<
>

NFL Quarterback Council 2021: Ranking the top 10 QBs in arm strength, accuracy, decision-making, rushing ability, more

play
Can any quarterback throw for 6,000 yards in a season? (1:26)

Marcus Spears gives a couple of quarterback options who could possibly throw for 6,000 yards in a season. (1:26)

Today's NFL quarterbacks do so many different things extremely well, and picking out the best of the best is no easy task. Every Sunday, we are treated to incredible highlight-reel plays across the league, from 60-yard deep balls to huge gains on designed rushes to inconceivable pinpoint throws outside the pocket. To get a sense of how these talented passers stack up right now, we broke their games down by different skills.

To do so, we asked NFL analysts -- Matt Bowen, Tim Hasselbeck, Mina Kimes, Booger McFarland, Louis Riddick, Mike Tannenbaum, Seth Walder, Field Yates, Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson and Football Outsiders' team of Aaron Schatz and Derrik Klassen -- to rank their personal top 10 NFL quarterbacks entering the 2021 season in 12 distinct categories, from arm strength to field vision. We then combined those lists with a point-based system to generate a final ranking in each area, all 12 of which are below.

Our analysts then reacted to each list, explaining why the signal-callers at or near the top of each group belong there and what surprised them most about the final top-10s. We also gave a big stat to know for each category and spun it forward with a rising QB to watch for each trait. Finally, we pointed out snubs who probably should have cracked each ranking.

Let's start with the best downfield throwers in the NFL, but you can also jump to each category to see how the top quarterbacks align in the other 11 skills.

Jump to:
Arm strength | Accuracy | Touch
Mechanics | Field vision | Decision-making
Compete level | Toughness | In the pocket
Scrambling | Rushing | Second-reaction

Arm strength

This category is all about the biggest arms in the NFL. Pass velocity and the amount of zip a QB can put on a pass were factors in the ranking, as was the ability to hit the deep ball. Who are the best quarterbacks throwing the ball vertically and driving it into windows with authority?

1. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
2. Josh Allen, Bills
3. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
4. Matthew Stafford, Rams
5. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
6. Justin Herbert, Chargers
7. Deshaun Watson, Texans*
8. Ryan Tannehill, Titans
9. Kyler Murray, Cardinals
10. Baker Mayfield, Browns

Best of the best: There is an effortlessness to the way in which Mahomes can seemingly flick the football 50 yards down the field without setting his feet or coming to balance. But arm strength without accuracy is fool's gold. Mahomes not only can throw the football about as far as he'd like, but he can throw it where he'd like it to go. The Chiefs' signal-caller ranks third all time in NFL history in passing yards per attempt. -- Yates

Biggest surprise: I'm surprised that Allen didn't end up No. 1 here. Sure, Mahomes throws the prettier deep ball, but if we're just assessing arm strength, Allen's cannon is indisputable. -- Kimes

Stat to know: At the end of the first half of Week 14's Monday Night Football game last season, Mayfield tried throwing a bomb deep to receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones. The pass went incomplete near the back of the end zone, but it was still notable: It was the farthest-thrown football in terms of actual distance by any quarterback on any play in the regular or postseason over the past four years. The pass traveled 68.1 yards in the air, per NFL Next Gen Stats. -- Walder

Riser to watch: Jacksonville's Trevor Lawrence didn't make the top 10 because we haven't yet seen him take an NFL snap. But there's a reason that this kid was the consensus No. 1 prospect for the 2021 class since he was a freshman at Clemson -- he has some of the best arm talent we've seen in the past 20 years. And there's no question that Lawrence will make this list next season. The real question is just how high he'll be ranked. -- McFarland

Snubbed: New England's Cam Newton feels like an odd omission given his reputation, but a relentless string of injuries, including shoulder issues, have sapped him of the arm strength of his youth. But a pair of rookies -- Lawrence and the 49ers' Trey Lance -- have a good case for at least the No. 10 spot, if not higher. Lance, in particular, has a special blend of velocity and downfield distance that comes out of his hand with ease, not unlike Herbert's. -- Schatz/Klassen

Others who received at least one vote: Dak Prescott, Cam Newton, Trey Lance, Drew Lock, Carson Wentz, Trevor Lawrence, Matt Ryan, Jameis Winston, Kirk Cousins, Tom Brady and Derek Carr

Accuracy

Arm strength doesn't mean much if you can't perfectly put the ball where it needs to go. Who can hit the tightest windows? Who locates their passes in the perfect spots? And who is never off-target with their throws, displaying pinpoint precision?

