You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Analytically ranking NFC quarterbacks (with Lamar Jackson included)

Bring Me The Sports on FanNation 3/23/2023 Haley English

We can't separate QBs from their situation...who's the best if we combine the two?

With Brady, Rodgers, and company gone from the NFC, who’s going to play the role of dominant quarterback? Ari Meirov’s tweet of the current quarterbacks in the conference has taken the online world by storm because, well, the list doesn’t appear very impressive compared to the AFC. Is it really that rough? What if Lamar Jackson joined an NFC team? Let’s rank them and find out…

Our ranking

We didn’t want to rank these quarterbacks by our perception so in an attempt to be more accurate, we took a look at their performance as well as the strength of their offensive line and receiving options. The idea is that the NFC quarterbacks might not be considered as good as Burrow and Mahomes but some have supporting casts that even the playing field. After all, it’s the results that matter, not just our perception. Here’s how we calculated a score for each QB:

  • EPA Per Play (2020-2022) – EPA is probably the best metric to quantify a player’s ability, and QB EPA includes both passes and runs. Worth 50% of their score.
  • Projected Offensive Line PFF Pass Blocking Grade – The average of the projected starters’ 2022 PFF pass blocking grades. Worth 20% of their score.
  • Projected PFF Receiving Grade – The weighted average of the top 5 receiving options for the quarterback on the current depth chart (excludes running backs). WR/TE1 gets a hypothetical 100 catches, WR/TE2 gets 80, 60, 40, and WR/TE5 gets 20. Their 2022 PFF receiving grades are multiplied by those hypothetical catches and averaged out over the 300 total. Worth 30% of their score.
Notes: The actual offensive line and receiving grades for 2022 were weighted by the actual number of snaps (for offensive lineman) and catches (for receivers). Lamar Jackson was included to see where he would stack up in the NFC. © Provided by Bring Me The Sports on FanNation Notes: The actual offensive line and receiving grades for 2022 were weighted by the actual number of snaps (for offensive lineman) and catches (for receivers). Lamar Jackson was included to see where he would stack up in the NFC.

1) Brock Purdy, 49ers (Score = 90.4)

Mr. Not-So-Irrelevant-Anymore gets our highest score after taking full advantage of the weapons around him in his 6 games at the end of the 2022 season. Yes, it’s a small sample size (that’ll be a recurring theme here), but Purdy was careful with the football and had the highest EPA per play (0.19). He doesn’t have the biggest arm and won’t make the flashiest throws downfield, but he simply gets the ball to his playmakers. Oh, and those receiving options are projected to be the best in the NFC next season (and that doesn’t include McCaffrey). He also has an argument for the best play caller. How many other coaches could have ranked sixth in scoring with three different QBs in one season?

2) Jalen Hurts, Eagles (Score = 84.5)

In 2022, Hurts had the best weapons and protection out of any of these guys by far, with an average grade of 81.3 for receivers and 80.1 for the offensive line. However, his EPA per play from the past 3 seasons was a bit lower than Purdy’s, and since that stat made up half of their score, Hurts grabs the second spot here. Retaining most of his receivers and offensive lineman puts Hurts in another prime position to succeed in 2023.

3) Dak Prescott, Cowboys (Score = 69.8)

Of the top guys on this list, Dak has done the most with the least. His EPA per play was actually slightly above Hurts, something he accomplished with a middle-of-the-pack offensive line and receiving corps. As it stands right now, his supporting cast is projected to perform about the same in 2023 (Brandin Cooks is only a slight upgrade over Schultz). Dak’s third on this list even with all the costly turnovers, so if he can clean those up, he could make a case for the top QB in the conference.

4) *Lamar Jackson, Ravens (Score = 64.7)

If Lamar so chooses to join the NFC (and if the Ravens decline to match any offer he gets), he’ll instantly become one of the top QBs in the conference. In calculating his score, we used his offensive line and receiver grades from 2022 since we technically don’t know what team he’ll be captaining in 2023. He’s proven he can succeed with a great offensive line (2nd highest average pass blocking grade) and well below average receivers, but what can he do if he’s paired with an Amon-Ra St. Brown? Or a Justin Jefferson perhaps? Our calculations also didn’t include his MVP 2019 season, which would have likely shot him to the top of the list.

