NFL quarterback tiers 2022: Here’s where your team’s starter fits in among franchise players, placeholders and more

We’ve never seen a quarterback as wild as this one. We’re barely past the draft, and the multitude of quarterback-related transactions has been staggering, both in trades and contracts.

It’s unclear where Jimmy Garoppolo and Baker Mayfield will play next season, or how soon any of the rookie draft picks will be under center in a regular-season game. There’s still a lot we don’t know about the future of Lamar Jackson, entering the final year of his contract, or what Russell Wilson could end up earning in his inevitable contract extension. The AFC seems loaded. The NFC seems much more open. The changing landscape as a quarterback has a lot to do with it.

If your team doesn’t have a top-tier quarterback, you probably don’t have a real shot at competing in 2022. They’re the ultimate equalizers. They are essential in the modern game. Just look at the recent upgrades the Buccaneers and Rams made at this position that resulted in a Lombardi Trophy the following year. It tells you everything you need to know.

Which brings us to what has become an annual May rite of passage for me. My look at the projected starting quarterbacks in the NFL and my attempt to stack and rank them. It’s inaccurate for sure. But I think it has a purpose. I’m using the same categories that I have every year (only, this year, I discovered that some of the old resources don’t apply). The field has shrunk, in my opinion. The middle class seems to be evaporating, and the wingers between the best in this profession and the legion of teams fooling themselves by running out of subpar starters seems to be greater than in recent years.

So with that out of the way, here goes. My QB 2022 levels.

Tier 1: Bona Fide Franchise QB

2021: Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Russell Wilson, Justin Herbert, Deshaun Watson
2022: Mahomes, Brady, Rodgers, Jackson, Allen, Wilson, Herbert, Joe Burrow, Matt Stafford

So Brady was almost out of this level … but then his brief retirement ended. At some point he and Rodgers will hit a wall and fall apart, I guess, but who knows when that will come. They were both MVP candidates, again. Allen is coming off a breakout season, Mahomes is Mahomes and Wilson got the change of scenery he was looking for and will transform the Broncos into contenders. Herbert has all the tools to win big and will start racking up more wins this season.

The only reason Burrow wasn’t on this list a year ago was because he was rehabbing from major knee surgery. It was fair to wonder when he would be fully back and when he would get over the mental and physical aspect of the process, not to mention having to play behind a shoddy offensive line. Well, we all know how that went. Amazing. And for years, people would look at this column and criticize me for holding Stafford too high in their estimation of him. People thought he had overrated it. Ask Sean McVay about that.

As for Deshaun Watson’s exit from this level, I have a few ideas. More on that here.

Tier 2: Top Pros, Proven Winners

2021: Matt Ryan, Stafford, Ryan Tannehill, Dak Prescott, Baker Mayfield
2022: Ryan, Watson

Yeah, as far as things getting watered down a bit. It is reflected here. Who in this group from a year ago took anything like a step forward last year outside of Stafford? Watson’s legal and civil struggles are well documented, and although he finally has a new team, he will end up suspended for at least part of the season. That’s not a franchise QB thing. At least in the short term. I have serious reservations about his immediate return in top form, I wonder if he’ll ever be the same mentally after what we know about him now, and his decision-making in general gives me great pause.

I don’t think he just flips a switch and goes back to who he once was. Maybe I’ll go back there. Maybe it won’t.

Ryan is in a better position to win this season with the Colts than he has in years in Atlanta. So he stays. But as for the rest of a year ago, well, I have concerns. Dak had as good a cast around him a year ago as he probably will, and he was far from transformative for that offense. Tannehill’s best chance to win big in Nashville is behind him, there’s a successor on the roster now and there’s some post-draft controversy. Not good. And every time Mayfield is out of Cleveland, it will be because the Browns owner paid more than half of his salary to facilitate a trade/salary trade. I smelled this a year ago. Being much more judicious about it now.