1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
2. Tom Brady, Buccaneers
3. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
4. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
5. Deshaun Watson, Texans*
6. Kirk Cousins, Vikings
7. Ryan Tannehill, Titans
8. Dak Prescott, Cowboys
9. Josh Allen, Bills
10. Justin Herbert, Chargers

Best of the best: Rodgers and Wilson are two of the very best when it comes to hitting tight-window throws that seemingly are impossible completions, in addition to showing great touch on the deep ball. When you need a big throw to be made under challenging circumstances, these two are who you want slinging it. -- Riddick

Biggest surprise: Allen has to be higher on the list given his noticeable development as a pocket thrower. In 2019, Allen completed just 58.8% of his passes, but that number jumped to 69.2% this past season, which was good for fourth in the NFL. Paired with his rare physical traits at the position, Allen can throw with both accuracy and location, putting him in the upper tier of the NFL's quarterbacks. -- Bowen

Stat to know: There's no perfect measure of accuracy, but Rodgers had the lowest interception per dropback rate and second-lowest off-target rate in the league last season. He also ranked third in completion percentage over expectation (CPOE), per NFL Next Gen Stats. Those are pretty strong signs that Rodgers' throws are on the money. -- Walder

play
0:58

Why Foxworth wants Lance to be QB1 right away

Domonique Foxworth explains why Trey Lance needs to take over for Jimmy Garoppolo sooner rather than later.

Riser to watch: Allen making this list is an incredible tribute to his work ethic and Brian Daboll's coaching in Buffalo. His completion percentage has dramatically increased since his college days at Wyoming. Based on last season, I would expect his improvement to continue. But Herbert will also continue to climb the rankings, and Cincinnati's Joe Burrow -- if healthy -- should work into the top 10 in this category soon. -- Tannenbaum

Snubbed: The NFL Next Gen Stats model for CPOE ranks the Raiders' Derek Carr seventh in the league over the past two seasons, completing 2.6% more passes than expected. And Football Outsiders' model suggests that Carr has 56 more completions than expected since 2018, which ranks fifth over that three-year period. Carr scores high in accuracy stats despite a Raiders wide receiver corps that is far from the league's most consistent. -- Schatz/Klassen

Others who received at least one vote: Derek Carr, Joe Burrow, Matthew Stafford, Teddy Bridgewater, Matt Ryan, Kyler Murray, Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garoppolo

Touch

It's not only about pass velocity or placement. How it gets there is also key. Successful quarterbacks need to master trajectory, whether it be fitting the ball in a tight spot with zip or softly dropping it in over a receiver's shoulder. They also need to throw with anticipation, leading a receiver into the catch and navigating defensive coverages.

T1. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
T1. Tom Brady, Buccaneers
3. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
4. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
5. Dak Prescott, Cowboys
6. Deshaun Watson, Texans*
7. Matt Ryan, Falcons
T8. Justin Herbert, Chargers
T8. Kirk Cousins, Vikings
10. Derek Carr, Raiders

Best of the best: While Brady might not have the cannon arm down the field that his counterparts possess, it has not hindered his production a bit. Every detail counts for the best to ever do it, and he knows the difference that every inch makes on ball placement. Not every throw needs to be a fastball, and Brady has a mastery of the throws that win with touch. -- Yates

Biggest surprise: Carr isn't a gunslinger, but he throws one of the most catchable balls in the NFL. I think he could've easily been ranked higher on this list. -- Kimes

Stat to know: Over the past three seasons, Wilson leads all quarterbacks in completion percentage over expectation on passes with 20-plus air yards -- often via his famous rainbow-arc deep balls -- per NFL Next Gen Stats. But the quarterback who ranked No. 2 in that stat didn't make the top 10 here: Washington's Ryan Fitzpatrick. -- Walder

