If there is any solace Dallas Cowboys fans can take after the 2021 season, it is the fact that most of the young, talented quarterbacks are in the AFC. Over the back half of the season, Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, and Josh Allen proved the NFL is in good hands.
But what about the NFC? Here are the top ten quarterbacks in the conference heading into the 2022 season. Since a lot can happen over the next six months, we will rank the quarterbacks as things stand now. Meaning that Aaron Rodgers will presumably be back in Green Bay, Tom Brady will remain retired, and Jimmy Garoppolo and Russell Wilson will stay with their respective teams.
10. Matt Ryan
EPA Rank: 21st
DVOA Rank: 21st
PFF Rank: 16th
QBR Rank: 21st
2021 made it abundantly clear that the career of former MVP Matt Ryan is in its final stages. But Ryan had little to work with last year after Calvin Ridley had to step away from football.
To his credit, he managed to win nine games with a roster that should have been competing for the number one overall pick. He had games against the Saints and Panthers where it almost looked like Ryan had rewound the clock.
However, Ryan is nearing the end of a solid career. But with a presumably weak NFC South next season, maybe he still has some life in him.
9. Jamies Winston
EPA Rank: NA
DVOA Rank: NA
PFF Rank: NA
QBR Rank: NA
At ranking number nine, we have reached the best quarterback in the NFC South, assuming Tom Brady stays retired. Winston looked solid through the first eight weeks of 2021, going 5-2 over that stretch.
While his season was cut short, it is almost guaranteed that the Saints would have been in the playoffs if not for Winston's injury. Now, with little cap room, a departure at head coach, and some off-the-field issues, the Saints' outlook is bleak.
But Winston proved to be a quarterback who can rely on the defense and avoid turnovers if need be, which was always the knock against him. He isn't winning any awards at number nine, but he deserves a little credit.
8. Jalen Hurts
EPA Rank: 17th
DVOA Rank: 17th
PFF Rank: 10th
QBR Rank: 19th
With a stockpile of first-round draft picks, the possibility exists that the Eagles try and acquire one of the quarterbacks rumored to be interested in leaving.
But assuming that doesn't happen, Hurts was a solid starter last year. He struggled with consistency issues in-game, often relying on a strong fourth quarter to come from behind.
Overall, his improvement in the passing game with Devonta Smith, paired with his speed, makes him a decent starting quarterback next year. Everyone had written the Eagles off, and Hurts took them to the playoffs.
7. Jimmy Garoppolo
EPA Rank: 4th
DVOA Rank: 5th
PFF Rank: 17th
QBR Rank: 13th
Shannahan knows exactly what Garoppolo is and what he is not. And frankly, he fits perfectly into the 49ers' offense.
In 2021, Garoppolo was highly efficient on the passes across the middle of the field. Outside of the inevitable mistake every game, he was the perfect quarterback for San Francisco's run-heavy offense.
While he will likely not be on the 49ers next season, it will be interesting to see how he fits into another system. You can't argue with two NFC Championship appearances in three years. But maybe he needs that rushing attack and Shannahan's offensive system to bolster his performance.
6. Kirk Cousins
EPA Rank: 14th
DVOA Rank: 8th
PFF Rank: 5th
QBR Rank: 5th
Cousins is on a career path to be one of the most confusing quarterbacks in NFL history, except for maybe Nick Foles. However, he is constantly overlooked.
With the help of Justin Jefferson, Cousins was an elite deep-ball passer in 2021. A forty-yard touchdown pass was almost inevitable when you watched a Vikings game last season.
It is said that Cousins is the line between a good and bad quarterback. If your signal-caller is better than Cousins, you're fine, but if he is not, it might be time to look elsewhere.
While he won't contend for an MVP or a Super Bowl appearance, Cousins is still a solid quarterback who receives unnecessary criticism.
5. Russell Wilson
EPA Rank: 12th
DVOA Rank: 8
PFF Rank: 5
QBR Rank: 5
Spoiler alert, these next three quarterbacks fall into the category of "bad end to the season, but how do we look at it?"
Wilson was injured, rushed his recovery, and was a shell of himself over the back half of the year. At times it was almost sad to watch; the timing was off, there were errant throws, and even his patented deep ball was inaccurate.
But with only a four-week sample size to determine his pre-injury performance, it is unclear what to expect in 2022. He should be back to normal, but he is 33 years old now. Who knows.
4. Dak Prescott
EPA Rank: 13th
DVOA Rank: 3rd
PFF Rank: 8th
QBR Rank: 11th
If you want to switch Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott, that would be reasonable. But with Dak, at least there were flashes of brilliance last season, and with Wilson, there was no such evidence.
But similar to Wilson, there are question marks about how much the injuries affected his play. If Dak can gain consistency, he would likely rank as a top-two quarterback in the NFC.
Cowboys fans are still waiting for that start-to-finish solid season that Prescott has teased at times. It is a big question mark, but he is assuredly a top-five quarterback in the conference.
3. Kyler Murray
EPA Rank: 8th
DVOA Rank: 7th
PFF Rank: 7th
QBR Rank: 7th
The last three quarterbacks are all lumped into one category called "what happened after the halfway point?"
Kyler was leading an 8-0 team with an explosive offense, and he was running away with the MVP award, literally. His speed and ability to find DeAndre Hopkins in the red zone was unstoppable. He was even leading the league in nearly every deep ball passing statistic.
But then, after week thirteen, Murray only won one game (against the Cowboys). Maybe losing Hopkins drastically affected the offense, but Murray looked lost with the number of mistakes he was making.
Still, with his speed and playmaking ability, he should be a top ten quarterback in the league next year. However, it will be up to Murray and Kliff Kingsbury to recapture the magic they showcased at the beginning of the season.
2. Matthew Stafford
EPA Rank: 6th
DVOA Rank: 9th
PFF Rank: 11th
QBR Rank: 4th
The now Super Bowl-winning quarterback fits into the two slot. Stafford is a solid quarterback, but are you starting to see how weak the NFC quarterback situation is?
Still, what Stafford knows how to do brilliantly is find a receiver he trusts and force-feed him targets. Calvin Johnson, Cooper Kupp, and even Golden Tate at one time all had career years with Matt Stafford as their quarterback.
He is clutch when you need him to be, a hyper-accurate quarterback at times, and can win in the right situation. However, he still makes mistakes, and there were games when he had to dig his team out of a hole that he created.
Regardless, with Sean McVay as your leader, a receiving corps that includes Kupp, Robert Woods, and maybe Odell Beckham Jr again, and a defense that can support you, how do the Rams fail with Stafford leading them next year?
1. Aaron Rodgers
EPA Rank: 1st
DVOA Rank: 1st
PFF Rank: 4th
QBR Rank: 1st
The irony of the AFC being loaded with quarterback talent is that no single AFC quarterback received an MVP vote.
Rodgers, fresh off his second straight MVP win, is clearly one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. His accuracy, ability to extend the play, find Devante Adams, and avoid mistakes is all you could ask from a franchise quarterback.
But the optimal word is "franchise." Who knows where Rodgers will be next year, and given the recent drama, maybe he isn't even in the league at all. However, if he is in the NFC, he is the best quarterback.
The conference is in desperate need of young signal-callers. The prime example is that Kyle Trask could legitimately become the NFC South's best quarterback in 2022.
However, there is still talent in the NFC, and it will not be a cakewalk to the Super Bowl for any team. And if there is one guarantee, the landscape will look a lot different in six months.
What would you change about this list?
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