With the resumption of any major American sport over a month away and the future of the 2020 NFL season in doubt, now is as good of a time as any to run some hypothetical exercises for the future.
The NFL will likely be a much different place in five years from what it is today. Some of the flag bearers who have been poster children for the league for well over a decade will likely retire sooner rather than later. As we’ve seen with players like Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson, the league is in good hands with marketable, young quarterbacks who will lead them into the 2020s and beyond.
It’s fun to make predictions way too far in advance, so while predicting which quarterbacks will be the best in the league in 2025 is a difficult and basically, impossible task, it’s one that we’re going to try out today. These are by no means concrete predictions, especially when factoring in prospects from upcoming draft classes.
With that in mind, let’s give it a go. Here are the players who could be the top 20 quarterbacks in the NFL in 2025.
Excluded due to possible regression and/or age:
- Drew Brees
- Tom Brady
- Matt Ryan
- Aaron Rodgers
- Matthew Stafford
- Ben Roethlisberger
- Philip Rivers
- Jimmy Garoppolo
- Derek Carr
- Sam Darnold
- Josh Allen
- Gardner Minshew
- Jamie Newman
- Dwayne Haskins
20. Daniel Jones, Giants (28 years old)
Daniel Jones’ rookie season had its highs and lows: he threw for 24 touchdowns, including a five-score game that tied for the most touchdowns by a rookie in league history, but he also threw 12 interceptions and lost 11 fumbles. This ranking assumes he gets better and tightens up his ball-security issues. He gets the nod over Sam Darnold and Josh Allen, who also have some concerns but have less time to correct them than Jones does.
19. Justin Herbert, Chargers (27 years old)
Many have been quick to use the “bust” label on Justin Herbert before he’s even stepped onto an NFL field, which seems a bit premature. He has a very good arm and has the size and athletic ability necessary to succeed at the next level. His decision making can improve, but with some development he could become a solid starter down the line.
18. Jared Goff, Rams (30 years old)
It’s unlikely that Jared Goff will ever be a truly “elite” quarterback, but he’s good enough that he can likely keep the Rams afloat for a while. He’s accurate enough that when surrounded by good coaching and talent around him, he can lead his team deep into the playoffs, as was made evident with his Super Bowl appearance just two years ago. He’s still only 25 years old as of this writing, and with the pass-heavy attack of Sean McVay’s offense, he should be a safe bet to top 4,000 yards in most seasons going forward.
17. Baker Mayfield, Browns (30 years old)
The Browns didn’t make the massive leap many expected of them in 2019, but one can hope that a new head coach in Kevin Stefanski will mean a third-year jump for Baker Mayfield. The 2018 No. 1 overall pick had a down year compared to his rookie campaign, but there are plenty of talented weapons in Cleveland’s offense, and Mayfield still has his strong arm. He could prove himself worthy of being a long-term starting option with a good year in 2020.
16. Jordan Love, Packers (26 years old)
Projecting Jordan Love’s status five years from now is a total crapshoot, seeing as though the Packers don’t have a real out in Aaron Rodgers’ contract until 2023, which is also the offseason they’ll have to decide on Love’s fifth-year option. All things considered though, Love should have a year or two of starting experience by 2025, and with his impressive arm talent, flashes of brilliant deep-ball touch and enough seasons to sit and work on the mental aspect of his game, he could end up even higher on this list when it’s all said and done.
15. Kedon Slovis, USC (24 years old)
Considering Kedon Slovis is only a true sophomore in college and wasn’t USC’s starting quarterback to kick off the 2019 season, it’s tough to place him accurately on this list, as is the case for any quarterback who isn’t in the NFL yet. However, he looked impressive in leading the Trojans’ aerial assault last year, throwing for 3,502 yards and 30 touchdowns and forcing five-star recruit J.T. Daniels out of a starting job. With two more solid seasons, he could be a high first-round pick in the 2022 draft.
