An elite quarterback may not be the only ingredient in a championship recipe, but it sure goes a long way. Just ask the last two Super Bowl contenders in the Chiefs and Eagles, who went head to head with the MVP (Patrick Mahomes) and the MVP runner-up (Jalen Hurts) after respectively edging other star signal-callers, like Buffalo's Josh Allen and Cincinnati's Joe Burrow, in the playoffs.
Football will always be a team sport, which means it's still possible to make a run with a supporting cast that elevates the QB, rather than the other way around. It's just a lot harder to win, let alone sustain success, that way.
It's with that in mind we decided to reassess thegoing into the 2023 season. Not all of these would necessarily qualify as "elite" in our book, and yet they represent 10 of the best at their position entering the new year:
10. Kirk Cousins (Vikings)
The inclusion of Cousins on any list of "top QBs" inevitably evokes some scoffing, namely because of the lackluster big-game resume (he's won just a single postseason appearance in eight years as a full-time starter). He may well be entering his final season with the Vikings, who have mirrored his solid-but-unspectacular resume. And yet, in a league full of volatility, he's been consistently durable and accurate, while proving underrated as a big-play thrower. The athletic upside isn't there, and if his pocket isn't cozy, the miscues can snowball. But his on-script efficiency will keep you on the verge of contention every single year.
9. Dak Prescott (Cowboys)
If his old NFC East rival Kirk Cousins can be knocked for crunch-time hiccups, so can Prescott, who's managed a 2-4 postseason record in seven years with a typically high-octane Cowboys offense. As PFF argues, few QBs have also been more sensitive to changes in their supporting cast; he's flashed MVP-level production but also had some serious interception sprees depending on the health of the elite line and weapons around him. His own health is also a question -- he's missed 17 combined games since 2020. When upright, however, he does all the little things well, with the vision to go blow for blow with the best.
8. Lamar Jackson (Ravens)
An unmatched athlete with a mercurial track record, Jackson is under more pressure than most here after securing Baltimore's big-money commitment. His effortless arm hasn't produced efficient, above-average passing production in at least three years, and back-to-back seasons with lingering injuries calls into question his durability. When active, however, he's a true and resilient game-changer, particularly with his slippery, speedy scrambling. Now supported by a new coordinator, deeper receiving corps and more freedom to control his play calls, he's gotin year six.
7. Trevor Lawrence (Jaguars)
Of the top 10 QBs here, Lawrence benefits most from projection. But if he went from overmatched and unsupported as a rookie to decisive and aggressive as a sophomore, the former No. 1 overall pick is now poised to sniff MVP territory under Doug Pederson and alongside new No. 1 wideout Calvin Ridley. Lawrence isn't afraid to put the ball in tight windows, which can get him in trouble, but he's got one of the zippiest arms in the league and showed veteran-level fight in his historic comeback of a playoff debut. Just 23, he's got both plenty of room to grow and all the physical traits of an elite pocket gunslinger.
6. Aaron Rodgers (Jets)
Remember when Tom Brady neared the end of his 20-year Patriots tenure, and plenty of respected voices wondered if he'd finally lost his magic, only to then watch him reach new heights amid new scenery? It's the kind of story the Jets are hoping unfolds with Rodgers, who looked mildly resigned to the Packers' makeshift setup in a disappointing 2022 that followed two straight MVP seasons. At 39, A-Rod may well be past his prime. But he's freshly motivated, he's still got pinpoint touch, and with deep weaponry and defensive support in New York, he's got what it takes to make a legit title push.
5. Justin Herbert (Chargers)
Is it wrong to ding Herbert for making a single, unsuccessful playoff appearance through just three seasons? Sure, but when your regular-season standard is so high, the natural expectation is for big-game results to follow. Herbert hasn't been perfect, falling into a conservative approach in a 2022 season that saw him average just 6.8 yards per attempt (well below average among starters). But you don't throw 94 touchdowns to 35 interceptions before age 25 by accident; that's the sixth-best TD:INT ratio in NFL history to this point. And you simply cannot teach his elite build (6-6, 236) and laser arm.
4. Josh Allen (Bills)
Though he's been both durable and victorious, with a 47-18 record in his four seasons as a full-year starter, the supersized Allen invites more danger than most, not only as a frequent power runner but a gung-ho passer. His turnover tendencies are also underrated; since 2019, he's averaged 11 fumbles and 12 picks per year. And yet, with the risk comes great reward. No one comes closer to Patrick Mahomes as a big-play artist through the air, threatening opponents until the last second with an arm built for crunch-time bombs. He's also been plenty stellar in eight postseason bids, with 17 TDs to just four picks.
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3. Jalen Hurts (Eagles)
No QB made a more substantial leap in 2022, but Hurts has also gotten better basically every year since the start of his college career. He's far more compact (6-1, 223) than Josh Allen but just as physical as a regular ball-carrier, making his durability a long-term question. And yet he lives up to the dual-threat billing with vastly improved downfield vision and touch, feeding both A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith en route to an MVP-caliber Super Bowl shootout with Mahomes. The X-factor here is his leadership -- a stoic, unshakeable poise that steadies the Eagles organization from top to bottom.
2. Joe Burrow (Bengals)
The former No. 1 pick doesn't boast nearly the athleticism as most of his peers here. But that should speak volumes about his handle on the game -- his instincts, his vision, his reliable precision passing. He's so good at simply being a quarterback -- at owning the pocket, getting the ball where it needs to be when it needs to be there -- that his well-documented on- and off-field swagger is just a bonus. He's not immune to an occasional pick spree, and his damage comes almost exclusively through the air, but there are few better field generals, as evidenced by his two AFC title-game bids in three years.
1. Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs)
The easiest QB to rank by far, Mahomes is the definition of a real-life cheat code in this sport. His freestyling can afford opponents chances to steal the ball, but more often than not, his greatest threat seems to be, well, the possibility of getting bored of his own dominance. A whopping 64-16 as the star point guard of Andy Reid's motion-heavy attack, not including an 11-3 playoff record that includes two Super Bowl titles and already makes him a virtual Hall of Fame lock at 27, Mahomes is a sneaky scrambler. But his video-game numbers are chiefly fueled by those signature acrobatic arm angles, and an inherent big-play mentality that emerges when the lights are brightest and stage is biggest. Chiefs fan or not, he's a wonder to watch, and with wins to show for it.
A brief word on some of the notable names who didn't quite make the cut: Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins) flashed elite confidence in his first stretch under Mike McDaniel but has yet to play a full NFL season due to injuries. Justin Fields (Bears) certainly has top-10 traits, especially as a runner, but has a ways to go as an aerial decision-maker; he should benefit from a competent supporting cast this time around. Deshaun Watson (Browns) was once a polished pocket passer, but he hasn't played a full, above-average season in three years. Daniel Jones (Giants) and Geno Smith (Seahawks) must prove their 2022 breakouts weren't a fluke. Derek Carr (Saints) is gutsy and likable, and Jared Goff (Lions) is accurate and underrated, but neither has proven particularly adept at elevating teams without dynamic help. Brock Purdy (49ers) had veteran-level poise in his half-season debut but is coming off a serious elbow injury. And Matthew Stafford (Rams) is another durability concern amid Los Angeles' rebuild. Russell Wilson (Broncos) may still have playoff-caliber play-action material, but Sean Payton has to prove he can get him in rhythm first.