NFL quarterback rankings: Herbert has arrived

by Matt Verderame

After five weeks of the 2021 NFL season, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is making his case as a top-tier star.

Our 2021 FanSided NFL quarterback rankings go live each Tuesday morning throughout the regular season, and we use a sliding scale incorporating current and past performances, with the former meaning more as the year goes on.

32
Zach Wilson
QB New York Jets

2021 stats: 1,117 yards | 57.3 comp % | 4 TD | 9 INT | 6.5 YPA | 23.8 QBR

LW: 31

Wilson is surrounded by nonsense in New York, but his decision-making is brutal. He needs to make the easy plays and go from there.

31
Davis Mills
QB Houston Texans

2021 stats: 669 yards | 61.5 comp % | 5 TD | 5 INT | 7.0 YPA | 37.1 QBR

LW: 32

Mills actually played really well against Bill Belichick, so perhaps there’s something to work with. Still, his skill set suggests he’s limited.

30
Trey Lance
QB San Francisco 49ers

2021 stats: 354 yards | 52.1 comp % | 3 TD | 1 INT | 7.4 YPA | 39.8 QBR

LW: 30

The Niners should be excited about Lance’s future, but his present is raw. Expect splash plays and mistakes alike.

29
Justin Fields
QB Chicago Bears

2021 stats: 658 yards | 51.4 comp % | 1 TD | 2 INT | 6.4 YPA | 17.6 QBR

LW: 29

It’s hard to grade Fields because the Bears rarely let him throw the ball, but perhaps there’s a reason for that?

28
Geno Smith
QB Seattle Seahawks

2021 stats: 131 yards | 58.8 comp % | 1 TD | 1 INT | 7.7 YPA | 52.7 QBR

LW: NA

Smith is going to get a few starts over the next 4-8 weeks while Russell Wilson recovers from a finger injury. Can he keep the Seahawks afloat?

27
Trevor Lawrence
QB Jacksonville Jaguars

2021 stats: 1,146 yards | 59.4 comp % | 6 TD | 8 INT | 6.5 YPA | 34.7 QBR

LW: 28

Lawrence was decent against the Titans, throwing for 273 yards. But there was another pick, some bad pocket presence and a bit too much garbage-time padding.

26
Jacoby Brissett
QB Miami Dolphins

2021 stats: 858 yards | 65.2 comp % | 4 TD | 2 INT | 5.4 YPA | 53.5 QBR

LW: 26

Watching the Dolphins is an exercise in boring, bad football. Brissett was better on Sunday, throwing for 275 yards, but only notched 17 points against a bad Buccaneers defense.

25
Taylor Heinicke
QB Washington Football Team

2021 stats: 1,208 yards | 64.2 comp % | 8 TD | 5 INT | 7.6 YPA | 50.3 QBR

LW: 23

Too many mistakes. Heinicke makes some great throws, but he follows up. with a mind-numbing interception. He’s not talented enough to get away with the rollercoaster style.

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24
Jared Goff
QB Detroit Lions

2021 stats: 1,303 yards | 66.8 comp % | 7 TD | 3 INT | 6.6 YPA | 37.2 QBR

LW: 22

Goff doesn’t have much talent around him, but he’s certainly not elevating anybody with his play. The Rams aren’t missing him.

23
Ben Roethlisberger
QB Pittsburgh Steelers

2021 stats: 1,286 yards | 63.6 comp % | 6 TD | 4 INT | 6.6 YPA | 41.4 QBR

LW: 27

Roethlisberger moves up a few spots, and we saw some nice things from him this week with a shot-play touchdown early and then a seam throw for a score. It was refreshing.

22
Carson Wentz
QB Indianapolis Colts

2021 stats: 1,322 yards | 65.3 comp % | 7 TD | 1 INT | 7.6 YPA | 52.4 QBR

LW: 25

Wentz played phenomenal football on Monday night, but was victimized by a lousy defense and poor special teams. With Indianapolis starting a much easier schedule this week, perhaps Wentz and the Colts take off.