14. Drew Lock, Broncos (28 years old)
Yes, Drew Lock only played in five games as a rookie last year, so ranking him this high places a lot of faith on a minute sample size. However, he looked impressive during that span and led the Broncos to a 4-1 record. Denver did a fantastic job surrounding him with offensive talent, adding Graham Glasgow up front, signing Melvin Gordon to team up with Phillip Lindsay in the backfield, and adding Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler to an offense that already features Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant as pass-catchers. Given Lock’s premier arm talent and confidence, it’s not unreasonable to think he'll develop well over the next few years.
13. Carson Wentz, Eagles (32 years old)
Playing in his first 16-game season since 2016, Carson Wentz bounced back and showed shades of that MVP candidate the league came to see in 2017. Throwing for 27 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions with 4,039 yards, Wentz managed to do very well for himself despite his team’s issues at the wide receiver position. With such additions like Jalen Reagor and Marquise Goodwin, the Eagles should have their fair share of weapons to surround Wentz with going forward. The only thing holding him out of the top 10 is his durability concerns—from his ACL tear in 2017 to his back spasms in 2018 to his broken wrist back in college, Wentz is going to have to prove that he can consistently stay healthy.
12. Dak Prescott, Cowboys (31 years old)
Some people may get upset over Dak Prescott being ranked over Wentz, but the decision ultimately came down to two factors: durability and surrounding talent. Wentz has his aforementioned injury history, while Prescott has yet to miss a game in his professional career. The Cowboys’ quarterback also recently acquired a potential No. 1 wide out in first-round rookie CeeDee Lamb, who joins an already-talented group of receivers with Amari Cooper, who is locked up through 2024, and Michael Gallup. Prescott is an accurate and poised passer who came very close to 5,000 passing yards in 2019, and he could be in for many more top-notch seasons in the future. That is, if Dallas ever decides to finally pay him.
11. Sam Howell, North Carolina (24 years old)
Sam Howell won’t even be draft eligible until the 2022 draft, so ranking him this highly is a bold projection. However, seeing how he lit up the ACC as a true freshman, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him be a sought-after prospect two years from now. Leading the ACC in regular season passing yards and touchdowns, Howell helped turn a North Carolina team that was 2-9 the year before into a 7-6 bowl-eligible team. He finished off the 2019 season with 38 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions, and continuing to play electric football without turning the ball over could see him among the favorites to go No. 1 overall in 2022.
10. Trey Lance, North Dakota State (26 years old)
Is it crazy to put an FCS redshirt sophomore this high? Normally the answer would be yes, but Trey Lance is a rare talent at his level of play. The 6-foot-3, 221-pounder has a cannon of an arm and top-notch athleticism for the quarterback position, and his 2019 season was nothing short of incredible. He threw for a 66.9 completion percentage with 2,786 yards with 28 touchdowns and no interceptions, and he contributed on the ground with 1,100 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. There could be a learning curve as he adjusts to the speed of NFL defenses, but his skill set fits in incredibly well with the way the NFL game is trending towards.
9. Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins (27 years old)
Tua Tagovailoa landed in an ideal spot, as he can sit under Ryan Fitzpatrick for much of 2020 while he learns the NFL game and recovers from his hips injury. Once he takes the reigns, he could eventually be the guy to help lead the Dolphins to their first division title since 2008. Tua is a poised and accurate thrower of the ball who has shown that he can take over a game and come through in the clutch. Miami has shown a commitment to putting a solid offensive line in front of Tagovailoa, signing two projected starters in free agency and drafting three linemen in the first four rounds of the draft. They also have plenty of picks in 2021, giving them to chance to add more weapons, along with 2019 breakout star DeVante Parker. Given his skill set and an upward-trending team around him, Tagovailoa could develop into a top-10 quarterback when it’s all said and done.
8. Justin Fields, Ohio State (26 years old)
Though his season didn’t end in championship glory, Justin Fields put together a fantastic campaign in his first year as Ohio State’s starter. Throwing for 41 touchdowns to just three interceptions with a 67.2 completion percentage and 3,273 yards, Fields proved that he is an accurate passer who can lead his targets open, throw the football with crisp mechanics and read the field better than most collegiate quarterbacks. He’s also an above-average athlete who can pick up yards with his feet, as made evident by his 10 rushing scores. He doesn’t have an elite ceiling, but he does have a high floor and the tools to be a franchise quarterback at the next level.
