ESPN's NFL writers published a redraft this week. The concept is simple, you take every player in the NFL and 32 NFL writers, each writer picks players to build the best team possible. Shockingly, the top 10 picks weren't all quarterbacks. Only six of the top 10 picks were quarterbacks.
In a league where offences have dominated over recent years, and a league where quarterbacks have the biggest impact out of any position on the field, quarterbacks are by far the most important pieces. That doesn't mean a bad quarterback or even an average quarterback is more valuable than a great player at another position.
It does mean that a top-10 quarterback is hugely valuable.
Ronnie Stanley and Aaron Donald are restrained by the positions they play. They can't have as much of an impact on a game as Ryan Tannehill, Carson Wentz or Matt Ryan can. You can build a great team without a great quarterback, you can't build one with a bad quarterback. It's exponentially more difficult to build a Super Bowl-winning team with Kirk Cousins than it is Aaron Rodgers.
The San Francisco 49ers were better than the Kansas City Chiefs in almost every area except for quarterback in the Super Bowl last season. It's not just that Patrick Mahomes is special and Jimmy Garoppolo is average, it's that high-end quarterback play elevates every other position.
But the egregious decisions of those in the top 10 of that draft weren't the only issues with that exercise. The order in which the quarterbacks were selected was counter to what the evidence from last season suggests.
As a counter to that selection, here are Off The Ball's Quarterback Rankings for the 2020 NFL season.
1. Lamar Jackson
Stat Caveat: Lamar Jackson's receivers dropped four touchdowns in 2019, tied for the most in the NFL.
The best argument against Lamar Jackson as the best quarterback in the NFL last year is his playoff loss. A game in which he accounted for more than 500 yards is the best argument against Jackson. That's insane. Jackson was exceptional last year. He was the MVP but he was so much more than that too. He announced himself as a superstar who will be the face of the NFL for years to come.
2. Patrick Mahomes
Stat Caveat: Patrick Mahomes was the 15th-most accurate passer in the NFL before the fourth quarter last year, but the third-most accurate passer in the fourth quarter.
Mahomes didn't keep pace with Jackson during the regular season. He wasn't playing to the same level he had the previous year even before his knee injury at midseason. Mahomes turned it on in the playoffs and reminded everyone why he's a premier player in the league. Whether you put Mahomes or Jackson ahead it doesn't really matter. The difference between the two is negligible at this point.
3. Aaron Rodgers
Stat Caveat: Aaron Rodgers had 13 accurate deep passes dropped last season. Far and away the most in the NFL.
The Green Bay Packers have been in decline for years. Aaron Rodgers hasn't. His second-best receiver wouldn't make most rosters, which puts him in an unwinnable position too often. Rodgers is still an elite quarterback.
4. Dak Prescott
Stat Caveat: Dak Prescott was 62% accurate on throws that travelled further than 15 yards downfield, the best rate in the NFL.
In 2019, Dak Prescott was the second-most accurate quarterback in the NFL. He was the second-most accurate quarterback on third downs and the most accurate quarterback in the NFL on third-and-long. He was also the most accurate passer on straight dropbacks. The Cowboys' problem last year was Prescott's receivers dropping more passes than any other receiving corps in the league. That and Jason Garrett being the worst coach in the NFL.
5. Russell Wilson
Stat Caveat: Russell Wilson was accurate on five of his six passes that travelled further than 40 yards downfield.
Wilson remains a quarterback who is best suited to play in a run-first offence. That's what Pete Carroll has kept him in over recent years. With D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett as his receivers, Wilson was able to flourish in 2019. His deep accuracy was consistently exceptional and his decision-making improved over recent seasons.
6. Ryan Tannehill
Stat Caveat: Ryan Tannehill was 93 percent accurate on passes that didn't travel further than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage.
After losing his job in Miami because of shoulder and knee injuries, it looked like Ryan Tannehill's career was coming to a close 12 months ago. Instead, Tannehill became the Titans starter and showed off his full skill set. His ball placement is outrageous, he makes good decisions and delivers the ball consistently against pressure. Tannehill's athleticism is also a big advantage when the Titans get him to the edge. One thing that gets overlooked with Tannehill is that he has one of the best arms in the NFL.