5) Kirk Cousins, Vikings (Score = 64.3)

Cousins was given the third worst protection by his offensive line last season, and that projected grade isn’t expected to move up that much. The Vikings need better performances in pass blocking at guard, since both Ezra Cleveland and Ed Ingram had pass blocking grades below 55. However, Cousins still managed a respectable EPA per play of 0.12 by taking advantage of the fifth best receiving corps in the NFC. If the Vikings can fix the weak links at guard and get a little better receiver depth behind Jefferson and Hockenson, Kirk could hop up this list. Of course, cap constraints have consistently kept them from adding the one or two extra parts to get him over the top. Still, you can see why the Vikings would be very hesitant to move on from Cousins or take apart their roster when they can put together a top-five QB situation in the conference.

6) Matthew Stafford, Rams (Score = 58.1)

The entire Rams team took a fall from the graces and had a series of unfortunate luck last season, including Stafford. His nine games under center were played with by far the worst offensive line in the NFC that was riddled with injuries, and Stafford’s EPA per play fell from nearly 0.20 in 2021 to -0.06 in 2022. The Rams average pass blocking grade of 53.3 was seven points below the next lowest graded line, but it’s projected to be about 10 points better next season if they can stay healthy, so Stafford could bounce back. He’s a great example of how much supporting cast impacts QB production.

7) Derek Carr, Saints (Score = 57)

After leaving the stacked AFC West, Carr instantly finds himself as the best quarterback in his new division, the NFC South. He was in a similar situation as Cousins last season, surrounded by great receivers but a not-so-great offensive line. He’ll have some riches at receiver on the Saints, but their offensive line is expected to be the worst in the NFC, lowlighted by the left side that currently has Andrus Peat and Trevor Penning starting (both with pass blocking grades of 40 or below in 2022).

8) Kyler Murray, Cardinals (Score = 53.7)

We’re still going to highlight Murray even though he won’t be starting Week 1 due to his ACL recovery. Kyler’s had an average EPA per play of 0.1066 since 2020, but he had the second worst receiving options around him last season. His supporting cast is projected to be better in 2023 (that’s assuming Hopkins isn’t traded), but we’ll probably see Colt McCoy for the beginning of the season if they don’t make any additions at QB, so it’s hard to project how good Kyler is going to be after the injury.

9) Geno Smith, Seahawks (Score = 48.2)

The comeback player of the year had a great season after coming back from not being… good. Geno had an average amount of success with as about an average supporting cast on offense that you can get. However, they’ve now got some holes on the offensive line, most importantly at center (since Austin Blythe retired), and their current projected starter Joey Hunt hasn’t taken an NFL snap yet. Expect Geno to be average again next season.

10) Jared Goff, Lions (Score = 46.8)

Goff’s ranking here is probably the one that is the least accurate, since his success last season was far above his previous seasons. His EPA per play of 0.17 in 2022 would put him right behind Purdy, but his 2020 and 2021 were far less efficient. Amon-Ra St. Brown made up the brunt of the receiving grade last season, but Jameson Williams’ tiny sample receiving grade of 57.5 in 2022 is factored into the 2023 projection (and that will likely go up with more playing time), so Goff is much better than 10th place here and could probably push into the top five.

11) Baker Mayfield, Buccaneers (Score = 40.3)

We used Mayfield here, but he’ll likely be competing with Kyle Trask for the starting job. Since Baker was with two teams last season, his stats from 2022 are weighted with his supporting cast from both the Panthers and Rams, but the 2023 projections are for the Buccaneers. Unlike Goff, Baker had a bad 2022 (EPA per play of -0.12) but he was decent in previous seasons, so his three year average of 0.06 is somewhat respectable. Having Godwin and Evans next season will likely help him creep back toward average if he wins the job.

12) Sam Howell, Commanders (Score = 38.1)

This one comes with a big old asterisk since Howell played in 1 game and completed a whopping 11 passes last season, but he’s projected to start as of now. His offensive line and receiving group are looking to be about average next season (and above all the guys below him in this ranking), so that’s what boosts him up to 12th. It’ll be interesting to see how Howell does once he gets more experience under his belt, cause he’ll be surrounded by a respectable group on offense.

