Offensive Player Rankings, Week 14: Four teams whose 2023 starting QB isn’t on the current roster
Last year at this time, I determined that four specific teams would open the 2022 campaign with a starting quarterback who wasn’t even on the roster in 2021 — and three of them did indeed end up trotting out a new QB in Week 1 of this season. Two years ago, I spotlighted seven teams in this space — and six went on to start new signal-callers in Week 1 of 2021. I must say, I’m pretty good at this.
With that as the backdrop, here are four NFL organizations that, in my opinion, will be looking beyond the current roster to find a new starting quarterback for the 2023 season.
QBs on current roster: Sam Darnold, P.J. Walker, Matt Corral (on injured reserve)
After releasing Baker Mayfield on Monday, the Panthers have two active players in the QB room: Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker. Walker went 2-3 this season before an ankle injury sidelined him, while Darnold won his first start (and only game action) of the season in Week 12. In five starts, Walker has completed 58 percent of his passes, averaged 134.2 pass yards per game and posted a 3:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. In Darnold’s lone start, he completed 57.9 percent of his pass attempts for 164 yards with one touchdown, and he also recovered his own fumble for a rushing score. Simply put, neither of these signal-callers are likely to inspire Carolina’s 2023 head coach, whether that job ultimately goes to interim coach Steve Wilks or somebody else.
Matt Corral is the wild card here. The 94th overall pick in April’s draft, Corral had a rough preseason showing before suffering a season-ending Lisfranc injury. It’s hard to say how next year’s staff will view Corral. The Panthers currently hold the No. 6 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a quarterback come off the board in that spot.
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QBs on current roster: Davis Mills, Kyle Allen, Jeff Driskel (on practice squad)
I’m still wondering why the Davis Mills was benched for Kyle Allen. I get that starting the season at 1-8-1 isn’t ideal, but Allen’s play over two starts hasn’t exactly validated the decision: The fifth-year journeyman, who went undrafted in 2018, has completed 59 percent of his passes for 416 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. That equals a passer rating of 60.6. Mills hasn’t set the world on fire in 2022, but he isn’t the chief culprit for Houston’s league-worst record. This roster’s issues go far beyond the quarterback room.
That said, it appears Houston is poised to bring in new blood at the position in the coming offseason. If the Texans ultimately receive the No. 1 overall pick, I’d be hard-pressed to think they’d take anything but a quarterback. But I’ve been quite familiar with this franchise for all 21 years of its existence, and I still don’t have a strong sense on prospective plans.
QBs on current roster: Matt Ryan, Sam Ehlinger, Nick Foles
Matt Ryan has been bad in 2022. How bad? Well, he leads the league in interceptions (13) and fumbles (14). The Colts felt they were a quarterback away from being a real contender, so they brought in the former MVP. Through 13 weeks, though, Indy ranks 30th in scoring offense and 25th in total offense, looking every bit as bad as their record would indicate. To be fair, Sam Ehlinger didn’t inspire much confidence in his two starts this year, either, as evidenced by his 69.7 passer rating.
Ryan carries a dead-cap figure of $18 million in 2023, which would prevent some organizations from making a move. But the Colts have Jim Irsay, an owner who’s not afraid to walk away from a mistake. The club traded away Carson Wentz last offseason after one year at the helm and fired head coach Frank Reich following the team’s 3-5-1 start to this season. The Colts could do a number of things at the position this offseason — trade for or sign a QB in free agency, select one in the draft — but riding into Week 1 with a 38-year-old Matt Ryan under center doesn’t feel like one of them.
QBs on current roster: Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston, Jake Luton (on practice squad)
Just last week, I wrote how New Orleans would be a great fit for Jimmy Garoppolo, whose season just ended with a broken foot in San Francisco’s win over Miami on Sunday. I still think Jimmy G could be in the cards for this club because I still think the Saints aren’t satisfied with Jameis Winston or Andy Dalton. Coming back from an ACL injury that prematurely ended his 2021 season, Winston hasn’t seen the field since Week 3 in 2022 — and before his back injury, he wasn’t all that great (4:5 TD-to-INT ratio, 79.5 passer rating). Dalton’s play has been inconsistent this season for a 4-8 Saints team that somehow isn’t eliminated from the division race, and the 12th-year vet’s set to hit free agency.
The bad news? New Orleans currently has the worst salary cap situation in 2023. The worse news? The Saints traded their 2023 first-rounder to the Eagles, a pick that currently sits at No. 5 overall. Oof — that definitely could’ve come in handy in a QB reset.
Throughout the 2022 campaign, former No. 1 overall pick and NFL Network analyst David Carr will take a look at all offensive players and rank his top 15. Rankings are based solely on this season’s efforts. The Week 14 pecking order is below.
NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from Week 11’s rankings.
My MVP front-runner at this point in the season, Hurts looks determined to prove to the football world that his Eagles can compete with the likes of the high-flying offenses in the AFC. He did it all against the Titans on Sunday with a rushing touchdown, as well as 380 pass yards and three passing scores, all of which came on throws of 20-plus air yards (two to A.J. Brown and one to DeVonta Smith), per Next Gen Stats. Hurts is now the second quarterback to have multiple games with three-plus deep TD passes in a season in the Next Gen Stats era (since 2016). The 11-1 Eagles are sitting pretty early in December.
