The era of Manning, Brady, Brees, Roethlisberger, and Rivers is fading and a new group of quarterbacks is falling into place. There are currently fourteen quarterbacks under the age of 26 starting in the NFL. Half of them have their team into the playoffs this year. The future is bright at the quarterback position in the NFL as most teams feel like they have found their quarterback of the future.
1. Patrick Mahomes, 23, Kansas City Chiefs
This one is obvious. Mahomes is most likely going to be the MVP this season and has astounded everyone with his play this season. His ability to extend plays and make throws from uncomfortable positions is unlike anyone else in the league right now. It also doesn’t hurt that he has one of the strongest arms in the league right now. He was not only one of the best quarterbacks in football this year, but one of the best players overall.
Obviously it helps to have weapons like Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and Kareem Hunt, and have Andy Reid calling plays. However, Mahomes has looked like the real deal in his first full season under center. When a 23-year-old puts up 50 touchdowns and 5000 yards, it catches people’s attention. We will have to see how he responds to defenses having a full year of film on him, but it looks like he has a star quality that no one else does. Mahomes should be an elite quarterback in this league for a very long time.
2. Jared Goff, 24, Los Angeles Rams
Goff has had moments this year where he looks like he did in his rookie year under Jeff Fisher. However, he has overall proven that he is an elite young quarterback who can be the franchise guy for the Rams. Like Mahomes, he has a lot of help. Having Todd Gurley behind you, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Brandin Cooks catching your passes, and Sean McVay calling your plays makes your job a lot easier.
Goff has still shown accuracy on deep balls and the ability to make big-time throws. He has 60 touchdowns to just 19 interceptions in his last two seasons after his horrendous rookie season. Goff has turned into a star under McVay. Whether he is a product of the system is yet to be seen, but as of now, Goff looks like he will be a top quarterback in football very soon.
3. Baker Mayfield, 23, Cleveland Browns
I admit that I was skeptical when the Browns took Mayfield with the first overall pick. I didn’t think he had the accuracy or size to excel at the NFL level. However, since taking over for Tyrod Taylor, he has proven everyone wrong. He has great touch and has made some fantastic throws throughout his rookie season.
Mayfield helped turn the Browns into a solid team in the second half of the season after being a cellar dweller for years. His growth next season will be fun to watch. Can he continue to excel after defenses have a full offseason to prepare for him? I think so. I believe the future is bright for Mayfield and the Browns and he will get Cleveland back to the playoffs very soon.
4. Carson Wentz, 26, Philadelphia Eagles
Wentz is one of two quarterbacks on this list that have had durability issues early in their careers. Wentz has missed the stretch run over the last two seasons due to injuries. His back-up Nick Foles has taken over and won every meaningful game he has had to down the stretch, including a Super Bowl.
Wentz has 54 touchdowns to 14 interceptions in the last two seasons, so he has produced statistically. He should be able to take the team back over again next year and hopefully he can finish the full season. However, missing the end of the season and the playoffs two years in a row is concerning. Wentz definitely has the talent to be an MVP-caliber player as we saw in 2017, but staying healthy will be key to his development.
5. Deshaun Watson, 23, Houston Texans
After Watson’s historic six-game stretch last year, many anointed him as the next great NFL quarterback. I was hesitant because of some of the bad decisions I saw him make in college and in his rookie season that led to turnovers. However, he was able to return from his torn ACL and have a solid season leading the Texans to a division title.
I still believe that he relies too much on Deandre Hopkins and if defenses can take him away or he gets injured, Watson would probably struggle. Almost a third of his attempts were targeting Hopkins this year. The Clemson duo is lethal and together they have made the Texans a legitimate contender. Watson could be ready to take the next step to becoming an MVP contender when Will Fuller is healthy again next season and some improvements along Houston’s offensive line.
6. Dak Prescott, 25, Dallas Cowboys
Prescott was near the top of this list at the end of his rookie season. With 23 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions, he looked like a steal for Dallas in the fourth round. However, in his second year, he hit a sophomore slump and just didn’t pass the eye-test. His numbers weren’t terrible on the surface, but his yards per attempt dropped from 8 to 6.8 and he threw 9 more interceptions.
This year, he bounced back and seems to have proved himself as the Cowboys’ quarterback. A lot of the credit should go to the Dallas defense and Ezekiel Elliot, but Prescott has never had a losing record. The Cowboys are 32-16 since Prescott was drafted and he hasn’t missed a start. Dak will be underrated by many, but he looks like he will be the starting quarterback in Dallas for a while.
7. Marcus Mariota, 25, Tennessee Titans
Mariota is the other quarterback who has durability problems. He has only missed four starts in the last three seasons, but it seems like he is always playing hurt. Last year, he had a hamstring injury for most of the year, but only missed one start. This year, he had nerve problems in his elbow. It just doesn’t feel right that he has so many different injuries in his first few seasons. Others may point at his somewhat mediocre stats as an issue. However, the stats don’t tell the entire story.
