First, a big shoutout to Luciano, Finfan, and Northshore for contributing to this article. We’ve put together a comprehensive ranking of all starting QBs in the NFL, with a special emphasis on those nearest and dearest to us here in the AFC East.
Without further ado, the big picture:
FinFan’s QB Rankings
Cam Newton, Patriots: Newton is easily the most skilled of the division’s QBs as evidenced by his long list of accomplishments: Heisman Trophy Winner, National Champion, NFL MVP, and 3x pro bowler. The big question is how he comes back from injury because the dual threat nature of Newton is what makes him great. As a passer, he compares well to the still developing Josh Allen and at times lacks the touch necessary to complete simple throws. If Newton can’t regain his form as a runner, he likely will finish at the bottom of this list, but for now my bet is on Newton being hungry and healthy. It’s important to note Newton is playing for a HC and OC known for their ability to maximize talent at the QB position with lesser players such as Tim Tebow, Matt Cassel, and Tom Brady.
Josh Allen, Bills: It’s close between Allen and Darnold for #2, but I give Allen the edge largely on the strength of his supporting cast and continuity along the offensive line from last year. In addition, Allen is more of a playmaker than Darnold at this point in their careers and while both struggle statistically, Allen showed more growth in his second year than Darnold. Allen’s team has put their faith in him and his development by bringing in Stefon Diggs to push the Bills WR core into the league’s top 10. Allen’s excuses are gone and Buffalo should expect a top 15 QB, or they may start thinking about a replacement.
Sam Darnold, Jets: Darnold checks in at #3 after another up and down year. To understand where Darnold is as a player, look no further than his victory against a superior Dallas team followed by the awful apparitions against the Pats. A revolving door at TE and OL, along with the #1 WR Enunwa missing time do make things difficult on Darnold. In fact, of the 3 AFC East teams that fielded NFL teams last year, Darnold had by far the worst situation offensively (see Gase, Adam). That being said the Jets invested heavily in their offensive line and WR core this offseason and if Darnold is kept upright and reduces his DarnINTs, he could resume his path to being the face of the franchise. For the Jets, there seems to be no rush (but is there ever?).
Tuanigamanuolepola Tagovailoa, Dolphins: You know who Fitzmagic/tragic is already so where does Tua fit in the future AFC East QB room? He’s the all time leader in college passer rating by nearly 20 points, 10% better than the closest competitor. However, Tua threw to 3 current first round picks and likely 2 more in 2021. Will Tua get that opportunity again? Not likely, but it’s important to note Tua also played in the best conference in college football. What makes Tua special is his accuracy, but he also possesses above average pocket presence, which is important if you want to play QB in Miami. This year might be a redshirt year for Tua, but he’s got the talent to become the top dog in the AFC East.
Wrap up: There’s a lot of QB talent in the AFC East, but as of 2019, only Newton has ever put it all together throughout an NFL season. AFC East fans should be excited for the future as there’s no reason Allen, Darnold, and Tagovailoa can’t become top 10 QBs for the next decade, but for now, let’s enjoy the ride.
Northshore’s QB Rankings
Josh Allen, Bills: Statistically Josh Allen was in the lower third of starting quarterbacks in most categories in 2019. What is not evident is how much he improved over his 2018 rookie year stats. Allen improved in all categories except fumbles. He doubled his TD throws while lowering his interceptions. This year Allen should have an improved O-line and better receivers with the addition of Diggs. Having another year’s experience under his belt, better weapons and coaching continuity provides Allen the opportunity to take another improvement jump. If he can stay focused and slow down the happy feet Allen could help the Bills continue to improve.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Dolphins: If the Dolphins play this smart Fitzpatrick will be the starter as they let Tua heal and learn. We all know what we are getting with Fitz; sometimes Fitzmagic and sometimes Fitztragic. He will have a lot of long completions and some mind-numbing interceptions. Fitzpatrick should be able to keep the Fins on their 2020 path which is learning and building for 2021.
Sam Darnold, Jets: Like Allen Sam Darnold also improved in most statistical areas in his second year but not as much. Fumbles both when passing and running are a problem. Sam is very young having just turned 23. His mechanics look sound (except when he is seeing ghosts). Unfortunately for him the offensive team around him is not very good and Gase does not appear to be the quarterback whisperer many thought he was. The Jets will want to see growth out of Darnold in 2020. If not, they will be back in the QB search soup.
