Mike Sando, NFL writer for The Athletic, recently came out with his NFL Quarterback Tier Ratings System (Located here)
It’s a once-a-year project where Sando uses voting ballots from “real live” NFL evaluators to rank the 35 top QB’s in the NFL. I’m all about building consensus and Sando’s work is as good of an evaluation process as any (and has been for years) that exists. He uses information from GM’s, player personnel people, and other insiders who grade players for a living and he then discusses how these players are truly viewed by the insiders in the business. I think these ratings have a bit more legitimacy than say, the Madden ratings, that really mean nothing to insiders and seem to upset some NFL players. Mike uses a tier system of four levels that have their own definitions but as you can imagine each comes with more decorated adjectives. Here are some tidbits that jump out at me about his recent project and how these QB’s are tiered right now.
It’s certainly not surprising that the Chiefs QB, Patrick Mahomes, gets the No. 1 ranking. Mahomes has all the skills and now a Super Bowl win to make a case for being the most dynamic player at his position in years. I was slightly surprised that Seattle QB Russell Wilson was listed on the same platform right next to him and like Mahomes, was a unanimous choice in the top tier, but it tells me high highly Wilson is and I surely don’t disagree.
Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees of the Saints ranked as the No. 3 and No. 4 QBs respectively in the top tier and I don’t think that’s really the debatable part. There were, however, some personnel people in the league who thought they were now Tier 2 QB’s. To me, that is a head scratcher based on their body of work for a lengthy period of time. At any rate, I believe the torch has been passed. Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson was rated as the No. 5 QB to complete the top tier but really that is where the “discussion area” starts.
The most interesting group to me is the subset within the Tier 2 group. Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott of the Cowboys are all positioned in the second level. You can surely make a case that from this group will come your next tier one QB’s. Heres how the water cooler talk starts in NFL front offices. These guys all have the ability to jump into the top tier but will any of them do it, who will do it first, and what will it take for each of them to make it happen? They have all been rewarded by their franchises with Teir 1 contracts but results are not backing up those investments yet. Who makes the leap first? Perhaps that’s material for a deep dive into a future podcast? Hint!
There were two players, in my opinion, that are in the Tier 3 grouping that I would be willing to bet will move up on Sando’s chart fairly quickly — Arizona’s Kyler Murray and Buffalo’s Josh Allen. With continued team progress and the game slowing down for both, I think their upside in overall skill set is obvious. Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield has a chance as well, depending on how he does this year and how he adapts to mastering the team and coach Kevin Stefanski’s new offensive system.
So, who do I think might be overrated? There is no hiding behind media propaganda on this list. According to Sando’s definitions, a Tier 3 player is a legit starter but is not seen as a guy to carry a team. Awe, the game managers ☺ Here are three that get a lot of praise from the outside world but who football people see as lower volume passers that are more caretakers than playmakers. I totally agree with this so the surprise comes to the media not personnel people within the league. I think this list has them in the correct spot, however, the “general public/media” tends to overrate these guys. Among the group are Kirk Cousins of the Vikings (who easily wins the award for the best business man in the sport), the Rams’ Jared Goff and the 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo. All three have been paid handsomely by their teams yet other teams, according to Sando’s information, see them as “just guys”. I agree. So, the over-rated tag comes from the evaluations put on them by people outside the league.
Which teams may be in for long 2020 seasons based on this list? It’s not a surprise to me but once you lay out these rankings it paints a bleak picture for fans in Chicago, Washington, Jacksonville and maybe Denver. Nevertheless, Sando’s work is a must read, and presents some great discussions over lunch both inside and outside NFL offices. Great work Mike.