Riser to watch: Coming out of Wyoming, Josh Allen had a habit of just trying to throw the ball hard. If he was unsure or late, he would just step on the gas with his passes. But as his pre-snap command at the line of scrimmage has grown, his tendency to play with more anticipation has grown with it. -- Hasselbeck

Snubbed: Joe Burrow does not have the raw arm strength to fit the ball into tight windows. He makes up for it with careful ball placement and wonderful touch, doing his best to mimic the success that players such as Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers experienced in the second half of their careers. Burrow's placement consistently enables yards-after-the-catch opportunities, which is necessary for maximizing his skill set as a passer. -- Schatz/Klassen

Others who received at least one vote: Josh Allen, Matthew Stafford, Ryan Tannehill, Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ben Roethlisberger and Baker Mayfield

Mechanics

In today's NFL, quarterbacks have so many different throwing motions. But mechanics are still a big part of success. That includes a QB's throwing motion, arm slot, release, follow-through and footwork, among other traits. Who are the most technically sound signal-callers in the league?

1. Tom Brady, Buccaneers
2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
3. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
4. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
5. Deshaun Watson, Texans*
6. Matt Ryan, Falcons
T7. Dak Prescott, Cowboys
T7. Josh Allen, Bills
9. Matthew Stafford, Rams
T10. Derek Carr, Raiders
T10. Justin Herbert, Chargers

Best of the best: Nobody has worked to fine-tune the marriage between the lower body and the upper body as it relates to throwing the football as much as Brady has. He is the classic pocket passer in terms of footwork from under center, play-action fakes, subtle movement within the pocket, keeping two hands on the ball, release and follow-through. You name it, he does it perfectly. He is the standard. -- Riddick

Biggest surprise: I would have bumped Prescott into the top five here, given his consistent ability to sync his upper- and lower-body mechanics together as a thrower. You can see the strong base, footwork and shoulder/hip rotation on the release to extend through his target. From a pure mechanics standpoint, you could make an argument that Prescott could jump in front of Mahomes and even Rodgers, who both lean more on their natural throwing ability. -- Bowen

Stat to know: Short of accessing biomechanical data on the throwing motion of quarterbacks, anything I'd come up with here would be grasping at straws. While we can quantify plenty in football, sometimes it's important to know when to just trust the qualitative experts. This is one of those cases, as mechanics come down to the eye test more than anything else. -- Walder

Riser to watch: This is another list dominated by veteran guys because it takes years to develop great mechanics and adjust those mechanics to the NFL. However, Justin Herbert's rookie campaign was so incredible that he was able to sneak into the top 10 after just one season. His ability to stand in the pocket, face pressure and hit tight windows without sacrificing his throwing motion was impressive to watch. He will vault to the top of this list over the next couple of years. -- McFarland

Snubbed: Joe Burrow's lack of arm strength necessitates that he be as efficient as possible with his mechanics. He does not have any margin for error to make up time with his velocity. Burrow does an excellent job playing light on his toes and taking shortcuts to accelerate his progression from one read to the next, playing with an eerily similar style of footwork to Prescott. Burrow also does well to keep his hips free and allow his arm to come through cleanly without getting himself hunched over a tight base. Purely on mechanics, Burrow should not be any lower than Allen (tied for seventh) here. -- Schatz/Klassen

Others who received at least one vote: Ryan Tannehill, Joe Burrow, Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, Kyler Murray, Teddy Bridgewater, Baker Mayfield and Zach Wilson

Field vision

This looks at the ability to read the field. Included in that are awareness and recognition when it comes to seeing defensive schemes or coverages, along with the fast eyes to identify blitzers, breaking defensive backs and open targets. Will a QB audible out when he needs to, diagnosing and understanding different defensive looks? And how quickly can he get through his progressions? Does he get stuck on his first read too often and stare down receivers, making it easy for the defense? Or can he scan the field, make the defense bite with his eyes and then find the open receiver?