Cam Newton, Patriots: Who would have thought that out of the projected AFCE starters the former MVP has the greatest chance of not even being the starter? If Newton is healthy and Belichick and McDaniels can do a 180 on their game planning things could get interesting. I have actually never been a huge Newton fan because he relies too much on his athletic talent as opposed to developing his defensive reading and progression skills. The offensive line should help Cam but his receiving weapons outside of Edelman are limited unless N’Keal Harry really improves. Harry is the type of receiver Newton has made look good in the past; a big receiver who wins battles for 50-50 balls.
Luciano’s QB Rankings
I took a simple approach, not stats, although it would closely resemble my logic. If I place the QBs on the rosters of the other 3 division teams, how would they have fared?
Bills would have won a game or two more with Fitz, and with Sam they would have at least won that playoff game. With Cam nothing changes.
Jets with Allen win a game or two less, with Ryan two games more, with Cam nothing changes.
Patriots would have fared worst with all Cam, Allen, Ryan and Sam.
Dolphins same as Patriots, record would have been worst with Cam, Allen, and Sam.
Based on that, in this order:
CJ’s QB Rankings
If I were ranking these four QBs on their history, then it’s easy.
1. Cam Newton
2. Ryan Fitzpatrick
3. Sam Darnold
4. Josh Allen
But I’m not going to rank them that way. Instead, I’m going to rank them by where I think they will end up at the end of the 2020 season (or the 2021 season, seeing how things are going on the Pandemic Front) and why.
Josh Allen, Bills: There is zero doubt in my mind that Allen is the most gifted QB in the entire division. As a raw prospect coming out of college, he still has some glaring holes in his game after less than two seasons under center, but I have confidence that he will patch those holes up as he continues to develop. His ceiling is higher than perhaps any QB in the league not named Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson. The leap in his development that he made last season was enough to turn me from an Allen hater into an Allen supporter. It will take a similar leap in his next season for me to truly believe in him, but I do have faith that he will make that leap, catapulting the Bills into true Super Bowl contenders for the first time since the early 1990s.
Sam Darnold, Jets: Darnold deserves every bit of trash I talk about him. I think he’s mentally weak, both under pressure in game time and in general intelligence. That said, he has more than enough talent to be a successful NFL QB. The problem is that his team is the Jets, with little to no offensive talent and his coach is Adam Gase, who is a complete moron. Whatever chances Darnold had to be a real NFL QB went out the window the second the Jets traded up to draft him. If he had gone to a real NFL team, he’d be jockeying for position as one of the top QBs in the entire league. Even if he had gone to the Bills with coaching continuity and a competent GM to build the team around him, he’d probably be better off than Allen is now by virtue of being more NFL ready to start with. But he didn’t. And he’ll probably fade into being a career backup as a result.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Dolphins: We do know what Fitz is and when he’s on his game, he can hang with the top offenses in the NFL. The problem is he’s on his game approximately 10% of the time. The other 90% is just not a good quarterback. But, he’s a fun guy and I love his personality and love for the game. Just a note on Tua: the kid could easily be #1 on this list after he plays a season. His talent is undeniable, but I sincerely doubt he will play more than a few seasons due to injuries. A lengthy list of injuries in college would have put me off drafting him in the top 5.
Cam Newton, Patriots: As I said, Cam would easily be on the top of this list if we were going by past production. The fact of the matter is, however, that he is coming off a series of injuries and he’s a physical, running quarterback. And he’s a vegan. I have serious doubts he could make it through an entire 16 game season ever again. And going into a poor situation in New England certainly won’t help matters either. You can say all you want about how great a coach Belichick is (and he is a great coach), but Tom Brady made that offense work when there was no one worth a damn to throw to. Cam Newton is not the guy to elevate the usual Belichick dumpster dive players. He wasn’t when he was at his peak and he certainly isn’t now.
EDITOR’S NOTE: TuaRyan Fitzvailoa is a new player because somebody (Finfan) thinks Tua will actually start this season over Fitzpatrick, somehow.