NFL's best quarterbacks heading into 2021 season? Analysts reveal gold, silver, bronze picks

In honor of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, we’re highlighting the best of the best across the NFL. Heading into the 2021 season, who are the premium players in five marquee areas: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, pass rusher and cornerback? Twenty-five analysts individually ranked their top three in each category, and then we tallied all of the votes via this simple formula:

Each first-place vote: 3 points
Each second-place vote: 2 points
Each third-place vote: 1 point

Below, you’ll find the quarterback podium — highlighting the gold, silver and bronze medalists from our accumulated ballots — as well as additional intel on the position. Check back all week as this series continues.

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Total points: 63 (1st: 16; 2nd: 7; 3rd: 1)

Jeffri Chadiha: Mahomes already has won everything imaginable. He’s got a Super Bowl victory, a Super Bowl MVP, a regular-season MVP and three Pro Bowl nods. He’s also revolutionized the position. Whether he’s utilizing that cannon right arm or dashing around the field to extend plays, Mahomes mesmerizes every time he takes the field. Now for the really unfair part: The dude doesn’t turn 26 until September. In other words, he’s only going to get better.

Total points: 45 (1st: 4; 2nd: 15; 3rd: 3)

Gil Brandt: I thought long and hard about Rodgers and Mahomes, who I see as almost interchangeable, and while I ultimately put Rodgers over Mahomes on my ballot (with both slotting behind a certain immortal in Tampa), I absolutely understand giving Mahomes the edge as the (barely) more complete quarterback. That said, Rodgers was as good as he’s ever been in his MVP campaign of 2020. I’ve known Rodgers since 2004, when he was dazzling at Cal. I had an up-close view of his dramatic draft freefall; I told John Dorsey, who was working with the Packers at the time, to be ready for Rodgers to drop, and, over dinner at Carmine’s, I told Rodgers I’d be happy to send him home if he didn’t want to sit in the green room waiting. He declined — and became one of the best in the NFL. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he’s still putting up numbers at age 45, wherever he’s playing.

Total points: 30 (1st: 4; 2nd: 3; 3rd: 12)

David Carr: Turning 44 years old in August, Brady has more physical limitations than most of the league’s starting quarterbacks. How does he overcome this in such spectacular fashion? His knowledge, discipline, pursuit of perfection and transcendence on the biggest stages are second to none. These traits just allowed Brady to finish third in passing yards (4,633) and tied for second in passing touchdowns (40). In his 21st NFL season. With a torn MCL. Oh, and he also snagged a seventh ring. With Brady surrounded by the same supporting cast in 2021, expect the ageless wonder to be just as brilliant.

Also receiving votes: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (4 total points); Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills (3); Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders (3); Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans (2).


  • Seven passers received at least one vote this year — the same number as in the 2016 edition of this exercise.
  • Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson are the only QBs who made it onto a ballot this year and when we gave out medals in 2016. Brady and Rodgers snagged the gold and silver medals, respectively, five years ago, while Wilson was the highest vote-getter to miss the podium. The other four quarterbacks who also received votes back in ’16: Cam Newton (bronze medal), Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning.
  • The average QB age on each voter’s ballot this year: 33.8 years old.
  • Fifteen of the 25 voters had some combination of Mahomes, Rodgers and Brady on the ballot.



  • Passing yards: 5,477, Peyton Manning (2013)
  • Touchdown passes: 55, Peyton Manning (2013)
  • Completion percentage: 74.4, Drew Brees (2018)


  • Passing yards: 80,358, Drew Brees
  • Touchdown passes: 581, Tom Brady
  • Completion percentage: 67.8, Deshaun Watson


  • The 2020 season featured 871 passing touchdowns (most in NFL history).
  • The 2020 season also set quarterback records for league-wide completion percentage (65.3), passer rating (93.5), rushing yards (9,436) and rushing touchdowns (126).
  • Ten QBs had 100-plus passer ratings in 2020 (most in NFL history).
  • For the second time in NFL history (2011 being the first), three QBs threw 40-plus touchdown passes in 2020: Aaron Rodgers (48), Tom Brady (40) and Russell Wilson (40).
  • Four QBs age 25 or younger threw 30-plus passing touchdowns in 2020 (most in NFL history): Patrick Mahomes (25), Josh Allen (24), Deshaun Watson (25) and Justin Herbert (22).
  • Top speed reached by a quarterback since 2018 (Next Gen Stats): 21.23 mph, Daniel Jones (80-yard run at Philadelphia in Week 7 of 2020)
  • Longest air distance pass completed since 2017 (Next Gen Stats): 64.4 yards, Russell Wilson (to David Moore at Buffalo in Week 9 of 2020)


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