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Dallas Cowboys 2021 Offseason Thread: Fuck It All


Vic Mackey

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1 hour ago, Vic Mackey said:

Good for Dak.

For what?  Not understanding how HIPAA works?  Becoming a laughing stock for it?  Or not exhibiting leadership for the team when a voice of reason is sorely needed around the messaging of the vaccine?  Dak usually gets things right but in his hackneyed effort not to offend anybody (namely teammates), he showed his ass, came across uneducated and probably did more harm than good.  And FTR, most of the beat writers highly implied that Dak has gotten the vaccine.

 

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Yeah think it’s been clear he has been vaccinated. He’s just not going to say shit one way or the other. He’s the face of America’s team. Protecting players in one hand and his team and the fan base on the other.

He’ll get fucked either way. This way while idiots will call him dumb/uneducated, at least he’s not a taking point on every talk show again.

Good for him just to keep his mouth shut.

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For what?  Not understanding how HIPAA works?  Becoming a laughing stock for it?  Or not exhibiting leadership for the team when a voice of reason is sorely needed around the messaging of the vaccine?  Dak usually gets things right but in his hackneyed effort not to offend anybody (namely teammates), he showed his ass, came across uneducated and probably did more harm than good.  And FTR, most of the beat writers highly implied that Dak has gotten the vaccine.
 
If you think being a leader means going against your beliefs to conform what the NFL is pushing, then I'm glad he's not a "leader". He's not even close to the only ones having these thoughts. But many are afraid to speak out because they will be chastised for going against the machine. It's not his job to talk others into getting the jab. That's their own decision. He's paid to lead the football team.

So yes, good for Dak. And any player speaking out against this like Cole Beasley and Hopkins. The NFL, who does not give a shit about safety, all of a sudden does? Riiight. There's definitely not something else in play at all. It's a totally legit concern for safety.....
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Mike Fisher thinks there’s a 90% chance Deshaun Watson gets traded to the Dreaded and Feared Eagles.

Cool. He’ll have less weapons there abs a bad OL so it won’t be any different than what he’s leaving.
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49 minutes ago, Vic Mackey said:

The NFL, who does not give a shit about safety, all of a sudden does? Riiight.

I think you could argue it’s not even about safety, it’s about money. they don’t want to have to cancel a game for any reason. more players getting vaccinated reduces the chance of a cancellation. 

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46 minutes ago, Vic Mackey said:

If you think being a leader means going against your beliefs to conform what the NFL is pushing, then I'm glad he's not a "leader". He's not even close to the only ones having these thoughts. But many are afraid to speak out because they will be chastised for going against the machine. It's not his job to talk others into getting the jab. That's their own decision. He's paid to lead the football team.

So yes, good for Dak. And any player speaking out against this like Cole Beasley and Hopkins. The NFL, who does not give a shit about safety, all of a sudden does? Riiight. There's definitely not something else in play at all. It's a totally legit concern for safety.....

This is such a weak response.  He didn't go against any beliefs, he didn't show any beliefs other than not understanding HIPAA.  If he wants to say he doesn't want to take the vaccine, then say what he believes.  Don't pussy around and hide behind a misplaced application of a privacy regulation.  That's a coward's way out.  He didn't do anything except make himself a punch line.  He didn't speak out.... he demurred.

 

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46 minutes ago, C-Man said:

Mike Fisher thinks there’s a 90% chance Deshaun Watson gets traded to the Dreaded and Feared Eagles.

Fecals still have time to  pull out yet another offseason win.

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1 hour ago, Vic Mackey said:

If you think being a leader means going against your beliefs to conform what the NFL is pushing, then I'm glad he's not a "leader". He's not even close to the only ones having these thoughts. But many are afraid to speak out because they will be chastised for going against the machine. It's not his job to talk others into getting the jab. That's their own decision. He's paid to lead the football team.

So yes, good for Dak. And any player speaking out against this like Cole Beasley and Hopkins. The NFL, who does not give a shit about safety, all of a sudden does? Riiight. There's definitely not something else in play at all. It's a totally legit concern for safety.....

If the NFL cared about safety they wouldn't have extended the season with a pandemic still lurking. They care about money and messaging, even when it's total bullshit.

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Shit cracks me up that people come out of the wood works to roast a qb playing a child’s game for panicking and saying something stupid about some dumb shit he shouldn’t have to answer in the first place. Who gives a flying fuck what dak thinks about vaccines and Covid lol. Ask him if he can identify a cover 1 look that switches to a cover 3 after the snap. For fucks sake 

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Lots of prominent athletes across the NBA and NFL have been either silent on getting vaccinated or said they aren’t doing it. And I mean some of the biggest names. 

But yet, as usual, Dak is getting attacked for a very tame/politically safe response. It IS a matter for each individual.

Be a LOT different if he said he wasn’t getting vax and said so out loud imo.
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The NFL cares about protecting the season, as they should. The fewer players that get vaccinated the more likely it is that games get missed. I don’t think it’s any more of a chance than last year which worked out pretty well, but still is possible.

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Posted (edited)

(C-Man rolls a grenade into the room and calmly backs away, closing the door behind him):

https://theathletic.com/2727336/2021/07/28/2021-nfl-quarterback-tiers-50-coaches-and-evaluators-rank-the-leagues-starters/

Quote

2021 NFL Quarterback Tiers: 50 coaches and evaluators rank the league’s starters

Mike Sando Jul 28, 2021 183 

The 2021 Quarterback Tiers results have been tabulated, and the ageless Tom Brady, only days short of his 44th birthday, actually improved his standing from last year. That was one of the notable takeaways after 50 NFL coaches and executives cast ballots in the eighth annual edition of these rankings.

Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers stand alone as unanimous Tier 1 choices heading into the 2021 season. Brady is not too far behind, joined in the top tier by Russell Wilson and a quarterback whose future remains in some question. Drew Brees and Philip Rivers are out, as both retired. Ben Roethlisberger is hanging on, but losing ground. Josh Allen is surging, while voters had to decide how high to rank Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow after just one season.

The all-star voting panel included seven general managers, five head coaches, 11 coordinators, 15 executives, seven quarterbacks coaches and five others working in front offices or in other coaching capacities. They placed 34 veteran quarterbacks into one of five tiers, from best (Tier 1) to worst (Tier 5). Quarterbacks were placed in the tiers in which they received the most votes, ordered by average vote. Unanimous Tier 1 choices averaged 1.00, while the lowest-rated player averaged 4.34.

The survey excludes rookies because voters have not seen them play in the NFL. Two veteran quarterbacks are featured for teams who have not formally named starters or who face some uncertainty at the position.

TIER 1

A Tier 1 quarterback can carry his team each week. The team wins because of him. He expertly handles pure passing situations. He has no real holes in his game.

T-1. Aaron Rodgers

Tier 1 votes: 50 | 2020 Tier: 1

Rodgers stands as a unanimous Tier 1 selection for the first time since 2018 and the fifth time in eight years.

“There aren’t many who can purely take the game over when they need to,” a defensive coordinator said. “Aaron can take the game over if he feels like it. He can take the play calling over. He can work his matchups however he wants.”

A quarterbacks coach who placed Rodgers in Tier 2 last offseason repented.

“Shame on me for doing what I did last year,” this coach said.

What differentiates Rodgers even from Mahomes among some voters?

“It’s his complete command of everything that is going on on the field that makes the difference,” a defensive coach said. “I’m talking about how they utilize their timeouts, what’s the tempo, who he wants on the field for offensive personnel, what the alignments are, what the adjusted formations are, what the play clock is, making the defense show the disguise, getting the defensive line in the neutral zone. Those are the things that he does all the time, every week, that make me want to take two Excedrin just saying that to you today.”

There is one area where Rodgers has declined, by most accounts.

“You really see a difference in his short-area burst and his top-end speed,” another coach said. “You can see how different it is with Mahomes and Rodgers right now. Mahomes can get away. Rodgers is not running that fast anymore, but he can still make all the throws and do all the other stuff, the hard count and all that bullshit. He’s a master of the position.”

Rodgers set a career high for Total QBR (84.4) last season while earning MVP honors for the third time. His numbers lagged before that, partly because his pass catchers let him down more frequently, according to game charting. The Packers’ receivers were much improved last season.

“I don’t know if I can ever come off him as a 1,” a veteran defensive coach said. “He could be 60 years old, out of the league for 20 years and I won’t care. You’ll say, ‘Aaron Rodgers,’ and I’ll be like, ‘He’s a 1.’ The guy gives you nightmares.”

T-1. Patrick Mahomes

Tier 1 votes: 50 | 2020 Tier: 1

It’s fitting that Mahomes and Rodgers are the only unanimous Tier 1 choices this year. They are indeed different.

“They are the only two that can operate in the pocket or escape left or escape right to throw off of any platform with a sniper’s accuracy,” a coach with both NFC North and AFC West experience said. “That is where they are really high-end athletes, like basketball player athletes. I’m taking Mahomes and Rodgers in anything from cornhole to match-play golf.”

Mahomes is a unanimous Tier 1 choice for the second consecutive season, joining Rodgers and Brady as the only players to earn that distinction more than once since the survey began in 2014 (Wilson in 2020 is the only other unanimous Tier 1 selection).