7. Deshaun Watson
Stat Caveat: Deshaun Watson threw 62 deep passes outside the numbers last year, only Russell Wilson threw more.
Deshaun Watson has continually developed over his time in the NFL. He's pressing up against the top tier of NFL quarterbacks right now, he just needs greater snap-to-snap consistency. Watson is still moving into pressure too often, but how often he does it each season is declining. Trading away DeAndre Hopkins takes away a big weapon for him, it could have a knock-on effect in how defences approach him. Without Hopkins, there will be less clarity for Watson against blitzes and disguised pass rushes.
8. Matt Ryan
Stat Caveat: Matt Ryan was 68.6 percent accurate on third downs last season, the most accurate passer in the NFL.
At 35 years of age, it's not a surprise that Matt Ryan is declining somewhat. He physically isn't as quick or strong as he was just a couple of years ago. He's still a high-end passer who consistently excels in unclean pockets. Ryan has been a top-10 quarterback for his whole career, despite rarely reaching the peak of any quarterback rankings.
9. Kyler Murray
Stat Caveat: Only Russell Wilson was more accurate than Kyler Murray on passes that travelled further than 30 yards downfield and passes that travelled further than 40 yards downfield last season.
Don't expect Murray to reach the heights that Lamar Jackson reached in his second season, but the diminutive quarterback was very impressive as a rookie. He has all the traits to be a top-tier quarterback eventually, he just needs to iron out the inconsistencies that existed during his rookie season. His arm talent is spectacular and his poise in the pocket suggest he can be on par with Russell Wilson sooner rather than later.
10. Drew Brees
Stat Caveat: Drew Brees ranked in the top five for accuracy to every level of the field except on deep passes, where he ranked 24th.
Brees ranks this high on the list because of how well he will play during the regular season. He doesn't rank higher because he has a three-year trend of struggling to perform toward the end of the regular season. He's too old.
11. Teddy Bridgewater
Teddy Bridgewater was developing into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL before his knee injury all those years ago. He's an exceptionally smart quarterback who mitigates pressure in the pocket as well as anyone. Bridgewater has never had a big arm or the ability to hit deep passes consistently, but he's an exceptional passer on short and intermediate throws. If he plays to his previous level, he'll give the Panthers a chance to win the NFC South.
12. Jared Goff
Stat Caveat: Jared Goff was the eighth-most accurate quarterback in the NFL last season.
The Los Angeles Rams offence changed dramatically last season. Goff became more of a focal point than a complement. He was asked to carry the offence and that led to a lot more mistakes. But he also showed off improved accuracy, ranking in the top 10 on both intermediate and deep throws, while working the pocket better than he had in previous seasons. Goff ranking 12th in the NFL is more a reflection on the NFL currently being in a position where old quarterbacks have declined and the younger quarterbacks are still developing, or have already failed to develop.
13. Drew Lock
One of the shocking developments of the 2019 season was the play of Drew Lock. His debut was a disaster, but he's not the first quarterback to have that experience. After that, he showed of precision as a passer, poise, intelligence and impressive athleticism. It's a project based on the traits he showed off and the consistency he had on a relatively short sample, but Broncos fans have every reason to be excited about their new quarterback.
14. Carson Wentz
Stat Caveat: Carson Wentz's receivers dropped 28 passes last year, 10th-most in the NFL. Opposing defenders dropped 20 passes, he was the luckiest quarterback in the NFL in that regard.
Carson Wentz's performances last season were inconsistent. Even accounting for his receiving corps, his ball placement remains erratic and his decision-making isn't what his reputation suggests it should be. Wentz finished the season with a concussion. That hit wasn't his fault, neither was the injury obviously, but it's another health obstacle for a quarterback whose body is likely breaking down already.
15. Jimmy Garoppolo
Stat Caveat: 43.3 percent of Jimmy Garoppolo's pass attempts last year were screens or came after a play fake. No other quarterback reached 40 percent.