7. Joe Burrow, Bengals (28 years old)
Joe Burrow is coming off of arguably the best collegiate season a quarterback has had in the 2010s decade, and he could very well carry that momentum into the NFL. He has A.J. Green as a reliable star target as he adjusts to the professional level, as well as younger weapons like Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and Joe Mixon. Burrow is a cerebral assassin à la Hunter Hearst Helmsley, dissecting defenses with sound decision-making, impressive pocket presence and consistent accuracy. A lack of truly elite physical tools prevents him from reaching the top five, but make no mistake about it: Burrow can be a stud in the league.
6. Kyler Murray, Cardinals (27 years old)
The reigning Rookie of the Year, Kyler Murray put together a 2019 season which inspired plenty of confidence among the Cardinals faithful. Now, with a full offseason to work with an NFL coaching staff and the addition go one of the league’s best receivers in DeAndre Hopkins, the 2019 No. 1 pick could be a candidate for a breakout season like Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson had in their sophomore years. Murray is incredibly athletic and has one of the best arms in the NFL, and as he improves his decision making a little bit more, he could be a legitimate MVP candidate down the line.
5. Russell Wilson, Seahawks (36 years old)
Though he’s the oldest player ranked on this list, Russell Wilson’s consistency and elite level of play year in and year out indicate he should remain a top-tier quarterback for many more years. Already a Hall of Fame-caliber player with seven Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl ring, it’s not out of the question that Wilson could add to that resume with an MVP award within the next few seasons. He also has two talented weapons in Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf, the latter of whom will be just 27 years old by 2025. Much like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and other current quarterbacks who have played well into their 30s and—in some cases—beyond, Wilson should be able to play at a high level for quite some time.
4. Lamar Jackson, Ravens (28 years old)
You can say whatever you want about the possibility of teams figuring out how to stop Lamar Jackson and Baltimore’s offense, but the fact of the matter is the reigning MVP is a strong-armed gunslinger who also happens to be an elite athlete for any position, let alone a quarterback. The Ravens are 19-3 in regular season games Jackson has started for them, and his 2019 campaign indicates he will only continue to get better as a passer. One would expect Jackson not to top 1,000 rushing yards around 2025 to preserve his career a bit, but he should still remain an elite scrambling quarterback by that time. His skillset is one that is incredibly rare and should see him place near the top of the league for years to come.
3. Deshaun Watson, Texans (29 years old)
It may be a tougher road for him going forward without DeAndre Hopkins, but Deshaun Watson is an elite quarterback who should remain as such five years from now. His unrivaled poise in clutch situations and his ability to put his team on his shoulders and carry them to victory is nothing short of impressive. He’ll likely still be an above-average athlete in 2025 too, so combining that with his accuracy and arm talent should still keep him among the league’s best signal-callers.
2. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson (25 years old)
This ranking seems a bit aggressive for someone who won’t even be drafted for another year, but Trevor Lawrence is that good. In his two years as Clemson’s starter, he has only lost one game in total, has totaled 66 passing touchdowns with nearly 7,000 passing yards and has made two National Championship appearances, winning one of them. Lawrence’s stellar arm strength, his rare touch downfield, his impressive athleticism with a 6-foot-6 frame, and his history as a proven winner make him a top-tier quarterback prospect and the favorite to go No. 1 overall in the 2021 draft. Whichever NFL team he eventually ends up with should be in for a treat.
1. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs (29 years old)
A lot can change between now and 2025, but Patrick Mahomes is currently on pace to have a Hall of Fame career. With a Super Bowl ring, an MVP and two Pro Bowl nods in his first two seasons as a starter, Mahomes is taking the league by storm, and there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to do so in the future. He should still be a good athlete by the time he reaches 29, and his elite arm strength won’t be going away any time soon. Expect plenty of jaw-dropping plays to be made by the Chiefs’ gunslinger within the next five years.