Contrary to what offensive linemen might say, the quarterback is by far the most important position on the football field. Most every year, the final two teams in the Super Bowl have quarterbacks that had elite seasons. While defense wins championships, quarterbacks get you there. In this article, we’ll look at the top 10 NFL QBs for 2021.
We’ll lay out the top 10 NFL quarterbacks based on a number of factors (below) for this coming season. All stats were pulled from Sports Reference.
How we determined the Best NFL QBs
Every position on the football field has one trait that matters a bit more than the rest. For running backs, it’s their value to their team. When judging this list of top 10 NFL QBs, the trait I chose to highlight was efficiency. Players like Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan accumulate yards and touchdowns by way of mass passing volume and won’t crack this list.
Other factors include dual-threat ability, the ability to will your team to wins (which is considered by many not a quarterback stat), and – of course – production.
How sustainable is their play? What quarterbacks reset the standard for passing efficiency and which stand out? We’ll take a look.
ALSO READ: Top 10 NFL RBs for 2021 season
Best NFL QBs for 2021
10. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
Exciting as Kyler Murray is to watch, his fantasy football value greatly exceeds his real life QB ranking. Murray struggles in the completion percentage department and takes a few too many sacks. To be fair to him, inept coaching is largely to blame for the lack of touchdown efficiency (his 4.7% in 2020 was league average).
What makes Murray one of the ten best quarterbacks in the NFL is his rushing capability. In 2020, Murray rushed for 811 yards (second among quarterbacks) and 11 touchdowns (first). For as many sacks as he takes (his 8.1% sack rate in 2019 led the NFL), Murray also escapes pressure and extends plays plenty. Sometimes, his reckless abandon is bailed out by All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins.
In 2021, oddsmakers stat Murray out for yards and an MVP price of .
9. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans topped the list for most efficient offense in each of the past two seasons. The system can be attributed to departed offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, but the execution is all on Ryan Tannehill. It may come as surprise to some that Tannehill entered the NFL in 2012 out of Texas A&M after moving to QB from receiver just one season prior.
With an ultra-effective run game, Tannehill has emerged into being one of the best passers in the NFL. No one threw for more yards off play action than he did in 2020 (1,452) and only Deshaun Watson outpaced Tannehill in air yards per completion (7.3). In short, he revolutionized the efficient downfield passing off play action game.
Without Smith, Tannehill is posted for passing yards and touchdowns.
8. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
If there’s a poster child for wins not being a quarterback stat, it’s Matthew Stafford. In Detroit, Stafford made the playoffs just once despite passing for over 4,400 yards per season in nine completed seasons. The talent is there, no question about it.
Now that Stafford moves onto the Los Angeles Rams and Sean McVay’s system, fans are clamoring to see Stafford get his deserved wins. Sportsbooks have him down for yards, slightly above his career average. Other than better coaching, he’s benefitted by a dangerous and versatile receiving corps headed by Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp.
Stafford is a bettor-favorite when it comes to MVP betting this season despite his odds.
7. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Once again, Russell Wilson played two different halves of a football season. In the first halves of both 2019 and 2020, Wilson threw for 296.8 yards per game and 50 touchdowns (17 games). In the remaining 15 games, he averaged 218.4 yards per game and threw just 21 touchdowns. When the Seahawks open up the playbook, Wilson is one of the most efficient and effective quarterbacks in the NFL.
He’s a perennial top-five finisher in touchdown rate (7.2% in 2020 was second-best of his career) and is a consistent trend setter in passing efficiency. Sportsbooks slot Wilson for passing touchdowns this season.
The word out of Seattle, though, is the Seahawks intend to run their late-2020 and late-2019 playbook; a run-dependent, methodical offense rather than their uptempo, high-flying affair.
6. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Before his gruesome season-ending injury, Dak Prescott led the NFL in fantasy scoring by a quarterback. In four completed games, Prescott averaged 422.5 yards per game, on pace to shatter the all-time passing record (6,760 yards– seriously). Added to his ankle injury rehab, Prescott has been battling a shoulder injury this offseason.