1. Tom Brady, Buccaneers
2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
3. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
T4. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
T4. Deshaun Watson, Texans*
6. Dak Prescott, Cowboys
7. Matthew Stafford, Rams
8. Matt Ryan, Falcons
9. Derek Carr, Raiders
10. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers

Best of the best: Brady's lack of mobility has never been an issue because his processing and understanding of what's going to happen before it actually happens is unparalleled. Be it situational awareness, identifying pressure, adjusting protections or anticipating the unforeseen, he sets the bar. -- Yates

Biggest surprise: Wilson at No. 4 is higher than I would have expected. Yes, he's a good processor, but this isn't a category where I'd rank him over the likes of, say, Ryan. -- Kimes

Stat to know: The Chiefs, as a team, have led the league in each of the last two seasons in separation over expectation on targets (an ESPN stat using NFL Next Gen Stats data). Receivers like Tyreek Hill and an offensive mind like Andy Reid's are surely factors there. But so, too, is Mahomes under center. If Mahomes' receivers consistently have more separation when targeted, that speaks to his ability to see and target the correct option more often. -- Walder

Riser to watch: Justin Herbert should continue to improve in his awareness as he continues to develop in an offense much more diverse than the one he played in at Oregon. And Baker Mayfield has clearly benefited from playing in Kevin Stefanski's scheme with Cleveland; he should be in the top 10 in this category next year. -- Tannenbaum

Snubbed: The Ravens' Lamar Jackson may never get the credit he deserves as a processor, but few handle the quick game the way he does. Not only does Jackson excel with general vision and decision-making specifically to that area, but he understands defenders' leverage in such a way that helps him locate the ball away from them, which is the same thing veterans such as Brady and (in years past) Philip Rivers get credit for. The clunkiness of Baltimore's passing game last season is much more a product of the lackluster receiving talent and Greg Roman's stale concepts than Jackson's inability to see the field. -- Schatz/Klassen

Others who received at least one vote: Ryan Tannehill, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Justin Herbert and Baker Mayfield

Decision-making with the football

This one is pretty straightforward. Avoiding turnovers, protecting the football, not taking unnecessary risks and keeping an offense out of harm's way lead to better efficiency. Forcing a pass into double coverage or attempting too many low-percentage plays can get you into trouble in a hurry. Strong decision-making means less opportunities for the other team -- and likely more points for yours.

1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
2. Tom Brady, Buccaneers
3. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
4. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
5. Deshaun Watson, Texans*
6. Ryan Tannehill, Titans
7. Dak Prescott, Cowboys
8. Derek Carr, Raiders
9. Justin Herbert, Chargers
10. Kyler Murray, Cardinals

Best of the best: Protecting the football and not giving it to the other team via bad decision-making is priority No. 1 for a QB, and nobody was better at making sure the opposition didn't receive extra possessions in 2020 than Rodgers. His 48 passing touchdowns led the NFL, and his 1.0% interception rate (five all season) was tied for the best in the NFL with Mahomes. -- Riddick

Biggest surprise: I personally had Carr at No. 3 here, given his ability to play within the structure of Jon Gruden's system in Las Vegas. With the amount of defined reads there, Carr can be smart with the football and attack the windows that Gruden dials up. Plus, Carr was much more willing to cut it loose on schemed verticals last season, registering a QBR of 99.6 on passes of 20 or more air yards, with 11 touchdowns and only one interception. -- Bowen

Stat to know: Mahomes had the second-lowest interception per dropback rate and fourth-lowest sack rate last season. And he ranked first in third-down pass attempts beyond the sticks at 70%, so he didn't have too many empty completions on third down, a sign he is being smart with the football. -- Walder

Riser to watch: A lot is asked of Murray, including nearly 560 pass attempts and more than 130 rushes last season. He's an aggressive player. That's certainly true for him as a runner, but it's also true with his willingness to make tight-window throws, push the ball down the field or throw a receiver open. I see a player who is learning what he can get away with and when, and I think that shows itself during this upcoming season and beyond. -- Hasselbeck

