Ranking the Top 20 Quarterbacks of the 2017 NFL Season

The 2017 NFL season is upon us. As has been in the case in many years passed, which teams emerge from the pack as serious contenders could be the ones sporting an outstanding talent under center. In today’s pass-happy NFL, the best teams all have a quality quarterback to fall back on when the going gets tough. Unfortunately, they aren’t a dime a dozen, and spending a first-round pick on a gunslinger is no guarantee either.

Which of the league’s 32 teams can claim that they have one of these aforementioned quality quarterbacks? Find out for yourself by taking a look at my rankings of the NFL’s top 20 signal callers heading into 2017.

20. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
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Yes, Carson Wentz still has a long way to go before we can even consider the former No. 2 overall pick a success. Still, what we saw during his rookie 2016 campaign was promising to say the least. There were some inconsistencies, and his play started to slip as the year wound down. Despite that, Wentz flashed the potential to be a star — the Philadelphia Eagles haven’t had this much upside under center since the early days of Donovan McNabb.

19. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
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Some call him a game manager. Others say he’s too afraid to throw the ball more than 10 yards downfield. If you look at his track record, though, I’d call Alex Smith a quality starting quarterback. The Kansas City Chiefs seem to agree, as they’ve enjoyed plenty of success under his leadership over the last four years. Smith currently has rookie Patrick Mahomes nipping at his heels, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of getting the job done.

18. Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings
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For how much success Sam Bradford has had throughout his career, he doesn’t quite get the credit he deserves. Once considered a bust as a former No. 1 overall pick, he’s since put together a couple of outstanding seasons. If it wasn’t for some untimely injuries, Bradford may never have even been available for the Minnesota Vikings. Now he finds himself coming off a season during which he set the NFL single-season completion percentage record. If Bradford can get some better blocking in 2017, there’s no telling how far he can take this Vikings team.

17. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
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At 37 years of age, Carson Palmer‘s best days are certainly behind him. While that may be the case, it’s hard to argue that he can still be a reliable signal caller for the Arizona Cardinals. He’s developed a strong relationship with star receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and obviously has head coach Bruce Arian‘s trust at this point. As long as he stays healthy, Palmer will ensure the Cardinals are relevant throughout the 2017 campaign.

16. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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There’s so much that Jameis Winston brings to the table as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ starter. Not only does he possess a tremendous arm, but he’s an elite athlete and leader at the quarterback spot as well. There have been a few bumps in the road during his two years in the NFL, but we’ve also seen steady progress from the 2015 No. 1 overall pick. As long as he can cut down on the turnovers in 2017, Winston should be headed for a career year with players like Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson to throw to.

15. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
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Much like Wentz, the jury is still out with Dak Prescott. Everything from his rookie season was sensational, from his 23:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio to the Dallas Cowboys‘ 13-3 record. Realistically, the team couldn’t have asked for more from a fourth-round pick thrust into action after yet another Tony Romo injury. And yet, here we are talking about Prescott as the future of this franchise. Another strong season from him could cement his status as one of the NFL’s rising stars.

14. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
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I’ll be honest — I’m not the biggest fan of Matthew Stafford. Sure, he racks up a ton of yards and is routinely among the league leaders in most statistical categories. His struggles against contenders and in the playoffs, though, are cause for concern. Still, Stafford has asserted himself as the Detroit Lions‘ resilient leader who doesn’t back down from a challenge. Now that he’s the highest paid player in the NFL, the pressure will be on him to get the Lions over the hump in 2017.

13. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
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Who would have guessed that it would be Kirk Cousins on this list instead of Robert Griffin III? Both were drafted by the Washington Redskins in 2013; RG3 as the face of the franchise and Cousins as the backup. Now, the latter is one of the league’s best young arms while the former is out of the league completely. It’s uncertain what the future holds for Cousins, who has been met with resistance from the D.C. front office. One way or another, though, he’s headed for a huge contract next offseason if he maintains his current level of play.

12. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
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In my opinion, this is Marcus Mariota‘s year. After two seasons of growing pains, it’s time for us to see what the former No. 2 overall pick can truly do for this Tennessee Titans offense. He’s got the weapons around him to get this team back to the playoffs, where it hasn’t been since 2008. Not only does Mariota possess elite arm talent, but he’s a superior athlete who can hurt defenses with his legs. A 2016 leg injury will force him to play smarter, which may actually work in the young gunslinger’s favor.

11. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers
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Philip Rivers may be playing in a new town, but he’s still the same old wily veteran who has been leading the Los Angeles Chargers since 2006. Sure, he’s been a part of some bad teams during his days in SoCal. Still, most of those teams wouldn’t have been any bit competitive if it wasn’t for the bolo-tie-wearing quarterback. He always steps up in the clutch, knows how to throw his receivers open, and simply wins games. The Chargers will be lucky if Rivers sticks around for a few more years.

