Ranking NFL quarterbacks by team: Patriots reign, but not just because of Tom Brady

Nate Davis

NFL rosters are essentially set until training camps open later this month. In the meantime, USA TODAY Sports has analyzed each team's depth chart and is ranking units throughout the league before providing an overall hierarchy of talent. 

There's no topping New England's QB depth with Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo.

Today's positional group: Quarterbacks

1. New England Patriots: Go ahead — ding Tom Brady for his unspectacular arm strength, subpar athleticism or say he's profited from unprecedented coaching continuity and brilliance. But does a tenable argument that he's not the best in the business right now — and forevermore — honestly remain? Don't kid yourself. And after he played meaningful snaps effectively in 2016, Jimmy Garoppolo's presence makes any notion that another team has a better QB situation virtually indefensible.

2. Green Bay Packers: When it comes to pure arm talent, atomic clock accuracy, the ability to leverage mobility in or out of the pocket and execute at crunch time, is anyone better than two-time MVP and Hail Mary maestro Aaron Rodgers? He probably needs more rings to cement himself on the quarterbacking Mount Rushmore, but it can be argued no more physically talented passer has played the position. Watch Brett Hundley in preseason — he might be the kind talent the Packers can spin off for a high draft pick down the road.


Ranking NFL receivers by team: Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall make Giants most dangerous

Ranking NFL offensive lines by team: Cowboys have new challenger

2017 NFL position group rankings for every team

3. Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan was dialed in from start to finish in 2016 — at least until the fourth quarter of that last game anyway. Still, the league MVP had one of the finest individual seasons of any quarterback in league history, taking a meteoric jump in his ninth year. The question now, was it an aberration, or can he keep it up?

4. Pittsburgh Steelers: Everything appears to be in place for Ben Roethlisberger to put together an MVP season ... assuming he doesn't miss four games with ... something. Landry Jones is the backup, but rookie Josh Dobbs could push him.

5. Seattle Seahawks: Statistically, 2016 was Russell Wilson's worst year, largely because he was fighting knee and ankle issues that limited his mobility behind a line that got him sacked 41 times. Still, for a guy who wasn't highly regarded entering the NFL five years ago, he's blossomed into one of its best passers. Wilson has a great arm, uses surreal escapability to sidestep rushers and extend plays rather than bail out of them, always keeps his eyes downfield and rarely makes a killer mistake.

6. Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr's steady, incremental improvement culminated last year with an MVP-caliber season highlighted by 28 TD passes against just six INTs. Now that he's averaging $25 million annually, that upward arc needs to continue.

7. New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees has thrown for 5,000 yards five times. The rest of the world has done it four times, and no one else has managed it twice. And even at 38, he shows little sign of slowing. Sure, the offense and playing indoors have helped him pile up huge numbers. But don't discredit Brees' body of work — it doesn't exist without his moxie, brilliance and precision, all despite a steady churn of players around him.

8. Indianapolis Colts: You've got to love Andrew Luck's ability to play through pain and willingness to only blame himself when things don't go well. He sure played awfully well in 2016 despite a lackluster supporting cast and his sub-optimal shoulder situation.

9. Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford's finest showing unexpectedly coincided with Calvin Johnson's retirement. Now he's added the ability to consistently come through for his team in the clutch, putting that rocket arm and all of those unbelievable off-platform throws to good use.

10. Los Angeles Chargers: Yes, it'd be nice if Philip Rivers would cut down on the picks. But how often have poor defense, an inability to run or shoddy blocking forced him into the unenviable position of trying to single-handedly snatch victory from the jaws of defeat? But the team seems improved, so maybe Rivers' window to win an elusive championship will be open a few years more.


Ranking NFL secondaries: Seahawks still set standard, surprise team cracks Top 5

Ranking NFL linebackers by team: Panthers, Broncos lead the way

Ranking NFL defensive linemen by team: Have J.J. Watt's Texans been overtaken?

Ranking NFL special teams: Punter Johnny Hekker, Rams don't get enough credit

11. Carolina Panthers: Maybe Cam Newton won't approach his magical 2015 MVP season again. But he's not remotely as ineffective as he was a year ago. A retooled offense could prolong his career if he adapts to more short passing plays and doesn't have to endure so many long-developing varieties or expose himself as much on read options.

12. Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota is cool, collected, athletic and efficient. Consider that he has 94 career passes in the red zone and has produced 33 TDs and zero INTs. 

13. Dallas Cowboys: Comparing Dak Prescott, who set rookie records for completion percentage (67.8%) and QB rating (104.9), to Russell Wilson seems fair on a number of levels given his talent, temperament and expectations he faces. But there's a major difference: Prescott doesn't have the backing of a suffocating defense. That means he'll probably need to exert even more influence over the offense if the Cowboys are really going to challenge for a crown.

