Ranking the 10 best NFL QBs for 2023: What’s the order after Patrick Mahomes?

No position in any sport affects winning to the degree quarterbacks do. There’s a reason they can account for 20% of a team’s salary cap — meant to be spread between 53 players — and a reason why NFL franchises mortgage their futures when any potential top-10 passer comes available. Sometimes they get Matthew Stafford‘s 2021 season and a Super Bowl. Sometimes they get Russell Wilson‘s 2022 and an uncertain future. That’s the inherent risk. 

FOX Sports’ NFL writing staff joined forces to rank the league’s best quarterbacks. Our writers listed their best 10 based on their confidence in each QB were he to take the field for a game next week. A first-place vote merited 10 points in our methodology and descended from there, down to a single point for 10th place. We then combined the scores to determine our rankings.

1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Henry McKenna: There’s little question, after what he did in 2022, that Mahomes is the best quarterback in the NFL. Travis Kelce has always been a tremendous boon to Mahomes. But over the past few years, the Chiefs have given Mahomes fewer and fewer playmakers. It hasn’t mattered. 

Last year, during the regular season, he completed 67.1% of his passes for 5,250 yards, 41 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. In the postseason? He won the Super Bowl while playing on an injured ankle. He’s just 27 and has already built a compelling case as one of the best to ever play the position.

Patrick Mahomes on if Chiefs are a dynasty: “You gotta win three”

2. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals

Ben Arthur: It’s hard to put anyone not named Patrick Mahomes ahead of Joe Burrow as the top quarterback in football. He’s excellent under pressure and in big moments. He’s a great pocket passer and is mobile enough to make magic happen when plays break down. He has thrived in spite of inconsistent pass protection. And of course, he wins at a high level too. 

Burrow has led the Bengals to back-to-back AFC title appearances, including a run to Super Bowl LVI. He suffered a setback in training camp last week — he’ll miss “several weeks” with a calf strain — but assuming a smooth recovery, there’s no reason why Burrow shouldn’t maintain his spot right behind Mahomes in the quarterback pecking order.

3. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

Ralph Vacchiano: It’s crazy to think that back in 2018, some scouts thought Allen was just a big, out-of-control arm who would be an NFL project. All he’s done since then is turn the Bills into an AFC power and even get them within a heartbeat of a Super Bowl. In an era of two-way quarterbacks, he’s as good as they come. His cannon arm has helped him average 4,411 passing yards and 36 passing touchdowns over the past three seasons, while his athleticism and 6-foot-5, 237-pound frame have led to nearly 2,000 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns in that span. All that’s left for him is to get over that hurdle and win the truly big game.

Josh Allen talks Super Bowl: “We’re working towards a Lombardi trophy”

4. Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers

David Helman: I don’t think you’re wrong if you knock Justin Herbert for not winning as much as some of his colleagues (25-24 career record); I just don’t care. Wins are not a quarterback stat, and the bottom line is that Herbert was built in a lab to play quarterback and does so incredibly well. We all know his historic pace statistically, we know Kellen Moore is coming in to help unlock more of his game, and we also know he’s just 25 years old. Peyton Manning didn’t win his first playoff game until he was 27, and he didn’t reach the Super Bowl until he was 30. Herbert is as talented as they come and his future is plenty bright.

Vacchiano: Blame Herbert for the Chargers’ woes if you like, but then you’d be ignoring inconsistency and injuries to his receivers and some really questionable coaching. He has averaged 4,696 passing yards and 31 touchdown passes per year in his first three seasons, which is simply spectacular. Yes, he probably needs a bounce-back season to stay among the elite after throwing for “only” 4,739 yards and 25 TDs last year. And it sure would be nice if he could lead the Chargers to the playoffs. But watch what happens now that Kellen Moore is his offensive coordinator. He may be primed for takeoff.

5. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles

Eric D. Williams: His legs are his superpower, but Hurts proved last season that he could also defeat defenses with precision accuracy, pushing the ball down the field. According to Next Gen Stats, he threw nine touchdowns targeting go routes in 2022, tied for first in the NFL. With Hurts’ strong work ethic and great leadership skills, there’s no reason to believe the 24-year-old won’t continue to improve. And that should be a scary proposition for the rest of the league.

