Who Will be the NFL’s Top Five Quarterbacks in 2018?

the best nfl qb in 2018

In five years with Brady, Brees and Manning all past their prime, the top of the NFL QB chart will look dramatically different.

After a decade of Manning, Brady and Brees atop the QB depth chart, the NFL is in the midst of undergoing a ‘face of the shield’ change over the next five years.

Of course there is a chance that despite being at or around 40 years old these three iconic helmsman could still be playing, but it’s hard to imagine their performance ranking amongst the top five in the league.

So who takes the reigns?

In my assessment I’m using a four-part scale: Playoff Experience, Stability, Surrounding Talent and Untapped Potential (with age being a tie-breaker). Of course, this is a projection which by its very nature is an educated guess. My goal is to base it on the facts as we now know them, but of course there is some guesswork involved.

It’s a classic debate where no one is right, but everyone can have an opinion. Here’s mine, I welcome yours in the comment section.

cam newton top qb in 2018#5: Cam Newtoncam newton top qb in 2018

Newton scores incredibly high in the untapped potential category, since it is clear he has so much more to give. But there are questions about the surrounding talent and the stability of the coaching staff.

As history has taught us, stability in one system can make the difference between a Peyton Manning and an Alex Smith, both #1 overall picks but drastically different careers.

Personally, I’ve always doubted Newton. When he was instructed to take a knee in the BCS title game and decided to go for the QB sneak instead, I thought it showed how he was, and will probably continue to be, a me-first player.

BUT, there is no denying the talent, if he puts it together and the Panthers draft well in the future, the sky isn’t even the limit.

russell wilson top nfl qb in 2018#4 Russell Wilsonrussell wilson top nfl qb in 2018

Every time I watch Wilson play I have the scene from Rudy playing in the back of my mind.

The, ‘You’re 5 foot nothin’, 100 and nothin’ and you have barely a speck of athletic ability…”

This speech doesn’t actually apply to Wilson, who is one of the best athletes in the entire NFL, but you get the point.

He shouldn’t be great. But he is, and he’s going to get better. I don’t think his ceiling is as high as Newton or some of the other names on this list, but he works his tail off and has a young core around him which will continue to grow.

Head Coach Pete Carroll will be 66 early in the 2018 season, of course he has the youthful exuberance of a 22-year old, but if he should retire between now and then, we could be looking at a dramatic difference in Wilson’s development.

aaron rodgers top qb in 2018#3 Aaron Rodgersaaron rodgers top qb of 2018

Over the next five years Rodgers will have his run as the best in the game, but by the time 2018 rolls around he’ll be surpassed by some other young guns.

Rodgers destroys this list when it comes to playoff experience and scores very high in stability since he’s been in the same system under Mike McCarthy for his entire career. McCarthy will be in his mid-50’s in another five years which is young in coaching circles, every reason to believe he and Rodgers will continue on together.

I wonder about the talent level moving forward. The Packers have never had a real consistent run game and the offensive line seems to be a sore spot yearly. Eddie Lacy could be the answer to some questions, but a great deal rests on whether or not Bryan Bulaga is a fit for left tackle.

Lots of questions surrounding Rodgers over the next five years, not exactly the open and shut case he once was.

andrew luck top qb in nfl 2018#2 Andrew Luckandrew luck top qb in 2018

Technically, there is a tie between he and Rodgers for this slot, but age is the tie-breaker since Luck will still be just 28 years old when the 2018 NFL season rolls around.

We all knew Luck had immeasurable talent, what we didn’t know is how great of a leader he is and how much better he makes the players around him. Outside of a past-his-prime Reggie Wayne, there was no proven offensive talent on that team.

A 5th round draft pick out of Mississippi State (Vick Ballard) led them in rushing with under 850 yards. A 3rd round draft pick out of Florida International (T.Y. Hilton) was 2nd on the team in receiving and the top two tight ends were 2nd (Coby Fleener) and 3rd (Dwayne Allen) round picks!

Credit to General Manager Ryan Grigson for drafting a young offensive core that should continue to develop over the next 5 years.  Now we all get to sit back and enjoy Luck orchestrating the Colts revival.

colin kaepernick top nfl qb in 2018#1 Colin Kaepernick colin kaepernick top nfl qb in 2018

Starting this list I had it in my head that Luck was going to be QB1 in 2018, but the facts bore out a little differently.

It really comes down to the experience Kaepernick got from a Super Bowl run this past year, the stability of the coaching situation and the untapped potential he still possesses. (And the fact my wife really liked his photo in the ESPN Body Issue)

He is far from a finished product, but he has the right team around him with strong leaders on both sides of the ball, a young coach who doesn’t appear to be a flight risk and ridiculous athleticism. As the mental side of the game becomes second nature, he’ll be as unstoppable as Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl.

