Every year, ESPN rolls out an offseason position-by-position ranking of the NFL’s best players. But this one isn’t based on the opinion of one of its writers — or even a poll of them. Instead, it’s based on the votes made by a group of more than 80 league executives, coaches, scouts and players.
These lists aren’t intended to be either a projection or a career retrospective. Voters are asked to identify the top players in each position right now.
One of these position rankings is being released every day through Tuesday. The Kansas City Chiefs’ Nick Bolton and Chris Jones were named among the league’s top 10 at their positions. No Kansas City players were mentioned in the top-10 edge rushers article last Monday — but the next day, the cornerback ranking had two Chiefs in the fine print. Justin Reid got some votes, but no Kansas City players were identified among the league’s top safeties on Wednesday.
ESPN shifted to offensive players on Thursday, naming Travis Kelce as the league’s top tight end. Friday’s listing of running backs didn’t include any of Kansas City’s players. On Saturday, we learned that new right tackle Jawaan Taylor received some votes (just like former left tackle Orlando Brown Jr.), but neither even made it into the honorable mentions among offensive tackles. On Sunday, all three of the team’s interior offensive linemen received recognition.
That brings us to Monday’s quarterback ranking — and the obvious choice at the top:
1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Highest ranking: 1
Lowest ranking: 2
Last year’s ranking: 2
Back on top after holding the No. 2 ranking last year, Mahomes received all but two first-place votes thanks to a dominant season capped by his second Super Bowl win.
“He’s got everything needed from a great quarterback, and he does those things at a high level all of the time,” an AFC scout said.
Most impressive was Mahomes’ ability to adjust without the vertical threat of Tyreek Hill, who was traded to Miami. Of Mahomes’ 41 touchdown passes, 31 went to running backs or tight ends, the most in a single season in the Super Bowl era (since 1966). Mahomes also led the postseason charge despite playing at less than full strength following a right ankle injury during the Chiefs’ divisional round win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
His QBR of 77.6 was six-plus points higher than that of any other quarterback. He was particularly dominant in the red zone, leading all quarterbacks with an 87.3 QBR. He’s the best against the blitz, too (83.6 QBR).
And he has proved efficient when the big passing yards aren’t available. In the Super Bowl win over Philadelphia, Mahomes completed 12 passing first downs for 182 yards.
“He’s accurate when uncomfortable, which is probably the hardest thing to do in the NFL,” an NFL offensive coach said. “The game just slows down to the point where he’s at his best in the chaos.”
The Chiefs believe Mahomes improved his in-game adjustments in the past year, figuring out how defenses were attacking him and responding accordingly. Behind the scenes, the team has seen Mahomes take a more active role in coaching receivers and tight ends on where he wants them on a given play.
Just like with tight end Travis Kelce, some Kansas City fans might be unhappy that there were voters who turned in first-place ballots for the Cincinnati Bengals’ Joe Burrow and the Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen, who ranked second and third in this list.
But the situations are a bit different. Coming out of his MVP seasons in 2018 and 2022, it’s not hard to declare Mahomes as the league’s best quarterback. In the rest of his five seasons as the team’s starter, his case isn’t quite as compelling. That’s not quite the same as Kelce, who has dominated his position for seven consecutive seasons. If, for example, Mahomes were to collect more MVP awards (or Super Bowl MVP awards) over the next few seasons, it’ll be a little easier to argue that no one else has a legitimate case to be considered the league’s best.
Still, grabbing his second MVP (and second Super Bowl MVP) over a five-season span is a pretty remarkable achievement — and it’s certainly true that as last season went along, more observers were acknowledging Mahomes’ spot at the top. As the season began, it remained possible to see 2018 as a fluke — but after it ended, that seemed a lot less likely.