Recent history tells us that the only way to achieve NFL greatness is by way of an elite quarterback. However, finding one in the draft may be the toughest task in all of sports (just ask the Cleveland Browns). For those lucky enough to have drafted well, here are the best NFL quarterbacks who are age 25 or younger:
Honorable Mention: Johnny Manziel
We miss you Johnny. Get back soon.
10. Trevor Siemian – Denver Broncos
Stats: 14 starts (8-6 record), 3,401 passing yards, 18 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 59.5 completion percentage, 84.6 passer rating
The underwhelming yet underappreciated heir apparent to Peyton Manning, Siemian immediately faced enormous expectations with the Broncos coming off a Super Bowl victory. The team elected to save $72 million by letting Brock Osweiler flee to Houston (how’d they see that coming?!), allowing Siemian to beat out first round pick Paxton Lynch for the starting job. A former seventh round pick out of Northwestern, Siemian surprised the football world with an impressive stat line while leading the Broncos to a respectable 9-7 record.
While he had an amazing defense to lean on, Denver still failed to make the playoffs, but it’s safe to say that the second year quarterback showed tremendous strides towards becoming a respectable player. With a new coaching staff in place, he’ll enter training camp in a battle to reclaim the starting job, which might be difficult considering the first round investment the Broncos made in Paxton Lynch.
9. Jared Goff – Los Angeles Rams
Stats: 7 starts (0-7), 1,089 passing yards, 5 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, 54.6 completion percentage, 63.6 passer rating
Given how much draft capital the Rams gave up to acquire Goff with the No. 1 pick in 2016’s NFL Draft, the young quarterback should be given the benefit of the doubt that this dreadful season was simply an outlier. Sure, Coach Jeff Fisher might’ve had one foot out of the door. Sure, the offensive line performed far below their capabilities. And sure, the team’s inability to get Todd Gurley going allowed opposing defenses to blitz at will. However, it’s still difficult to find anything positive about Goff’s performance over his seven starts at the helm.
His alarmingly erratic accuracy combined with an obvious disconnection with his receivers proved to be a major factor in his winless season. A new coaching staff led by head coach Sean McVay, a young, offensive specialist, should help turn things around for Goff and give him the best chance to bounce back from a rough freshman campaign. Luckily for the millions of fans at the Coliseum that left every game at halftime, it really can’t get any worse.
8. Blake Bortles – Jacksonville Jaguars
Stats: 45 starts (11-34), 11,242 passing yards, 69 touchdowns, 51 interceptions, 58.8 completion percentage, 79.6 passer rating
Playing for the Jaguars over the last decade has been a tough task for anyone who wants to continue their NFL career. Since 2008, the Jags have produced just one season with over seven wins, a direct reflection on their head coaching and quarterback play over that time. Bortles looked very capable of breaking that streak after a superb second season. Although the team finished 5-11, Bortles threw for a prolific 4,418 yards and 35 touchdowns with a respectable 88.2 passer rating.
The Jaguars hoped this type of performance would translate to a playoff berth in 2016, but Bortles took a massive step backwards in his third year. Since 2014 (the year Bortles entered the NFL), he leads the league in total turnovers with 63, including 51 interceptions. Because of his propensity for turnovers, new Jaguars VP and former Giants coach Tom Coughlin won’t commit to him as the starter for 2017, saying that he has a lot of work to do this summer.
If Bortles wants to get his career back on track, he’ll need to prove himself this season, or he stands the chance to end up like many Jaguars quarterbacks before him and drift into irrelevancy.
7. Jimmy Garoppolo – New England Patriots
Stats: 2 starts (2-0), 690 passing yards, 5 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 67.0 completion percentage, 106.2 passer rating
Given his significant lack of game experience, gauging Garoppolo’s skill level and value is a tough task. At the same time, considering how well Jimmy G played in Brady’s absence this past season, there is plenty to be excited about. There’s a number of different ways to evaluate Garoppolo given the multitude of teams that have shown interest in acquiring him. With some teams reportedly dangling first round picks to the Patriots, they clearly view him as a potential franchise quarterback.
However, some teams may solely be intrigued by the idea of nabbing a player from the Patriots who New England clearly values. And, as these teams form their trade proposals, it’s entirely plausible New England is comfortable standing pat with Garoppolo, grooming him for the spotlight once Brady calls it quits.
With such a small sample size, Garoppolo will be one of the most interesting players to monitor this offseason, especially if a team presents New England with an offer they can’t refuse. Until that happens, Garoppolo will continue his apprenticeship under Brady and patiently wait for his opportunity to prove himself.
6. Teddy Bridgewater – Minnesota Vikings
Stats: 28 starts (17-11), 6,150 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, 21 interceptions, 64.9 completion percentage, 87.0 passer rating
After two productive seasons to start his career, Bridgewater seemed poised to take the next step in his development in 2016 after earning the coaching staff’s trust. Although the Vikings employed a run-first approach to the offense, Teddy held his own by displaying pinpoint accuracy and supreme game management skills as he led the Vikings to an NFC North division title in 2015.
With less than two weeks to go before the season, Bridgewater suffered a dislocated kneecap and complete ACL tear in a non-contract drill in practice, forcing him to sit out the entire season. The early consensus is that he’ll miss all of 2017 as well, putting his Vikings career in jeopardy as his rookie contract comes to an end.