Jimmy Garoppolo proved during the playoffs that the 49ers can win without him. He proved in the Super Bowl that he's unlikely to make enough plays when his assignment is difficult for the 49ers to win with him. Garoppolo has been a passenger in Shanahan's offence and that will work a lot of the time. It's just very difficult to win a Super Bowl with someone who doesn't excel on straight-dropback passing plays. He's shown that he's capable on occasion, just not consistently capable. He was less reliable than Jameis Winston during the playoffs.
16. Derek Carr
Stat Caveat: Derek Car was the most accurate quarterback in the NFL in 2019. He finished the year at 69.4 percent.
Accuracy isn't everything when it comes to being an NFL quarterback. Derek Carr was exceptionally accurate in 2019. He was even exceptionally accurate when you account for all the checkdowns he prefers. Carr was the very best version of Derek Carr that he's ever been. The problem is that still means taking the safe throw rather than the throw that helps you win the game, it still means panicking prematurely against pressure and it still means throwing the ball away too often. Carr has the arm talent to rank higher than this, he's just never realized what it takes to win games.
17. Tom Brady
Stat Caveat: Tom Brady threw to the first down line on third downs 47.3 percent of the time last year, least often in the NFL.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren't getting a hall of fame quarterback. They're getting a hall of fame mind in a body that's past its sell-by-date. Brady physically can't make some throws now. His overall accuracy has worsened, his mind isn't as sharp and he can't hold up against pressure as he did five years ago. The Buccaneers have the talent to make the playoffs with him and he's an upgrade over Jameis Winston, he's no longer a star though.
18. Kirk Cousins
Stat Caveat: Kirk Cousins was the fourth-most accurate passer in the NFL on play-action plays last season.
Last season was likely the peak of Kirk Cousins' career. The Minnesota Vikings roster was maxed out with talent to the point they had to release starters just to be cap compliant this offseason. Cousins was in Kevin Stefanski's offence, a scheme that asked very little of him. He was an effective play-action passer who was overwhelmed when asked to be a straight-dropback passer two weeks in a row during the playoffs.
19. Joe Burrow
Being a good rookie quarterback is very difficult. None of last year's class were good. Each of them showed promise, Kyler Murray showed great promise, but none were good players last year. It's more important for Burrow to show promise for the future than to be good as a rookie. If he can do both, he'll join the minority of first-year starters.
20. Matthew Stafford
Stat Caveat: Matthew Stafford was 57.5 percent accurate on Third-and-Long when throwing to the first down line, 10th-best in the NFL.
At 32 years of age, Stafford's injury from last season shouldn't have a major impact on him this season. He remains a very athletic quarterback with a great arm. His problem has always been poor accuracy and bad decision-making. He ranked 20th inaccuracy last season and the Lions are changing to a run-oriented offence to limit his exposure to coverage misreads. He's been a below-average quarterback with a great highlight reel for the whole of his career.
21. Mitchell Trubisky
Stat Caveat: Mitchell Trubisky's receivers dropped 32 passes last season, sixth-most in the NFL.
Mitchell Trubisky takes the blame for everything that goes wrong in Chicago. Truth is, the offence as a whole is a disaster and while Trubisky isn't blameless, he's far from the biggest problem. Trubisky has lowlights to laugh at but on a snap-to-snap basis last year he was more consistent than the previous year. He was the second-best passer on Thid-and-10 and the fifth-best passer on Third-and-5. Is he a good quarterback? No. But he plays in an offence that doesn't maximize his impact as a runner with receivers who drop a lot of passes and who create minimal YAC. He's a below-average quarterback made to look like an awful quarterback because of his situation.
22. Philip Rivers
Stat Caveat: Before the fourth quarter last season, Philip Rivers was the 12th-most accurate passer in the NFL. In the fourth quarter and overtime, Rivers was the least-accurate passer in the NFL.
