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2018 NFL QB Tiers: 50 execs rank the starting quarterbacks

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Luck still considered Tier 2 QB (1:13)

Mike Sando explains why NFL insiders have Andrew Luck ranked as a Tier 2 quarterback, despite his not having thrown since he had shoulder surgery. (1:13)

Jared Goff and Carson Wentz are up. Eli Manning and Derek Carr are down. Jimmy Garoppolo and Deshaun Watson are ripe for debate.

My fifth annual NFL QB Tier rankings are here for 2018, backed by a panel of 50 league insiders. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers still set the standard, of course. They were again the only unanimous Tier 1 choices after the 50 experts were finished placing each of the 32 projected starters into one of the five tiers. The higher the tier, the less help the quarterback needs to succeed.

The breakdown of voters this year: 10 general managers, five head coaches, 10 coordinators, 10 senior personnel executives, five QB coaches and 10 others with job titles ranging from assistant coach to salary-cap manager to analytics director.

We've got every team covered here, with candid insights from the 50 voters. The results provide a composite for how the league views its quarterbacks.

We start at the top.

Note: Because the fourth tier is reserved not only for lesser veteran quarterbacks but also for those without enough playing time to evaluate, exciting young prospects can lag in the rankings. Patrick Mahomes (one career start) is one example this year. Many voters who placed him in the fourth tier think he'll be better, but they reserved judgment in the absence of sufficient evidence.

To jump ahead to a specific tier, click the corresponding button below:


TIER 1

A Tier 1 quarterback can carry his team each week. The team wins because of him. He expertly handles pure passing situations.

Rodgers has averaged 4.1 touchdown passes per interception over his 10 seasons as a starter. The ratio is 1.8-1 for the other 29 quarterbacks with at least 2,000 pass attempts in that same span. Brady (3.9) is the only other QB even remotely close. Fellow Tier 1 QBs Drew Brees (2.4) and Ben Roethlisberger (2.0) lag far behind. Those are striking differences for elite players within the same era.

But now that Rodgers has missed 16 games over the past five seasons, there are questions to answer. Is durability a heightened concern as Rodgers approaches his 35th birthday this December? Will he need to reduce the number of off-schedule plays that have put him at risk of injury?

"Look at the injuries that cost Rodgers those 16 games -- every one was outside the pocket," a voter said. "Rodgers knows that. He is smart. If he starts limiting that, he could be like Brady -- in shape, fit, into his nutrition and able to be an elite performer into his late 30s. Because remember, if you're in the pocket, they can't hit you high, they can't hit you low and they can't hit you from more than a step-and-a-half away."

Fair enough, but if Rodgers cuts down on those off-schedule plays, how much less effective will he become? This voter had an answer for that question as well.

"Because Rodgers is so dangerous outside the pocket," the voter said, "people think he is especially reliant on that part of his game. What they don't realize is that Rodgers does most of his damage on schedule from inside the pocket, where only Brady and Brees are as good. This guy has the quickest release and livest ball in the league across every throw type imaginable."

Brady passed for 505 yards in Super Bowl LII at age 40, nearly overcoming a terrible performance from the Patriots' defense and the injury loss of No. 1 wide receiver Brandin Cooks. He could be getting better. Even his biggest disappointments speak well of him.

"He has won five Super Bowls, but think about the Super Bowls they lost," a defensive coach said. "People forget, against the [2007] Giants, in the fourth quarter, he marched them down, he scored a touchdown and it took a helmet catch [by David Tyree] to win. They sacked him six times, hit him like 11 times -- it was the best defensive performance you could ever have had, and the guy still almost won the game."

What more can be said about Brady? I'll share three additional comments from voters this offseason.

  • Offensive coordinator: "It looks like he is getting better. He is such a quick decision-maker, he is so accurate, they keep expanding what they are doing, the burden is on him, they don't play good defense anymore. He carries that team."

  • GM: "The thing that is cool about Brady and people on the outside don't understand about the NFL is, it is the person he is. It is the leadership he brings to that building. He makes everybody excited about working there, playing on Sundays. Is he an a--h--- sometimes? We all are. But he exudes success and confidence. That is so hard to find in a quarterback."

  • Defensive coordinator: "Bill Belichick is an outstanding coach. If that guy [Brady] is not quarterbacking, then he is like the rest of us, trying to get our s--- together. Brady is just a special dude. The guy understands going back to college that he has to compete for everything all the time. That is what makes him great."