6. Aaron Rodgers, New York Jets

Carmen Vitali: An Aaron Rodgers with something to prove is something the entire league should be scared of. After a drama-filled exit from Green Bay, that’s exactly what the New York Jets are getting. Tom Brady already proved motivation can defy age well into a player’s 40s, and Rodgers is still a year shy of having that demarcation following him around. 

Not only is Rodgers revitalized in a new situation, he’s joined by his favorite coach of all time in Nathaniel Hackett and surrounded by emerging young talent he actually seems to care about getting to know. He also won’t be dealing with a pesky thumb injury as he attempts to play hero for a success-starved franchise that hasn’t been shy about its Super Bowl hopes this season. Rodgers is still one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the position and is only a year removed from back-to-back MVP seasons. That level of play doesn’t go away overnight, and we’re about to see how full his tank still is.

Aaron Rodgers on $35M pay cut: “I’m not missing that money at all”

7. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

McKenna: We can go through Lamar’s incredible stats all day. But when it comes to quarterbacks who can flat-out win games, Jackson is right at the top. No, he’s not the same caliber of passer as Mahomes. But he’s as fast and elusive as any playmaker in the NFL. He’s an absolute nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators. He’s never been the traditional quarterback and he’ll never be one. But that’s actually what makes him all the more dangerous. And it’s why statistics fail to capture his excellence.

8. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

Helman: I’m more than comfortable banking that Dak Prescott’s 15 interceptions in 2022 were just as much a product of his supporting cast as his own decision-making. Of course, Prescott will have to improve some in his own right, but the addition of Brandin Cooks to a receiver corps that lacked some juice should do plenty. We have six years of evidence suggesting Prescott is not a turnover-prone quarterback. We also know he’s helped the Cowboys reach the playoffs in four of his six healthy seasons. He hasn’t proven he belongs with the game’s elite, but he’s better than many want to give him credit for.

Dak Prescott guarantees fewer interceptions this season

9. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings (tie)

Geoff Schwartz: Dak Prescott’s athleticism puts him ahead of Cousins for me, but that’s where they end their differences. They have nearly identical stats in their careers — and there are lingering concerns about their abilities to be the reason a team wins a Super Bowl. Cousins is entering his second season in Kevin O’Connell’s offense and should be improved with another offseason to absorb the language and schemes. You could tell, and he admitted it on camera, that it took a few months to get comfortable in the new offense last season. The addition of first-round pick Jordan Addison should help Cousins push the ball down the field more than he did last season.

9. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams (tie)

Williams: The 35-year-old gunslinger had his 2022 season cut short due to a bruised spinal cord injury. During training camp, however, Stafford has been moving well and showing off a live arm. If the Rams can figure out how to consistently pass protect up front, Stafford could put up big numbers again like he did during L.A.’s Super Bowl season. As a reminder, he threw for 4,886 yards and 41 TDs in 2021.

9. Jared Goff, Detroit Lions (tie)

Vitali: The Lions are one of the hottest teams in the NFC, but somehow Jared Goff is still flying under the radar. Goff had the third-best season of his career in 2022 from a yardage standpoint, throwing for 4,438. He also threw for 29 touchdowns, the second-most of his career, while tossing just seven interceptions. On top of that, Goff has an offensive mastermind pulling the strings. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson turned down head coaching interviews to stay with Detroit this season, citing the fact that they’re building something really special. 

Last season seemed to be the floor for what the duo is capable of, too, with Goff already saying he’s excited about new wrinkles Johnson is implementing. The only limitations seem to be the health and availability of Detroit’s receiver corps, which will be without Jameson Williams to start the season. Denzel Mims has already impressed in camp, and Amon-Ra St. Brown can catch passes out of any alignment on any route. If Goff can keep up his level of play from last year and the Lions have success overall, he won’t be overlooked much longer.

Runner up: Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos

This preview was compiled by:

AFC South reporter Ben Arthur (@benyarthur)
NFC South reporter Greg Auman (@gregauman)
Dallas Cowboys reporter David Helman (@davidhelman_)
AFC East reporter Henry McKenna (@McKennAnalysis)
NFL and betting analyst Geoff Schwartz (@GeoffSchwartz)
NFC West reporter Eric D. Williams (@eric_d_williams)
NFC East reporter Ralph Vacchiano (@RalphVacchiano)
NFC North reporter Carmen Vitali (@CarmieV)

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