Baker Mayfield, Dwayne Haskins, Dak Prescott and quarterbacks who can’t win alone: Young NFL QB Rankings, Week 4

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Three quarterbacks — Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson — on the following list have combined to throw 24 touchdowns and one interception this season. The other 13 on this list have combined to throw 54 touchdowns and 40 interceptions.

That’s a 24-1 TD/INT ratio vs. a 1.35-1 TD/INT ratio.

Not every young quarterback is Patrick Mahomes.

In evaluating the performance of Browns third-year quarterback Baker Mayfield, which is the entire point of this weekly ranking of every NFL starting QB who came into the league between 2016 and 2020, the idea that he’s no Mahomes is a point I’ll always return to. I think some might view that as a form of criticism, or a way to question his future of the Browns. I intend it as a reality check.

NFL teams can’t only wait for their own Mahomes, and NFL teams don’t need a quarterback as special as Mahomes to win. Of course, you’d take it. You’d wish for it. But you can’t count on it and then view everything short of it as failure.

These back-to-back games for the Browns and Mayfield are indications of that, in the minute-by-minute QB evaluation that is the NFL. Last week, by just staying out of his own way, Mayfield outplayed a young quarterback, Washington’s Dwayne Haskins, who I have 16th of 16 on this list. Haskins threw three interceptions, Mayfield threw none for the first time in eight games, and the Browns won by 14.

Now, the Browns face Dallas on Sunday and a quarterback in Dak Prescott (ranked No. 3 on this list) who can do things on his own. A week ago, behind a ragged offensive line, Prescott threw for 472 yards while losing a QB shootout to Seattle’s Russell Wilson. The week before, Prescott threw for 450 yards while rallying Dallas to a 30-point second half in a stunning one-point comeback win over Atlanta.

What was enough for Mayfield to beat Haskins last week probably won’t be enough to beat Prescott this week. I’m urging you ahead of time to not drastically change your opinion of Mayfield based off this game and based off, in particular, a comparison with one of five young QBs on this list that I think can win almost by themselves right now.

That list, in my opinion, is Mahomes, Prescott, Jackson, Allen and Deshaun Watson. You can add veteran QBs like Wilson, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady to that win-alone list, but the point here isn’t veteran quarterbacks. Because Mayfield isn’t one. By the time he is, he may be one of those guys who can carry a team.

But for right now, in Year 3? My point is that far more young quarterbacks — 11 of these 16 starters — need help to win. They need help from a run game, a strong defense or a smart, disciplined coach — or maybe all of them.

That was the formula for Mayfield last week — Haskins made mistakes, the Browns took advantage, Myles Garrett showed up in a big way and the rushing attack finished off the win.

“Taking care of the ball, the percentages show a way better chance to win the game,” Mayfield said.

So last Sunday, he fit that plan to win.

“Especially with the way our defense is playing, we have a great punter, so protecting that ball, taking checkdowns, playing the field position game and just trusting this team and this offense is going to chip away eventually,” Mayfield said.

That was a way to win that game in this year. It may not be a way to win this Sunday, or in future seasons. But I’m on a major kick about the existence of mediocre quarterbacks across the NFL, and how beating them is the first step to everything. A lot of them are on this list of young quarterbacks, with Mayfield again hanging around the middle of the pack.

Needing help to win is normal for a quarterback. Of course, once the experience and comfort in a system are there, the evaluation of a quarterback changes. But it shouldn’t change week to week based only on the quarterback on the other side of the field.

Prescott is high on this list. The 16 evaluations this week come with a quick analysis of how much help each quarterback is or isn’t getting from his franchise and teammates.

Week 3 Young QB rankings

Week 2 Young QB rankings

Week 1 Young QB rankings


Patrick Mahomes (left) and the Chiefs beat Lamar Jackson (right) and the Ravens on Monday.Getty Images

No. 1 Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City

Last week’s ranking: 1

Last week’s performance: 31-of-42 for 385 yards and four touchdowns, plus 26 rushing yards and one touchdown, in a 34-20 win over Baltimore. No. 1 PFF grade among this group of QBs this season.

Career record as a starter: 27-7.