“Mahomes is the best I’ve seen,” a head coach said. “He’s played two bad games in his career. They’re both in Super Bowls, but I’ve never seen anybody as good as him, and seeing him live is even more impressive. If you are open, he doesn’t miss. He looks like he is playing JV football compared to everybody else.”

There are some who prefer Rodgers.

“It wasn’t Mahomes’ fault directly in the Super Bowl, but he was running for his life and he had a hard time,” a defensive coordinator said. “I think A-Rod sees the game better than him and doesn’t put himself in that position to the same degree. Mahomes might be a couple years away from living through that stuff. He will keep running around and making plays, which he is amazing at, but I think A-Rod gets to the answers faster.”

No quarterback performs at optimum levels consistently under pressure. Rodgers also struggled against the Buccaneers’ ferocious pass rush. He previously struggled against the San Francisco 49ers’ rush as well.

“Kansas City addressed their line, which means Mahomes can get back into his routine of stepping up in the pocket, moving subtly instead of running for his life,” an offensive play-caller said. “He should get back into a more natural flow.”

Flow or no flow, Mahomes was the only player to finish last season ranked among the top five in both total pass attempts and expected points added (EPA) per attempt, according to TruMedia. That’s an indication the Chiefs’ passing efficiency remained high despite high volume.

“Mahomes epitomizes what you want in that guy,” a former head coach said. “He makes those throws when he has to move and he sees the field, he can extend the play and he can stay in the pocket and make throws. He’s really grown a lot more than I thought he would be capable of.”

3. Tom Brady

Tier 1 votes: 41 | Tier 2 votes: 9 | 2020 Tier: 2

Brady is back in Tier 1 following a one-year absence, with some separation between him and the top two.

“He might be a 1, but I really don’t think you want him trying to win every game on his own,” a head coach said. “You want to save him for the end of the game, fourth quarter, two-minute drives in the playoffs. Get him to those points and let him do his thing.”

Voters think Brady needs more help than Rodgers or Mahomes needs, but it’s difficult to argue with the results in Tampa, where Brady showing up turned a losing team into a Super Bowl winner. The Tier 1 quarterback can transform an organization beyond his contributions on the field.

“Tier 1, you have to have that physical component, that team-leading component and that instructional component, where if the quarterback coach gets sick, you do the rest of the season without a coach and that guy runs the room because he’s running the clicker half the time anyway,” one voter said. “That’s what a Tier 1 quarterback is.”

The Chiefs and Buccaneers are Vegas betting favorites to reach the Super Bowl. Take away Brady from Tampa and that would not be the case, which is not to overlook the many other factors in the Buccaneers’ favor.

“Brady is a 2,” an offensive coordinator said. “There were too many games where they weren’t really doing a whole lot, and the defense or somebody made a big play. I think he’s really good. I just don’t think he can carry a team now.”

That is a point made even by some who still place Brady in the top tier. They point to a mental resilience that carries him and his teams.

“The holes in his game are athletically related, but he still showed the ability to operate at a high level at the line of scrimmage,” a personnel director said. “He still has an arm and he can still beat you at all levels. He has his James White now in Giovanni Bernard. If you’re not on the same page as him, then there are going to be opportunities for the opponent to take it the other way, but the more comfortable he gets in the system, the rarer that is going to be.”

4. Russell Wilson

Tier 1 votes: 40 | Tier 2 votes: 10 | 2020 Tier: 1

This is Wilson’s third consecutive season in the top tier. It was unanimous last offseason. Ten voters placed him in Tier 2 this time.

“When we played him last year, I almost saw, I felt like I saw live, a semi-dropoff in his game,” an offensive coach said. “I felt like he looked older, a little bit slower and their offense did not help schematically. Watch him in their last game of the year, they had to win and he was not good. He wasn’t getting away from it as fast, he was missing throws.”

Wilson finished last season with career highs for pass completions, completion rate, touchdown passes … and turnovers. The numbers were mediocre over the second half of the regular season and two playoff games: 6.8 yards per attempt, 90.2 rating, 16 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 0.13 EPA per attempt.

“He started to get shaky and frustrated in the pocket,” a defensive coordinator said. “He takes a lot of sacks and then in critical situations, he did not always take the game over. He did not make the extra special plays, which he can still make, on as consistent of a basis.”

A slow finish against some strong defenses didn’t scare off most voters.

“The ability to command an offensive team and drive them for a score is the most important variable,” an exec said. “Who is better? He took that rock 95 (yards) against Minnesota after the 2-minute warning. Why don’t you check with the prop heads and see how often that happens?”

That’s prop heads as in propellor heads as in stat guys. The answer: Wilson’s 94-yard touchdown drive to beat the Vikings last season marked the second time in 34 chances since 2000 that a team scored a touchdown after taking possession in the final two minutes from that far away while trailing by 4-8 points.

“And he still had a timeout left up on that board,” the exec said.

Wilson still got 40 votes in Tier 1. Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Mahomes and Andrew Luck are the only other quarterbacks to get that many top-tier votes.

“When the Bears were rumored to have interest in him, I was praying every day that he was going to Chicago just to get the guy out of the damn division,” a voter from an NFC West rival said. “I just can’t take any more. He has taken so much food off my table. He is so good. He is a wizard. It is so tough to beat him, just so tough.”

A quarterbacks coach thought new Seahawks coordinator Shane Waldron would make better use of misdirection to put defenses in compromising situations, freeing Wilson to create. An offensive coordinator countered that every opponent already plans for Wilson as a runner.

“He is in rare company for me,” a personnel director said. “When I look at guys that that make me nervous, if there’s just enough time left in the clock, him, Mahomes and Rodgers probably are the three that make me the most nervous.”

Seattle went 12-4 last season while ranking eighth in offensive EPA and 11th in combined defensive and special teams EPA. Then Wilson aired complaints about the organization, including how it has addressed its offensive line.

“I don’t give a shit about him bitching,” a defensive coach said. “They don’t win without that guy. What don’t you love? He’s athletic, he makes plays, he can make every throw. What is the hole in his game? He’s short? Maybe if that is what someone wants to tell you. I don’t see a hole in his game.”

5. Deshaun Watson

Tier 1 votes: 26 | Tier 2 votes: 23 | Tier 3 votes: 1 | 2020 Tier: 1

Watson was fifth overall and the final quarterback in the top tier last year as well. The accusations made against him in civil lawsuits did not affect how voters evaluated him as a player, although the uncertainty surrounding the situation created additional options.

“I feel like you can put him a 1, 2 or 4 and not be wrong,” a defensive coordinator said. “You could ‘4’ him for who the fuck knows what is going to happen. I’m going to go 1. If he is on the field, he is a 1.”

Watson led the NFL last season in EPA per pass attempt and yards per attempt.

“He throws with accuracy, he’s got vision, he keeps plays alive, he can be scary,” a secondary coach said.

Watson also took 49 sacks. Only Carson Wentz took more (50).

“We played them and I definitely would not put him as a 1,” a defensive coordinator said. “You don’t go into the week thinking, ‘Oh my God, we have to deal with this guy.’ He’s not like a pure drop-back passer, so he creates a lot with is legs. He can make throws. He has a good arm. But when you play him you are not afraid of him beating you throwing the ball. You are more concerned, if he drops back, hey, we got to make sure we tackle this guy.”

Some who argued against Watson’s inclusion in Tier 1 thought the best quarterbacks should elevate their teams more than Watson elevated the 4-12 Texans.

“You would think with just the sheer nature of a 1 they would have won more games and at least threatened for playoff position,” a GM said. “We have seen Rodgers do that. Watson played and they still are picking in the top five. Great talent, the 1 is in him, but he is going to have to get everything more structured, including his personal life.”

Houston ranked eighth in offensive EPA despite having traded receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The Texans ranked 31st in combined EPA on defense and special teams, the No. 1 driver of their poor record. Since 2006, teams ranked 31st in that category have averaged 4.5 victories. Of those teams, the best records belonged to Jay Cutler’s 2013 Bears (8-8), Cutler’s 2007 Broncos (7-9) and Drew Brees’ 2016 Saints (7-9). There were no Tier 1-caliber quarterbacks on the other teams.

“They won because of him without anything around him,” an exec said of the Watson-led Texans. “They would not have won even four games without him.”

TIER 2

A Tier 2 quarterback can carry his team sometimes but not as consistently. He can handle pure passing situations in doses and/or possesses other dimensions that are special enough to elevate him above Tier 3. He has a hole or two in his game.

6. Josh Allen

Tier 1 votes: 20 | Tier 2 votes: 30 | 2020 Tier: 3

The 20 first-tier votes Allen received are five more than the combined total for all the quarterbacks ranked below him. The gap between Allen and Watson above him is much smaller than the gap between Allen and Lamar Jackson below him. Allen is one more excellent season from joining the top tier.

“He is huge, he sees the field, and his mobility and pure power are really rare for the position,” a defensive coach said. “He’s got rare arm talent to access any part of the field. He showed that outside the pocket, he’s got real deep accuracy. He improved dramatically when the pocket is tight. This guy became one of the elite players in the league, regardless of position. He has affected the belief of that team in a big way. They have taken on his personality, his energy, his toughness.”

The 30 voters placing Allen in the second tier generally agreed. They wanted to see him prove it with another strong season before anointing him.

