The annual tradition of ranking NFL quarterbacks seems to be here already, one week from the start of the training camp portion of the season. That's at least the timeline used by ESPN, which took on the task of ranking all starters to come up with a Top 10 list published on Monday, July 17.
Jeremy Fowler, the author of the column, explained ESPN's ranking process as follows: "Voters give us their 10 best players at a position, then we compile the results and rank candidates based on number of top-10 votes, composite average, along with dozens of interviews, research and film study from ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen."
There was no surprise in finding out the best quarterback in the NFL entering 2023 is, once again, Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes. However, it looks like the Baltimore Ravens didn't score themselves a top-5 QB by way of handing Lamar Jackson the richest deal in NFL history.
Even after giving their quarterback a ridiculous and historic $260 million deal, Jackson was ranked by the NFL as "only" the 7th-best quarterback in the league for the 2023 season.
Fowler informed the readers that "Jackson surged back into the top seven after failing to crack the top 10 a year ago," reasoning that the main thing boosting Jackson's rank a bit (other than his new contract) is his "winning ways."
The Ravens have won 45 games with Jackson throwing passes while only losing 16, and although the "winning ways" have not extended to the postseason (1-4), according to Fowler's research Jackson's regular-season numbers "trail only Mahomes (.800), Tom Brady (.754) and Roger Staubach (.746)."
"Jackson’s rushing attempts per game were down from 11.08 to 9.33 year over year, yet his QBR improved from 56.8 to 59.1 in the same span. Since 2019, Jackson ranks second in the NFL in QBR (68). Jackson posted a QB rating of 98 or higher in four of his first eight starts. And he was solid on third down with a 70.89 QBR, ranking 10th in the NFL."- Jeremy Fowler, ESPN
An NFL Scouting director was quoted by Fowler saying that before Jackson was injured, "he was doing some big things from the pocket as a passer.” Said scout added that in the early part of the season, Jackson "was dialing it up," while he believes that Jackson "is definitely evolving as a passer, taking it to the next level."
In the blurb, Jackson is also labeled as a "smart runner," with the analysts giving him kudos for "never [getting] hit solidly" and for "[knowing] how to elude and avoid big hits."
With the Ravens having built the strongest receiving corps Jackson would have ever played with, this season could launch the sixth-year quarterback into the stratosphere--if he's not already there.
The additions of wideouts Odell Beckham Jr., rookie Zay Flowers, veteran Nelson Agholor, and new Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken will only help Jackson improve his game and boost his numbers even higher than he's already done in years past.
Being a top-7 quarterback isn't bad. Lamar's ceiling, though, is much higher than that.