In recent days, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler has been naming the league’s top 10 players in each position group. Last week, we reported on his defensive line rankings.
But it hasn’t been just his opinion. He’s been talking to executives, coaches and players throughout the NFL — and having them vote for the best players. On Monday, Fowler published the top vote-getters among NFL quarterbacks — a list that once again features the Kansas City Chiefs‘ Patrick Mahomes at the top.
1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Highest ranking: 1
Lowest ranking: 3
Last year’s ranking: 1
The clear-cut No. 1 for the second consecutive year gave up a little ground. Mahomes earned 64% of the first-place votes, compared to nearly 100% in 2020. Aaron Rodgers’ MVP campaign and Tom Brady’s championship run in Tampa swayed some voters. Many remain undeterred.
“Still causes more problems than just about anyone,” an AFC exec said. “You’ve got to keep him in the pocket and make him go through his progressions, but that’s so hard to do. Once he gets on the move, you’re done.”
There’s zero drop-off in Mahomes’ performance on paper. He has produced a passer rating of 105 or higher in each of his three years as a starter, averaging 307.7 yards per game.
According to ESPN Stats & Information research, since becoming the Chiefs’ full-time starter in 2018, Mahomes leads the NFL in Total QBR (80.6) and passing touchdowns (114), trailing only Matt Ryan in passing yards (13,868 to Ryan’s 13,971).
The challenge for the game’s premier passer is taking the single when he wants the home run play.
“Taking care of his body, take less hits, understand he may have to kill a defense with a thousand cuts rather than the explosive blows,” an AFC exec said. “A lot of teams are forcing him to check down and take the intermediate throws, and it frustrates him. It gets boring.”
Many voters point out Mahomes has the best supporting cast and coach combo, which helps his cause. But that’s not Mahomes’ fault.
On this one, I’m not prepared to argue against the wisdom of the NFL insiders to whom Fowler spoke — or poke holes in his logic.
It’s true that Rodgers and Brady had stellar seasons in 2020. But Mahomes is now the quarterback against whom all others are judged. The only real question is how long that will be true.
Fowler is exactly right: for Mahomes, the challenge is “taking the single when he wants the home run play.” It’s something he’s been working on ever since his first season as Kansas City’s starter, when he was named the league’s MVP. He’s made progress — and will continue to do so — but it’s likely that head coach Andy Reid will never be able to completely coach that instinct out of him.
And that’s OK — because it’s what makes Mahomes who is is.