“Josh was one of those guys that clearly ascended to that level last year, and they were winning because of him,” an exec said. “Buffalo has a good, solid defense you can win with, but it’s not a dominating, shut-down defense. Everything fits together and it’s a very well-coached team, but I thought Allen, not just in his play, but the way his teammates responded to him and the team believed in him, played at that level last year. And it was clearly a different playoff performance than against Houston the prior year.”

Skeptical takes on Allen note that he still makes mistakes unbecoming of top-tier quarterbacks, including an 18-yard sack/fumble with the game on the line at Indianapolis in the wild-card round. The Bills barely won that game, scored 10 points on offense against Baltimore the next week and then lost by two touchdowns at Kansas City.

“He still has to keep getting better, and I think he will, as a passer in the tight situations,” a former head coach said. “The gotta-have-it type plays. You gotta drop back, sit in the pocket and make throws. He reverted back in the playoff game, took a 30-yard sack (18 yards) spinning around with the ball and doing shit. That is what happens. Now, he needs to take the next step.”

A defensive coordinator who placed Brady and Wilson in Tier 2 said Allen isn’t nearly advanced enough as a pure pocket passer or reader of defenses to belong in Tier 1.

“He perplexes me because in my career I have not seen someone go from as inaccurate as he was in college to making this kind of transition,” a personnel director said. “I need to see some sustainability before placing him in the top tier.”

T-7. Lamar Jackson

Tier 1 votes: 4 | Tier 2 votes: 38 | Tier 3 votes: 8 | 2020 Tier: 2

Jackson surged to the brink of Tier 1 last year following his 2019 MVP season. This year, he settled into a range where some think he will remain — among the top 10 quarterbacks, but not the top five.

“I think he is who he is going to be,” an evaluator said. “They have to call the game a certain way, and if they call it right, he will produce for them. He is not going to sit back in the pocket and kill you. That is just not who he is.”

Voters do not think adding talent at wide receiver will transform the Ravens’ offense the way Stefon Diggs’ addition catapulted Buffalo.

“I look at Kyler (Murray) and Lamar Jackson very similarly,” an exec said. “Their athleticism is what carries them and maybe opens up some things throwing-wise, but if you can keep them in the pocket, they are just guys. There is no question they are going to win games because of Lamar, but will they ever be good enough to win a championship with him?”

The Ravens have a 31-10 record, counting playoffs, when Jackson starts. They slipped to 13th in offensive EPA last season after ranking No. 1 in 2020. An offensive coach elevated Jackson into the top tier on his ballot after Jackson led a comeback victory against Cleveland in Week 13, then helped Baltimore to a third successive playoff berth.

“I still think he’s a fricking elite quarterback,” a defensive coach said. “He can carry a team. He’s going to produce offensively. Surround him with bigger targets, guys with bigger catch radiuses, where he doesn’t have to be always be a pinpoint passer. Do that and he is going to succeed.”

At the other extreme, eight voters who place greater weight on pure passing relegated Jackson to Tier 3.

“You find another team that plays as much 13 personnel, 12 personnel to be run-game oriented,” an evaluator said. “To me, he is a guy you win with and his legs are an X-factor, but you do not win because of his arm. I did not think there were enough special passing traits to elevate him. All the guys in Tier 2 are better pure passers.”

 

T-7. Matthew Stafford

Tier 1 votes: 4 | Tier 2 votes: 38 | Tier 3 votes: 8 | 2020 Tier: 2

Stafford rose two spots from last year after Drew Brees retired and Ben Roethlisberger fell into Tier 3. The vote distribution for the Lions-turned-Rams starter was virtually unchanged. Quite a few think he can ascend under coach Sean McVay, but durability concerns persist.

“McVay’s system will play to his strengths,” an NFC North coach said. “Stafford played some of his better football when they did more under-center stuff at Detroit. Before that, they were so much gun, dropback pass game and you saw the gunslinger in him, where he had his up-and-down games.”

The Lions during Stafford’s starting tenure ranked among the NFL’s top half in combined defensive and special-teams EPA three times. The team won nine, 10 and 11 games in those seasons, but only 5.7 on average in the other seasons in which Stafford started at least 10 games. The Rams in 2018 reached the Super Bowl despite ranking 19th in that combined category. They were third last season on the strength of a top-ranked defense, which offset a 31st-ranked special teams.

“Stafford is significantly better than Goff, and he changes the ceiling of that team from an offensive standpoint,” a defensive coach said, “but they were also No. 1 defensively last year and lost their coordinator. One of Stafford’s issues has been trusting his arm too much. The system just by play-calling will limit some of those opportunities. It is blended into the play-action and the boots and the set-up shots where Matt can still uncork stuff.”

The Lions were 0-3 in postseason play with Stafford. The Rams won a playoff game with Goff just last season. A former GM compared dumping Goff to a team firing its coach after an 8-8 season. Any team making such a move had better win more than eight games the next year.

“I’m going to say he’s a 3,” an evaluator from an NFC West rival said. “Durability is the issue, and then he has those one-off, what-the-hell-was-that type decision making. But that level of talent with McVay, trust me, I wish it wasn’t in our division.”

9. Dak Prescott

Tier 1 votes: 1 | Tier 2 votes: 41 | Tier 3 votes: 8 | 2020 Tier: 2

Prescott broke his ankle, missed the final 11 games and actually polled better this year than in the past with a 2.14 average. Through his own rise and the retirements of players such as Brees and Philip Rivers, Prescott has climbed from 17th to 12th to ninth in Quarterback Tiers over the past three years.

“He just quietly does his thing, and I think the biggest proof of who and what he is, is what that team was without him — it was not good,” an evaluator said.

The Cowboys ranked eighth in offensive EPA with Prescott in the lineup last season. They ranked 29th without him.

“He is a 2, a top 2,” a senior defensive coach said. “In that system, he controls everything. He is really good at the line of scrimmage. He puts them into the right plays, he can identify defenses, he has the arm talent to do it. I was impressed when we played them. When they were behind and he had to start operating at the line of scrimmage, you can see, man, that dude has something to him.”

Prescott drew a single Tier 1 vote this year and three last year. Some think he can push for more next year, ankle permitting.

“A virtue of the Tier 1 quarterback is being able to execute in a pure-pass environment,” an exec said. “His 2-minute drill is elite. He is Tier 1 in that part of the game, which for me makes him automatically high Tier 2.”

Prescott is easily the highest-graded quarterback in the NFC East after Carson Wentz’s decline and exit from Philadelphia.

“I think their coordinator (Kellen Moore) is one of the stars in the league that no one talks about,” an evaluator said. “With him putting together that offense and the weapons they have, the toolbox will be full. Dak will not have to do anything outside his body.”

10. Justin Herbert

Tier 1 votes: 4 | Tier 2 votes: 37 | Tier 3 votes: 7 | Tier 4 votes: 2 | 2020 Tier: NA

No quarterback has debuted higher than Herbert since the second year of Quarterback Tiers (the entire league debuted in 2014, the first year of the survey). The 2.14 average vote for Herbert beats the 2.52 debut for Prescott in 2017 and the 2.53 debut for Baker Mayfield in 2019. Those other players got zero top-tier votes in their debuts. Herbert got four. Too soon?

“What did our illustrious former Stanford, Arizona and Minnesota head coach say, something about crowning their asses?” an offensive coach said, referring to the late Dennis Green. “Yes, go ahead and crown his ass. I think he’s going to do it again. He’s got juice, he’s got attitude, and the right attitude. Now, he hasn’t hit any adversity, and expectations were so low last year. Now what?”

There are some uncertainties. New offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi brings extensive experience under Sean Payton in New Orleans, but he doesn’t bring Payton. The Lions ranked 18th in offensive EPA and 24th in offensive points per game (18.6) during Lombardi’s 23-game run as coordinator in Detroit over the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Stafford ranked 17th in EPA per attempt and 24th in yards per attempt over that span.

“I gave Herbert a 1,” an evaluator said. “We played him last year, and the guy had it all: athletic, arm strength, timing, anticipation. I give him more credit because he did it his rookie year, he maintained it through the season. Unfortunately, he’s another guy who has a new staff, no continuity.”

The few voters placing Herbert below the second tier wanted to see how staff changes and expectations altered the dynamic, especially now that opponents have studied him. There could be statistical regression for Herbert and quarterbacks overall as fans are allowed back into stadiums that were so quiet last season; empty stadiums could partly explain why third-and-long production spiked away from home in 2020. These are not major concerns.

An exec pointed to Herbert’s poise as his greatest intangible trait. An offensive coordinator called Herbert “an unbelievably accurate down-the-field thrower” who handles pressure well.

“He’s smart and he just kind of gets it,” a head coach said. “If you get someone who can see and anticipate and is smart, and has the athletic ability and size, you’ve got something. The sky is the limit for the kid. The players love him there. I have him as a low 1 because you’ve gotta see it. Is it a Carson Wentz (in 2017) thing or is it real? I know that when we played him, he felt like a 1. The ball went where it should go.”