Snubbed: Though Matt Ryan's arm strength and mobility have waned, he remains among the sharpest decision-makers in the league, particularly with his shot selection over the middle. Few quarterbacks toe the line with "risky" throws without actually putting the ball in danger as effectively as Ryan. Hopefully some new guidance under coach Arthur Smith unlocks Ryan for a late-career surge. -- Schatz/Klassen

Others who received at least one vote: Ben Roethlisberger, Lamar Jackson, Matt Ryan, Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford, Baker Mayfield, Andy Dalton and Jimmy Garoppolo

Compete level

The words that come to mind with this category are competitiveness and leadership. Who has the most desire to win? It also speaks to a quarterback's command of his offense and his ability to deliver in the clutch. You can never count out the players who made this top 10.

1. Tom Brady, Buccaneers
2. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
3. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
4. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
5. Josh Allen, Bills
6. Lamar Jackson, Ravens
7. Matthew Stafford, Rams
8. Dak Prescott, Cowboys
9. Ryan Tannehill, Titans
10. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington

Best of the best: For someone who could have retired a few years ago and still had a strong case as the greatest ever, Brady refuses to ever lose his edge. He's famous for his mentality that his favorite Super Bowl win is "the next one," as he has dedicated nearly every facet of his life to prolonging the prime years of his career. While Brady's demeanor in front of the camera is collected and measured, he is ferocious on the field and has a short memory on the rare occasions that he does make an error. He never lets a defense feel like it has him figured out. -- Yates

Biggest surprise: I would've put Baker Mayfield in the top 10 here. It's a bit clichéd at this point to talk about his moxie, but his competitive spirit is undeniable -- and it has powered some pretty strong performances late in games, especially of late. -- Kimes

Stat to know: It has to say something that Brady has not missed a game due to injury since 2008, right? There's luck involved there, but it's still remarkable and partly why he takes this category. But how about a shoutout for someone who didn't make the cut: Guess who has the most wins over the past five seasons in games in which they at some point had less than a 10% chance of winning? It's Derek Carr, with nine. Now, there's something to be said for avoiding those situations in the first place, but the Raiders fight back. -- Walder

Riser to watch: What Allen did last season to elevate the Bills to the AFC Championship Game for the first time in nearly 30 years was remarkable. He could easily find himself at the top of this list in the next few seasons. This is also a big season for Miami's second-year QB Tua Tagovailoa. He absolutely has all the intangibles to be the leader of the Dolphins and can definitely command a huddle and a locker room, but the only real way to completely win over your teammates is to go out and do it on Sundays. A strong on-field performance this season will have him joining and moving up this list quickly next year. -- McFarland

Snubbed: Carr may not be known as one of the great leaders in the modern NFL, but his performance in late and close situations speaks for itself. Over the past three seasons, Carr has eight fourth-quarter comebacks (tied for third) and 11 game-winning drives (tied for fourth). Since 2018, the Raiders rank eighth in passing DVOA when the score is within a touchdown in the fourth quarter or overtime. -- Schatz/Klassen

Others who received at least one vote: Deshaun Watson*, Joe Burrow, Kyler Murray, Derek Carr, Ben Roethlisberger, Baker Mayfield, Justin Herbert, Matt Ryan, Tua Tagovailoa and Kirk Cousins

Toughness

Toughness rolls into compete level a bit, but our analysts looked at a quarterback's bounce-back and resilience here, along with how well he can take a hit. Physicality is the big trait in this section.

1. Josh Allen, Bills
2. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
3. Lamar Jackson, Ravens
T4. Deshaun Watson, Texans*
T4. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
6. Matthew Stafford, Rams
7. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
8. Dak Prescott, Cowboys
9. Tom Brady, Buccaneers
10. Cam Newton, Patriots

Best of the best: Every QB on this list is worthy of being at the top of this category, as they will all stand in the pocket and keep firing in the face of pressure, big hits or sacks. Allen, with his physical size, strength and ability as both a runner and thrower, separates himself slightly from the group for me as the one guy who would scare me the most if I had to line up and defend him for a full 60 minutes. -- Riddick