At only 30 years old at the start of the 2018 season, it’s Kaepernick who could enjoy a long stay on top of the NFL Mountain.

Honorable Mentions for Top NFL QB in 2018:

RGIII – Of course he could have made this list, he probably has the highest upside of anyone and I absolutely love watching him play. But I think, much like Rob Gronkowski, he will have an incredibly great 4-5 year career window and then be mired with injuries. I hope I’m wrong.

Ben Roethlisberger & Eli Manning – I view these guys very similarly; about the same age, Super Bowl rings, an uncanny knack for getting it done. With Manning I worry about what happens when Coughlin retires. With Roethlisberger, it’s all about the injuries, that guy has taken a lot of abuse.

Joe Flacco – Strong arm, calm demeanor, playoff success. Hard to keep him off this list especially since we are both Fightin’ Blue Hens and he’ll still be just 33 in 2018. My reasoning, I think there will be a leadership void in Baltimore and I don’t think he can fill it.

Matt Ryan – One of my favorite players to watch and I imagine a great guy to play with. Just not sure he has the ‘it’ factor to be elite. The other guys on this list have more potential to be elite, while I think Ryan will always be in the ‘very good’ 5-7 category.

Johnny Manziel –Just kidding, he’s not an honorable mention on this list any more than Tim Tebow is.

Commence the trash talking in the comments – just keep it clean, my mother reads this stuff.

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the sports media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently, Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, do it.

And if you want to know where our privacy policy is before you submit your comments below, it's right here.


  1. What, no Michael Vick, or in 5 years, Matt Barkley? Do I detect an anti-Eagle bias, which is appalling especially because you allegedly went to Delaware? And how the HELL could you put Kaepernick at # 1 when the guys had like a half season as a starter?

    • Brutony – thanks for responding, to be honest of all the trash talking I expected I didn’t expect a Matt Barkley argument! I didn’t want to put Kaepernick #1 for exactly the reason you mentioned… but in that half a season he played very well, and got the playoff experience guys like Matt Ryan are yet to have. Add in that Harbaugh is a great coach and doesn’t seem to want to move on, and they have leaders on both sides of the ball so he can just be a QB and I think you have the makings of a top flight qb…well, at least better than Matt Barkley (who need I remind you hasn’t even played a preseason game yet) – Brian

  2. Great assessment criteria. Amazing what happens when you take a sabremetric approach to football… You get a baseball pitcher as your number one football quarterback.

    • Ha! I think you are mocking me Hank. So since you disagree with my approach and list, have at it – who would be your top 5 qb’s five years from now? – Brian

  3. Actually I was serious. Can’t think of a better assessment tool, and I concur with your scoring… the data doesn’t lie! Colin’s baseball prowess was just too ironic to ignore. Wonder where he’d be now if he’d opted for that sport? Probably not as far as he is in the NFL! Amazing.

  4. Phil Leguichard says

    I really think Matt Ryan has great potential to be an elite quarterback — even more so than you seem to believe it. He showed flashes of it in the 2012 season but his team’s lethargic defense dragged him down. I also wonder about Kaepernick….though of course it’s easy for me to sit here and say this now, since the 2013 season has passed since you authored this article. Overall a well-written piece. I’ve been a fan of the league since 2002 so I’m both nostalgic and giddy about Manning, Brady, and Brees all heading off into the sunset.

    • Hey Phil – thanks for writing in. It’s a subjective list to be sure. I’ve been a Matt Ryan fan for a long time, I just don’t see him escalating to the elite category, he’s firmly in the Cutler, Flacco, E Manning category which is to say – good enough to win more than he loses, but not an elite ceiling. There are definitely questions with my list after the season is complete… Kaep may not be all that, Luck is probably #1, Wilson is probably a nice player, but not a game changer…but I have to give myself credit for including Cam Newton, I can’t stand him but objectively I thought he could make a leap as a leader… he put up worse numbers this year, but his team won. I actually think that is a good thing.

      Thanks again – Brian

  5. Okay Brian, time to reevaluate!

    Russell Wilson still only #4?

    Colin still #1?

    • You have to admit, for a preseason article…not bad! In all honesty, if I was going to redraw after this year I’d probably only flip-flop Luck and Kaepernick – I think Wilson still fits perfect at #4, he’s more than a game manager but I don’t think he’s as skilled as Luck, Kaep or Rodgers. The other one I would have to think long and hard about is Newton and Foles for #5 – I still give the edge to Newton as of now, but by 2018 Foles could be legit. – What about you Hank, who would be your top 5 in 2018?

  6. Marcus Mariota from Oregon will be a super star

  7. Andrew luck Wilson Rodgers Brady manning flacco Ryan then kap


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