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The Hierarchy Of Young Quarterbacks In The NFL

Ranking the young signal-callers in the NFL.

Cleveland Browns v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

I’ve seen a lot of people asking a simple question: Who would you rather have when it comes to young quarterbacks in the NFL right now? Not including rookies, the top seven young quarterbacks are, in some order, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, Baker Mayfield, and Jalen Hurts. Here’s how I would rank them.

#7-Jalen Hurts/Philadelphia Eagles

I included Jalen Hurts on this list because he has already put himself above other young quarterbacks like Tua Tagovailoa, Daniel Jones, and Sam Darnold. In defense of Darnold, he just got freed from Adam Gase and looks pretty solid; I still think what he did was New York should be taken into consideration and can be used against him to an extent.

Back to Jalen Hurts—he’s been really good so far. The only thing you can really look at as a strike against him is that he’s fumbled in four out of five games so far. This isn’t great, but it can be fixed.

Through a small sample size, Hurts has shown improvement. In four games started last season, he was at 52% completion percentage; through five games this season, it’s jumped to 64%. Hurts is currently in the top half of the NFL in passing yards and has had two great games against playoff caliber opponents despite the Eagles coming up short.

Hurts is in an awkward position. Many don’t believe he’s the future for the Eagles and debate whether Philadelphia should find his replacement in the upcoming draft, but you can’t deny Hurts has shown a lot of potential.

The NFL is ruthless to young players. Developing a quarterback is a delicate process. If handled poorly, you end up like Sam Darnold. I like Jalen and think he can be the answer in Philly, He’s still not on the level as the other guys on this list.

#6-Baker Mayfield/Cleveland Browns

Some of you may disagree with this. I believe Baker isn’t on the same level as Allen and Jackson even though they were in the same draft class. Mayfield’s new contract shouldn’t come anywhere close to what Allen got. The Browns are really good right now, but that has more to do with their elite defense and the fact that they have the best pair of running backs in the league and an elite offensive line to protect Baker.

I’m not saying Mayfield is a bad quarterback. He’s certainly proven he deserves to be a starter in this league, but I’m going to get really petty here. Both Allen and Jackson beat Patrick Mahomes this season, Mayfield didn’t. On top of that, he threw the game-sealing interception. Baker has looked like the textbook definition of a great system quarterback—that’s no knock on him. I have no doubt the Browns can win a Super Bowl with Mayfield, but he’s not being asked to do much.

The Browns run the ball a ton, which takes a lot of pressure off Mayfield and lets him flourish in the play action game. Outside of that, he’s never asked to go out and win games all by himself. Lamar Jackson on Monday Night Football a few days ago had the performance of a lifetime to drag his team to a win (with the help of some bad kicking). All the guys above Mayfield can win you games on their own.

#5-Joe Burrow/Cincinnati Bengals

Justin Herbert has made some people forget just how good Burrow is and why he was picked first overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. Burrow is the Bengals’ offense. The team doesn’t win games when he doesn’t play well. Since entering the league, Burrow has looked good. Most guys have low completion percentages when they come in because NFL defenses are more complex and harder to read; Burrow has been very effective passing the ball since Day One. His career completion percentage is 67%, which is outstanding for a young quarterback. For comparison, in Dak Presscott’s rookie year when the Cowboys went 13-3, Dak had a completion percentage of 67.8%.

Burrow is sitting at a 71% completion percentage while the Bengal's have a winning record after five games. I know the question some of you are asking is, “Burrow over Baker?” To that, I say Burrow, in a short career, albeit in a smaller sample size, has looked better than Baker behind a worse offensive line. If you take Burrow off the Bengals, that team is the worst in the NFL. If you take Baker off the Browns, I’d still argue that team could make it to the NFL Playoffs. Burrow is being asked to do more then Baker and has shown he’s fully capable of leading a winning team.

#4-Kyler Murray/Arizona Cardinals

There's a lot of recency bias around Murray and the Cardinals in general because of their hot start. I fully believe in the Cardinals. I think they’ll win the division at this rate, I have nothing negative to say about Kyler, I just have more positive things to say about the other guys above him.