13) Daniel Jones, Giants (Score = 28.1)

The new $40 million per year guy ends up as the fifth worst quarterback in the conference with our calculations, but he’s in a similar situation to Goff to where he had a much better 2022 (EPA per play of 0.11) than both 2021 (0.01) and 2020 (-0.02). Brian Daboll’s presence alone made a big difference. But they still have holes. Right now, the Giants don’t have a center on their roster and their only above-average offensive lineman is Andrew Thomas, so they’re going to need to fill in those gaps (in addition to getting more wide receivers) to see if Jones is really the guy. Darren Waller’s addition does give him a high quality option he was lacking in the recent past.

14) Desmond Ridder, Falcons (Score = 25.8)

The Falcons certainly do have a respectable amount of receiving weapons to set up Ridder to succeed, but he showed abysmal play in his 4 starts at the end of the season. Yes, it’s a sample size issue. For next season, he’s got the fifth highest projected receiving grade (74.7), but the fourth lowest projected pass blocking grade (62.4), which is brought down by Jalen Mayfield’s grade of 27.6. The Falcons added Taylor Heinicke likely to back up Ridder, but if Ridder keep performing like he did at the end of 2022, Heinicke might take over.

15) Jordan Love, Packers (Score = 23)

With the soon departure of Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love will finally get his shot at starting quarterback, and it’s been a long time coming. However, Love is left with zero proven receiving options not named Christian Watson, since Lazard left for the Jets and Cobb will most likely not be returning as well. That receiving group is projected to be the worst in the conference, but he does have the second highest projected offensive line grade (76.3). We haven’t really seen what Love can do yet, and with the lack of weapons around him, this may be a weird year for the Packers. Or we could see Love shoot up these rankings one year from now. Hard to say.

16) Andy Dalton, Panthers (Score = 22.7)

Dalton is just a placeholder for now, since the Panthers will be drafting a quarterback No. 1 overall in just over a month. However, it will be an uphill battle for Dalton and the draftee, since they’re left with the second worst receiving group after losing DJ Moore in the trade for the #1 pick. When your top receiver right now is a declining Adam Thielen, you’re not entirely in the best position. But they do have an above-average offensive line with a weakness at only center. They’re going to need to add more weapons on offense to get Dalton (or Young or Stroud or Richardson) out of the bottom.

17) Justin Fields, Bears (Score = 11.3)

I imagine this will cause an uproar, but Fields has done next to nothing in the passing game in his first two seasons. He’s a great running quarterback, but his passing EPA per play has been negative in both seasons, though he did have the worst receiving group in the conference in 2022 (63.7). The addition of DJ Moore moves the 2023 projection out of the bottom and to about average, but their offensive line is still projected to be one of the worst (60.2), so the Bears and Justin Fields still have a long way to go.


— If Lamar Jackson joined an NFC team, he could be the best QB in the conference with better receivers than what Baltimore has provided for him in recent years. His best receiver with more than 25 targets graded a 67.2 by PFF last year, which ranked 58th of 102.

— The Eagles and 49ers’ offenses have a good chance to repeat their elite offenses because they haven’t lost anything from top-notch supporting casts.

— Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff and Daniel Jones show us just how much middling QBs can be propped up or torn down by what’s around them. In Stafford’s case, he needed a great offensive line. Goff needed receivers. Jones needed a smart play caller.

— Justin Fields’ supporting cast may have improved but if he doesn’t stop taking sacks behind a mediocre offensive line, he won’t make the jump everyone in Chicago is hoping for.

— Unproven QBs Jordan Love and [insert Panthers No. 1 pick here] do not appear to be set up for great success right away. Baker Mayfield and Sam Howell, doppelgangers, might be helped quite a bit by their situations.

— The NFC isn’t going to send many of its current QBs to Canton but last year six of the top 10 scoring offenses in the NFL came from the NFC. We could definitely see that again. Also, a bunch of NFC offenses defined mediocrity last year and history could repeat itself there as well.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon