951533343170565

New York Giants

#23: Daniel Jones

It’s arguably unfair to Jones, but the fourth-year passer is running out of time. The Giants have done an awful job supporting him with a bottom-five PFF pass-blocking grade over the past three years. Poor blocking was a primary reason he ranked last among qualified quarterbacks with a putrid 1.8% big-time throw rate the previous year. The Giants will be hopeful that the arrival of Evan Neal and the continued development of Andrew Thomas can buy Jones more time this season. The Giants also brought in new head coach Brian Daboll, famed for helping Josh Allen become an elite passer, and New York will be hopeful he can change Jones’s fortunes. He’s been league-average in enough areas in his career to have some optimism.

Houston Texans

#24: Davis Mills

In a loaded quarterback class, it was arguably Davis Mills who had the best rookie season. The Texans’ quarterback surprisingly led the NFL with a 123.5 passer rating on passes of 20+ yards downfield with an impressive rate of six touchdowns to just one interception on such throws. Mills struggled with the sixth-worst passer rating under pressure in the NFL, and his lack of mobility limits his upside considerably. His 4.3% turnover-worthy play rate was also tied for the second-highest in the NFL and ranked third-worst among qualified passers in EPA. Still, his success was all the more remarkable given the odds were stacked against him in Houston. Mills did more than enough to earn a chance to prove himself as the starter in 2022.

Detroit Lions

#25: Jared Goff

Unsurprisingly, Jared Goff had the worst season of his career by most metrics in his first season away from Sean McVay and the Rams. Goff’s 2.3% big-time throw rate ranked third-worst among qualified starters as he was constantly hesitant to push the ball downfield – his 6.8 aDOT was the worst in the league. Goff was a woefully inefficient deep-ball passer with his 28.9% completion rate on passes 20+ yards downfield ranking last in the league, so perhaps he had the right idea avoiding those throws. Goff’s accuracy was solid in the short to intermediate areas. Still, as a relatively immobile quarterback, his future as a starter will rely heavily on improved efficiency with deep-ball passing. The Lions will likely be in the hunt for his replacement in the draft next year.

Jacksonville Jaguars

#26: Trevor Lawrence

Last season was utterly disastrous for Trevor Lawrence as Urban Meyer was possibly the worst hire the team could have made at head coach. Lawrence’s turnover-worthy play rate was higher than his big-time throw rate per PFF, and he threw 17 interceptions to just 12 touchdowns. He also had just a 43.2 passer rating under pressure, the worst in the NFL. Lawrence was one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL by most advanced metrics as his accuracy was erratic and his decision-making was questionable. However, Lawrence was reportedly making most, if not all, of the pre-snap offensive line adjustments and hot routes at the line of scrimmage. His cerebral understanding of the game should help boost his improvement this season with a better situation around him.

Chicago Bears

#27: Justin Fields

In his rookie season, Fields brought a high-variance approach to the field, leading to many highlights and mistakes. Fields had an impressive 6.1% big-time throw rate, tied for fifth among qualified passers, despite being pressured on 42% of his plays. Matt Nagy and his staff struggled to maximize Fields’ capabilities, and he should benefit from the team’s coaching change. For example, the new staff should use play-action much more often, which will help Fields as he led the league in big-time throw rate on play-action passes per PFF. Fields may still have one of the worst supporting casts in the league, but he showed plenty of arm talent and athleticism last year to be excited about.

Pittsburgh Steelers

#28: Mitchell Trubisky

The Steelers spent a first-round pick on Kenny Pickett this year, and it’s expected that he will take over as the starter at some point this season. However, Trubisky is now listed as the starter on the depth chart. In his final season in Chicago, Trubisky was benched for Nick Foles amidst a career-worst PFF grade, career-low big-time-throw rate, and career-high turnover-worthy play rate. Trubisky consistently flashed high-level upside in Chicago, but his volatility was too high, and he never developed into a trustworthy starter. Supposedly, the year as a backup in Buffalo helped Trubisky immensely, and perhaps the change of scenery will provide a career resurgence. However, he will have a short leash as the team’s fans clamor for the hometown kid Pickett to get on the field sooner rather than later.

Seattle Seahawks

#29: Geno Smith

After Russell Wilson’s injury last season, Geno Smith performed admirably well with five touchdowns to just one interception in five games. He faced three formidable defenses in that span with the Rams, Steelers, and Saints and still posted an 80.5% adjusted completion rate that would have led all qualified quarterbacks. His passer rating would have also ranked sixth among qualified passers. Most of Smith’s career has seen him bounce around the NFL as a backup, but he will get his first real opportunity this season since his first two failed years with the Jets, and there should be some optimism. In a run-heavy scheme with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett to throw to, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Smith approach league-average play in some respects.

San Francisco 49ers

#30: Trey Lance

Lance only started two games in his rookie season, but he showed some incredible intrigue in those two games. While his accuracy was lacking, his 10.3 aDOT would have led the NFL among qualified passers. Lance also registered a 97.3 passer rating, ranking 13th among projected starters for this season. With a full year of development under his belt, this offseason will be pivotal for Lance as he adjusts to life as a starter in the NFL. The North Dakota State product only played in 17 games as a quarterback in college, so his lack of experience could lead to significant growing pains early on this season. However, optimism is brewing around his athleticism and arm talent, and he has an ideal situation with Kyle Shanahan, one of the best offensive coaches in the league.

New York Jets

#31: Zach Wilson

I wasn’t high on Zach Wilson entering the draft, and nothing about his rookie season suggested I move off that stance. According to PFF’s tracking, he was the least accurate passer in the NFL, and his 55.6% completion percentage was the lowest in the league among qualified passers. Wilson also ranked second-worst in QBR (28.2) and worst in passer rating (69.7). Wilson didn’t get much help from his offensive line as he was under pressure on 39% of his passes, where his passer rating dropped to 48.6. With a likely improved offensive line and the addition of rookie wideout Garrett Wilson, the Jets will be hoping they have done enough to coax improved play out of their second-year quarterback.

Atlanta Falcons

#32: Marcus Mariota

It’s been a while since we’ve seen a large sample size of Marcus Mariota – he last started a game in 2019. However, it’s beneficial for the former Oregon passer that his offensive coordinator in that season was Arthur Smith, the Falcons’ new head coach. Accuracy has never been a strength of Mariota’s game, and he had just a 59.4% completion rate in 2019 before being benched. Mariota’s final start in 2019 came against the Broncos’ vaunted defense as he completed just 38.9% of his passes for 63 yards and two interceptions. It’s challenging to know which version of Mariota we’ll see in Atlanta this year, and it won’t be surprising to anyone if Desmond Ridder ends up starting sooner rather than later this season.

I've been writing about sports for Lineups since the beginning of 2020 and on my own website since 2018. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. With my educational background in the sports business and a strong knowledge of the inner workings of professional and collegiate sports, I hope to tell enthralling stories about the world of sports as it unfolds around me.

Hot NFL Stories