Ranking the NFL playoff QBs from 1-14: Why we’re going Mahomes over Rodgers

Quarterbacks alone can’t make a Super Bowl run, but let’s be honest, they’re the biggest factor and it isn’t close. And so, heading into the 2020 NFL playoffs, let’s rank the players at the most important position for all 14 teams.

I’m ranking these quarterbacks in the order that I’d want them to be the signal-caller for my team in these playoffs, which might not exactly align with who performed the best during the regular season. In other words: how good they are now, not how good they were then.

To do this, I’m relying on a few advanced metrics, chief among them QBR, our in-house expected points added-based metric that helps account for important context. I’ll also rely heavily on information from NFL Next Gen Stats, most notably completion percentage over expectation, and data from ESPN’s video tracking team.

I’m including all 14 quarterbacks’ biggest strengths and weaknesses, and ESPN’s NFL Nation reporters also chimed in with what’s at stake during these playoffs for every QB.

1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Season at a glance: All Mahomes did in the season after he won Super Bowl MVP was set a career high in QBR (83). And because the Chiefs pass so frequently — they had a 70% dropback rate when their win probability was between 10% and 90%, second highest in the league entering Week 17 when Mahomes rested — he generated the most EPA (expected points added) for his team of any player in the league. There’s a legitimate debate between Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers for MVP, but it’s an easy choice to put Mahomes at No. 1 in these rankings because of his recent history of outstanding play stretches for three seasons.

Biggest strength: Mistake avoidance. While Mahomes produces incredible highlight-reel plays, what makes him special is his ability to pull that off without incurring huge negatives. His 1% interception rate is second lowest in the league, while his 3% sack rate is third lowest, which is particularly wild given that he was under pressure on 34% of dropbacks. He also has a better-than-average fumble rate. And Mahomes does all that while attempting passes at an above-average depth of target and adding the second-most EPA on scrambles, behind only Kyler Murray.

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