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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Christian D'Andrea

NFL Quarterback Rankings, Week 18: Is Dak Prescott elite?

Dak Prescott is 19-8 as a starting quarterback the past two seasons. His 6.2 percent touchdown rate is second-best to only Joe Burrow since 2021. He is, in the purview of advanced stats like expected points added and completion percentage over expected, one of the most efficient passers in the NFL.

He also leads the league with 14 interceptions despite missing five games this season. His 95.8 passer rating is his lowest in five years. His 7.1 adjusted yards per attempt is nearing a career worst.

This makes Prescott’s Schrodinger’s quarterback. He is simultaneously good and bad, the outcome depending on your observation of him. He’s capable of roasting the Minnesota Vikings to a crisp or losing his stroke and coughing up a 28-14 fourth quarter lead to the Green Bay Packers in consecutive weeks.

But while conventional numbers aren’t keen on a quarterback who’s been the victim of some bad luck and deflected interceptions, the advanced numbers love him. Following last week’s Thursday Night Football win over the Tennessee Titans — a game in which Prescott was responsible for more than two touchdowns of added value — he’s vaulted into the top three quarterbacks, a hair behind division rival Jalen Hurts for second place behind Patrick Mahomes.

That’s enough to spark debate for weeks to come. And fortunately for us, we’ve got data on 32 other starting quarterbacks to pore through in order to parse out this week’s rankings.

We know the data is limited — but it does give us a pretty good idea of who has risen to the occasion this fall. Let’s see which quarterbacks are great and who truly stinks through seven weeks. These numbers are from the NFL’s Next Gen Stats model but compiled by the extremely useful, run by The Athletic’s Ben Baldwin and Sebastian Carl.

Using expected points added (EPA, the value a quarterback adds on any given play compared to the average NFL result) along with completion percentage over expected (CPOE, the percent of his passes that are caught that aren’t expected to be in typical NFL situations) gives us a scatter plot of 33 quarterbacks (minimum 256 plays, or 16 per game) that looks like this:


The size of each dot represents the amount of plays they’ve been a part of. A place in the top right means you’re above average in both EPA and CPOE. A place in the bottom left suggests things have gone horribly wrong (i.e. Baker Mayfield).

There are a lot of players taking up the creamy middle ground and some strange outliers, making it tough to separate this year’s average quarterbacks into tiers. Here’s my crack at it, but full details follow in the text below.


Still the king (though an unlikely challenger lurks)

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs, 0.179 EPA+CPOE composite

Mahomes remains on an island of his own, but if you drop down the sample size considerably, well …


Sam Darnold! Who would have thought?

Other MVP candidates

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

2. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles, 0.155 EPA+CPOE composite

3. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys, 0.148

4. Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins, 0.148

5. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals, 0.139

6. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills, 0.137

Prescott is a litmus test unto himself. Would you want him over Burrow or Allen? Over Tagovailoa or Hurts? Ask 10 different people to rank him among NFL quarterbacks and you’d probably get 10 different rankings. Personally, I believe he’s better than his raw numbers suggest — but also not the top three player these advanced stats make him out to be.

Guys we all expected to be top 10 quarterbacks, right?

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7. Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers, 0.130 EPA+CPOE composite

8. Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks, 0.119

9. Jared Goff, Detroit Lions, 0.112

10. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars, 0.108

Smith has fallen out of the top five and brings a pressing issue to the Seahawks’ offseason. Is he worth a multi-year extension after fading down the stretch from his extremely efficient start? Or will Pete Carroll use the franchise tag on his starting quarterback and kick the decision to 2024?

The same goes for Garoppolo, who is a pending free agent. Goff, who looked like a cap casualty in the 2023 offseason, may be a reasonable expenditure with his scheduled $30 million salary next fall.

An eclectic mix of quarterbacks you don't quite trust (and also Tom Brady)

AP Photo/Peter Joneleit

11. Jacoby Brissett, Cleveland Browns, 0.105 EPA+CPOE composite

12. Daniel Jones, New York Giants, 0.101

13. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens, 0.084

14. Andy Dalton, New Orleans Saints, 0.082

15. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans, 0.081

16. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 0.079

17. Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers, 0.079

Brady sits behind two of his former backups on this list. But he’s the only one in line to make a playoff start this winter, thanks in large part to Week 17’s ridiculous 432-yard, three touchdown performance against the Panthers. Brissett remains more efficient than Deshaun Watson, who replaced him after an 11-game suspension following more than 20 accusations of sexual misconduct and what the NFL described as “predatory behavior.”

Watson had his best game of the season last week. His composite number is still only 0.010 — the same as Carson Wentz.

Borderline replaceable (except for the NFC North guys)

AP Photo/Justin Berl

18. Marcus Mariota, Atlanta Falcons, 0.072 EPA+CPOE composite

19. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings, 0.069

20. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, 0.068

21. Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders, 0.068

22. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers, 0.059

23. Taylor Heinicke, Washington Commanders, 0.054

Pickett hasn’t been prolific, but he’s protected the ball after an inauspicious start and the Steelers have reaped the benefits. Pittsburgh is 5-1 in the last six games the rookie has finished. While he’s only scored five touchdowns in that stretch (four passing, one rushing), he’s also only turned the ball over once. As a result, a once 2-6 team has honest-to-goodness postseason hopes.

Just wait 'til next year (or don't)

Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

24. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals, 0.054 EPA+CPOE composite

25. Justin Fields, Chicago Bears, 0.048

26. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams, 0.041

27. Matt Ryan, Indianapolis Colts, 0.037

28. Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos, 0.036

29. Mac Jones, New England Patriots, 0.036

Fields is done for the season, which means he won’t set the single-season quarterback rushing record and that he’s gonna remain behind Kyler Murray in the rankings. Which player’s return is each respective fanbase more excited about? Spend some time with Bears fans — and get their o-line, wide receiver 2023 NFL Draft wish lists — and you’ll be convinced it’s Fields.

Will not be starting in 2023, barring disaster

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

30. Carson Wentz, Washington Commanders, 0.010 EPA+CPOE composite

31. Davis Mills, Houston Texans, 0.005

32. Zach Wilson, New York Jets, -0.003

33. Baker Mayfield, Los Angeles Rams, -0.010

Wentz returned to the lineup and showcased the stability of a breadstick skyscraper. Mills and Wilson are headed toward medium-length careers as backup quarterbacks. Mayfield keeps alternating good and bad games as a Ram as though he’s speedrunning through his Browns career.

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