That shoulder injury is no joke and should be monitored. Multiple reports say it could be a season-long lingering injury. Should that not factor into his play, Prescott is a very real candidate to lead the NFL in passing yards this season (current total is at , second most).
A (hopefully) mended offensive line should keep Dak upright and slinging the football. When healthy and protected, he’s one of the best.
5. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
When it comes to redefining quarterback standards, Josh Allen set one for single-season improvement in 2020. Perhaps his most impressive jump was in passing completion, which moved 11 points (most ever). Allen also sustained the NFL’s top receiver in terms of targets, receptions, and yards in Stefon Diggs.
While another 2020-esque jump for Allen in 2021 would be absolute lunacy, there’s no reason to suspect a regression. The Buffalo Bills have among the highest win total in the NFL (), due majorly to Allen’s play. He’s helped along by Brian Daboll, who is one of the top offensive playcallers in the league.
Allen showed the ability to play efficiently, win meaningful football games, and take care of the football in 2020. He’s also a bettor’s favorite to win the MVP award this season with () odds.
4. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It has been said a million times, but Tom Brady continues to defy Father Time. At 44 years old, Brady is coming off his record-extending seventh Super Bowl ring. Doubts surrounded Brady in New England, but those doubts were resoundingly put to bed when he threw the second-most touchdowns in 2020 (40).
The Greatest Of All Time might not be the top quarterback in the league for 2021, but he’s worthy of a top-five ranking. Assisting Brady is a gunslinging head coach in Bruce Arians and a deep arsenal of pass catchers. Brady turned a 7-9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team into a Super Bowl champion his first year in town.
Brady is one of three quarterbacks in the NFL that instantly turn teams around. This season, he’s to win his fourth MVP and is slated for passing yards.
3. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
For a running back, Lamar Jackson has shown to be an incredibly efficient passer. In 2020, he tied for sixth in intended air yards per attempt (8.6), a stat which he tied Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes for in 2019 (8.8). The Baltimore Ravens are no doubt a run-first team (they led the NFL in rushing rate in 2020 at over 55%). However, combining their lethal rushing attack with an efficient downfield passing attack is all Lamar Jackson.
And, of course, there’s Jackson’s record-breaking rushing ability. He holds the all-time record for rushing yards by a quarterback in NFL history (1,206 in 2019) and also sits third (1,005 in 2020). Aside from being a fantasy football league-breaker, Jackson is one of the most dangerous real-life quarterbacks.
Unprecedented as it is, Lamar Jackson sits to lead the NFL in rushing yards this season while also being stated for passing yards.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers was Patrick Mahomes before Patrick Mahomes. Even in his 16th season, Rodgers was setting career highs in completion percentage (70.7%), touchdowns (48), and QBR (84.4). He led the NFL in touchdowns, interception rate (1.0%), air yards per attempt (9.6), and quarterback rating (121.5).
Most absurdly, Aaron Rodgers posted an NFL-record 9.1% touchdown rate. While that it is likely unsustainable, Rodgers sits over 1.5% above league average for touchdown rate during his career (6.3%). Famously, Rodgers leads the Packers on improbably game-winning drives time and time again.
Sportsbooks list Rodgers at passing yards this season. Bet against him if you dare, but he’s always thrived when expectations are tapered.
1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
The clear-cut number 1 when it comes to top 10 NFL QBs. Patrick Mahomes has been the most talented quarterback in the league since 2018 and he’s got a Super Bowl ring to back it up. Mahomes reset the standard for quarterback play in terms of playmaking, efficiency, and in the bank account.
His only weakness? Being battered by a weak offensive line which has now been totally turned around. It helps having a creative playcaller like Andy Reid around, but Mahomes is the Kansas City Chiefs.
Looking at NFL MVP odds, Mahomes is the favorite to win his second NFL MVP award () and to lead the league in nearly every passing category.