ESPN’s Latest List of Top 10 NFL Quarterbacks Has One Big Omission

It comes as no surprise, but Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes is ranked No. 1 on the list

NFL quarterback Deshaun Watson leaves the field following a Houston Texans game against the Titans. Watson was recently left off ESPN's list of the top 10 NFL quarterbacks.
Deshaun Watson leaves the field following a game against the Titans.
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To preview the 2021 NFL season, ESPN surveyed more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players in order to rank the top 10 players at 11 different positions on the football field. Predictably, quarterback was one of the first positions to garner a list. What was unpredictable was who didn’t make the cut.

Unsurprisingly, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady graded out as the top three quarterbacks in the NFL with Kansas City’s young signal-caller coming in first. “The clear-cut No. 1 for the second consecutive year gave up a little ground. Mahomes earned 64% of the first-place votes, compared to nearly 100% in 2020. Aaron Rodgers’ MVP campaign and Tom Brady’s championship run in Tampa swayed some voters. Many remain undeterred,” per ESPN.

Following Mahomes, Rodgers and Brady on the list are Russell Wilson, Josh Allen and Matthew Stafford. Wilson, who was the favorite to win MVP for the first half of last season, seems obvious, and Allen had a great year for the Bills in the 2020-21 season, but Stafford’s ranking seems very, very high for a quarterback who has never won a playoff game. Perhaps Stafford being on a new team (Rams) after 12 years of languishing with the Lions influenced some of the rankers, but it seems incorrect to have the 33-year-old as the sixth-best quarterback in the NFL.

“He’s always been top 10 because of his talents,” an AFC scout said of Stafford. “Some feel he’ll let you down at some point. Maybe that’s true, maybe not. We’re about to find out, and he’s got the ability and the smarts and the system to make it happen.”

Following that trio to round out the Top 10 are Dak Prescott, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert and Kyler Murray, all of whom have a legitimate case to be ranked higher than Stafford, as do Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Burrow (who did not make the list).

Absent from the list is Deshaun Watson, who may or may not be playing this season due to a number of sexual assault allegations lodged against him that were labeled “concerning” by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

While it certainly appears possible Watson is a sub-par human being off the football field, it is also very apparent he is an above-average NFL quarterback when he is playing and should certainly rank within the Top 10 at his position. ESPN’s rankers, despite being a bit off-base on Stafford, know that and it seems Watson was likely left off the list intentionally.

Reading the tea leaves, Watson being omitted may have been due to a feeling within league circles, which is where ESPN’s rankers all came from, that the 25-year-old will not be playing in the upcoming season. Even if he does, it probably won’t be for the Texans.

“Watson remains embroiled in allegations from more than 20 women who claim he engaged in sexual misconduct while they were giving him massages,” per ProFootballTalk. “And Watson has also indicated that he doesn’t want to return to the Texans and wants to be traded. It’s highly unlikely that either of those issues — let alone both — will be resolved before the start of the season, and that means Watson is unlikely to be on the field. When Watson will return, and which team he’ll be on when that happens, remains to be seen.”

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