Since entering the league, Kyler has looked solid. I feel since they traded for DeAndre Hopkins, people haven't really stopped and looked at just how much Kyler has improved. Adding Hopkins will make any quarterback better, but Kyler’s completion percentage has gone up every year, as have his touchdown totals and his overall passer rating. It’s not a Josh Allen like improvement; it’s just very good. In 2020, when the Cardinals traded for Hopkins, Kyler got hit with high expectations that quite frankly were just too much. Everyone who said Kyler would be a dark horse MVP candidate was out of line.

Anyone who had the Cardinals making it to the postseason last year completely forgot that they had absolutely no defense and they had half an offensive line. Even with the Cardinals not living up to high expectations last year, Kyler still played at a high level, throwing for almost 4,000 yards and 26 touchdowns. This year he’s on pace to break both those career highs, and he’s arguably on the podium of MVP consideration.

#3-Justin Herbert/Los Angles Chargers

Justin Herbert is insane. Since stepping into the league and replacing Tyrod Taylor with the Chargers, he’s been great. Except in a loss to New England last year, there hasn’t been a point in Herbert's playing career in the NFL that you can point to and say he didn’t look great. There are just so many great things about Herbert. The only reason he’s at #3 is because the two guys in front of him have done it longer then he has.

Herbert will be the best quarterback under the age of 25 in the league There’s almost nothing Kyler, Burrow, or Tua they can do to pass him, aside from maybe winning a Super Bowl. The only reason the Chargers went 7-9 last season is because of Anthony Lynn and historically bad special teams. This season, with good coaching under Brandon Staley, the Chargers are in full control of the AFC West. They look better then the Chiefs. Herbert should be in the NFL MVP race. The Chargers are a Super Bowl contender despite an average defense.

There’s no need to even throw stats at you if you just watch Herbert play. You’ll wonder why Tua was ever drafted before him, and you’ll be hooked right away. The guy just does everything. Rocket arm, good pocket sense, good accuracy, good size, dual threat, doesn’t turn the ball over...there’s nothing bad when watching his film. Justin Herbert is amazing.

#2-Lamar Jackson/Baltimore Ravens

There will always be a legendary war waged between Lamar Jackson fans and Josh Allen fans. Jackson is an MVP. That should be enough, but since people for some reason don’t like Jackson for some reason, I’ll keep going.

He’s the best mobile quarterback ever (this is not up for debate). He hardly turns the ball over, He’s an effective passer despite all the jokes. The Ravens are a lock to make the playoffs, and they’ll always a lock to make it as long as Jackson is healthy. You can say whatever you want about Lamar. It doesn’t take away from anything he’s done. An MVP is an MVP, and as long as he’s on the Ravens, they will be contenders. Lamar showed against the Colts that he is capable of carrying a team on his back, and against the Chiefs, he showed he can hang with the top dogs in the AFC.

#1-Josh Allen/Buffalo Bills

Josh Allen is amazing. He’s become the poster boy of quarterback development and the Bills organization. He’s become the example of how to build around and develop a young quarterback. Josh Allen has the Bills in Super Bowl contention, and he’s the MVP front-runner.

Allen and the Bills have firmly put themselves in the top of the AFC East and are currently in the driver seat in the conference. Josh Allen is in the top ten in almost all major passing categories, and the Bills currently have the third best third down conversion rate in the NFL, solely because Allen can beat you with his arm and legs at an elite level.

People don’t understand just how hard it is to bring this guy down. Coaches always tell you to go for a big guy’s legs. What happens when 6’5” and 250 lbs. HURDLES you??? LIKE, COACH, WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?? The guy is just a cheat code. The biggest knock on him coming out of college was his accuracy, but now his accuracy isn’t a problem. Josh Allen is simply one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and that’s why he’s first on this list.

The NFL will forever be a quarterback-driven league. There’s a reason QBs get paid the big bucks to do what they do. A good quarterback can turn your team into a dynasty, and missing on a quarterback can make you a laughingstock.

These are the seven best young QBs in the NFL. We will see them battling for years to come.