Mariota may only have 24 touchdowns to 23 interceptions in the last two seasons, but his receivers have had an impact on these stats. There have been issues with drops, not knowing routes, and Mariota had to play this season without his two leading receivers from 2017, Delanie Walker and Rishard Matthews. There are some writing off Mariota heading into next season, but I wouldn’t. He has had nine game-winning drives in the past three seasons and has led the Titans to three straight winning seasons. If he can stay healthy and Tennessee can sign a weapon or two, Mariota could bounce back in a major way.
8. Mitchell Trubisky, 24, Chicago Bears
Trubisky, like many quarterbacks on this list, was bad as a rookie. He had a sub-60% completion percentage and 77.5 passer rating. However, he has bounced back and had a solid 2018 season. His touchdown to interception numbers are somewhat skewed by two big games. In those games he had 9 touchdowns and no interceptions. Without those games, he had just 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. These numbers aren’t great, but he has shown the ability to win games for the Bears.
Chicago improved from having a top-ten pick to having a home playoff game. This has a lot to do with the improvement of the defense, but Trubisky has been good enough for the Bears this season. He probably hasn’t been worth the second overall pick in 2017 yet, but his ceiling is still high.
9. Sam Darnold, 21, New York Jets
There were a lot of issues with Darnold’s game this year. He threw way too many interceptions and there were a lot of head-scratching mistakes from the rookie quarterback. However, he finished the season giving the Jets a lot of hope for the future. After returning from injury in Week 14, he threw six touchdowns to just one interception. His games against the Texans and Packers were also two of his four games where he had a passer rating over 100.
Darnold looked like he could have the highest ceiling in the quarterback class last year. However, he had a lot of issues taking care of the ball. Towards the end of the year, he looked like he was starting to move past those issues. If Darnold can work on his decision-making heading into next year and carry this momentum over, he could be a breakout star in New York.
10. Jameis Winston, 25, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Winston is one of the most concerning quarterbacks on this list. Two of the three below him are rookies and the other will not be starting next year. However, Winston is entering his fifth year in the league and still struggles with decision-making on and off the field. He had a lot of character red flags coming out of Florida State and his suspension at the beginning of this year was the culmination of those issues. He also seems to make more head-scratching throws than anyone else in the NFL. It looks like when he doesn’t know what to do he just throws the ball up for grabs and hopes his guy grabs it.
Winston was benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick this year and still has yet to take the Bucs to the playoffs. He also doesn’t have a single season with less than 11 interceptions. Winston is a volume passer so his stats will look better than someone like Marcus Mariota in terms of touchdowns and yards. However, Winston hasn’t given Tampa Bay a reason to think he is their franchise quarterback. Next year will probably be his last chance to prove he deserves a big contract.
11. Josh Allen, 22, Buffalo Bills
I really don’t know what to think of the rookie out of Wyoming. I was almost 100% sure he would be a bust who only was drafted because of his big arm, but he looked like he has some potential. However, when defenses have a full offseason to prepare for him and his athleticism, he will struggle. However, there is at least some reason for hope in Buffalo.
Allen does have elite arm strength and can make plays with his feet, but he still struggles with accuracy sometimes. If Buffalo is able to surround him with good pieces, he could become a serviceable starter. However, a 52.8% completion percentage is unacceptable. Allen’s main issue coming out was accuracy and he hasn’t done much to silence those doubts. His ball placement will have to improve in his second campaign.
12. Josh Rosen, 21, Arizona Cardinals
Rosen flew under the radar in terms of rookie quarterbacks this season. He wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t good and he played on the worst team in football. Rosen probably has the most pure talent in this year’s quarterback class, but he still can’t avoid the stupid mistakes and didn’t seem to take over and make plays like other young quarterbacks have.
He had an aging Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson around him which is better than some quarterbacks can say. He still had just 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. There was also a stretch of four games near the end of the season where he didn’t throw a touchdown. It will be interesting to see what happens with Rosen next season, but it definitely wasn’t an encouraging rookie season for the rookie out of UCLA.
13. Lamar Jackson, 21, Baltimore Ravens
Jackson went 6-1 in starts this year and won the AFC North, so why is he the second-lowest quarterback on the list? Well, his defense was dominant in the second half of the season and Jackson wasn’t asked to do that much with his arm. He is a fantastic athlete and can make the big play with his legs, but he really struggled throwing the ball this year.
He had some throws where he looked like an NFL quarterback, but there were countless times he missed wide open receivers downfield. Jackson didn’t win games for the Ravens, the defense and running-game did. Just like Robert Griffin and Tim Tebow, teams will get tape on him and figure out how to stop him next year. Jackson will need to improve his accuracy if he wants any chance of becoming a consistent quarterback in the NFL.
14. Blake Bortles, 26, Jacksonville Jaguars
Bortles will not be on this list come next year. The Jaguars have to move on from the former third overall pick. The team won despite him last year and Bortles was given a small extension. After another disappointing season, he will be let go in the offseason.
Bortles’ mechanics are some of the worst in the league with his long wind-up and he can’t seem to avoid the back-breaking interceptions. Bortles will probably be a solid backup for someone next year, but he is not good enough to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. Jacksonville will look to find another young quarterback in the next two years and hope they don’t miss again like they did on Bortles and his predecessor Blaine Gabbert.