Biggest surprise: Herbert needed to make the cut here. Not only does he bring a physical element to the position, both inside and outside of the pocket, but we can also point to multiple plays on the tape where he had to make a big-time throw with location in the face of pressure. As an ascending talent with upper-tier traits, Herbert's toughness is a key part of his game. -- Bowen

Stat to know: No quarterback was contacted on more plays than Jackson last season (180). That was actually substantially higher than the winner of this category, Allen, who was contacted 123 times. Going back two seasons, Allen was also contacted the second-most times in 2019 -- again behind Jackson. -- Walder

Riser to watch: Mahomes is incredibly tough and will be even higher in this category in the future. Looking at the rookies, Trey Lance might be the toughest of the bunch; he'll be rising in this ranking by next year. He doesn't shy away from contact. -- Tannenbaum

Snubbed: One could argue nothing has been more critical to Ryan Fitzpatrick's success than how tough he is in the pocket. His aggressive downfield style requires him to hold the ball a bit longer and take some hits, more so than many other quarterbacks. And after 16 years of taking those beatings, he's still finding starting jobs. FitzMagic is indestructible. -- Schatz/Klassen

Others who received at least one vote: Ryan Tannehill, Taysom Hill, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Justin Herbert, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, Trey Lance, Baker Mayfield, Kirk Cousins, Jameis Winston, Joe Burrow, Tyrod Taylor and Kyler Murray

Pocket presence

Pocket presence refers to how a quarterback operates in the pocket. Some things our analysts looked at here include: ability to sense and avoid pressure, command and mobility within the pocket, calmness under duress and how a QB gets it done from both under center and shotgun formations.

1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
2. Tom Brady, Buccaneers
3. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
4. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
5. Josh Allen, Bills
6. Deshaun Watson, Texans*
7. Lamar Jackson, Ravens
8. Dak Prescott, Cowboys
9. Kyler Murray, Cardinals
10. Matthew Stafford, Rams

Best of the best: What makes Rodgers such a mad scientist in the pocket is understanding when to break it and when to buy himself time. His ability to pirouette out of pressure, avoid oncoming rushers and side-step a would-be sack turns nothing plays into possible scoring opportunities. On top of his nimble footwork, Rodgers has the arm strength and ability to throw from so many angles that he doesn't need a whole bunch of space to launch the ball downfield. No play should be presumed over with this guy. -- Yates

Biggest surprise: I was surprised, in a good way, to see Jackson at No. 7. He doesn't receive much credit for this attribute, but he's very steady in a clean pocket. -- Kimes

Stat to know: How does one quantify pocket presence? One aspect is sacks taken relative to pressures faced. No one had a lower ratio of sacks to pressures than Mahomes (0.10). That's lower than the top two players on this list; Rodgers and Brady clocked in at 0.17 and 0.19, respectively. -- Walder

Riser to watch: Jackson has clearly proven himself to already be one of the best in the league at avoiding pressure by escaping out of the pocket, and his mobility is unmatched. He also possesses a nice ability to throw with people around him, find throwing lanes with adjusted arm angles and create ways to get the ball out of his hand. As Baltimore explores ways to develop him as a passer from inside the pocket, there is room for growth that I would anticipate Jackson meeting. -- Hasselbeck

Snubbed: Not wanting to put rookies in this category is fair, but Trevor Lawrence's pocket management at Clemson was something to behold. He has a sixth sense for anticipating pass-rushers, knowing exactly how and where it affects the pocket and which areas are safe to move to -- all before the pass rush can get to him. That takes a special blend of understanding protections and defenses, as well as some innate instinct and athletic traits. -- Schatz/Klassen

Others who received at least one vote: Justin Herbert, Ben Roethlisberger, Derek Carr, Ryan Tannehill, Joe Burrow, Matt Ryan, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Daniel Jones, Kirk Cousins, Trevor Lawrence, Jared Goff, Baker Mayfield, Teddy Bridgewater and Tua Tagovailoa

Scrambling

They might not be scripted, but plenty of successful plays happen when a quarterback sees open field and scrambles for a big chunk. And sometimes that includes a forced scramble, when pressure or a broken play leave the quarterback no option but to tuck and run. Creating outside the pocket -- including making some throws on scramble runs -- can be the difference between eventual points on the board and a stalled drive.