Does he win alone or with help? The Chiefs found skill position talent — tight end Travis Kelce, receiver Tyreek Hill, other speedy outside options – to complement Mahomes. He’s also played for one head coach in Andy Reid and had the same play caller, the respected and creative Eric Bieniemy, since he became the starter. He’s surrounded by talent and continuity, but the belief that Mahomes could win with anyone and anything anywhere also fuels the view of a lot of these other quarterbacks. Mahomes’ arm, poise and confidence are unmatched, and he probably could make almost any team a playoff team. But the Chiefs have also been smart in setting him up to maximize his extreme skills.

This week: Originally scheduled vs. New England, but has been postponed.

No. 2 Lamar Jackson, Baltimore

Last week’s ranking: 2

Last week’s performance: 15-of-28 for 97 yards and one touchdowns, plus 83 rushing yards, in a 34-20 loss to Kansas City. No. 4 PFF grade among this group of QBs this season.

Career record as a starter: 21-4.

Does he win alone or with help? A game like last week’s loss to the Chiefs can lend credence to the idea that Jackson benefits from a great system in Baltimore. In 27 career starts (counting two in the playoffs) he’s 0-5 against the Chiefs, 21-1 against everyone else. (That one loss is, of course, to the Browns last season). Everyone loses more often to better teams, and there’s no shame in having trouble against the Chiefs and in the postseason.

So Baltimore does win because of Jackson — the MVP’s talent is rare. Any coach with a pulse would find ways to utilize his running, and he can rip throws. But Jackson has been with head coach John Harbaugh his whole career, and Harbaugh had new offensive coordinator Greg Roman designed the perfect offense for Jackson in 2019 — and Jackson capitalized. His skill position players aren’t spectacular, but his setup to win, thanks to that coaching staff, is.

This week: at Washington, 1, Sunday.

Dak Prescott has thrown for 450 and 472 yards in his last two games, but the Cowboys are 1-2 on the season.Getty Images

No. 3 Dak Prescott, Dallas

Last week’s ranking: 3

Last week’s performance: 37-of-57 for 472 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, plus 26 rushing yards, in a 38-31 loss to Seattle. No. 3 PFF grade among this group of QBs this season.

Career record as a starter: 41-26.

Does he win alone or with help? Prescott arrived in 2016 with fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott and one of the league’s best offensive lines. The Cowboys went 13-3 and Prescott threw just four interceptions. Now in Year 5, the offensive line is banged up and in flux. But Prescott has a multitude of playmakers at receiver, and even at 1-2, he’s proving he can move the ball without a great line.

He went toe-to-toe with Russell Wilson last week. But according to PFF, Prescott’s passer rating under pressure this season is 29th in the NFL and 11th among the 16 QBs on this list. Playing for Jason Garrett and now Mike McCarthy, Prescott never had a winning coach like Reid or Harbaugh. He can do a lot on his own — but he’s also benefited in his career from a line he can rely upon.

This week: vs Browns, 1, Sunday.

Deshaun Watson has to do a lot on his own, like stiff-arming T.J. Watt.Getty Images

No. 4 Deshaun Watson, Houston

Last week’s ranking: 5

Last week’s performance: 19-of-27 for 264 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, plus five rushing yards, in a 28-21 loss to Pittsburgh. No. 8 PFF grade among this group of QBs this season.

Career record as a starter: 24-16.

Does he win alone or with help? The Texans traded his No. 1 target, DeAndre Hopkins, in the offseason. His head coach, Bill O’Brien, is also the GM, which isn’t ideal. Houston is off to an 0-3 start, but Watson led the Texans to the playoffs in his first two years as a full-time starter and it’s hard to imagine where the franchise would be without him. Drafted two spots behind Mahomes in 2017, his situation isn’t nearly as helpful.

This week: vs. Minnesota, 1, Sunday.

No. 5 Josh Allen, Buffalo

Last week’s ranking: 6

Last week’s performance: 24-of-33 for 311 yards, four touchdowns and one interception, plus eight rushing yards and one touchdown, in a 35-32 win over the L.A. Rams. No. 5 PFF grade among this group of QBs this season.

Career record as a starter: 18-12.

Does he win alone or with help? The Bills built a defense that ranked in the top 10 in DVOA last year and helped the franchise make the playoffs with Allen as a second-year starter. Now he’s making more plays on his own, aided by the addition of No. 1 receiver Stefon Diggs. Allen’s QB rating under pressure this season is No. 2, trailing only Russell Wilson. His adjusted completion percentage is fourth among the 16 quarterbacks on this list. While he’s been working with head coach Sean McDermott and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll his entire career, his physical talent is also manifesting itself this season to create a guy who is winning in an established system, but who can also do it on his own.