Rivers no longer has the arm strength to be an effective NFL quarterback for a full season. His passes died far too often last season. He got away with it to a small degree because the Chargers had Mike Williams and Keenan Allen. He doesn't have anything close to that quality in Indianapolis. His nose-diving accuracy comes with one of the worst interceptable pass rates in the NFL from last season. Rivers probably isn't an upgrade over Jacoby Brissett.
23. Ben Roethlisberger
The Pittsburgh Steelers won games without Ben Roethlisberger last year. But it's not because they got better quarterback play. Roethlisberger is definitely an upgrade over Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, but with those backup quarterbacks in, the Steelers coaching staff recognized the limitations at the position. They acted accordingly, calling plays and embracing their defensive identity. The problem with Roethlisberger returning is that he's been very inconsistent for a few years now. Add in a serious injury at his age and the mistakes aren't likely to become less frequent.
24. Daniel Jones
Stat Caveat: Daniel Jones threw 30 interceptable passes last season, only three quarterbacks threw more.
Daniel Jones' rookie season started in spectacular fashion against the Buccaneers. However, Jones' season as a whole wasn't impressive. He has impressive pocket presence and did good work in spread formations throwing underneath. His problems came when he was asked to push the ball downfield and make tough 'arm strength' throws into tight windows. Jones has limited arm talent so he has to excel mentally to make up for it.
25. Josh Allen
Stat Caveat: For the second year in a row, Josh Allen was the least-accurate quarterback in the NFL. He was particularly bad on deep passes, hitting 25.4 percent of his deep throws.
If quarterbacks weren't allowed to scramble, Josh Allen would be one of the worst quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL. He has no poise, no intelligence and no accuracy. His decision-making is atrocious, highlighted by that fourth quarter against the Texans in the playoffs, and he panics when his first read isn't available. Allen's athleticism has helped him make enough plays for the Bills to reach the playoffs, but his primary role has been to limit a roster that is better than the results its gleaned with him.
26. Sam Darnold
Stat Caveat: Sam Darnold was the third-least accurate passer in the NFL last year.
The saving grace for Sam Darnold at this point is his youth. He's been hurt and played poorly over the first two years of his career. He's done so in one of the worst situations in the NFL. Adam Gase's offences are poorly designed and the absence of offensive line talent in front of Darnold is galling. Darnold has contributed to his own demise too much to be given a pass, but he only just turned 23 so things might change.
27. Gardner Minshew
Stat Caveat: Gardner Minshew was 51.4 percent accurate on deep sideline throws last season, fourth-best in the NFL.
Gardner Minshew is the perfect quarterback for a tanking season. He's exciting and not particularly good. Minshew plays outside of structure too much. He misreads coverages and defaults to scrambling to try and create big plays. That is an approach that doesn't typically lead to success, especially when you lack high-end physical traits.
28. Baker Mayfield
Stat Caveat: On just 32 plays when he faced a three-man pass rush, Baker Mayfield threw five interceptable passes.
Baker Mayfield has no pocket discipline or awareness. He bailed on play designs and misread simple concepts throughout his second season in the NFL. Kevin Stefanski will give him the Kirk Cousins treatment this year, hoping a heavy reliance on play-action and a cautious approach will help him. That might work. It won't change who Mayfield is as a quarterback, he'll need to dramatically improve to be effective regardless of scheme.
29. Dwayne Haskins
Dwayne Haskins' rookie season didn't inspire any confidence. He made some highlight plays but was consistently poor with his ball placement and didn't show high-end traits of any kind.
30. Jarrett Stidham
Jarrett Stidham's college tape was that of a mid-round prospect. He hasn't played in the NFL, save for one quick interception during the regular season. He didn't come out with high-end physical traits so how much he has developed since he was drafted is to be determined. Stidham gets placed above the incoming rookies based on his experience being a part of an NFL franchise.
31. Tua Tagovailoa
Rookie quarterbacks typically aren't good. A rookie quarterback coming off major hip surgery, without a full offseason and with all the pressure of a franchise's expectations isn't likely to buck that trend.
32. Justin Herbert
Justin Herbert is a big athlete who showed off minimal accuracy but a lot of arm strength in college. It will be a major upset if he's an effective rookie quarterback.