1. Lamar Jackson, Ravens
2. Kyler Murray, Cardinals
3. Josh Allen, Bills
4. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
5. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
6. Deshaun Watson, Texans*
7. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
8. Dak Prescott, Cowboys
9. Ryan Tannehill, Titans
10. Daniel Jones, Giants

Best of the best: Jackson is mesmerizing with his elusiveness and big-play speed, making NFL defenses have to defend him in a way that they haven't had to defend quarterbacks maybe ever. -- Riddick

Biggest surprise: I'd actually put Mahomes at No. 1 here. While Jackson is the NFL's most dynamic player when he breaks contain, Mahomes' ability to threaten defenses in scramble situations, both as a runner and a thrower, puts him at the top of my list. Last season, Mahomes converted 66.7% of his third-down scrambles (12 of 18) while also registering a QBR of 82.2, with eight touchdown passes, on scramble-attempt throws. He can pick up the sticks and find open throwing windows when forced to leave the pocket. -- Bowen

Stat to know: Eleven percent of Jackson's dropbacks resulted in him scrambling last season, the highest rate in the league. But among players with at least 20 scrambles last year, Tannehill was actually the most efficient in terms of expected points added per scramble. -- Walder

Riser to watch: A lot of people were worried about Murray's size coming out of college. Would he really be able to scramble around an NFL field and avoid injury? But in two seasons, he has yet to miss a game. Why? Because he has outstanding football instincts and knows how to avoid taking the big hit. Half the battle with being a great scrambler is having the athletic traits, but the other half is knowing your limits. Murray is winning the battle with both. -- McFarland

Snubbed: There are a lot of areas in which Bills backup Mitchell Trubisky hasn't excelled, but he makes things happen when he uses his legs. Last year with Chicago, Trubisky scrambled 17 times for 166 yards. He scored once and moved the sticks seven other times. In 2018 and 2019, he added another 58 scrambles for 441 yards. And NFL Next Gen Stats clocked his maximum speed last season at 19.5 miles per hour. Buffalo fans can be confident that if Allen gets hurt, Trubisky can at least create on the ground in the same impressive fashion. -- Schatz/Klassen

Others who received at least one vote: Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts, Cam Newton, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, Mitchell Trubisky, Sam Darnold, Gardner Minshew II, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Baker Mayfield, Marcus Mariota and Jacoby Brissett

Designed-run ability

Many modern NFL quarterbacks have the ability to contribute in the run game, and offensive coordinators are looking to their QBs for designed runs and option reads more often. So whose speed, instincts, vision, elusiveness and physicality as a runner are the most impressive?

1. Lamar Jackson, Ravens
2. Kyler Murray, Cardinals
3. Josh Allen, Bills
4. Cam Newton, Patriots
5. Taysom Hill, Saints
6. Jalen Hurts, Eagles
7. Deshaun Watson, Texans*
8. Daniel Jones, Giants
9. Dak Prescott, Cowboys
10. Trey Lance, 49ers

Best of the best: Jackson's career is just getting started, but his trajectory as a runner is obvious: He's on his way to becoming the best rushing quarterback of all time. He already ranks 13th in rushing yards just three seasons into his career and could realistically catapult all the way up to fourth by the end of this upcoming season. His acceleration mirrors a sports car's; he has uncanny agility, and he slithers past tackles as though defenders have butterfingers. While defensive coaches can work tirelessly all week to devise a plan to slow Jackson down, here's the reality: When it's Jackson versus a defender in open space, he comes out on top. -- Yates

Biggest surprise: I know they're unproven, but I think rookies Justin Fields (Bears) and Lance could've been ranked higher -- and in the case of Fields, ranked at all. They're both incredibly explosive and are probably more dangerous in the open field at this point than Newton, who checked in at No. 4. -- Kimes

Stat to know: Jackson blew away the field in expected points added on designed rushes in 2019. In 2020, he had a challenger in the form of Murray but still took the crown. The Ravens QB remains the clear top choice on designed carries. -- Walder