10. Eli Manning, New York Giants
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I know, I know. Eli Manning has two Super Bowl victories to his name. However, in my book, rings are only part of the equation. I’m not questioning whether or not the New York Giants‘ fearless leader is a star. Based on everything he’s done during his career, there’s no denying that he is one of the greats of his era. I just don’t see him through rose-colored glasses the way others do. He’s been a tad inconsistent in recent years and can turn in some ugly games. Still, the Giants are lucky to have him.

9. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
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As his 2015 NFL MVP award would indicate, Cam Newton is a superstar. If this list was based purely on natural talent, he’d probably be higher than No. 9. However, it’s those hiccups (like minimal effort to recover a fumble in the Super Bowl) and excessive turnovers that forces me to remain cautious with the former Heisman Trophy winner. Still, as the Carolina Panthers would surely echo, I love Newton’s game. He’s a dynamic talent who brings a whole new dimension to the field. When healthy and on his game, he’s among the NFL’s best quarterbacks — hands down.

8. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
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If this list were based off of Andrew Luck‘s first few seasons, he’d easily be in the Top 5. Unfortunately, the last couple of years haven’t been kind to the former Stanford sensation. Injuries and a lack of talent around him have forced Luck to watch his stock slip a bit. Still, when he is healthy, the spark he provides the Indianapolis Colts on offense is undeniable. Luck is an elite arm talent and sneaky athlete who gives his team strong odds to win on any given Sunday.

7. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
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I’ve been blown away by the rapid development of Derek Carr. A 2014 second-round pick, the younger brother of NFL bust David Carr has given the family name new life. He’s also stepped in and helped turn this Oakland Raiders franchise into a contender, essentially overnight. While he has had plenty of help from his teammates, Carr has more than earned the designation of elite quarterback through three seasons. Heck, if it wasn’t for a broken leg in Week 16, he may have stolen the 2016 MVP award right out from under Matt Ryan. If his development continues at this pace, a Super Bowl could be in the Raiders’ near future.

6. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
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Let’s not pretend that Ben Roethlisberger won’t go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks of the modern era. His pocket presence, ability to break tackles and pick up yards while scrambling are uncanny. Unfortunately, as eventually happens to all NFL players, injuries and age are catching up to him. More than likely, this is his last year in the league. If that truly is the case, you better believe he’s going to leave it all out on the field every week for the Pittsburgh Steelers. At the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a tad timid to take hits and be the physical presence he once was with retirement looming.

5. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
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Here he is — the man that doesn’t seem to age. Even at 38 years old, Drew Brees is still slinging the football like he’s in his prime. The yards continue to rack up, and the New Orleans Saints offense continues to thrive with him at the helm. That isn’t going to change in 2017, even with the loss of Brandin Cooks. Brees will do everything in his power to keep the Saints relevant, even in a loaded NFC South division. Until he hangs up his cleats, expect nothing short of excellent from the veteran gunslinger.

4. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
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My guess is people aren’t going to like seeing Russell Wilson this high on the list of top NFL quarterbacks. However, if you look back on his body of work and the damage he does on a consistent basis, it makes plenty of sense. Since taking over as the Seattle Seahawks‘ starter, Wilson has done what many believed he never could. He took them to the Super Bowl twice, earned three Pro Bowl nods and asserted himself as one of the league’s best dual-threat quarterbacks. The best part is that he’s just hitting his stride at 28 years old.

3. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
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Coming off an MVP-winning season with the Atlanta Falcons, there’s no possible way to deny that Ryan is among the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. While No. 3 may seem low after what he accomplished in 2016, we can’t give all of the credit to Ryan. His weapons on offense (like Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman) bore much of the burden, and Kyle Shanahan worked his magic. The real test will be replicating that same elite production and efficiency without his old offensive coordinator. If Ryan can do that, I think he’ll secure a spot among the Top 3 again in 2018.

2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
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So close, right? In theory, Aaron Rodgers is a generational type of talent under center. Since taking over as the Green Bay Packers‘ starter, he has been a revelation. There just aren’t many in the history of the NFL who have done it better. Unfortunately for Rodgers, there is one guy out there who has the edge for the top spot on this list. Still, we have to give credit where it’s due. The Packers’ superb passer has exceeded all expectations, and should remain among the league’s best for years to come.

1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
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Was there really any question as to who would top this list? It has to be Tom Brady, who many already consider to be the greatest quarterback of all time. While I’m not entirely convinced that Brady deserves that honor, I won’t try to convince anyone that he isn’t the best signal caller in the league right now. One way or another, he puts the New England Patriots in the win column even when the odds seem stacked against them. Just watch Super Bowl 51 again if you don’t believe me. Brady is truly one of the greatest to ever grace the gridiron, even if Bill Belichick deserves much of the credit for his rapid ascension.