Closeup of American Football on Field

The three quarterbacks taken in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft, Caron Wentz, Jared Goff and Paxton Lynch have a lot to prove for their teams this season. They have to prove they’ve got the guts, the poise and the smarts to excel in the transition from playing college ball to the NFL.


Those are the unmeasurable traits that don’t show up in players’ combine stats, the intangibles. So what does go onto a quarterback’s stat sheet that is indicative of his success on the field? Right now, there are multiple stats and grades given to quarterbacks, each with their own advantages and disadvantages, none without its fanatics and critics.


Passer Rating (QB Rating)

The classic rating system for quarterbacks was the only one available during my time under center. Like many measurement systems from back in the day, it’s noticeably imperfect, and has come under fire lately for its lack of accuracy. The NFL, who developed the rating system as a means of handing out awards in the 1940s, and has changed it since, states on its website that passer rating was developed to “rate pass-ers, not quarterbacks. Statistics do not reflect leadership, play-calling, and other intangible factors that go into making a successful professional quarterback.”

Passer rating also fails to take into account a QB’s ability to scramble with the ball, negatively affecting QB’s such as Russell Wilson or Tyrod Taylor.


2015’s Top 3 According to Passer Rating: Russell Wilson, Andy Dalton, Carson Palmer


Total Quarterback Rating (Total QBR or QBR)

Developed by ESPN as a purported means of replacing (and upgrading) the NFL’s widely-used passer rating statistic, Total Quarterback Rating has also come under its fair share of criticism since its inception in 2011.

Instead of using the simple number-crunching formula that the NFL uses, QBR takes situations further into account, putting more weight on a high-pressure, high-importance pass than one of low overall impact on the team’s win. Unfortunately, the rating system lacks what many consider to be a proper weighing system and a minimum-attempts threshold, leading to some convoluted numbers.

The failure of QBR to catch on among fans and commentators is also due in part to its mysterious nature; ESPN has yet to disclose the formula for QBR, leading many fans to dismiss it as too complicated or misleading.


2015’s Top 3 According to Total QBR: Carson Palmer, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees


Pro Football Focus Rankings

Though mysterious to some and not nearly as widespread, PFF’s ranking and rating system for quarterbacks is typically considered one of the more reliable means of measuring QB performance over weeks or seasons. To get a PFF grade, each play is viewed and graded by an analyst on a scale from -2 to 2. The rating is then quadruple-checked, twice by additional analysts and once by the Pro Coach Network. The numbers are then “normalized,” accounting for various on-field factors before a number between 1-100 is spit out, giving an overall view on the player as a quarterback.


2015’s Top 3 According to Passer Rating: Carson Palmer, Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady


Though no one rating system has yet proven itself to be the be-all and end-all, de-facto number for ranking quarterbacks, the three above are as accurate as we have thus far. A consensus pick for the most accurate depends entirely on who you ask, so crunch the numbers, watch some tape, and pick your favorite.