Is anyone out there starting to feel too old or too unathletic when watching the National Football League over the last three years or so? I know that I certainly do and I’m still in my 20’s. Here’s the thing, the NFL is in the midst of a quarterback transition. The guys like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Ben Rothlisberger, etc. are at the point of their careers where they know it’s ending much sooner rather than later. In their places, guys like Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Baker Mayfield, Dak Prescott, etc. are taking those spots over.
But the talent even younger than that group is outrageous. There are a couple of guys who have been in the league for three years or less that are changing the pace at which a quarterback can succeed in this league. They are becoming household names and their jerseys are being worn all over the country and they aren’t legally old enough to rent a car. It’s been fun to watch the QB position change over the years and while the traditional pocket passer will never go away, the top QB’s are now guys who can be dual-threat, mobile and athletic in all phases of the game. Without further ado, I give you the top QBs who have played in the league for three years or less.
5. Joe Burrow – Cincinnati Bengals – Drafted: 2020, 1st Overall
I’m starting this list off hot by going with a rookie at the number five spot. Joe Burrow got a ton of hype and rightfully so coming out of LSU and a National Championship season. Burrow has not shied away from the fact that he is a guy who hasn’t ever lost in his career, not even in elementary school, so the transition to the Cincinnati Bengals has been sort of rough for him. But that’s not to say his numbers aren’t fantastic. 2,485 yards, 65.4% completion rate, 12 TDs, 5 INTs with 130 rushing yards and 3rushing TDs are the numbers he has put up so far and those are only going to get better as he keeps playing. These numbers are far better than guys like Daniel Jones, Dwayne Haskins and Drew Lock.
4. Justin Herbert – Los Angeles Chargers – Drafted: 2020, 6th Overall
Justin Herbert is going to come out of the 2020 class looking like the Patrick Mahomes of that class. Herbert had an excellent career at Oregon but many experts cast doubts about the mobile quarterback who dominated the Pac-12 year after year. Herbert, also a rookie, was taken five spots behind Burrow but has arguably put up better numbers in his first season. So far, he’s thrown for 2,333 yards with a 66.8% completion rate, 19 TDs, 6 INTs and 176 rushing yards and 3 TDs. Herbert is on a bad Chargers team that will lose its head coach this offseason and see some massive upgrades to the offensive depth and defensive side of the ball. Herbert has shown that while he isn’t Kyler Murray on his feet, he can scramble, run the ball effectively and be used in the red zone as a touchdown threat. Herbert has the chance to play a very long time in Los Angeles and he is currently the front-runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year over Burrow. While I like both of those quarterbacks a lot, I think Herbert is the guy who has played best in his first season.
3. Josh Allen – Buffalo Bills – Drafted: 2018, 7th Overall
What’s interesting about Josh Allen is that it feels like he has been the Bills QB for a decade. Just me? Maybe it’s because Allen, now in his third year, looks like one of the best QBs in the league after starting his career much differently than guys like Burrow and Herbert. Allen could have panned out to be a Mitch Trubisky-type but he has proven to be much different. Last year, he led the Bills to the postseason and almost upset Deshaun Watson and the Texans. This year, he is putting up MVP numbers and dominating with both his arm and sometimes legs. Allen will shatter his career-high in passing yards (already at 2,871), already set a new record for touchdowns (21) and has a completion percentage a whole 10 percentage points higher than his previous best. Allen finally has some useful weapons to throw to in Buffalo and maybe that’s all he really needed. When Allen is on, there aren’t a lot of other teams who can keep up with him. This is a guy who went to Wyoming, got noticed for his ridiculous arm strength and is now proving the NFL doubters wrong.
2. Kyler Murray – Arizona Cardinals – Drafted: 2019, 1st Overall
Kyler Murray entered the league with a ton of controversy, he walked away from the Oakland Athletics and the MLB, he booted a QB out of Arizona who was drafted 10th overall the year before and was going to be paired up with a failing college coach. It’s working out pretty well so far. Murray won the Rookie of the Year in his first campaign and now he’s up for an MVP Award in just his second season. As the kids like to say, “Kyler Murray is a cheat code.” He is challenging Lamar Jackson for the most mobile QB award and looks like a running back who can chuck it too. This season, Murray has thrown for over 2300 yards while also rushing for over 604 yards. He has 17 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns. Murray has his ups and downs but when he is on, defenses really don’t know how to stop him. The addition of Deandre Hopkins has been huge for Murray and he has the Cardinals playing like Super Bowl contenders in just his second season.
1. Lamar Jackson – Baltimore Ravens – Drafted 2018, 32nd Overall
The last guy kind of sounds a lot like this guy, right? Lamar Jackson is number one on this list and the biggest difference is that he didn’t start right away in his first season. Jackson sat behind Joe Flacco for nearly the whole year. Jackson was highly criticized early on that he was not a passing quarterback and could only be a running back. Then in 2019, he led the league in QBR (82.3), touchdowns thrown (36) and TD percentage (9.0) while throwing for 3,217 yards. He also ran for 1200 yards, so those “running back” guys are biting their tongues now. Jackson won the MVP in 2019 and while 2020 hasn’t seen the same production that he put up a season ago, he is still the best guy on this list. He is by far the most accomplished and certainly has the stats to warrant being number one. Maybe in a few years, Herbert or Murray can overtake Lamar but for right now, there is no one in the league during this time span that has done what Lamar Jackson has done. Even this season, he’s rushed for over 500 yards with 3 touchdowns and thrown for over 1700 yards and 14 touchdowns. Jackson is a generational talent and we are seeing him and these other guys blossom at an early age right before our eyes.