The World’s No. 1 QB at the end of the 2021 regular season is Aaron Rodgers.
Justin Herbert ranks No. 2.
Alright, now we’re talking!
Herbert excelled in 2021 both qualitatively and quantitatively. He finished as the overall leader in Total Points and was the highest-value player on a per-play basis as well.
A reminder that The World’s No. 1 Quarterback Ranking is based on a model devised by Bill James to evaluate The World’s No. 1 Starting Pitcher. Bill’s model was based on cumulative evaluation of individual starts over an extended time period using the metric Game Score.
The World’s No. 1 Quarterback Ranking uses our player value stat Total Points to make a cumulative evaluation of game performance over a three-year period. The key to our calculation is Points Above Average (PAA), which is the statistical underpinning of Total Points that is centered at zero so that positive numbers are above average and negative numbers are below average.
Success over time is key to maintaining a good ranking. Prolonged inactivity results in a ranking drop. The most recent performances carry the most weight.
Herbert led in Total Points for a few reasons. For one, he had Aaron Rodgers beat by about 150 dropbacks. More dropbacks meant more chances to do good things and Herbert was rewarded for that.
For another, Herbert was playing behind an offensive line that rated near league average, while someone like Tom Brady was playing behind a line that ranked near the top of the league. Factor that into each quarterback’s performance and Herbert comes out ahead.
Putting Herbert against Mahomes, Herbert has the edge in catchable pass percentage and touchdown percentage. And Mahomes had several more turnover-worthy plays than Herbert did (fumble, interception, dropped interception).
Herbert started the year ranked No. 10 and never dropped lower than that. After his huge game against the Eagles in Week 9, he vaulted from No. 8 to No. 3 and was No. 3 or No. 4 for nine straight weeks. A big game in a loss to the Raiders in the Chargers’ season finale moved him up one spot to his highest ranking yet. He ended the year with back-to-back games of more than 10 Points Above Average.
Our rankings include postseason performance, so it’s possible Herbert could get dislodged from his current spot, but for now, he stands tall where he is. He was the only quarterback in the top eight to not make the playoffs.
Here’s the Top 10.
- Aaron Rodgers
- Justin Herbert
- Tom Brady
- Patrick Mahomes
- Josh Allen
- Matthew Stafford
- Joe Burrow
- Kyler Murray
- Kirk Cousins
- Derek Carr
The other 3 big movers in the Top 10
A new team did Matthew Stafford the good that was expected. He started the season No. 14 and is now No. 6 entering the playoffs.
Stafford pushed as high as No. 3 after starting the season with an eight-game tear in which he averaged 7.2 Points Above Average per game. He’s laid some pretty bad statistical eggs since then against the Titans, Packers, and Vikings, but he has done enough to offset that the last two weeks to put him in the No. 6 spot.
Joe Burrow’s ascent was a sharp one. He ranked No. 21 through the end of Week 13, but he’s moved up 14 spots since then.
Burrow’s Week 16 game against the Ravens produced 20.7 PAA, the highest total for any quarterback this season. In Week 17, he totaled 16.3 PAA, the season’s fourth-highest total. Burrow didn’t play in Week 18, so he actually dropped a spot from No. 6 to 7. But he’ll have the potential to continue that surge in the playoffs.
One other note on Burrow: He finished the season as the NFL’s best deep passer. His 11 touchdowns on passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield led the NFL. That’s a good way to rack up points.
Kyler Murray started the season ranked No. 15 and soared up the rankings with eight straight games of at least 3 PAA. He’s bounced around between No. 7 and No. 9 the last 11 weeks, including the four that he was injured and missed. He’s averaged 1.4 PAA in six games since returning, hindering his chance of continuing to move up the ranks.
Here’s the full set of rankings entering the playoffs:
|Rank||Player||PAA Per 60 Plays||Last Rank||Start Of Season Rank|