21
Jalen Hurts
QB Philadelphia Eagles

2021 stats: 1,365 yards | 64.8 comp % | 7 TD | 3 INT | 7.5 YPA | 36.9 QBR

LW: 21

After a rough start against the Panthers, Hurts settled in and led a comeback to get Philadelphia to 3-2. The dual-threat threw for 198 yards and ran for 30 more.

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20
Matt Ryan
QB Atlanta Falcons

2021 stats: 1,332 yards | 69.1 comp % | 10 TD | 3 INT | 6.5 YPA | 53.4 QBR

LW: 24

Ryan played well in London, and could have enjoyed a massive day against the Jets if not for a pair of fumbles from his weapons. Still, he’s been better the last two weeks.

19
Mac Jones
QB New England Patriots

2021 stats: 1,243 yards | 71.1 comp % | 5 TD | 5 INT | 6.5 YPA | 50.7 QBR

LW: 20

Jones was rough — along with the Patriots — in the early going before settling down. So far, the Alabama product is a study in safe, easy throws.

18
Daniel Jones
QB New York Giants

2021 stats: 1,282 yards | 64.3 comp % | 4 TD | 1 INT | 8.2 YPA | 61.0 QBR

LW: 19

No real movement from Jones, who left in the second quarter with a concussion. Hopefully he’s alright in short order.

17
Sam Darnold
QB Carolina Panthers

2021 stats: 1,366 yards | 65.6 comp % | 6 TD | 6 INT | 7.5 YPA | 51.4 QBR

LW: 16

It feels like the backslide might be here for Darnold. He’s thrown five interceptions over the past two games, and the Panthers have lost them both. His numbers are suddenly pedestrian.

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16
Teddy Bridgewater
QB Denver Broncos

2021 stats: 1,180 yards | 69.8 comp % | 7 TD | 1 INT | 7.9 YPA | 58.5 QBR

LW: 17

Bridgewater played well in the fourth quarter but struggled otherwise against a good Pittsburgh defense. The Broncos need more from him if they’re going to challenge for the playoffs.

15
Jameis Winston
QB New Orleans Saints

2021 stats: 892 yards | 60.3 comp % | 12 TD | 3 INT | 7.7 YPA | 61.7 QBR

LW: 18

Winston is throwing for minimal yardage, not managing 200 yards per game. He’s also living right with a Hail Mary, but the Saints are 3-2 heading into their bye.

14
Baker Mayfield
QB Cleveland Browns

2021 stats: 1,240 yards | 66.9 comp % | 4 TD | 2 INT | 8.6 YPA | 42.8 QBR

LW: 15

Mayfield and the Browns scored 42 points, aided by a ton of blown coverages from Los Angeles. The problem? In two critical, late-game drives, Mayfield fell apart. That’s the memory. Not fair, but reality.

13
Joe Burrow
QB Cincinnati Bengals

2021 stats: 1,269 yards | 71.7 comp % | 11 TD | 6 INT | 8.8 YPA | 54.9 QBR

LW: 14

Burrow threw a hideous interception in overtime against the Packers, but he was solid. His connection with former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase is paying huge dividends.

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12
Ryan Tannehill
QB Tennessee Titans

2021 stats: 1,251 yards | 63.6 comp % | 6 TD | 3 INT | 7.2 YPA | 54.7 QBR

LW: 13

Tannehill wasn’t asked to do much against the Jaguars, throwing 22 times for 197 yards. He’ll need to do much more against the Bills on Monday night.

11
Kirk Cousins
QB Minnesota Vikings

2021 stats: 1,396 yards | 69.6 comp % | 10 TD | 2 INT | 7.3 YPA | 54.0 QBR

LW: 12

Cousins is playing well, but nobody is noticing because the Vikings are a mess. He’s been part of the solution, not the problem.

