We proceed with NFL quarterback situation rankings, offering the reminder that a quarterback situation is not the same as the quality of the starting quarterback, though the two are certainly related to a degree.
There is one extremely controversial inclusion on this list of the second tier of NFL quarterback situations, because the player is obviously a top-three quarterback in the league. The situation in which he currently exists, however, is far from ideal. You will be able to identify that situation very clearly.
No. 16: San Francisco 49ers
Even though the NFL news and rumors suggested that the San Francisco 49ers would end up with Mac Jones, they didn’t. They also didn’t draft Justin Fields, a better prospect than Trey Lance, whom they ultimately took at No. 3 to back up Jimmy Garoppolo. The plan is for Jimmy G to start this season and hopefully lead the Niners back to the Super Bowl. If Garoppolo stays healthy, which he could not do last season, this team can put all the pieces together.
However, much as Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams made the Super Bowl two seasons ago and then regressed, there are fears that the same path could occur with Garoppolo. The Niners might wish they had Fields and not Lance as the relief pitcher ready to come in from the bullpen in that case. This ranking might be a few spots too low, but the Niners trading up to No. 3 in the draft offers a clear indication that they themselves are not comfortable with Garoppolo. So, in many ways, they declared that their quarterback situation wasn’t where they wanted it to be.
No. 15: Las Vegas Raiders
The 49ers have a quarterback who has made it to a Super Bowl. Why are the Raiders one spot ahead? It’s because they still have Marcus Mariota backing up Derek Carr. This is one of the prime examples of a team having a capable backup in place if anything happens to the starter. The starter is not exceptionally good — Carr has not reached his ceiling in his career, nor has he played with the consistency the Raiders were hoping for — but the backup is solid and gives the Raiders more stability than other teams.
No. 14: Los Angeles Chargers
The upside of Justin Herbert is considerable. He turned in an encouraging rookie season. Herbert made plenty of rookie mistakes but also showed he can sling the ball down the field. His strong throwing arm didn’t emerge at Oregon because his offensive coordinator had him throw a lot of screen passes and check-downs. In the NFL, quarterbacks have to be able to stretch the field, and Herbert did just that.
This ranking is not higher because Los Angeles Chargers have a new coach, Brandon Staley, who needs to show that he can lead a team and an offense. He is a former defensive coordinator, so the Chargers’ offense is currently a mystery. If Herbert builds on his 2020 season, this ranking will move up into the top 10.
No. 13: Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan can still throw the football well. He has good receivers. You might point out that Julio Jones is demanding a trade out of Atlanta. Will that hurt the Falcons? Maybe. But don’t assume that it will. It’s not that simple.
If the Falcons get really good value in a deal for Jones, they could become a better team. Calvin Ridley is a quality receiver. Kyle Pitts, the tight end with wide receiver speed whom the Falcons took with the No. 4 pick in the draft, is an elite target who should have a great NFL career. Ryan will still have people to throw to even if Atlanta trades Jones. The Falcons’ problem (and also Ryan’s problem) is that the defense and special teams have both been bad, creating late-game losses and a lot of scoreboard deficits.
The Falcons, if they can improve their team, would instantly make Ryan’s life a lot easier. Ryan himself is still an above-average quarterback. He hasn’t been placed in good situations in recent years. Just a little more help will put him in position to do something. Keep in mind that with Drew Brees retired, Ryan is now the second-best QB in the NFC South, behind Tom Brady.
No. 12: Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens have all the pieces in place, except for one: Lamar Jackson’s downfield passing ability. Jackson is a former NFL MVP, but so much of what he does is based on his running prowess and his scrambling outside the pocket. Jackson is a devastating force at times, but he hasn’t become a relentlessly consistent downfield passer. If he can take the next step in his development, the Ravens become a team that can win the Super Bowl — and this QB situation will become a top-five entrant in the NFL. For now, Jackson has to remain outside the top 10.
No. 11: Pittsburgh Steelers
The clock is ticking for Big Ben Roethlisberger. He can still make clutch plays, as shown in a big comeback victory over the Indianapolis Colts last December that helped nail down an AFC North Division championship for Pittsburgh. The future Hall of Famer still shows enough greatness to merit a ranking higher than Lamar Jackson.
Yet, he shows his age and his increasing physical limitations enough that he can’t quite be placed in the top 10. The Steelers realized Big Ben needed help, so they drafted a new running back, Najee Harris, and a new tight end, Pat Freiermuth. We will see how much those additions help.
No. 10: Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson is a better quarterback than some of the players who will appear in the top eight of this list. So why is this the No. 10 situation? The answer isn’t hard to see: Seattle’s offensive line has been bad in recent years. Wilson, who is speedy and agile, still gets sacked a lot. He has complained to head coach Pete Carroll about this situation. Wilson isn’t getting as much help as he needs. The Seahawks’ play selection, which has been far from aggressive, has also become a limitation on a gifted quarterback who, with a few more big seasons, could make a run at the Hall of Fame.
No. 9: Green Bay Packers
This is the obviously controversial selection on the list. Of course, Aaron Rodgers is a top-three quarterback in the NFL, especially with Drew Brees gone. Tom Brady is a better all-time quarterback, but in terms of value to a team and an offense in 2021, Rodgers remains the best. He is still very mobile — much more than Brady — and his release is still lightning-quick. He dramatically affects the Packers’ ability to overcome all their weaknesses.
Brady is the best ever, but he has also been part of teams which have surrounded him with more resources. Rodgers has carried the Packers in spite of their limitations. If we are grading quarterbacks alone and not their situations, Rodgers is No. 3 behind Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes. But, of course, we are looking at a situation, not just the QB himself. The reality that Rodgers hasn’t yet committed to play for the Packers in 2021 – meaning he could retire from football – puts Green Bay’s season and future in doubt. This was easily the hardest situation to rank. The feeling was that it did not deserve to be in the top tier, instead being just outside it.
This team has the third-shortest Super Bowl odds at +1200.