D.A. Ranks The NFL's Young Quarterbacks

You can probably guess No. 1, but the rest could surprise you

Damon Amendolara
December 06, 2019 - 1:37 pm

The NFL season has been defined, as usual, by its quarterbacks. The great teams all have elite signal-callers (Ravens, Seahawks), the hot seat coaches are not getting enough out of that position (Browns, Cowboys), and the playoffs will feature future Hall of Famers (Packers, Patriots, Saints). 

But those Canton-bound QBs are all aging out of the picture. Tom Brady is showing his age, Drew Brees missed a month and a half, and Aaron Rodgers just turned 36 this week. So which teams will have the best outlook over the next decade to replace those legends? We pulled together a list of starting quarterbacks who are 26 years or younger (with one exception). This is not necessarily a list of which quarterback is having the best season, but more their potential to be great long-term. Let's rank them: 

15) Dwayne Haskins (22 years old) - It's so early in his career that it's impossible to know much. What can you really glean after just four starts? He's only hit 200 yards in one of those starts, and he's incredibly raw. His selfie picture before the end of his first win wasn't a great look. The combination of how much work he needs with the disaster that has been the Washington organization means it will take a minor miracle for him to have a great career. Will he ever get the support around him to be elite? Doubtful. They'll be looking for another QB within 5 years.  

14) Mitchell Trubisky (25) - His game against the Cowboys was a bright spot. Since the embarrassing benching against the Rams we've seen some life. Beating the Giants is no reason to celebrate, but his back-to-back efforts in the last two weeks are reason for some optimism. The problem is these are two opponents dead in the water (Detroit, Dallas) and when it was bad, it was really bad the last two years for Mitch. There have been some truly awful stretches. I don't think he ever pans out into a long-term solution for the Bears. 

13) Gardner Minshew (23) - He only has a handful of starts, but the fact the Jags have already gone back to him as their starter says a lot. They paid Nick Foles a boatload of cash yet they're opting for a 6th-round draft pick that sports a fu manchu. You have to love his moxie and his playmaking. He made some rookie mistakes, but overall the offense had life with him in there, and the Jags offense hasn't had that in years. He can have Jake Plummer's career, solid if not spectacular, but still a good solution.  

12) Kyler Murray (22) - I'm not convinced he can succeed long-term in this type of offense. There have been flashes of excitement throughout the year, and early on the Cardinals were plucky enough to be scary. But the season has turned into a 3-win slog, and maybe that's because defenses have figured out how to slow down the Air Raid attack of Kliff Kingsbury. Murray is shifty, has a good arm, and runs the offense quickly. But there's only so much a college offense and a 5'10" QB is going to be able to accomplish over time.   

11) Josh Allen (23) - Bills fans will torch me for this ranking, but this is not about his record right now. You have to love Allen leading Buffalo to a 9-3 mark and its best season in 20 years. The concern is that the defense is clearly carrying the Bills, and Allen isn't being asked to do too much. He hasn't thrown for 300 yards yet in his career, and has only thrown 35 passes five times in two seasons. His TD-INT ratio is solid this year and he's winning. That's all that matters. But will he always need a great defense to support him? He's got a fire in his belly, and is doing the little things to win. That's more than we can say about any QB in Buffalo since Doug Flutie, but I'm not convinced you can win because of him. 

10) Jared Goff (25) - His career has the potential to be big time or a nightmare. He's already started in a Super Bowl, thrown for 4,700 yards in a season, and been to the postseason twice. But how lost has he looked this year? Goff's effectiveness has been centered around the running attack. With a threat in the backfield he's been great. But without it? He looked beyond ugly, especially against good defenses (like the Patriots). Can Sean McVay make him a perennial winner? Or is he a two-year wonder? Either seems possible. I'll go with the latter. 

9) Daniel Jones (22) - The Giants' lost season has obscured all of the positive moments for him. He's shown a strong arm, a soft touch, and good mobility. He's got the perfect Eli Manning-esque demeanor to succeed in New York. He's bland off the field, fiery (enough) on it, and the receivers rave about his throws. The problem is his targets have been in-and-out of the lineup, Saquon Barkley has been totally ineffective, and the coaching is a mess. His boatload of turnovers has to be corrected, but he has the tools to make it for a long time. You can win because of Jones. 

8) Jimmy Garoppolo (28) - This is the one name on the list that is older than 26, but he has only 22 starts in his career. Sure, at times he's a game manager a lot like Josh Allen. He's the beneficiary of a great defense, an elite ground game, and terrific coaching. But he's also winning with a career record of 18-4. It's hard to say the Niners are winning in spite of him when he's won games going back to New England. Plus, Bill Belichick believed in him to succeed Tom Brady. That's enough for me to believe he's got the goods. 