There’s no doubt Sunday’s loss to the Bengals stung. The 27-24 defeat broke Mahomes’ streak of 26 straight wins in November and December and dropped Kansas City to the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoff picture. There’s no reason to panic, especially when you have this guy under center, but the Chiefs got a wake-up call against the team that knocked them out of the postseason this past January.
With an NFL-high 1,379 receiving yards through his first 13 games in Miami, Hill continues to make his job look easy. On an afternoon when the 49ers’ defense routinely swarmed the Dolphins, Hill had 10 open targets (with 3-plus yards of separation) in the loss, per Next Gen Stats. In total this season, the speedy wideout has 57 receptions on open targets, 14 more than any other wide receiver — further supporting why he’s Tua Tagovailoa’s favorite target and one of the very best offensive players in 2022.
To no one’s surprise, Jefferson has hit paydirt in each of Minnesota’s last two victories, with 139 yards and a touchdown in a Thanksgiving night win over New England, and seven receptions for 45 yards and a score in Sunday’s win over the Jets. With five games still to play this season, Jefferson already boasts the most receiving yards by a player in his first three seasons (4,293).
The Bengals are winners of four straight, and Burrow’s fingerprints are plastered all over those victories. The biggest win in that stretch came Sunday in a rematch of last season’s AFC title game, when the third-year passer threw for 286 yards and notched three TDs (two passing, one rushing) in a Bengals’ victory over the Chiefs. Burrow, the first QB to defeat Patrick Mahomes in three straight head-to-head matchups, leads a balanced offensive attack — which just returned Ja’Marr Chase — that nobody wants to face down the stretch.
Over the last three weeks, no one has more receiving yards (392) or touchdown receptions (four, tied with Travis Kelce and Christian Watson) than Adams. A few highlights in this stretch: a 35-yard walk-off TD in overtime to beat the Broncos in Week 11; a one-handed snag in Week 12; another one-handed grab for a TD and a 45-yard touchdown catch off a flea-flicker in Week 13. The man’s been a human highlight reel. The Raiders’ offense is finally playing the type of football everyone expected, and boy, is it fun to watch.
The Bills’ improved run game and Allen’s ability to hit his receivers — whether poised in the pocket or off-schedule — led to a convincing win over New England on a short week. Allen, who lost a fumble in the game and still needs to emphasize taking call of the ball, has led Buffalo to three straight wins. Next up: a visit from the division rival Jets.
Though Kelce was held in check by the Bengals’ defense on Sunday, I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight his Week 11 performance, which occurred right after our last edition of these rankings. He had six receptions for 115 yards and three touchdowns in a victory over the Los Angeles Chargers, including the 17-yard, game-winning score late in regulation. Heading into Week 14, Kelce is tied at the top of the league with Davante Adams for the most receiving TDs with 12.
Jacobs has been on a tear over the last three games with 83 carries for 482 yards (5.8 yards per carry) and three touchdowns in that span. He now leads the NFL with 1,303 ground yards and 1,634 scrimmage yards (225 more than Tyreek Hill), putting him on pace to become the first Raiders player to lead the NFL in rushing or scrimmage yards since Hall of Famer Marcus Allen accomplished both feats in 1985. Jacobs is earning that new contract every week.
Tagovailoa has been great in Mike McDaniel’s offense in 2022; Sunday’s poor performance in the loss at San Francisco was a blip for the third-year passer. (Facing the NFL’s No. 1 defense will do that to you.) He threw 193 straight passes without an interception before tossing back-to-back picks vs. the Niners in the third quarter.
There’s no reason to think this will become a regular thing, especially in this offense — and Tagovailoa must have a short memory with road games against the Chargers and Bills up next.
How many QB-WR combos have better chemistry than Josh Allen and Diggs? The veteran wideout has scored in each of the Bills’ last three contests (all wins) and has reached double-digit TDs for the second straight season.
Since we last did these rankings, Chubb was nonexistent in a Week 11 loss to Buffalo, scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Bucs, and averaged 4.7 yards per carry during a poor overall offensive performance by the Browns in Deshaun Watson’s Browns debut. Though Cleveland did win Sunday — despite the offense accounting for just two field goals — there’s a lot to figure out offensively before this Sunday’s trip to Cincy.
Smith’s Seahawks remain in playoff contention, with Sunday’s win snapping a two-game skid and moving them into the No. 7 seed in the NFC playoff picture. In that Week 13 victory, Smith threw for a career-high 367 yards with three TDs and a pick. He led a fourth-quarter comeback, his first since the 2014 season, capped by an on-the-money TD throw to DK Metcalf with 36 seconds remaining in the game.
Brown has made Tennessee regret trading him since his first game this season, but it was emphasized in Sunday’s matchup with his former team. Brown had at least twice as many catches, receiving yards and receiving TDs as all Titans wide receivers combined in the game.
Brown has been a major reason why Jalen Hurts’ downfield passing has improved this season — and why the Eagles have had one of the most consistently good offenses.
Lamb has seamlessly stepped into the Cowboys’ WR1 role after the team traded away Amari Cooper in the offseason. The third-year wideout leads the Cowboys’ third-ranked scoring offense in targets (111), receptions (69), receiving yards (928) and receiving TDs (six) by a large margin. He never shies away from big moments, and his smooth route running and wide catch radius have helped the Cowboys emerge as one of the league’s scariest offenses in December.
JUST MISSED: Derrick Henry, RB, Titans (previously No. 6); Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants (No. 7); Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens (No. 9).
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