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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Alyssa Barbieri

Bears to face 7 of PFF’s bottom-10 ranked starting QBs in 2023

The 2023 schedule has been revealed, and the Chicago Bears have a somewhat favorable slate following a 3-14 season.

Pro Football Focus ranked every starting quarterback in the NFL from best to worst, and Bears quarterback Justin Fields landed at 18th on the list. He’s behind two other NFC North quarterbacks in Kirk Cousins (9th) and Jared Goff (16th).

The Bears will face three of the top-10 ranked quarterbacks, including Patrick Mahomes (1st), Justin Herbert (4th) and Cousins (9th). But they’ll also face seven of the bottom-10 ranked quarterbacks on PFF’s list, which is certainly good news for a new-look defense looking to bounce back in 2023.

Here’s a look at where all opposing quarterbacks rank on PFF’s list:

1. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs

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Mahomes is the standard by which all NFL quarterbacks are now measured. With Manning and Brady now names of the past, Mahomes is the new benchmark pushing the boundaries of what we have seen previously. Since coming into the league, he has 191 big-time throws including the postseason, the most in the NFL. He has also passed for 8.1 yards per attempt, a figure only quarterbacks playing for Kyle Shanahan have surpassed over the same span.

4. Justin Herbert, Chargers

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

This is a big year for Herbert to justify the hype that has surrounded him since his phenomenal rookie season. We have seen glimpses of what he is capable of, but he passed for just 6.8 yards per attempt last season and finished eighth in PFF passing grade. Kellen Moore’s arrival as the Chargers’ offensive coordinator could be the key that fully unlocks Herbert, and if he is, this is where Herbert belongs.

9. Kirk Cousins, Vikings

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Cousins is probably at the top of the second tier of quarterbacks — those who you can win with but are unlikely to transform a team into a contender simply by their presence. Cousins has earned a PFF passing grade of at least 77.7 every season in Minnesota. He is an exceptionally accurate passer with plenty of big plays in his arsenal who maybe lacks that transcendent, intangible talent that every team chases at the position.

13. Deshaun Watson, Browns

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Maybe the hardest player to rank on the list, Watson has one of the widest ranges of outcomes in the NFL. He finished 2022 with just a 55.3 overall PFF grade after returning from suspension and didn’t noticeably improve as one does if they are just shaking off the rust. In his last full season with Houston (2020), he earned a 92.5 PFF grade and was one of the best quarterbacks in the game. I have no earthly idea how good Watson will be in 2023, and neither does anybody else.

14. Derek Carr, Saints

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Last year’s 66.6 PFF grade was the lowest of Carr’s career outside of his rookie season. In what was supposed to be a solid season, Carr’s big plays declined and he was notably less accurate overall. His adjusted completion rate dropped by more than 6 percentage points from the year before to his lowest level since he was a rookie. That likely represents the floor for Carr’s play, and he has typically been a borderline top-10 player over his career.

16. Jared Goff, Lions

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Goff is in an outstanding offense with one of the best coordinators in football running the show. Depending on the numbers you look at, his stats will make him look like one of the best passers in football, but it’s clear to anybody with a critical eye that that doesn’t quite match reality. Goff ranked 19th last season in PFF passing grade and 30th in big-time throw rate. He is a solid quarterback for the offense he’s in but is not as good as some of the results would suggest.

20. Russell Wilson, Broncos

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Wilson ranked 26th in PFF passing grade last season and 29th in overall grade. It’s difficult to overstate how bad his first year in Denver was and how much uncertainty that paints his future in. Sean Payton has been brought in to make the best of a disastrous situation, but exactly where Wilson can land on the spectrum between last season and his best play in Seattle is pure guesswork. Given his visible decline in athleticism, it seems likely that his baseline is closer to last year than his peak, but he is a player with a wide range of outcomes.

24. Jimmy Garoppolo, Raiders

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For his injury history alone, Garoppolo is likely capped at this kind of level in the rankings. He was outperformed by Purdy last season in the same offense and now goes to a new offensive system, albeit one he is familiar with from his stint in New England. The Raiders have a good collection of receivers to throw to, but Garoppolo has a 3.6% career turnover-worthy play rate, significantly higher than his big-time-throw rate (2.9%). Even if he stays healthy all season, he is likely a below-average starter.

25. Bryce Young, Panthers

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Young was the best quarterback in this draft by a considerable margin, and the only thing that made the discussion close was his lack of size — something that becomes obvious any time he is captured on film with anything near him to show true scale. Young has elite accuracy, anticipation and decision-making (back-to-back seasons with a 2.0% turnover-worthy play rate), but success at his size in the modern NFL is without precedent.

26. Jordan Love, Packers

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Love passed for 9.3 yards per attempt last season and earned a 78.7 PFF grade. On the other hand, he attempted 21 passes and was disastrous the last time he was on the field before that. We have very little idea what Love can become, with the biggest piece of evidence being that the Packers decided it was time to move on from Aaron Rodgers and turn the keys over to his successor. Countering that was the contract they got Love to agree to, which could only have started with the assumption that they were not going to pick up his fifth-year option.

27. Sam Howell, Commanders

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Another almost total gamble, Howell was given one game late last season to audition for the starting job and performed well in it. He completed 11 of 19 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 35 yards and another score. Howell was seen as a legitimate prospect before sliding all the way to the fifth round of the 2022 draft, but expecting anything above this would be wildly optimistic.

28. Baker Mayfield, Buccaneers

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It’s difficult to argue that Mayfield’s 2022 season was easily predictable, but it’s equally difficult to maintain any kind of lofty expectations for him going forward after witnessing it. His 50.6 PFF grade on the year was 13 grading points lower than his previous career-worst mark (which involved a torn shoulder), and it speaks volumes that the Rams were happy to let him walk after he led the team to a remarkable win just after stepping off the plane after they traded for him. Mayfield has very good play on his NFL resume, but it’s getting harder and harder to see it in the rearview mirror.

29. Colt McCoy, Cardinals

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

With Kyler Murray not likely to be ready until late in the season, if at all, McCoy will helm the Cardinals’ offense for most of the season. It would be easy to assume that’s the worst quarterback situation in the league, but the chances are that one of the better backups in the game performs better than some of the young starters. McCoy has handled more than 100 dropbacks in each of the past two seasons, completing 71% of his passes at 6.6 yards per attempt over that time.

31. Desmond Ridder, Falcons

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

There was little we saw from Ridder last season to suggest he will approach even average play at the position. Marcus Mariota played his way to the bench with his performances, and Ridder was simply the young quarterback in line for reps. He posted a 68.5% adjusted completion rate and had two turnover-worthy plays to three big-time throws. He also recorded just 136 dropbacks, so it would be a stretch to draw any concrete conclusions.

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