14. New York Giants: If not for his family lineage and those two titles, Eli Manning would probably reside in the Joe Flacco bucket — good, not great. 

15. Washington Redskins: It makes no sense why the Redskins have almost certainly forced themselves into imminently replacing Kirk Cousins, who's on the cusp of entering his prime after two stellar seasons as a starter.

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston must curtail the mistakes (33 INTs in two seasons). But the tools, passion and fearlessness should have Bucs fans very excited about the (immediate) future.

17. Kansas City Chiefs: They don't come more even-keeled than Alex Smith. But as admirable and efficient as he is, he's 2-4 in the playoffs. He may only have this job for as long as it takes freakish first rounder Patrick Mahomes to grasp his NFL playbook.

18. Arizona Cardinals: After a career year in 2015, Carson Palmer regressed to the mean. He'll turn 38 this year, and his best hope is probably that RB David Johnson becomes the offensive engine with the passing game taking a back seat.

WATCH: Five players who need to step up

19. Miami Dolphins: Before injuring his knee late last season, Ryan Tannehill was on the way to his best year — which is what typically happens for passers coached by Adam Gase. Matt Moore is one of the league's top backups.

20. Philadelphia Eagles: The franchise remains smitten with Carson Wentz, whose mostly encouraging rookie season probably deserves more acclaim given the issues on the offensive line and lack of play makers he had at his disposal.

21. Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco will never be elite. But he's tough, can't be rattled and is undeniably capable of taking a team all the way. 

22. Cincinnati Bengals: Pick Andy Dalton apart if you want. Far better chance the offensive line or defense submarines this team than the usually reliable "Red Rifle." Don't be surprised if someone pays a significant amount to make AJ McCarron their starter in 2018.

23. Minnesota Vikings: Sam Bradford was under siege last year, so he can be forgiven for dinking and dunking his way to a record 71.6% completion rate. He deserves more credit than he gets. If Teddy Bridgewater can get back onto the field, the Vikes will have a valuable commodity to shop.

24. Buffalo Bills: Tyrod Taylor throws a nice deep ball, doesn't turn it over and is excellent outside the pocket. Still, the Bills want to see a little more before committing fully and have two fairly intriguing prospects (Nathan Peterman, Cardale Jones) in the bullpen.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles seemed to take two steps back after tossing 35 TDs in 2015. He's worked on his throwing motion, while the Jags have surrounded him with better linemen plus first-round RB Leonard Fournette. Bortles almost certainly won't be a Jag in 2018 if he flops again.

26. Denver Broncos: Each making the first starts of their pro careers in 2016, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch both predictably flashed good and bad. The job remains up for grabs, and it sounds as if the new offense might better suit Lynch.

WATCH: Five fiercest training camp battles

27. Chicago Bears: Whether they go with Mike Glennon or fan-not-so-favorite rookie Mitchell Trubisky, there's a reasonable chance for decent results if the pass protection doesn't get those guys killed like it did Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer and Connor Shaw in 2016.

28. Houston Texans: They're standing firm behind nominal starter Tom Savage. But when you trade up to get a guy in the first round — especially one as promising as Deshaun Watson — it's only a matter of time before Savage goes back to the bench.

29. Los Angeles Rams: Several metrics would suggest Jared Goff was the league's worst quarterback in 2016 — not what the Rams were hoping for after paying a king's ransom to draft him No. 1 overall. But let's let Sean McVay, part of Kirk Cousins' development in Washington, get his hands on Goff, 22, before we bury the kid. But if he falters, Sean Mannion might step in and surprise.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Yes, Brian Hoyer has his limitations. And, yes, he's almost certainly no more than a placeholder. But over the last two seasons, Hoyer has 25 TDs vs. seven INTs. In 2014, he was 7-6 in Cleveland. Props. He'll have a job in this league for another dozen years. Matt Barkley also showed he can do more than hold a clipboard last year.

31. Cleveland Browns: Cody Kessler showed as a rookie he might be more than backup material. Maybe. Brock Osweiler is trying to prove he can revive his career. Maybe. DeShone Kizer could display he was worthy of being a first-round pick after all. Maybe. And — maybe — the Browns will be picking yet another passer in next year's first round.

32. New York Jets: USC's Sam Darnold isn't officially a Jet ... yet. But the most likely ways for the Trojans star to steer clear of this seeming inevitability are 1) Pull a Peyton Manning, whose return to school prevented him from joining the NYJ in 1997 or 2) Hope Christian Hackenberg fools everyone and performs far better than expected once he makes his belated pro debut.

Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

PHOTOS: NFL players with great names