11. Matt Ryan

Tier 2 votes: 32 | Tier 3 votes: 18 | 2020 Tier: 2

Ryan is one of seven quarterbacks to appear in all eight Quarterback Tiers surveys. Four from that group rank ahead of him: Rodgers, Brady, Wilson and Stafford. Roethlisberger and Cam Newton rank lower than him. Ryan is somewhere in the middle, with one foot near each camp. He has never rated lower than his 2.36 average this year, but with Arthur Smith taking over as head coach, there is some thought Ryan might stabilize.

“He has enough weapons around him and Arthur Smith, based on what he did with Ryan Tannehill, I think Matt will do equally well, especially with the addition of (Kyle) Pitts,” an exec said. “Having a good tight end will help him a lot.”

The Tennessee comparison is imperfect.

“The reason Tennessee was so tremendously successful was because of Derrick Henry, no question,” a former head coach said. “And then Tannehill could extend the play and make some throws. (Matt) Ryan is smart and he’ll know where to go with the ball and get rid of it. If they can be semi-effective that way, he can play like a 2.”

The year-over-year vote distribution on Ryan featured 10 votes shifting into the third tier from the top two tiers. Besides this year, the only other time at least 10 voters placed Ryan in the third tier was entering the 2016 season. Ryan won MVP honors and reached the Super Bowl that year. The supporting cast in Atlanta has fluctuated enough to blur the evaluation.

“My gut is, he’s a legit 3, like the best 3, a 3 that can play to a 2 at times,” a GM said.

The Falcons rank fourth in offensive EPA and 30th in combined defensive and special-teams EPA since Ryan arrived in 2008. The team has a winning record and a Super Bowl appearance over that span. There are some similarities with Stafford, whose Lions are 15th on offense and 30th on defense/special teams since he entered the league in 2009. Detroit has not won.

“Ryan and Stafford were both 3s for me because they have proven they cannot do it without the running game or defense,” another exec said. “In Matt Ryan’s peak year, they were pretty good defensively, and the coordinator (Kyle Shanahan) helped him.”

12. Kyler Murray

Tier 2 votes: 30 | Tier 3 votes: 18 | Tier 4 votes: 2 | 2020 Tier: 3

Murray commanded 10 additional votes in the top two tiers from his Quarterback Tiers debut one year ago. That was good for a two-spot gain in the rankings. There was no consensus on how far Murray might climb ultimately. Some voters thought he might be as apt to slide into Tier 3 as advance toward Tier 1.

“He’s supremely talented, and he has shown enough early to feel good about it,” an offensive coach said.

Some want to see more evidence Murray possesses the “dynamic makeup” that helped Wilson reach Tier 1 as a quarterback unusually short in stature. Murray’s decision to train away from the team’s facility while openly talking about resuming his baseball career left the impression with some that he could do more.

Last season, Fox NFL analyst Brock Huard said he was hearing from Cardinals sources that the quarterback was “laser-focused on Sunday, he loves to compete, but that laser focus is not there Monday through Saturday.”

Some voters said similar things.

“I’m probably an outlier, but I’m more a 3 with him,” an evaluator said. “If you are going to be that size, you have to have a dynamic makeup like a Russell Wilson to succeed at a high level over a period of time. Murray has not been there all offseason, and there are some concerns there. I felt that way when he was coming out, that he played off his ability and it would catch up to him.”

Murray’s production faded statistically over the final eight games last season. His yards per attempt dropped from 7.6 to 6.6, he took seven additional sacks, and his EPA per attempt was cut by more than half. A shoulder injury was presumably a factor.

“I haven’t heard the other stuff that goes along with it, but just from a talent standpoint, watching the guy play football, I think he’s a steady 2,” an evaluator said. “I’d take him over Lamar without question, because I think he can be a better passer.”

One GM thought Murray was under-appreciated as a player who “does a lot in spite of not having a great O-line or run game.”

13. Ryan Tannehill

Tier 2 votes: 27 | Tier 3 votes: 23 | 2020 Tier: 3

The 27 votes for Tannehill in the second tier exceed by three his combined total in six previous appearances on Quarterback Tiers ballots.

“He is a 2 for sure, and he may be verging on a 1, but he has been helped by that system a lot,” a former head coach said. “He has become a very good decision maker. That is one thing that is lost and it’s the No. 1 thing you look for in evaluating these quarterbacks. The physical part is there with all these guys, with some variance, but the guys that are the best are the best decision makers. What goes into that? Understanding the offense, what the defense is doing, vision, pocket presence.”

Tannehill has arrived, but can he remain in the upper tiers after his offensive coordinator left to become head coach of the Falcons? Is Tannehill basically a high-end Tier 3 quarterback who is indistinguishable from a 2 while defenses focus disproportionately on running back Derrick Henry?

“I think Tannehill did have to carry the team a little bit more last year because of where they were defensively,” an exec said. “I initially had him as a 3, but now there’s a little bit more body work of him playing at that level. The strict definition of 2, that is probably more fair to him.”

Tannehill leads the NFL in yards per attempt over the past two seasons. He has 55 touchdown passes and 11 rushing touchdowns with only 17 turnovers (13 interceptions). Stats can mislead. Tannehill, Jimmy Garoppolo and Kirk Cousins outrank Mahomes in yards per attempt over the same span. They are comparable to him in EPA per attempt. They do not inhabit the same planet as players.

“Tennessee is real, real heavy in the run game,” a defensive coach said. “Cleveland jumped on them and when they came back, it wasn’t like Tannehill was beating them with accurate throws down the field. It was just, take what the defense gives you, hit a play here or there.”

Tennessee was the only team to finish 2020 with a winning record (11-5) while ranking among the bottom eight in combined EPA on defense and special teams. The offense ranked second. The other top-five offenses had Rodgers, Mahomes, Allen and Brady as their quarterbacks. That level of production and consistent winning, even if enabled by the Titans’ unusual offensive setup, helped Tannehill crack Tier 2 for the first time.

“The only thing that really lingers with me, and maybe it shouldn’t, is the playoff game (20-13 loss to Baltimore),” an offensive coordinator said. “When he had to make some throws, he didn’t make them. He did not elevate them when they needed him to elevate them. But that’s a 2 sometimes also.”

14. Joe Burrow

Tier 2 votes: 27 | Tier 3 votes: 17 | Tier 4 votes: 6 | 2020 Tier: 2

Burrow played 11 games as a rookie, did not splash statistically and had a 2-7-1 starting record before suffering a serious knee injury. The league loves him, not just off his college career, but off what happened when he was on the field in 2020.

“The only thing I can go off is what I saw before we played him and when we played him,” a defensive coach. “This guy is talented. He really is. He is stronger in the pocket than you think, he’s got some elusiveness to him, and I think his accuracy is just top-notch. He has all the tools to be in the 2s and potentially be a 1 down the road.”

A defensive coordinator said Burrow, unlike some young quarterbacks, keeps his eyes up when moving around the pocket.

“I just feel like that kid has got something to him,” a head coach said. “It’s hard to explain. He just has great confidence, great swagger. You can tell he’s smart, does the right thing. He just has to see more football. He is heading in the right direction.”

Two GMs said the injury was part of the evaluation and it was premature to place Burrow in Tier 2. Multiple voters lauded the toughness Burrow showed playing in a pass-heavy offense without effective blocking.

“We beat the shit out of him and he kept coming back and popping up and making throws,” one voter said. “All the guys on our D-line were like, ‘Man, that dude is real, he is popping up, talking some shit, he is competitive, he is making throws, making plays with arm and legs.’ I was impressed, very impressed.”

Some feared the Bengals might not help Burrow sufficiently, although one voter within the AFC North said he was crushed when Cincinnati drafted receiver Ja’Marr Chase, Burrow’s former teammate at LSU. This coach said he would have been relieved if Cincinnati drafted a tackle instead, from a defensive planning standpoint.

“He gets rid of the ball, he knows where he’s going with the ball,” a defensive coordinator said. “I think this guy is going to be legit — like, legit legit. Carson Palmer legit. You can win with that dude. I think eventually he can be a 1 if Cincinnati doesn’t screw it up.”

TIER 3

A Tier 3 quarterback is a legitimate starter but needs a heavier running game and/or defensive component to win. A lower-volume dropback passing offense suits him best.

15. Derek Carr

Tier 2 votes: 22 | Tier 3 votes: 28 | 2020 Tier: 3

Carr jumped six spots in the rankings as 22 voters placed him in Tier 2, up from only nine over the past two seasons combined. Carr now resides about where voters saw him heading into the 2018 season.

“Your eyes tell you he’s a 3 sometimes, but it’s hard to say that when you look at the production,” an exec said. “The knock is still that, you pressure him and he’s going to get sped up and he’s going to look anxious at times, but you look at the production and you say, ‘OK, if they could have played functional defense, what’s the record look like?’ ”

The Raiders have ranked among the NFL’s top half (15th) in combined EPA on defense and special teams just once since Carr became their starter. That was in 2016, when the team went 12-4. The team has ranked 27th on average in that combined category in Carr’s other six seasons behind center. The offense hasn’t always been great, but it was 10th in EPA last season and 11th in 2019.

“He’s extremely accurate, and he’s got as beautiful of a stroke as you’re going to find,” a head coach said. “Most people will say if the pocket is tight, that is probably when his play descends, but you’re not going to find too many passers that are cleaner than Derek, especially when he is in rhythm. He has enough creativity. Derek is a sharp guy. He is really, really smart. He can command a lot for that team.”