This week: at Las Vegas, 4:25, Sunday.

No. 6 Kyler Murray, Arizona

Last week’s ranking: 4

Last week’s performance: 23-of-35 for 270 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions, plus 29 rushing yards, in a 26-23 loss to Detroit. No. 9 PFF grade among this group of QBs this season.

Career record as a starter: 7-11-1.

Does he win alone or with help? A rough performance — three picks — in a loss last week was a reminder to pump the breaks a bit on the second-year pro. He has by far the worst QB rating in the league when under pressure this year, but his running continues to be a huge weapon. You like your chances with Murray, but just 19 starts into his career, he’s not as consistent as several other players on this list. Kliff Kingsbury might be the right coach for him, but they’re still figuring this out together.

This week: at Carolina, 1, Sunday.

Jared Goff and the Rams lost to the Bills last week.Getty Images

No. 7 Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

Last week’s ranking: 7

Last week’s performance: 23-of-32 for 321 yards, two touchdowns and one interceptions, in a 35-32 loss to Buffalo. No. 2 PFF grade among this group of QBs this season.

Career record as a starter: 35-22.

Does he win alone or with help? Goff is succeeding the Sean McVay way. His adjusted completion percentage is second in the league, behind Russell Wilson, and he leads the NFL in yards per attempt. His completion percentage is up seven points over a year ago, and in Year 5 in the league, Goff is showing what a solid quarterback can grow into when he’s given time and has a structure around him. But throw this former No. 1 pick on a lousy team with a lousy coach and he’d likely look very different.

This week: vs. N.Y. Giants, 4:05, Sunday.

No. 8 Joe Burrow, Cincinnati

Last week’s ranking: 8

Last week’s performance: 31-of-44 for 312 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-23 tie vs. Philadelphia. No. 7 PFF grade among this group of QBs this season.

Career record as a starter: 0-2-1.

Does he win alone or with help? There are genuine fears for Burrow’s health behind an overmatched offensive line. Top receiver A.J. Green appears to be in decline — and yet the Bengals managed to tie Philadelphia last week. Burrow’s adjusted completion percentage is 12th among these 16 quarterbacks, but he’s doing it all by himself as a rookie. Give him a line and more experience, and he’ll shoot up this list in the coming years.

This week: vs. Jacksonville, 1, Sunday.

No. 9 Baker Mayfield, Browns

Last week’s ranking: 9

Last week’s performance: 16-of-23 for 156 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-20 win over Washington. No. 13 PFF grade among this group of QBs this season.

Career record as a starter: 14-18.

Does he win alone or with help? If Mayfield had Reid, Harbaugh or McVay as his head coach for his entire career, he might be in a very different spot. The fact that he’s on his fourth head coach in three seasons is a reason for patience, because maybe Kevin Stefanski will be his Reid. For now, Mayfield has the skill around him, but he hasn’t had the structure. The result is that we sometimes expect more — look at OBJ, Chubb, Hunt, Hooper and Jarvis! — when he’s actually still figuring it out. But he’ll probably never be a guy like Mahomes who can win almost by himself.

This week: at Dallas, 1, Sunday.

Justin Herbert hasn’t won a start yet as a rookie with the Chargers.Getty Images

No. 10 Justin Herbert, L.A. Chargers

Last week’s ranking: 12

Last week’s performance: 35-of-49 for 330 yards, one touchdown and one interception, plus 15 rushing yards, in a 21-16 loss to Carolina. No. 11 PFF grade among this group of QBs this season.

Career record as a starter: 0-2.

Does he win alone or with help? Big arm, big body and a big-time defense — that’s Herbert’s plan to win as he grows into this. The Chargers almost beat Mahomes and the Chiefs in Week 2 because of that defense, and because Herbert threw for 311 yards in his first start. If this works, it could look like what’s happening in Buffalo.

This week: at Tampa Bay, 1, Sunday.

No. 11 Sam Darnold, New York Jets

Last week’s ranking: 16

Last week’s performance: 17-of-29 for 168 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, plus 20 rushing yards, in a 36-7 loss to Indianapolis. No. 14 PFF grade among this group of QBs this season.

Career record as a starter: 11-19.

