We are only three weeks into the 2021 NFL and there’s a shakeup in Sporting News’ starting quarterback rankings from how they looked in the preseason. While the savviest veterans have strengthened their positions in relation to the rest of the passing-loaded league, some high-upside youngsters — high-profile rookies or othwerwise — have struggled.
No one is red-hotter than the GOAT, as Tom Brady is showing at age 44 he also can be the GORN — greatest of right now. He’s leading the traditional pocket passers with his play, while another Super Bowl winner is right behind him. Don’t forget about those exciting dual threats flying out of the gate.
Given this is the position that also tends to win NFL MVP in most seasons, also consider this the early pecking order for the league’s ultimate individual award:
NFL quarterback rankings Week 3
1. Tom Brady, Buccaneers
Brady is locked in with the best passing offense and weapons he’s had since his then record-breaking 2007 season with the Patriots. He could throw for 60 TDs in 17 games and no one would be surprised. The GOAT is the MVP front-runner and the Bucs can legitimately challenge for an undefeated regular season.
2. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Wilson seems like he been finally able to let loose in the offense he wants under Shane Waldron. He’s spreading the ball around well and still using his big arm to be highly efficient with his downfield passing.
IYER: Contenders and pretenders after two weeks of the 2021 NFL season
3. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
Mahomes has been magical again and would be the easy No. 1 in a league without Brady and Wilson dealing the way they have. He could help himself with a few more checkdowns when the big plays aren’t there.
4. Kyler Murray, Cardinals
Murray would have been more in the MVP conversation last season had he not hurt his shoulder late and the Cardinals fell out of the playoff picture. He is rolling in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense in Year 3 with more of his dynamic running and upgraded dangerous passing with expanded weapons.
5. Lamar Jackson, Ravens
Jackson has been operating with offensive line injury concerns and a depleted backfield while missing some key receivers. That hasn’t stopped him from looking terrific passing deep while also running at his usual blinding speed. It was huge for him to finally solve the Chiefs.
6. Josh Allen, Bills
Allen’s numbers do no reflect his potential and the MVP-caliber passing from 2020. He’s faced two tough pass defenses in the Steelers and Dolphins out of the gate. He needs to settle down and not worry about the pressure of living up to his contract and he will be fine.
NFL POWER RANKINGS:
49ers, Cowboys, Broncos climb; Steelers, Seahawks, Saints slide
7. Matthew Stafford, Rams
Stafford was awesome in lighting up the Bears and followed that with a down-to-earth performance against the Colts. He’s still headed to the best season of his career with the best overall support of his career.
8. Dak Prescott, Cowboys
Prescott is still building up his arm strength and shaking off the rust, and considering that, he’s been sharp in executing in Kellen Moore’s explosive offense which has been well-tailored to his skill set. He’s fully in command in Year 3 of the system.
9. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Rodgers had a rough start against the Saints and rebounded well against the Lions with plenty of help from the runing game game. This is a bold drop for him, considering he’s the reigning MVP and future Hall of Famer still in his prime.
10. Jalen Hurts, Eagles
Hurts looks like he wants the Eagles job long term and his showing off his running wares a la Murray and Jackson. He also looks strong throwing downfield working through learning a new offense.
11. Daniel Jones, Giants
Jones is showing that he has the boom more than the bust in him during a critical third season. He’s comfortable with his new weapons downfield and is also carrying the rushing load while Saquon Barkley continues to ail.
12. Ryan Tannehill, Titans
Tannehill hasn’t been great but not as terrible as some would suggest based on the underwhelming fantasy football numbers. Reality-wise, he’s still the same guy, dependent on the running game for his best play-action related passing success.
13. Teddy Bridgewater, Broncos
Bridgewater has quickly proved he was the right choice to guide the offense over Drew Lock, being a careful caretaker but also surprising as an aggressive playmaker. The offense seems perfect for his mindful skill set.
14. Derek Carr, Raiders
Carr has driven the Raiders to a 2-0 record based on his command of Jon Gruden’s offense and diversifying the passing game with little help from the running game so far. The key for him is staying consistent.