It’s pretty much impossible to say Carr is holding back the Raiders.

“He’s a nice kid, and I wondered the last couple years, can he overcome Jon Gruden beating him up?” an offensive coach said. “Maybe he has figured it out, or he has no more butt left to rip any more. Maybe he went to Las Vegas and lost his ass. This guy played great against Kansas City last year, which he had not done before, and if he was available, you’d have 10 teams lining up for him.”

Carr peaked in Quarterback Tiers heading into the 2017 season, when he commanded eight Tier 1 votes and ranked seventh. He seemed to be ascending then. Is he now?

“I think what you saw last year will be the absolute best you see Derek Carr play,” a personnel director said. “I don’t know if he has any more room to grow. They have had a strong run game, they had some weapons on the outside. He played with the most confidence I’ve seen him play in his entire career. Is that sustainable?”

16. Ben Roethlisberger

Tier 1 votes: 1 | Tier 2 votes: 19 | Tier 3 votes: 27 | Tier 4 votes: 3 | 2020 Tier: 2

Roethlisberger never ranked lower than eighth previously. Now, at age 39, he has fallen to 16th, including third in his own division, barely ahead of a rising Baker Mayfield.

“They lost their run game, had a couple guys hurt on defense, and it was up to Ben to carry them over the final five games, and he was terrible,” a defensive coordinator said. “He needs help at this stage of his career.”

One voter was watching to see how Roethlisberger looked from a conditioning standpoint before betting on him.

“If he does not come back in this Rocky Balboa-type shape from an offseason of detoxing and changing his entire lifestyle and going vegan or whatever, then he’s going to get hurt, because older guys get hurt when they don’t take great care of themselves,” this voter said.

A head coach accounted for Roethlisberger’s sole vote in Tier 1, pointing to him as a player with rare size, arm strength, playmaking ability and toughness in the pocket.

“The way their season ended created bias in how people view the Steelers,” this coach said. “Their defense got absolutely shredded by Cleveland. Ben completed 47 passes for more than 500 yards and four touchdowns. The pure player, he’s a guy that can put a team on his back and win every game on the schedule.”

A GM said Roethlisberger would still scare opponents in a playoff game but admitted it might be more off reputation.

“When you are a statue, you have to get rid of the ball quick,” an exec who placed Roethlisberger in Tier 4 said. “They did that. When you took that away, he could not do anything. Maybe he turns into a 3 if they get the run game going with Najee Harris, but they have an offensive coordinator who has never called a play in the league, so I’m not sure what that will look like. I think Ben is almost to the 19th hole.”

17. Baker Mayfield

Tier 2 votes: 17 | Tier 3 votes: 33 | 2020 Tier: 3

Voters like Mayfield. Most also see the supporting cast and offensive coaching helping him more than the other way around. Dividing credit along those lines makes it tougher for some to place Mayfield in Tier 2.

“Baker is probably in the 2 category, but you don’t really know with him,” an evaluator said. “You know they got a new head coach and they called it right, but they also didn’t do as much as they could have done with a legit QB.”

This evaluator compared Mayfield to prime Cincinnati Andy Dalton, but when Dalton was at his best, in 2015, his Bengals ranked fifth on defense and special teams. Mayfield’s Browns were 24th last season and still went 11-5. A different evaluator put it another way, calling Mayfield more point guard than shooting guard, but a GM called Cleveland the greatest threat to Kansas City in the AFC, thanks in part to Mayfield.

“He does benefit from a great offensive line, he has a great running game, but I do think he makes that thing go,” this GM said. “When Odell (Beckham) got hurt and they started to take off, I think that was because Baker could be more of himself. If you truly are a product of the talent that is out there, and are truly a 3, when you lose an all-pro receiver, your play should tail off. But his play improved when they relied on him to use other weapons.”

The schedule was a factor. Cleveland played a disproportionate number of games against top defenses early in the season, before Beckham was injured.

“Mayfield can throw an 18-yard deep curl route like it’s a hitch — it’s that easy for him,” a former offensive coordinator said. “The problem just comes in with the vision sometimes. He’s so accurate, and I think he’s settled down. They didn’t give him the contract yet, so they got the leash tight and should get the best of him — he wants the contract and wants to be thought of in that way. He’s figured it out. It will be about winning, all about ball.”

Mayfield’s 2020 numbers closely resembled 2019 numbers for Cousins: within two completions and 50 yards, with the same number of touchdown passes. Mayfield had two additional interceptions, two fewer sacks, two additional completions longer than 15 yards and a similar EPA per attempt. A common denominator: Browns coach Kevin Stefanski called pays for both.

“I think Baker is more talented than the guys Stefanski had in Minnesota, and then he has the leadership, he is one of the guys and he can extend plays better,” a defensive coordinator said.

Not that “better than Cousins” is necessarily the goal.

“I don’t think they see him as being special in any category,” a former head coach said. “He is good enough because of what they do. Baker has more grit than Cousins, and he is going to play better in critical situations. He’s accurate, but not exceptional.”

18. Kirk Cousins

Tier 2 votes: 7 | Tier 3 votes: 43 | 2020 Tier: 3

Cousins finished the 2020 season ranked fourth in EPA per attempt, second in yards per attempt, sixth in passing touchdowns, eighth in passer rating and, once again, first in nobody’s heart. He slipped deeper into Tier 3 this year.

“If you look at the stats, he is a 2 all day, but every year, I have the same problems with him,” a GM said. “Off-schedule, it is tough. When the guy is open, there is no one more accurate, but when the picture is not perfect, he is not as good off-schedule as some of these guys. I would give him a 2. He can carry the team sometimes.”

Those off-schedule issues confound some in the league.

“In the boot game, he is out there quick and gets his hips around and looks good doing it,” one voter said. “That is why Kyle (Shanahan) wanted him and likes him. Contrast that to his in-the-pocket vs. an onrushing defender. At times, he looks that equipment intern you use in the pass-rush drill during training camp who can’t get out of the way.”

The Vikings finished last season ranked sixth in offensive EPA. Their 7-9 record reflected a No. 30 ranking in combined defense and special-teams EPA. Only four teams since 2006 have finished better than 7-9 while ranking 30th in that combined category. Those teams’ quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers (2016), Marc Bulger (2006), Eli Manning (2009) and David Garrard (2010).

“I feel like his good games come when they are getting the shit kicked out of them,” a head coach said.

Cousins led the league last season in touchdown passes while trailing by at least 10 points. He had 12 while ranking third in those situations for yards (1,372) and fourth in attempts (163). The defense and special teams can be blamed.

“He struggles to win the big games, and there is a fear factor to his game that you can see up close if you are in the division,” a voter from the NFC North said.

Three potentially underrated quarterbacks in this survey — Tannehill, Cousins and Mayfield — play for teams with dynamic running backs. Some say running backs do not matter, but truly elite ones siphon credit from their quarterbacks.

“Cousins is really good at play-action, he’s really good at moving the pocket, I think he’s a good athlete who will stay in there, has some toughness,” a former defensive coordinator said. “His accuracy is good. I don’t know that he’s going to win the whole thing, but I think he can he can be a playoff guy and go pretty deep. I think what let them down last year was their defense.”

T-19. Jared Goff

Tier 2 votes: 5 | Tier 3 votes: 43 | Tier 4 votes: 2 | 2020 Tier: 3

Goff peaked in Tier 2 heading into the 2019 season. He has slid backward ever since. Some voters wonder how Goff will be better in Detroit.

“He may prove he’s a 2 and better than the Rams let on, but the problem he’s got, he may have gone into one of the worst situations in football,” an offensive coach said. “I might be wrong. It might be the best thing in the history of football. But if I had to wager one way or the other, I’d wager that might be one of the worst situations you could be in.”

Another voter noted that the Lions should be better on the offensive line, and able to run the ball.

“They will want to play 1970s football,” an exec said. “They might as well go get Mike Alstott and the offense they had in Tampa under Tony Dungy.”

Goff has fallen from 12th to 16th to 19th in Quarterback Tiers over the past three years.

“Guys don’t get rid of their starting quarterback and change their opinion that abruptly unless there’s a pretty damn good reason,” a quarterbacks coach said. “But at the same time, Goff actually did put up all those numbers in those early years, and he did play with that surgically repaired thumb when he probably shouldn’t have. So there are some things that you like about him, but it is not consistent week in and week out as a passer.”

Goff’s slide coincided with Todd Gurley’s demise. That could validate the way some voters see Tannehill in relation to Henry, Cousins in relation to Dalvin Cook and Mayfield in relation to Nick Chubb. The elite back can help any quarterback if defenses feel compelled to commit additional resources to stopping the run.

“Everybody looked better when they ran outside zone well to Gurley,” a former offensive coordinator said. “Goff was playing better than what he really is, and now there is some settling going on. That’s all that is.”

A voter who was with the Rams during Goff’s tenure in Los Angeles thought the team’s issues on the offensive line were disproportionately responsible for the quarterback’s decline.

“You fall out on a quarterback like that, I start going, ‘Well, what is he really, does he care?’ ” a head coach said. “You keep hearing all these things out of there and I don’t know if it’s the coach or the player. That’s drastic, man.”