Does he win alone or with help? I moved Darnold way up the list this week, jumping him five spots, after realizing he truly has nothing to work with. No weapons, no coach, no stability. He’s all over the place, but his raw talent is the only thing the Jets have going for them, which means they may move on from Darnold and start over at QB. But he’s not a lost cause.

This week: lost to Denver, 37-28, Thursday.

No. 12 Carson Wentz, Philadelphia

Last week’s ranking: 13

Last week’s performance: 29-of-47 for 225 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, plus 65 rushing yards and a touchdown, in a 23-23 tie with Cincinnati. No. 15 PFF grade among this group of QBs this season.

Career record as a starter: 32-26-1.

Does he win alone or with help? Wentz stepped into the Doug Pederson era in Philadelphia, where the Eagles hired a new coach, drafted a young quarterback, built a smart roster and won the Super Bowl in Wentz’s second season. Now he’s regressed, and maybe he was more a product of his structure than anyone realized. It’s only three games into the season, but his future in Philly feels unstable.

This week: at San Francisco, 8:20, Sunday.

No. 13 Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville

Last week’s ranking: 14

Last week’s performance: 30-of-42 for 275 yards, no touchdowns and an interception, plus 22 rushing yards, in a 31-13 loss to Miami. No. 12 PFF grade among this group of QBs this season.

Career record as a starter: 7-8.

Does he win alone or with help? The Jaguars are trying to lose and Minshew, at times, won’t let them. A win in Week 1 and a near-win in Week 2 felt like miracles. Minshew isn’t likely the answer in Jacksonville, but he might be setting himself up for a long NFL career as a borderline starter/ideal backup in the mold of Case Keenum.

This week: at Cincinnati, 1, Sunday.

No. 14 Daniel Jones, New York Giants

Last week’s ranking: 11

Last week’s performance: 17-of-32 for 179 yards with no touchdowns and one interception, plus 49 rushing yards, in a 36-9 loss to San Francisco. No. 6 PFF grade among this group of QBs this season.

Career record as a starter: 3-11.

Does he win alone or with help? The Jets are a mess, and the debate in New York is whether the Giants or Jets are in worse shape. Not good for the Giants. Jones is a year behind Darnold, so he has more leeway. But he also has 29 turnovers in 15 NFL starts, so some weeks he’s the one taking away the chance to win. There’s no faster route to the bench for a young QB than turnovers. He’s also on his second coaching staff, after getting Pat Shurmur in Year 1 and Joe Judge now. That hasn’t helped him.

This week: at L.A. Rams, 4:05, Sunday.

Mitch Trubisky was benched by the Bears last week.Getty Images

No. 15 Mitch Trubisky, Chicago

Last week’s ranking: 10

Last week’s performance: 12-of-22 for 128 yards, a touchdown and an interception, plus 45 rushing yards, in a 30-26 win over Atlanta. Trubisky was benched for Nick Foles and watched the Bears’ comeback win from the sideline. No. 10 PFF grade among this group of QBs this season.

Career record as a starter: 26-18.

Does he win alone or with help? The Trubisky era in Chicago is likely over, and he’ll fall off this list. He was benched for Foles last week, and the job change was permanent. Trubisky was given a great defense to work with, but that defense also raised expectations. Trubisky was 11-3 as a starter in Year 2 and 8-7 last year. Then Foles was brought in for offseason competition, which Trubisky held off for a few weeks. He’s had Matt Nagy as his coach since Year 2, and Nagy finally had enough.

Trubisky is a great athlete at the position, but inconsistency and turnovers did him in. He had the fifth-highest interception rate in the league this year. The 3-0 Bears have pieces in place to win now — and that’s why they made this change.

This week: Benched, vs. Indianapolis, 1, Sunday.

No. 16 Dwayne Haskins, Washington

Last week’s ranking: 15

Last week’s performance: 21-of-37 for 224 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in a 34-20 loss to the Browns. No. 16 PFF grade among this group of QBs this season.

Career record as a starter: 3-7.

Does he win alone or with help? The Washington defense is young and scary, but that might be trouble for Haskins. The defense will set Washington up to win some games, which means Haskins can’t ruin those chances. His three picks against the Browns last week were a bad sign, and his leash might be shorter with a head coach in Ron Rivera who didn’t draft him.

This week: vs. Baltimore, 1, Sunday.

ON DECK AND READY TO BE ADDED TO THE LIST AT SOME POINT: Tua Tagovailoa in Miami; Drew Lock in Denver.

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