NFL: Green Bay Packers Minicamp
Mark Hoffman / USA TODAY Sports

Ranking starting quarterbacks is a popular, fun and, ultimately, imperfect exercise. What do you value most? The consistency of Tom Brady? The playmaking of Patrick Mahomes? The athleticism of Josh Allen? The arm talent of Aaron Rodgers? The dual-threat ability of Lamar Jackson? There's no perfect answer.

It's even more muddled when ranking backup quarterbacks. How do you value the starting experience of Teddy Bridgewater or Jimmy Garoppolo against the physical tools of Malik Willis or Desmond Ridder?

How about combining both starters and backups to rank the best quarterback rooms as a whole? There is no perfect way to do this, but we can look at some numbers. Overall last season, Week 1 starting quarterbacks played roughly 79% of their team's offensive snaps (not including kneel downs and any formations where there was no "quarterback" on the field, like wildcat). So we can assign starter ranking 79% of the weight and backup ranking 21% of the weight. Like I said, it's not perfect, but at least there's reasoning behind it.

Having a top-tier starter, of course, is far more important than having a top-tier backup, just like at any other position. Last season, the Chargers' Week 1 starter, Justin Herbert, played 99.7% (1,109 of 1,112) of the snaps in these situations. It didn't really matter who the Chargers' backup quarterback was to take those other three snaps.

On the other hand, Washington got just 15 snaps out of Week 1 starter Ryan Fitzpatrick before his season-ending hip injury. While it's always going to be hard to survive playing so much without your starter, Taylor Heinicke was a solid backup, nothing more, nothing less -- Washington's 7-10 record reflected that.

Yes, this formula probably shortchanges a team like the Buccaneers, who have Brady -- not only an excellent player but one who hasn't missed a game due to injury since 2008 -- and a less-than-ideal backup situation that hasn't really mattered. Hence, I told our rankers to rank their starters "in order of who you would want leading your team for an entire season while taking into account potential injury concerns." Similarly, I told them to rank backups "in order of who you would want leading your team for several games if the starter missed time." Think 2017 Nick Foles. The Eagles had a terrific backup, and he led them an improbable Super Bowl title. It's an extreme example, but try telling the Philadelphia faithful that backup quarterbacks don't matter.

So, eight voters, including CBS Sports NFL writers, editors and researchers, ranked the starting quarterback situations and the backup quarterback situations. I then used the formula above -- giving starter ranking 79% of the weight and backup ranking 21% -- to generate overall quarterback room rankings.

For example, Patrick Mahomes was the top-ranked starter, so he earned 25.3 points (32 multiplied by .79). His backup, Chad Henne, finished 22nd among backups, so he earned 2.3 points (11 multiplied by .21). Overall, that put the Chiefs at third with 27.6 points, as you'll see below.

(RANKERS: Zach Pereles, Jordan Dajani, Kevin Steimle, Cody Benjamin, Doug Clawson, Josh Edwards, Tyler Sullivan, Jared Dubin)



Starter (rank)

Backup (rank)

1. Packers


Aaron Rodgers (2nd)

Jordan Love (13th)

2. Bills


Josh Allen (3rd)

Case Keenum (11th)

3. Chiefs


Patrick Mahomes (1st)

Chad Henne (22nd)

4. Ravens


Lamar Jackson (7th)

Tyler Huntley (4th)

5. Buccaneers


Tom Brady (4th)

Blaine Gabbert (17th)

6. Chargers


Justin Herbert (5th)

Chase Daniel (18th)

7. Bengals


Joe Burrow (6th)

Brandon Allen (31st)

8. Rams


Matthew Stafford (9th)

John Wolford (23rd)

9. Cardinals


Kyler Murray (11th)

Colt McCoy (16th)

10. Broncos


Russell Wilson (8th)

Brett Rypien (32nd)

11. Colts


Matt Ryan (14th)

Nick Foles (10th)

12. Titans


Ryan Tannehill (15th)

Malik Willis (8th)

13. Cowboys


Dak Prescott (10th)

Cooper Rush (28th)

14. Eagles


Jalen Hurts (16th)

Gardner Minshew (6th)

15. 49ers


Trey Lance (18th)

Jimmy Garoppolo (1st)

16. Vikings


Kirk Cousins (13th)

Nick Mullens (20th)

17. Raiders


Derek Carr (12th)

Jarrett Stidham (30th)

18. Saints


Jameis Winston (19th)

Andy Dalton (9th)

19. Dolphins


Tua Tagovailoa (22nd)

Teddy Bridgewater (3rd)

20. Panthers


Baker Mayfield (20th)

Sam Darnold (15th)

21. Jaguars


Trevor Lawrence (17th)

C.J. Beathard (27th)

22. Commanders


Carson Wentz (23rd)

Taylor Heinicke (5th)