10
Derek Carr
QB Las Vegas Raiders

2021 stats: 1,605 yards | 63.9 comp % | 8 TD | 4 INT | 7.8 YPA | 54.9 QBR

LW: 10

Carr stays put this week. He wasn’t helped by a bevy of Raiders’ drops last weekend,  but he’s started to miss throws he must hit. Let’s see him bounce back against Denver.

9
Aaron Rodgers
QB Green Bay Packers

2021 stats: 1,241 yards | 65.6 comp % | 10 TD | 3 INT | 7.6 YPA | 61.3 QBR

LW: 7

Rodgers moves back two spots, but really because Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen demanded elevation with their recent play. The big issue here is the lack of passing yardage, because otherwise Rodgers has been terrific.

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8
Josh Allen
QB Buffalo Bills

2021 stats: 1,370 yards | 62.3 comp % | 12 TD | 2 INT | 7.5 YPA | 65.1 QBR

LW: 8

Allen vanquished the Chiefs on Sunday night with an avalanche of great throws for long touchdowns. He’s back to playing like his 2020 self, and in doing so has elevated the Bills to favorites in the AFC. If not for Herbert and Jackson having career days, he would have moved up significantly.

7
Dak Prescott
QB Dallas Cowboys

2021 stats: 1,368 yards | 73.9 comp % | 13 TD | 3 INT | 8.3 YPA | 56.4 QBR

LW: 5

Prescott only moves back two spots because Herbert and Jackson have been insane. The Cowboys’ signal-caller is doing everything right, accurately throwing to all three levels of the defense while winning with his legs when need be. A clinic on quarterback play.

6
Lamar Jackson
QB Baltimore Ravens

2021 stats: 1,512 yards | 67.0 comp % | 8 TD | 3 INT | 9.0 YPA | 60.4 QBR

LW: 9

How can Jackson not move up. after the best showing of his career? The Ravens had no chance without Jackson, who threw for 442 yards and four touchdowns. Who would have thought he’d have more passing yards than Patrick Mahomes through five weeks?

5
Justin Herbert
QB Los Angeles Chargers

2021 stats: 1,576 yards | 67.2 comp % | 13 TD | 3 INT | 7.6 YPA | 66.0 QBR

LW: 11

Herbert gets the big jump this week. The Chargers’ star threw for 398 yards and four touchdowns in a shootout win over the Browns. After shining as a rookie, Herbert has taken the step from potentially great to full-on arrival.

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4
Patrick Mahomes
QB Kansas City Chiefs

2021 stats: 1,490 yards | 69.2 comp % | 16 TD | 6 INT | 7.6 YPA | 75.1 QBR

LW: 1

Mahomes had arguably the worst game of his career on Sunday night, but he remains in the top four. Why? He’s leading the league in QBR and touchdown passes, and two of the interceptions have been completely on receivers. Most weeks, he remains the game’s best.

3
Matthew Stafford
QB Los Angeles Rams

2021 stats: 1,587 yards | 68.0 comp % | 12 TD | 3 INT | 9.2 YPA | 75.0 QBR

LW: 6

Stafford isn’t getting the love he deserves. The Rams are 4-1 and Stafford is averaging more than nine yards per attempt while taking care of the ball and completing almost 70 percent of his attempts.

2
Kyler Murray
QB Arizona Cardinals

2021 stats: 1,512 yards | 75.2 comp % | 10 TD | 4 INT | 9.2 YPA | 68.3 QBR

LW: 4

If the season ended today, Murray would be the MVP frontrunner. The Cardinals are the league’s lone unbeaten at 5-0 and the former No. 1 overall pick has shredded defenses through the air and on the ground.

1
Tom Brady
QB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2021 stats: 1,767 yards | 66.2 comp % | 15 TD | 2 INT | 7.9 YPA | 61.4 QBR

LW: 2

How the hell is Brady doing this? He’s 44 years old and looks better than he did a decade ago. He’s the greatest player in NFL history.

Matt Verderame NFL Editor

Matt Verderame, 33, is a national NFL writer and reporter. He appreciates a good run between the tackles. Rudy is the only movie that makes him cry.