Tier 3: Rising Stars

2021: Burrow, Trevor Lawrence, Kyler Murray
2022: any

I have also been too lenient with this category. I figured Lawrence was a generational talent and even bumbling, uninterested Urban Meyer couldn’t screw it up. Boy, was he wrong. What a wasted year and what a way to go before he gets to where many of us anointed him. Having a real coach in Doug Pederson will help, but I have a lot more to see than I did a year ago.

And Murray has had a good offseason so far. Horrible postseason performance after a slump by that offense down the stretch. Terrible numbers without DeAndre Hopkins, who is suspended for the first six games. And be careful what you wish for thinking Hollywood Brown is going to fill that void. So yes, I have some concerns. And there is no other young quarterback from the latest drafts that I anticipate him to be on the cusp of greatness, with Herbert and Burrow already making their way.

Level 4: you can win with them

2021: Derek Carr, Kirk Cousins, Ryan Fitzptrick, Carson Wentz
2022: Carr, Cousins, Tannehill, Prescott, Murray, Jameis Winston, Jalen Hurts, Mac Jones, Tua Tagovailoa

You can make the playoffs with these guys and a decent supporting cast. But they’re not putting a team on their back and keeping it there. They’re not going to have historically significant seasons. They’ll do enough to get paid pretty well by teams, but leave you with nothing when the stakes are higher.

Of the bunch, I think Carr, now in the hands of Josh McDaniels and with college roommate Davante Adams, could take another big step forward. I think the Dolphins have put great speed and talent around Tua. Jones making the playoffs as a rookie deserves his placement here, though I wonder about his true top-level potential. Oh, and Winston was well on his way to a strong season when he was injured a year ago and his recovery appears to be going well, with a contender team around him. Cousins ​​got another guaranteed bag, but that’s what it is right now.

Tier 5 – Guys, Veterans, and Placeholders

2021: Garoppolo, Jared Goff, Teddy Bridgewater, Winston
2022: any

I just don’t see this class exists anymore. Not this year. Garoppolo and Mayfield would meet here, but neither is currently in a position to start. Maybe I should quit from here on out. Maybe we don’t need it. I see a lot of other places to put these QBs this time around.

Level 6: Good luck

2021: Ben Roethlisberger, Daniel Jones, Sam Darnold, Andy Dalton
2022: Goff, Wentz, Drew Lock, Jones, Justin Fields, Marcus Mariota, Darnold, Mitch Trubisky

This is no man’s land. Many of the previous top picks are represented here. It is where the excess QBs go to the head until expiration. Some much earlier than ever. False hopes and dreams galore here folks.

Most of these guys won’t be starting this late next year. Many will be out of the initial concert in the middle of the season. But for now they sit atop the depth chart and likely will be when Week 1 rolls around, too. I feel terribly sorry for Fields, who has such a stripped-down supporting cast around him that one might wonder if the front office wants let it fail The Giants had no choice but to not take the fifth-year option on Jones, but that can also serve to bring out the worst in him.

I don’t see Wentz changing anything in Washington. Goff is just biding his time due to his inflated contract. Darnold seemed downright broken a year ago. Mariota is never healthy for long.

Level 7: The jury is out

2021: Tagovailoa, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones, Hurts
2022: Wilson, Lawrence, Trey Lance, Davis Mills

Lawrence may well get to where everyone thought. But things tend not to work out in Jacksonville, so let’s look at it first. Lance will have a big indoctrination in San Francisco replacing Jimmy G if he has to do it without Deebo Samuel. They have to solve that. Still, he has played so little football the last two years, we are really projecting here.

Wilson had a lot of ups and downs, and some ups and downs, after playing right away as a rookie. I’m old enough to remember fans clamoring for Mike White over him. Things have a way of not working out with the Jets, just like the Jags. They’ve added a lot of talent in New York, so the excuses will fade. Of all these guys, Mills looked the best last year. I’m not sure if his ceiling is super high, but he certainly showed enough a year ago to deserve a longer look in Houston this year.

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