It’s all about the quarterback this week at SB Nation. We’re talking past, present, future at the league’s most important position. If you’d like to check out the entire series, we’ve got everything related to our NFL quarterbacks week all in one place.
The NFL is about to see a lot of its established stars at quarterback head off into retirement over the next few years. Longtime starters like Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and (maybe) Tom Brady are winding down their careers. That’ll open the door for the next generation of stud quarterbacks to leave their impact on the league — and the record books.
When it comes to quarterbacks, there are two records that everyone loves to focus on: passing yards and touchdowns. Brees broke the yards record last season and currently has 74,437, with at least another year to add to it. Peyton Manning is the all-time leader in passing touchdowns with 539, but Brees (520) and Brady (517) will have a chance to surpass that number this season.
Once those future Hall of Famers officially move on, it will be time for a new crop of quarterbacks to try to break those records. Here are seven recently drafted quarterbacks who have a chance rank near the top of the NFL’s all-time leaderboards.
There are a handful of young quarterbacks who look poised to have their names littered throughout NFL record books. In fact, some of these guys are already there.
Mahomes, 17 games: 5,381 yards, 50 touchdowns
Mahomes, per 16-game averages extrapolated over 15 years: 75,967 yards, 706 touchdowns
This list has to start with Mahomes.
Mahomes only has one season under his belt as a starter for the Kansas City Chiefs, but he might already be the best quarterback in the NFL. In 2018, he threw for 5,097 yards, 50 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions on his way to winning the MVP.
It’s highly unlikely that he’ll have that type of production every season — but let’s pretend he will for a second. At that rate, it would take him about 14 more seasons to break the current all-time record for passing yards. He would only need 11 more years to break the touchdown record, as it stands now. He won’t turn 24 until September, so it’s definitely possible that he could play at least that long.
If Mahomes were able to keep up that pace for 15 seasons and then retire, he would finish his career with 75,967 yards, 706 touchdowns (the record is 539!), and just 184 interceptions. Not bad!
Watson was on pace to smash every rookie passing record in 2017 before he suffered an ACL injury that cut his season short after just seven games.
In those seven games for Houston, he threw for 19 touchdowns and scored a touchdown on 9.3 percent of his attempts. That touchdown rate was going to be impossible for him to match in year two, when it dropped to 5.1 percent. Watson was still fantastic in 2018, though, even while getting sacked a whopping 62 times. He made the most of his attempts, ranking eighth in the NFL in adjusted yards per attempt and passing for 4,165 yards and 26 touchdowns.
At his current pace, it would take him more than 15 years to reach the top of both the passing yards and touchdowns lists — but it’s not impossible, especially if the Texans can keep him upright. Still, he’s on track to dominate the league for years to come.
One record that Watson can break is the career mark for adjusted yards per attempt, which is a stat that weighs touchdowns and interceptions. Right now, Aaron Rodgers is the all-time leader among qualified passers with 8.39 adjusted yards per attempt. So far, Watson is at 8.46.
Goff, 31 games in the McVay years: 8,492 yards, 60 touchdowns
Goff (McVay years), per 16-game averages extrapolated over 15 years: 65,745 yards, 465 touchdowns
Not many would’ve thought Goff would be on this list after his disaster of a rookie season in LA. In seven games as a first-year starter, he only averaged 156 yards per game and threw five total touchdowns.
That all changed when the Rams hired Sean McVay as their head coach prior to the 2017 season. With McVay, Goff has averaged 4,383 yards and 31 touchdowns per 16 games.
If he’s able to maintain those numbers over a 15-year career, Goff would end up with 65,745 yards, ranking fifth at this point in time.
Like Watson, his extrapolated numbers won’t get him to the top of the yards or touchdowns leaderboards. However, quarterbacks are playing longer than ever. By the time Goff has played 15 seasons, he’ll be just 36 years old.
A lot would have to go right for that to happen, including Goff staying healthy and McVay staying with the Rams. Mahomes would have to slow down or retire early, as well. Yet despite Goff’s rocky start, he’s proven that he can put up numbers that compare with the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
Wentz, 40 games: 10,152 yards, 70 touchdowns
Wentz, per 16-game averages extrapolated over 15 years: 60,912 yards, 420 touchdowns
Wentz has the talent, coaching, and front office support — he just needs to stay healthy. Over the past two seasons, he has missed eight games for the Philadelphia Eagles due to a torn ACL in 2017 and a back injury at the end of 2018.
When he’s on the field, he plays like a top quarterback. Since 2017, he’s averaged 265.4 yards per game and has passed for 54 touchdowns. If those stats were extrapolated over 16 games, he’d be averaging 4,247 yards and 36 touchdowns per season.
Those numbers are undoubtedly great, but Wentz hasn’t played a full season since his rookie year in 2016. He has yet to actually hit 4,000 yards in a season even though he’s more than capable of that.
It’s impossible to predict how many games Wentz will play in the coming years. If he can stay on the field, his name should be near the top of NFL record books when it’s all said and done.
Mayfield has the smallest sample size in this group, but he was so impressive over the second half of his rookie season in Cleveland. Mayfield threw for 2,254 yards and 19 touchdowns in the eight games that new head coach Freddie Kitchens was calling plays. That puts him at a 4,508 yards and 38 touchdowns if he replicated that performance for an entire season.
In 2019, Mayfield should be able to pick up right where he left off. The Browns added Odell Beckham Jr. to an offense that already featured Jarvis Landry, David Njoku, and Nick Chubb. Health permitting, Mayfield and Beckham should light up defenses together.
If Mayfield can continue that level of play under Kitchens, he’d have 67,620 yards and 570 touchdowns after 15 seasons — the latter of which would be a present-day record.
These quarterbacks haven’t put up big stats yet, but they’re capable of doing so in the right situations.
Even though Dallas has gone 32-16 under Prescott, he hasn’t produced monster passing numbers. He has yet to reach 4,000 yards in a season despite not missing a single game in three years. To be fair to him, he’s been a weapon on the ground for the Cowboys, with 944 yards and 18 touchdowns in his career.
Prescott might never be a high-volume passer, but it’ll be interesting to track how he grows with Amari Cooper in the coming years — assuming they both get new deals. Prescott and Cooper both benefitted from Cooper’s arrival to Dallas in the middle of last season. Prescott went from averaging 202.4 passing yards per game without Cooper to 274.2 yards in the nine remaining games with him.
Now that Prescott has his No. 1 receiver and a new playcaller in Kellen Moore, he might be able to lead a strong passing attack that racks up yards and touchdowns. It would take a lot, but if he can pump up his passing stats, it could help him rise up the leaderboard.
Winston is a talented quarterback who just can’t seem to get out of his own way. Whether it’s off-field incidents leading to suspensions or getting benched due to unbelievably bad turnovers, he’s only started 22 games in the last two seasons.
When he’s on the field, Winston has been able to put up big numbers. He passed for more than 4,000 yards in his first two years in the league and was on pace to throw for 100 touchdowns in his first four seasons — only six quarterbacks since the merger have been able to accomplish that feat.
This season, Winston will have quarterback guru Bruce Arians leading the way. Tampa Bay’s offense is also loaded with playmakers like Mike Evans, O.J. Howard, and Chris Godwin. The weapons are there for Winston and now so is the coach; he just needs to quit the boneheaded plays.
If he can stay clean on and off the field and piece together the best season of his career, he’ll likely be extended as Tampa Bay’s quarterback of the future. That would give him the chance to pile up stats and find his way into the record books.