Riser to watch: Lance will be in the top three next year if he plays this season. He is a dynamic player who is big, fast and tough. And Justin Herbert is faster than he appears and should be in the top 10 next year, too. -- Tannenbaum

Snubbed: Herbert's rushing defense-adjusted yards above replacement was third worst in the league last year, but that should be chalked up to a horrific Chargers offensive line. He is a long-strider, which makes him better on the edge and in space rather than dodging defenders at the second level, but he has similar tools to Allen. An improved offensive line should help Herbert better showcase his rushing talent. -- Schatz/Klassen

Others who received at least one vote: Russell Wilson, Justin Herbert, Justin Fields, Ryan Tannehill, Mitchell Trubisky, Sam Darnold, Derek Carr and Patrick Mahomes

Second-reaction ability

To close, we looked at a trait that leads to so many highlights throughout an NFL season. Quarterbacks won't always be able to sit in the pocket and throw darts. With pressure coming off the edge or up the middle, getting outside the pocket and making off-schedule throws on the run is important in today's game. Those are the off-platform passes from different arm angles and body positions, often on the move.

1. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
3. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
4. Josh Allen, Bills
5. Deshaun Watson, Texans*
6. Lamar Jackson, Ravens
7. Dak Prescott, Cowboys
8. Justin Herbert, Chargers
9. Kyler Murray, Cardinals
10. Matthew Stafford, Rams

Best of the best: Mahomes has made off-platform throws look routine since the very first practice he had as a Chiefs rookie, and he is only going to get better there as his confidence continues to grow. Right below Mahomes, it sometimes appears at though every throw from Rodgers is off-platform, as he rarely has his feet set and can deliver the ball however and wherever he needs with a flick of the wrist. But the guy who is going to get his overdue credit in this category in 2021 is Stafford. Wait and see. -- Riddick

Biggest surprise: Sam Darnold needs to see it faster as a pocket thrower, and if he can improve there, he will have an opportunity to deliver the ball with more rhythm in Joe Brady's heavily schemed pass game for the Panthers this season. But in terms of creating outside of structure, I already have Darnold in my personal top 10. The former Jets quarterback has the ability to escape the pocket, extend plays and make second-reaction throws from multiple platforms and arm angles. And that goes back to his tape at USC. -- Bowen

Stat to know: Over the past three seasons combined, Mahomes had the highest total expected points added on throws on the run. But according to NFL Next Gen Stats, another quarterback led the league in expected points added per play and completion percentage over expectation on throws on the run over that span: the Saints' Jameis Winston, who missed our top 10. -- Walder

Riser to watch: Herbert has as much raw talent as nearly anyone else in the league. As his command and confidence grow, I see his willingness to create also increasing. Very few players have the ability to break a 50-plus-yard TD run as well as attack most areas on the field while on the move. Herbert can do both, and I anticipate us seeing that more going forward. -- Hasselbeck

Snubbed: Just because Tom Brady does not often put himself in position to need a second-reaction throw, it does not mean he can no longer do it. Even at 44 years old, he still has a knack for being able to take his feet out of the equation when necessary and make a tough throw with only his upper body, and often with defenders in his face. Brady's second-reaction throws look nothing like those of the younger guys in the league, but he is still among the best at problem-solving when pressured. -- Schatz/Klassen

Others who received at least one vote: Baker Mayfield, Jameis Winston, Derek Carr, Carson Wentz, Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Ryan Tannehill, Sam Darnold, Matt Ryan, Joe Burrow, Zach Wilson, Trevor Lawrence, Jared Goff, Ben Roethlisberger and Ryan Fitzpatrick

* This ballot was completed by our panel earlier this summer, and it includes Deshaun Watson, who faces allegations of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior in 22 active lawsuits. Watson didn't practice with the Texans last week and didn't travel for their game on Saturday against the Cowboys. Watson's lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said last week that the allegations are being investigated by the FBI. Tony Buzbee, who represents the women suing Watson, said last week that the FBI met with him to discuss Watson and spoke with several plaintiffs.