T-19. Carson Wentz

Tier 2 votes: 9 | Tier 3 votes: 35 | Tier 4 votes: 6 | 2020 Tier: 2

Goff and Wentz are tied in Tier 3 after being traded by the teams that drafted them 1-2 and later extended their contracts at great cost. Unlike Goff, Wentz is joining a 2020 playoff team with established leadership. He’ll also be reunited with a coach he has succeeded under, Frank Reich. But Wentz was playing worse than Goff, so he has more ground to make up.

“If he plays like he did in Philly, he is like Drew Lock — he just does dumb things,” an offensive play-caller said. “Right now, from the neck up, he is broken. Frank Reich is going to have to sort him out. Frank is good. Frank can do that. If Wentz could ever capture what he had that first year, and the confidence … he’s a 4 until then.”

A voter attuned to the situation in Philadelphia thought Wentz needed hard coaching.

“Carson’s biggest issue is, he tries to hit home runs,” this voter said. “That is why he holds onto the ball and takes sacks. That is why he gets hurt running around. He has not mastered live-to-play-another-down, throw-the-checkdown-and-let’s-go. The psychology of the situation last year fed into that: ‘I have to make these plays to show them I’m still the guy.’ No one reeled him in. The partnership with Frank, the good defense, they’ll play the game a little different, and I think he will surprise people this year.”

Wentz peaked entering the 2018 season when Quarterback Tiers voters ranked him ninth, awarding him 12 votes in Tier 1 at that time.

“When Wentz had it going in Philly, the run game was their bread and butter,” an exec said. “They’re going to have him throw high-percentage passes — a lot of screen game, slants, things they weren’t doing in Philly. It will be like Baker Mayfield. He won’t have to play out of his mind to go deep in the playoffs.”

Hoping Wentz performs as well as the Browns’ quarterback seems ironic after Cleveland took criticism for passing on Wentz in the 2016 draft.

A defensive coordinator said he thought the Eagles had too many former coordinators on their offensive staffs, resulting in a hodge-podge offense that tried to do too many things, led by a quarterback struggling to please everybody. An offensive coach thought Wentz could experience a “Tannehill effect” by leaving behind the expectations associated with high draft pedigrees.

“I’m not buying the hype that he played all that good in Philly with Frank,” a former head coach countered. “He played good, but they were a good team, too. He will play as a 3 at times, but when it comes down to it, he’s going to be a 4 when you put 17 games together. Wentz is too mentally soft.”

 

21. Jimmy Garoppolo

Tier 1 votes: 1 | Tier 2 votes: 6 | Tier 3 votes: 37 | Tier 4 votes: 6 | 2020 Tier: 3

Garoppolo has started more than six games in a regular season just once. The 49ers reached the Super Bowl that season while ranking eighth in EPA on offense. They were even better (third) on defense/special teams.

“I bet a lot of people have him as a 3, as a product of the system and a product of the defense, but I think he is better than that,” a quarterbacks coach said. “I think he is a very good player. He’s really got a savvy and a feel and just a natural way about him, a natural fluidity and understanding and feel for the position. He’s had the injuries, but I think he has the toughness to him and a little bit of grit, throws the ball well, accurate and all that.”

The 49ers were unwilling bet on Garoppolo. Trey Lance is the future.

“Jimmy is better than people think, but if he is in the market, to me, you are not like, ‘Oh, yeah, let’s get Jimmy G,’ but you would take him,” a defensive coordinator said. “I think Jimmy functions in Kyle Shanahan’s offense and understands his offense, and Kyle knows he can get him to do what he needs him to do, but I think he would like to have a more talented player. It would not surprise me if Lance was starting midway through the season. I think he has a little bit of the Mahomes-type traits.”

22. Daniel Jones

Tier 2 votes: 1 | Tier 3 votes: 28 | Tier 4 votes: 20 | Tier 5 votes: 1 | 2020 Tier: 3

The vote distribution for Jones this year is nearly identical to the distribution last year. Then as now, voters want to know why Jones holds the ball and suffers too many turnovers (a league-high 39 over the past two seasons, in 27 games). Is he a slow processor? Does he struggle to see the field? Will he build on whatever incremental progress was made last season?

“Playing him, the thing that scares you the most about him was his ability to run with the ball,” a defensive coach said. “They were running some of the zone-read stuff, but he was running away from secondary guys. He also had the ability to throw the ball, but he was not consistent.”

The return of Saquon Barkley and the additions of Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and Kyle Rudolph have raised expectations.

“They are built to be a seven-on-seven team with the weapons they have, and if he cannot put up points with this group, he never will be able to,” an exec said.

The Giants averaged 17.4 offensive points per game in Jones’ starts last season, slightly less than the 1-15 Jaguars averaged. That was down from 19.7 during Jones’ 2019 rookie season.

“The way of the NFL now is to rush these guys to be great early,” a quarterbacks coach said. “They are not given a chance to just develop and learn the game. Some guys come in right away and play well, but other guys need 2-3 years and then they are ready to roll.”

The Bills’ Allen comes to mind in that latter group. He had a dozen fewer turnovers through two seasons than Jones has suffered.

“Jones’ fatal flaw has been the turnovers, but it’s because he holds the ball too long,” a defensive coach said. “That worries me all the time. Sometimes it is a product of the offense. I’m not sure that is the case there. It’s like he doesn’t see things all the time. Philly ended the game with a strip-sack, not because they got a great rush, but because he holds the ball a long time. I worry that he cannot get past that.”

A longtime offensive coach compared Jones to Dalton a decade ago. Put an excellent team around him and he’ll have a chance. Take away the above-average supporting cast, and prepare to struggle. Jones’ athleticism does separate him. He had an 80-yard run against the Eagles, punctuated by an open-field stumble.

“I think there is enough ability there,” an exec said. “You can start and win with him. He’s another guy, two different coaches, a couple of different offenses, haven’t really had a lot of weapons around him. They tried to upgrade that this offseason and they got Saquon Barkley coming back. This will be the truest evaluation of him.”

23. Ryan Fitzpatrick

Tier 2 votes: 1 | Tier 3 votes: 25 | Tier 4 votes: 21 | Tier 5 votes: 3 | 2020 Tier: 4

The general feeling among voters is that Washington will be better with Fitzpatrick, while Miami will be worse without him.

“I always hated playing him because he doesn’t give a crap,” an exec said. “He is 39 years old, has made plenty of money, he’s just out there slinging it around. Teams that played Miami last year were happy as all get-out when they put Tua in there. And now they have this amazing defense in Washington.”

Fitzpatrick was 4-3 as a starter for the Dolphins last season. Miami’s opponents scored a combined 33 points in the four victories, creating a low bar for Fitzpatrick and the offense to clear. The Dolphins were also dominant on special teams for much of the season.

“Fitz is smart enough to know, ‘Hey, if we don’t go turn the ball over and we dink and dunk and play the field-position game, we may not put up 40 points, but the defense is going to keep them in every game,’ ” the exec said. “I think he’s the right guy that can manage the game and understand that at this point in his career.”

Fitzpatrick has made at least 10 starts in a season eight times. Twice in those eight seasons, his teams ranked among the top 10 in combined EPA on defense and special teams. His teams won nine and 10 games in those seasons. In the other six seasons, Fitzpatrick’s teams ranked 20th or worse on defense and special teams and won between 4-6 games in each of those years. Washington ranked fifth last year and went 7-9. Perhaps Fitzpatrick flips that to, say, 10-7 under the new 17-game format.

“This guy is just a baller,” a defensive coach said. “He’s like a late-career Dave Krieg with a ZZ Top beard. The guy can throw four touchdowns or four interceptions or both. He can fumble the fuck out of the ball. He’s the guy who makes you say, ‘I think we can start him,’ and then after about 10 starts, you are not going to re-sign him. Then someone else picks him up and goes, ‘I think we can start him.’ ”

An offensive coach called Fitzpatrick “a scary 3” who gets the ball out quick, works hard, can lead a team and then, at some point, could be prone to toss three interceptions in the second half of a single game. Fitzpatrick has tossed three or more picks over a full game 18 times in 146 starts, including twice in 20 starts with the Dolphins.

“He’s a strong 3,” a personnel director said. “He is a wily old guy, and if you have some pieces around him, you have a chance. It’s not what you want, but he gives you a chance.”

TIER 4

A Tier 4 quarterback could be an unproven player with some upside or a veteran who is ultimately best suited as a backup.

24. Sam Darnold

Tier 3 votes: 23 | Tier 4 votes: 27 | 2020 Tier: 3

Darnold slipped into Tier 4 after a third successive dismal season on offense with the Jets, who ranked 32nd in offensive EPA by a wide margin during his time with the team. Factors beyond Darnold obviously contributed. The Jets are the only team with zero Pro Bowl players on offense over the past five seasons.

“I love his physical ability, his toughness,” a veteran offensive coordinator said. “Everyone blamed the ‘SC situation, the coaching, on turning the ball over, getting antsy in the pocket, but it hasn’t changed in the NFL. Is it because of the coaching situation in New York, or is that because this is who he is? I’m afraid it’s who he is.”

Separating Darnold from the Jets’ unusually poor roster, former coach Adam Gase and the draft expectations that followed the quarterback into the NFL’s largest media market provides an opportunity to assess Darnold more cleanly.