7) Baker Mayfield (24) - Last year was a revelation, this season has been a massive disappointment. He's been unable to connect on big plays with one of the best receiver tandems in football. How could you have only two touchdowns to Odell Beckham? How can the offense not be more explosive with all these weapons? How come every week it's another off-the-field saga with that team? Is it out of Mayfield's control or does he contribute to the drama? I think he's often part of the problem instead of the steadying solution. His impressive rookie season gives me hope that's the type of career he can have, but for now he's got as many questions as answers. If he ever gets a stable organization with a really good coach he'll be fine.  

6) Sam Darnold (22) - When he has time and the offense is called properly Darnold looks terrific. He has all the tools to be great, and you forget that he's still one of the youngest QBs in the league. Adam Gase's peculiar play-calling, the bout with mono, and the crazy up-and-down of the Jets season means there's still questions. But Darnold being the Jets franchise guy for the next decade seems like a lock. From here on in this list you can win Super Bowls because of the QB and they wouldn't be a passenger. I think you can win a ring with Darnold. 

5) Carson Wentz (26) - Is he the MVP of three seasons ago or the puddle of this year? His high is so high that I'm putting him in the top 5. It's hard to remember now but his '17 campaign was incredible before the injury. Through 14 games he had thrown 33 TDs, only 7 picks, had a 12-2 record, and a crazy 101.9 QBR. If that's Wentz's ceiling he can be a perennial Pro Bowler for the next decade and a mainstay in January. He got a ton of money so the pressure is on, but what if this year is his new reality? It can go either way, but I'm betting he has a very good career. 

4) Dak Prescott (26) - The Cowboys crash over the last month is not indicative of Dak's long term potential. I'd feel better about putting Wentz in this slot if he didn't swoon so badly this year. I think Dak has been a victim of some horrible coaching over the last 6 weeks. Jason Garrett has lost the locker room and the play-calling has been weak. The Patriots loss really cooked the life out of the team, but when Dak is rolling he's fantastic. He's still leading the league in passing yards, and what Dak does with his legs is also dangerous. He won a playoff game last year (which is no small feat in Dallas this decade), and he almost outdueled Rodgers in the divisional round three years ago. With better coaching Dak can be a winner. 

3) Deshaun Watson (24) - When once asked in an interview what I thought his potential was, I said perennial Pro Bowler and perhaps Hall of Famer. I absolutely still believe that. Watson does everything well, creates big plays, has won at every level, is coachable, wants to be the best, and keeps improving. As long as the Texans don't screw him up with poor coaching or a porous offensive line he'll be one of the best in football for years. 

2) Lamar Jackson (22) - There's always the concern what we're seeing right now is not sustainable. On some levels, it simply can't be. At the moment no defense seems capable of slowing him down, if he's not throwing gorgeous deep passes for touchdowns he's zipping through the defense faster than anyone can track him down. He's giving us, "What did he just do?" plays weekly and leads one of the best teams in the league. At some point he won't be faster than everyone on the field, coordinators will figure out his kryptonite, or the Ravens will sustain injuries and he'll try to do too much. Maybe the crush of expectations of revolutionizing the league and so much so soon will derail him. But will that happen soon? And he probably will be able to navigate it because of his professionalism and work ethic. It's hard not to put him this high after what we've seen this season. He might be a nuclear weapon for the Ravens for a decade.  

1) Patrick Mahomes (24) - This is the gold standard, the guy everyone is looking up to on the list. Mahomes has already been the MVP. He's already set crazy records for passing. When healthy he does the impossible. He's clearly unaffected by celebrity or pressure. Had he won the coin toss in last year's AFC Championship Game he would have already been in a Super Bowl. Andy Reid's clock management or conservative play-calling could keep the Chiefs without a ring. The defense could make things ugly in January. The franchise might not support him adequately. But for the next decade there's not a GM in the league who would want anyone else on this list over Mahomes. He's probably on his way to being one of the greats. 

Damon Amendolara, known by his fans as D.A., hosts “The D.A. Show,” from 9:00AM-12:00PM, ET, across the country on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. “The D.A. Show” is known for its unique perspective on sports, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, colorful listener interaction, and candid interviews with athletes and coaches. Amendolara also appears regularly on NFL Network as part of the “NFL Top 10” documentary film series, CBS television and SNY TV. He is a Syracuse University grad and native of Warwick, N.Y.