Following the injury, Minnesota traded for Sam Bradford to replace Bridgewater, further complicating his situation moving forward. There’s no questioning Bridgewater’s innate talent, and he still has the potential to be a top quarterback once he makes his return. However, as Robert Griffin recently showed, knee injuries can seriously limit a player’s potential, and Bridgewater will have a lot to prove to validate his case as an NFL starting quarterback.
5. Carson Wentz – Philadelphia Eagles
Stats: 16 starts (7-9), 3,782 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 62.4 completion percentage, 79.3 passer rating
A true North Dakotan at heart, Wentz embodies what it means to be a small-town kid turned celebrity. While at North Dakota State, he witnessed five straight FCS titles firsthand, two of which he won as the starter. Wentz’s size, poise and athleticism made him an intriguing prospect, prompting the Eagles to trade a massive haul for the chance to select him second overall in last year’s draft.
Coming to a team with a new head coach and tempered expectations, Wentz was thrust into the starting role after the Eagles surprisingly traded Sam Bradford during the offseason. Wentz responded emphatically, going 3-0 in his first three starts with five touchdowns and no turnovers.
Although he struggled with accuracy for the remainder of the season, Wentz still showed flashes of brilliance throughout the year and substantially outplayed his rookie counterpart Jared Goff. The Eagles’ front office will have to work to add complementary pieces around him, but it seems as if they have found their starting quarterback for the next decade.
4. Jameis Winston – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stats: 32 starts (15-17), 8,132 passing yards, 50 touchdowns, 33 interceptions, 59.6 completion percentage, 85.2 passer rating
A proven winner during his high school and collegiate careers, Winston may possess the most potential out of any quarterback on this list. His arm strength, leadership and durability are skills every team looks for in their franchise quarterback. While he fits the bill for everything he does on the field, his biggest deficiencies have come off of it where his decision-making has been anything but sound.
Of course, his crab legs incident at Florida State remains firmly entrenched in our memory, as does his slightly inappropriate phrase he yelled from a table on campus that got him suspended. Recently, sources reported that he told an elementary school class that girls are ‘supposed to be silent,’ a controversial statement given his history with sexual harassment.
When he’s playing on the field, Winston can sling it with the best of them, putting up an impressive 50 touchdowns in just 32 games. With Mike Evans by his side for the foreseeable future, Famous Jameis has all the tools around him to make the Buccaneers relevant again. Tampa Bay is just hoping it’s for all the right reasons.
3. Marcus Mariota – Tennessee Titans
Stats: 27 starts (11-16), 6,244 passing yards, 45 touchdowns, 19 interceptions, 61.6 completion percentage, 93.8 passer rating
Selected with the second pick in the 2015 draft, Mariota will always be connected with Winston since they were selected first and second overall. Thus far in their young NFL careers, it’s still too early to definitively declare that one is better than the other, but Mariota has been more reliable in their short careers.
With far inferior receivers on his team, he’s put up a better TD/INT ratio, completion percentage, and passer rating than Jameis. His greatest asset, his legs, truly separates Mariota as he can make plays when nothing appears to be there. Unfortunately, the inherent issue with quarterbacks running the ball is that it exposes them to potential fumbles, and he’s already lost 11 of those in his first 27 games. He’ll need to be more careful about when he chooses to run in the future, especially to avoid getting hit like when he broke his fibula in Week 16.
Assuming his leg heals without any setbacks or repercussions, the last step for him to becoming elite is winning consistently. And, with Tennessee’s investments in the running game and offensive line, Mariota seems ready to make another huge leap in his third season.
2. Derek Carr – Oakland Raiders
Stats: 47 starts (22-25), 11,194 passing yards, 81 touchdowns, 31 interceptions, 60.9 completion percentage, 87.9 passer rating
As the Raiders embark on their journey back to relevance, they’ve done a great job building through the draft to fill out their roster with impact players. No one has been more important to Oakland’s success – including reigning Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack – as Derek Carr. As the fourth quarterback taken in the 2014 draft, Carr has displayed every trait you’d want from a young player looking to make the leap to elite. In his three years at the helm, the Raiders have improved their record in every season, and his production continues to trend upwards.
While leading Oakland to the playoffs this past season, he entered the MVP discussion by putting up 3,937 yards, 28 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 63.8 completion percentage, and a 96.7 passer rating in 15 games. Although he broke his leg in Week 16 and couldn’t play in the postseason, his remarkable season speaks to his tremendous improvement and shows why he belongs in the conversation for the best young quarterback in the game.
1. Dak Prescott – Dallas Cowboys
Stats: 16 starts (13-3), 3,667 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 67.8 completion percentage, 104.9 passer rating
By now, his story has been told countless times, especially with the Cowboys’ rise to prominence this season. There will always be two inevitable hypotheticals with Dak: what would’ve happened if another team picked him, and what would’ve happened if Tony Romo had never gotten hurt? The answers for both are now irrelevant, because Dak Prescott will be the Dallas Cowboys’ starting quarterback for a long time.
His list of accomplishments puts him in the running for the greatest rookie season ever. He beat out his teammate, Ezekiel Elliott, for the Rookie of the Year award despite Elliott leading the NFL in rushing. He took a team from 4-12 to 13-3, earning the No. 1 seed in the NFC in the process. He only threw four interceptions out of 459 attempts, and finished with an absurd 67.8 completion percentage.
Most significantly, his play was impressive enough to potentially drive Jerry Jones’ golden child out of town for good. With elite physical gifts and superb intangibles, Prescott carries the most potential for any young quarterback. And by the way, he’s only 23.
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