“It’s tough to say with what he had around him the last couple years,” an exec said. “I don’t want to bury him because he was such a solid college player coming out and the Jets, that has been where quarterbacks go to die. He just did not have enough help.”

Teddy Bridgewater’s criticisms of the offensive staff following his exit from Carolina resonated with voters who wondered whether Darnold was leaving a bad situation for one that might not be as favorable as advertised. But few situations are perfect. At a certain point, quarterbacks must overcome certain aspects of their surroundings.

“I don’t know how accurate all that stuff is, the Bridgewater stuff,” one voter said. “I wasn’t super impressed with what they were doing. Maybe they were just installing a new system. It would be a shame if Darnold was getting mishandled in New York and turned around and had another weird situation there.”

One former GM said he was always skeptical on Darnold because “it just seemed like bad shit happened when he had the ball in his hands.” A current GM said he preferred Darnold to the Giants’ Jones for his ability to get the ball out of his hands more quickly.

“I gave him a 3,” an exec said. “He will have good weapons around him. Now it is his make-or-break year as a starter.”

25. Jameis Winston

Tier 2 votes: 2 | Tier 3 votes: 16 | Tier 4 votes: 30 | Tier 5 votes: 2 | 2020 Tier: NR

Nearly all voters thought the Saints would be best off starting Winston, thereby preserving the special packages suited for Taysom Hill. But voters didn’t necessarily think the Saints had found a long-term successor for Brees.

“I watched Winston this offseason, still saw a lot of good things,” an offensive coach said. “I think he’s a really good quarterback. I really think he’s a great pocket passer. Yes, he threw a lot of interceptions that year, but …”

But, what? Some voters thought Bruce Arians’ higher-risk pass offense in Tampa played to the worst instincts of Winston, and that a more selective menu could help Winston become more efficient.

Two pick-six interceptions Winston did not throw could be instructive. The interceptions, thrown by Tom Brady early last season, involved passes from the far hash to the wide side of the field — risky throws allowing time for defenders to close on the football. These were the types of calamities Winston was known for when he held Brady’s job in Tampa, but Brady was the one delivering the football. Could it be that even Brady struggled with higher-risk throws, only to settle into a more productive rhythm as he and Arians had time to find common ground on what worked best?

“Nah, I don’t buy that,” a defensive coach said. “If you don’t care about turnoveres, yeah, you can get 4,500 yards or whatever Jameis threw for that year in Tampa, and you will get 30 touchdowns with Mike Evans plucking balls out of the air. But you are also throwing into coverage. I don’t respect that shit. I don’t think you can separate the two. If they try to limit his turnovers, then the other stuff will come down with it. That is how he gets his yards, playing high-risk ball.”

Winston’s 3.4 percent interception rate since 2015 is the NFL’s highest among 40 quarterbacks with at least 32 starts since then.

“What he did with Bruce Arians that year (2019), it was one touchdown for every interception,” an exec said. “It went from a gigantic, big-time play to, like, is he color blind? At times it was like, I have no idea what the guy’s trying to do.”

26. Teddy Bridgewater

Tier 3 votes: 19 | Tier 4 votes: 27 | Tier 5 votes: 4 | 2020 Tier: 3

Most voters thought Bridgewater would be the best choice to start for Denver, a reflection of opinions on Drew Lock as much as anything.

“My gut tells me Bridgewater is just sort of like the guy that always looks better when he’s not playing a lot,” a former defensive coordinator said.

An offensive coach who has long liked Bridgewater and didn’t love how the Panthers handled him conceded that Tier 4 could be the spot for Bridgewater at this point in the quarterback’s career.

“He can process an offense and distribute the football,” a quarterbacks coach said. “He just doesn’t have a whole lot of arm talent, is not a big guy and is injury prone.”

Feeling scapegoated in Carolina last season, Bridgewater criticized the Panthers’ coaching staff for failing to dedicate enough practice time to situational football, including the red zone.

“Carolina saw enough of him, but they could be turning to a lesser version of what they had,” one voter said. “Bridgewater had great success in the past when paired with a strong defense and a complimentary run game, something he could have had in Carolina with another season there. Denver might have those things. I think Teddy beats out Drew Lock and rides that defense to 10 wins.”

Bridgewater has a 19-3 starting record in games when his team’s defense produced positive EPA. That is above the 78 percent win rate for regular starters over the past decade. The record flips to 7-21 in the rest of the games, worse than the 35 percent win rate for regular starters over that period. It suggests Bridgewater can win games that are easier to win.

“Bridgewater’s probably a step above Andy Dalton at this point in their careers, and in another couple years, he’ll be Andy Dalton,” a defensive coordinator said.

27. Cam Newton

Tier 3 votes: 19 | Tier 4 votes: 26 | Tier 5 votes: 5 | 2020 Tier: 3

A large block of voters thinks Newton is damaged beyond repair and headed for an early exit as the Patriots turn over the offense to rookie Mac Jones.

“I disagree and think people have short memories,” one voter said. “Week 2 last season, he is one yard away from beating Seattle on his way to starting 3-0 before landing on the COVID list. He goes 7-8 as a starter. Bill Belichick loads up the roster, gets a whole new linebacker corps and tight end targets. I think Cam looks more the part in 2021 than he did last season.”

Others see little evidence Newton, worn down by injuries after taking punishment as a power runner for a decade, can still throw effectively enough.

“There is a confidence level to it where at any time when he was at his best, he could pull it down and really destroy you with his legs and now, having the injuries, that dynamic playmaking with his legs is not there, and he has to win with his arm and he is not all the way confident in that area,” an exec said.

An evaluator who studied Newton this offseason and whose team faced the Patriots in 2020 thought the quarterback appeared “sloppy” with diminished mechanics.

“He looks like he’s playing in the sandlot,” this evaluator said. “He is still a big body that’s going to be a threat with his legs, but his accuracy, he just sprays the ball over the field. His feet are never set, his arm angle is always changing when it doesn’t have to. I was shocked to watch it this year, to be honest with you.”

Even when Newton was at his best, he was a hot-and-cold player, a defensive coordinator said. Statistical splits from his 2015 MVP season back up the contention, as Newton didn’t get rolling until the season’s second half.

“I don’t want to put the nail in his coffin with a 5, but call me next year after Mac Jones takes over in like Week 6,” a defensive coach said.

One quarterbacks coach noted that Newton was already declining in Carolina. Another said “it’s been over for him” since Newton injured his shoulder, and that Newton would need to grind in order to reinvent himself at this stage.

“I just think he’s broke,” a GM said. “He no longer has the elite traits to compensate for some injuries.”

28. Andy Dalton

Tier 3 votes: 14 | Tier 4 votes: 30 | Tier 5 votes: 6 | 2020 Tier: NR

Perhaps Justin Fields wins the starting job for Chicago heading into the season. In the meantime, the Bears have Dalton on a one-year deal for $10 million.

“He’s the same as Bridgewater to me, very similar guy,” an offensive coach said. “They got problems in Chicago because they’re going to have to play that young quarterback early, if not right away, and it’s all over with if that kid doesn’t play good.”

Despite a rough 2020 season overall, Dalton produced two of his 15 best career EPA-per-attempt games in victories over Cincinnati (30-7) and Philadelphia (37-17), two teams in disarray at the time.

“When they were good in Cincy, it was because they had A.J. Green and Marvin Jones and (Mohamed) Sanu and (Tyler) Eifert and Gio Bernard and Rex Burkhead, and the quarterback just went to the right spot and got it out,” a former defensive coordinator said. “I think he still has that. I don’t think his game gets affected by aging as much. He has always been a distributor. When he played and was healthy last year, I thought he showed he can do that when they had all their pieces.”

An evaluator thought Dalton had declined significantly and was near the end.

“I would not even say legitimate starter at this point,” a different evaluator said. “I think he has really fallen off. Throughout his career, you would say he was a 3, but his accuracy was bad last year, his arm was poor, not real mobile.”

29. Tua Tagovailoa

Tier 3 votes: 4 | Tier 4 votes: 44 | Tier 5 votes: 2 | 2020 Tier: NA

The Dolphins selected Tagovailoa over Herbert after not landing Brady, and now some wonder if they should have stuck with Fitzpatrick. Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Chan Gailey resigned one season into a three-year contract, giving the Dolphins their third OC in three seasons under coach Brian Flores, amid rumors the team has interest in prying Watson from Houston.

“Look at these teams with good defenses that didn’t do everything they could to get Brady,” an evaluator said. “Miami, the Rams, Washington and maybe even New England could be reviewing hotel layouts near SoFi Stadium (site of the next Super Bowl) right now if they had Brady.”

No pressure, kid.

“I just did not see enough from Tua last year, and the fact that they benched him was not good,” an exec said. “Buffalo blew them out by 30 in the last game of the year when they were playing for the playoffs. I just didn’t see anything out of Tua that made me think, ‘This kid has a chance.’ He is 6 foot, left-handed, not very athletic. They got some weapons, but they were trying like hell to trade for Deshaun (Watson), so I see a lot of signs there.”

It sounds ridiculous, on the surface, to already be thinking about alternatives to a highly drafted quarterback with nine starts spread across one uniquely challenging season. That is the conversation, however.