23. Patriots


Mac Jones (21st)

Brian Hoyer (25th)

24. Steelers


Mitch Trubisky (28th)

Kenny Pickett (2nd)

25. Giants


Daniel Jones (27th)

Tyrod Taylor (7th)

26. Bears


Justin Fields (24th)

Trevor Siemian (29th)

27. Lions


Jared Goff (25th)

Nate Sudfeld (26th)

28. Texans


Davis Mills (26th)

Kyle Allen (24th)

29. Falcons


Marcus Mariota (30th)

Desmond Ridder (14th)

30. Browns


11 games of Jacoby Brissett + 6 games of Deshaun Watson (29th)

11 games of Joshua Dobbs + 6 games of Jacoby Brissett (21st)

31. Seahawks


Geno Smith (32nd)

Drew Lock (12th)

32. Jets


Zach Wilson (31st)

Joe Flacco (19th)


Shakeup at the top

Each of the top seven starters saw their teams finish in the top seven of the quarterback room rankings. Again, starters matter most. But it was interesting to see voters' feelings toward Packers backup Jordan Love and Bills backup Case Keenum push those teams over the Chiefs' Mahomes-Henne tandem. Love has talent and first-round pedigree, and Keenum won both of his starts last year, while Henne has started one game in the last five seasons.

Split opinions on QBs entering big years

There are a few quarterbacks entering potential prove-it years for their careers who received very different reactions across our voters

  • Jameis Winston was rated as high as 13th and as low as 24th. Overall, he had the highest variance of any quarterback. Winston is coming off a torn ACL, but he went 5-2 as the Saints' starter last year, and his 102.8 passer rating was seventh among 38 quarterbacks who threw at least 150 passes. The Saints continued their win-now ways this offseason, and Winston is a massive piece of the puzzle.
  • Tua Tagovailoa had the widest range between his best (16th) and worst (28th) rank. Health could certainly be a major part of that: After a major hip injury ended his college career, he has dealt with thumb, finger and rib injuries in the NFL. The Dolphins invested heavily at the skill positions and along the offensive line and have a new head coach in Mike McDaniel. It's a huge year for him.
  • Like Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts is a third-year quarterback who got a lot of help this offseason and received varying evaluations. His highest vote was 14th and his lowest was 21st. Hurts and Tagovailoa also both have backups whom our voters view highly: Teddy Bridgewater finished as the third-best backup, and Gardner Minshew was sixth.
  • Other veterans in key years who had wide ranges included Matt Ryan (highest 14th, lowest 23rd) and Carson Wentz (highest 17th, lowest 26th).
  • Outside of Mahomes and Allen, the smallest range for a quarterback belonged to Kirk Cousins (highest 12th, lowest 14th) and Ryan Tannehill (highest 15th, lowest 17th).

Keeping Garoppolo helps 49ers

The quarterback carousel spun wildly this offseason, but one signal-caller who surprisingly stayed put was Jimmy Garoppolo. His trade market never really took shape due in part to his large contract and offseason shoulder surgery, so he'll back up Trey Lance in San Francisco.

Though it may seem like the 49ers bungled the most important position in sports, head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke openly about how "fortunate" he felt to "have a starting quarterback as a backup." Our voters agreed: Garoppolo was the unanimous top-ranked backup quarterback in the league, pushing the 49ers to the 15th-ranked quarterback room despite the talented-yet-raw Lance finishing 18th among starters. Should Lance struggle or get injured, the 49ers have a quarterback who has started two of the last three NFC Championships ready behind him.

Not much confidence in Trubisky

Mitch Trubisky is on his third team in three years. After his starting run with the Bears came to a close, he spent last year backing up Josh Allen in Buffalo. Now, he's the starter for a team that hasn't finished below .500 since 2003. Pittsburgh gave him a vote of confidence by naming him not only the starter but also a captain earlier this week. Our voters aren't convinced; over half of them ranked him the 29th-best starter or worse.

Kenny Pickett, meanwhile, was the second-ranked backup behind Garoppolo. This was the longest quarterback battle this offseason, and given Pickett's strong performance, Trubisky's leash may be a short one.

Browns' situation difficult to grade

Jacoby Brissett is the Browns' Week 1 starter and, if everything goes to plan, he'll start the team's first 11 games. Then Deshaun Watson will likely return from his suspension and take over. This combination finished 29th among starting quarterbacks. Watson's 11-game absence also means Joshua Dobbs, will be Brissett's primary backup for nearly two-thirds of the season until Brissett becomes the primary backup upon Watson's return. That combination finished 21st among backup quarterbacks.

Brissett hasn't been a full-time starter since 2019, Watson hasn't played at all since 2020, and Dobbs has thrown 17 career NFL passes (and zero since 2020), making this group as a whole difficult to grade.