15. Baker Mayfield, Browns
Mayfield has been mostly good with his downfield passing playing off the running game, minus a couple of mistakes. He’s getting slowly warmed up for what should be a big breakout season in the end.
16. Kirk Cousins, Vikings
Cousins’ team is 0-2 and he’s trying to lift the Vikings despite disappointing defense. They are adjusting to more 11 personnel (three wide receivers) out of necessity for a stronger passing game and he has responded well with continued efficiency.
17. Justin Herbert, Chargers
Herbert is having a mini sophomore slump while adjusting to the new offense of Joe Lombardi. There are some good signs around him in the passing game to think he will bust out of it soon.
18. Joe Burrow, Bengals
Burrow has made some big plays and looked very good at times but there are some definite signs of rust in Zac Taylor’s offense after missing so much time with his knee injury. Like Herbert, he has flashed enough to believe he will lighting it up with fewer mistakes soon.
19. Mac Jones, Patriots
Jones has looked solid in his first two starts as a rookie but he’s not been called upon to do much, leaning a ton on the running game and defense as Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick have put him in a comfortable position early.
20. Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers
Garoppolo has been his usual steady self in returning healthy in a QB-friendly offense, playing off his strong running game and sturdy offensive line. He’s relied most on Deebo Samuel for his decent start.
21. Sam Darnold, Panthers
Darnold has fit well in Joe Brady’s system with a massive assist from Christian McCaffrey returning to be the centerpiece of attention. He’s getting the ball out quickly to his wide receivers, too. So far, so much better than expected as an intriguing reclamation project.
22. Jared Goff, Lions
Goff hasn’t been bad being put an unfamiliar situation on a shaky overall rebuilding team. He’s handling Anthony Lynn’s offense well and digging deep to keep it moving. He’s also shown plenty of mistakes and the hard ceiling that made the Rams move on from him.
23. Matt Ryan, Falcons
Arthur Smith is bringing yet another new offense for Ryan and he’s having major woes as they are trying to force a run-heavy approach that isn’t working vs. letting Ryan making full use of underrated weapons depth, led by elite targets Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts.
24. Jameis Winston, Saints
Winston’s stellar Week 1 was weird given his low volume. Week 2 might be more of the true version of himself in a run-heavy offense with a very limited passing game minus Michael Thomas.
25. Taylor Heinicke, Washington
Heinicke is performing at a higher level than what Ryan Fitzpatrick could have given them in distributing the ball to their many dynamic playmakers. He does struggle in key moments with his inexperience and aggressiveness.
26. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
Big Ben is the same QB who faded hard in 2020 with his limited arm strength, now with less support from a new-look and struggling offensive line. Pushing the ball downfield will continue to be a challenge.
27. Carson Wentz, Colts
Wentz hasn’t been awful for his new team’s offense but he’s already gotten hurt again with his ankle injuries. They will hope he can grind it out and play against the Titans to help pull them out of 0-2 with his arm and his legs.
28. Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars
All the concerns about Lawrence operating in a dysfunctional offense without fundamental rushing support have come to fruition. The Jaguars cannot afford to keep wasting his immense physical talent and creating regression in a special prospect.
29. Zach Wilson, Jets
Wilson flashed against the Panthers and flunked against the Patriots, two very tough pass defenses to face immediately to start anyone’s career. He is getting little help and is maybe forcing things that aren’t there vs. playing it safer.
30. Justin Fields, Bears
Fields came in cold for Andy Dalton and almost gave the game away against the Bengals, showing he needs a lot of polish to maximize his athleticism and arm strength. He should be much prepared for his starting debut in Cleveland with a game plan involving more running.
31. Jacoby Brissett, Dolphins
Brissett will be starting for Tua Tagovailoa, whose durability issues persist. The offense didn’t score with either QB vs. the Bills so Brissett will need to be a lot better against the Raiders.
32. Davis Mills, Texans
Mills, coming off major knee injuries following a promising career at Stanford, is meant to be red-shirted as a developmental third-stringer, not starting with no Tyrod Taylor or Deshaun Watson. The rookie will be taking plenty of lumps early as an emergency starter.
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