“He disappointed last year, he struggled a lot,” a GM said. “It sounds like the volume was hard for him, and that could have to do with COVID protocols. Sometimes, even when guys are smart, they need physical reps, and certainly they did not get that last offseason. Having a year under his belt and going through this should help him, but if they have another year like last year, they might have to think about using some of those picks on another quarterback.”

Accuracy is seen as Tagovailoa’s strongest trait. It’s an important one to have. However, voters do not see special, differentiating talent.

“I don’t think the arm is elite enough, and I don’t think he is special as an athlete to have that kind of X-factor to overcome it,” an exec said. “The supporting cast will have to be really strong. They have one of the worst running back groups in the league. He is a 4 who may end up in that no-man’s land.”

An evaluator called Tagovailoa “very similar to the Andy Dalton flavor” or possibly Mayfield while saying the hope would be for Tagovailoa to develop into, at the extreme, something closer to Brees.

“He has those capabilities,” this evaluator said. “Really good feet, gets it out in a hurry. People get twisted because he’s not Kyler Murray and squirreling around. He is not that guy. He is a decisive, quick decision maker who gets the ball out early.”

A former head coach said “the pocket crashes around” the undersized Tagovailoa in a “noticeable” way. Multiple voters thought a low-key personality might not help from a leadership standpoint, and that parting with the outwardly personable Fitzpatrick might have been helpful for Tagovailoa to establish himself. It could be overthinking things.

“He’s accurate and doesn’t turn the ball over, as advertised, and the offense is set up for Tua to succeed with the influx of receiver help,” a coach said. “Big year for him.”

30. Jalen Hurts

Tier 3 votes: 4 | Tier 4 votes: 44 | Tier 5 votes: 3 | 2020 Tier: NR

The Eagles own two picks in the 2022 draft’s first round and could add another from Indianapolis if Wentz plays for the Colts enough to upgrade the pick from a second-rounder. Voters think there’s a good chance that draft capital will help Philadelphia land its next quarterback. First, Hurts gets his shot.

“He was a high school state champ, won a championship at Alabama, transferred to Oklahoma and went to the (College Football Playoff),” a former head coach said. “Although he is not accurate in all areas, he is kind of like (Donovan) McNabb. He is a leader, he is going to succeed because he is going to will himself to succeed if you put half a team around him. He is mentally tougher than about 18 of the starting quarterbacks in the league right now.”

An offensive coach rejected the “winner” angle.

“Please, he won everywhere he went because the places that he went were Oklahoma and Alabama,” this coach said. “He does have all those extra things, the toughness, the grit. He just can’t throw it well enough and accurately enough. And I don’t think he’s going to turn into Dak. I don’t think he has that level of passing skill or just arm talent. I don’t dislike him, but I don’t think he’s a real starting definite NFL guy. I’m not buying the package.”

Hurts completed 77 of 148 passes (52 percent) with six touchdowns and four interceptions last season. He started the final four games, finishing by completing 7 of 20 passes for 72 yards against Washington in Week 17. He averaged 68 yards rushing per game in his starts.

“If they can hit on a combination of him and a coordinator with a good feel for him and his strengths and weaknesses and how to game-plan around his weaknesses as a thrower, a la Buffalo with Josh Allen, he has a chance to be a 3 or higher,” a GM said.

Those duties fall to coach Nick Sirianni and coordinator Shane Steichen. They have worked mostly with Philip Rivers in recent years. Rivers was an expert pocket passer with vast experience, full command of the game at the line of scrimmage and no mobility. The opposite of Hurts, basically. Sirianni also worked with Andrew Luck and Jacoby Brissett. Steichen was with Herbert in 2020.

“The arm was there, the accuracy was not there, the touch was not there,” a personnel director said of Hurts. “Hopefully, he can improve, but right now he is a 4.”

31. Drew Lock

Tier 3 votes: 5 | Tier 4 votes: 37 | Tier 5 votes: 6 | 2020 Tier: 4

Lock is one of 32 quarterbacks with at least 16 starts over the past two seasons. He ranks last among them in completion rate and tied for last with Darnold in both EPA per attempt and passer rating.

“He’s athletic, he’s got a cannon for an arm, he is talented,” a former GM said. “He is just very up and down. He was up and down in college, and I just don’t know if that is always going to be the case.”

Most voters thought Bridgewater gave the Broncos’ their best option in the short term, especially if the defense is good enough for the team to win with steady quarterback play.

“I don’t know if they give up on Drew,” a head coach said. “You try to get these guys three or four years. Teddy is better right now, but Drew has a higher ceiling if his head is right.”

An offensive coach called Lock “casual” in his attention to the details of the position.

“When you’re young, you can blame it on youth, but he’s about to not be young anymore,” this coach said. “That’s going to come to a head here this year in Denver.”

Lock’s conventional numbers through 18 starts approximate those for Christian Ponder, Blake Bortles, Brock Osweiler and some more promising players as well, including the Bills’ Allen.

“I love the athlete, love the size, love the arm strength, but I don’t think he is ever going to process,” an exec said of Lock.

32. Tyrod Taylor

Tier 3 votes: 8 | Tier 4 votes: 30 | Tier 5 votes: 12 | 2020 Tier: 4

Taylor appears here because there’s a chance Watson won’t play for the Texans. Taylor slipped deeper into Tier 4 this year after attempting only 36 passes over the past two seasons. Is Taylor any worse heading into his age-32 season?

“He doesn’t look like he’s lost the athletic traits in the last 10 years to where you see a guy like Dalton taking a step back,” a voter who studied Taylor and placed him in Tier 3 said. “He is still a helluva leader, a legitimate starter. He can move the ball. He can run an offense. He just is not going to make big plays for you.”

Taylor’s three-year run for Buffalo from 2015-2017 saw him post a 22-20 record as a starter on a team that ranked between 16th and 18th in combined EPA on defense and special teams. The offenses ranked 10th, 11th and 23rd during those seasons, respectively.

“I think you can win eight with him (during a 16-game season),” a former GM said. “I don’t know that they can win eight with him. But you can win eight, and in a really good year nine, and then that’s it.”

 

 

Edited by C-Man
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3 hours ago, C-Man said:

(C-Man rolls a grenade into the room and calmly backs away, closing the door behind him):

https://theathletic.com/2727336/2021/07/28/2021-nfl-quarterback-tiers-50-coaches-and-evaluators-rank-the-leagues-starters/

 

 

Dak is where he should be. He is not a Tier 1 QB but he is definitely not below Tier 2. But Stafford should not be ahead of him. We will see how he does with McVey and I know it is splitting hairs between the 7 and 9 spot but Dak can lead his team much better than Stafford. 

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Posted (edited)
19 minutes ago, Vic Mackey said:

Dak is where he should be. He is not a Tier 1 QB but he is definitely not below Tier 2. But Stafford should not be ahead of him. We will see how he does with McVey and I know it is splitting hairs between the 7 and 9 spot but Dak can lead his team much better than Stafford. 

I know I keep harping on this regarding Stafford, but there isn’t a qb on planet earth that can lead that dysfunctional franchise. Stafford is so much better than you give him credit for. At the very least, they’re in the exact same tier of starting qbs 
 

Side note, fuck it. Let’s go get Howard and improve our defense with a true playmaker on defense 

Edited by youdunnf'dup
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I wouldn’t hate it if GG took every single snap in the preseason. Get as good a look at him as you possibly can. Let him run with the ones, let him run with the twos. Nooch doesn’t need to see the field. As far as I’m concerned, Dak doesn’t need to take one drop back. All of Dak’s snaps should be him handing the ball off 

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No complaints on the list except Stafford above Dak(and I agree with people saying Stafford was fucked in Detroit, but he had tons of weapons there and still rarely even matched daks success).

I think Dak is closer to Watson than Most and think Watson, Dak, Lamar, and Allen is splitting hairs. Just depends one what you believe.

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On 7/28/2021 at 3:53 PM, TenCarryTom said:

Great pick by the Cowboys. It's why I'm OK with the LB pick this year, neither the top need, but definitely the most talented player at their spot. Continue that trend, hopefully both will have great careers in big D.

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Posted (edited)

Yeah, pretty much on board with the QB list. The Denver situation is one of the most interesting to me. Lock has the tools to blow up if he can get in sync with the mental level of the game. If Teddy is their starting QB for any significant period of time, barring injury, it's waving the white flag of surrender and they'll be on the clock looking for a new QB again.

Edited by DougO
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On 7/28/2021 at 5:16 PM, Vic Mackey said:

But Stafford should not be ahead of him. We will see how he does with McVey

I think Stafford is going to have an incredible year with a competent team and organization around him. the lions are one of the worst franchises in all of professional sports. 

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Posted (edited)
2 minutes ago, Vic Mackey said:

What has even came of those? Seemed that story died off over time. Is he even facing a suspension from Goodell??

Maybe I’m wrong but think far from over. Don’t think any teams want to touch him until settled

Edited by Horn80
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3 minutes ago, Horn80 said:

Maybe I’m wrong but think far from over. Don’t think any teams want to touch him until settled

I am curious what he gets vs Zeke. He had one incident that was proven to be bullshit and got 6 games. Watson has tens upon tens of women coming forward. 

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