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NFL Quarterback Rankings: All 32 Starters Ranked & Why It Matters for Bettors

NFL Quarterback Rankings: All 32 Starters Ranked & Why It Matters for Bettors article feature image

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No position in sports is more important than quarterback.

A quarterback touches the ball on every single play. An elite QB can drag an otherwise average roster deep into the playoffs, while a bad signal-caller can doom an elite roster.

In my NFL Power Rankings, quarterback reigns supreme by a huge margin. I count QB to be worth over 40% of the entire offensive unit ranking and about 25% of the overall roster rank.

Consider Josh Allen. With Allen, the Bills rank in the top three both offensively and overall in my system. But replace him with a league-average starter, and the Bills drop to league-average on offense, lucky to contend for the second weekend of the postseason. Give the Bills the worst QB in the league and they drop to a bottom-five offense and out of the playoffs entirely.

That's how important the position is. It's why QBs get their own column and why we'll check in on these rankings all season — especially in the most volatile quarterback year I can remember.

An incredible 11 teams have a new Opening Day starter in 2023, over one-third of the league. Three of last year's top-five QBs have tumbled down (Russell Wilson) or out (Tom Brady) of the rankings. Two guys we wrote off a year ago made huge leaps from the bottom six last fall to the top half of the league in 2023!

It's a weird, transitional year at the league's most important position. These are my 2023 Opening Day quarterback rankings, from 1 to 32.

Tier NumberCategory
Tier 1The Chief Stands Alone
Tier 2Perennial MVP Contenders
Tier 3A Top 10 in Transition
Tier 4The Litmus Tests
Tier 5The Injury Question Marks
Tier 6The Upside Swings
Tier 7The Game Managers
Tier 8The Complete Unknowns
Tier 9The Placeholders
Betting Takeaways

Tier 1 — The Chief Stands Alone

1. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs (Last year's preseason ranking: 1)

Honestly, what's even left to say about Patrick Mahomes?

He's the best at everything, alone in a tier at the top, in another universe than anyone else. Just remember that in November when the pundits try to talk us into those "Is Player X Finally Better Than Mahomes Now?" headlines.

The Chief stands alone.

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Tier 2 — Perennial MVP Contenders

2. Joe Burrow, Bengals (4)
3. Josh Allen, Bills (7)
4. Justin Herbert, Chargers (6)

Many would put the guys at two and three in the opposite order, but I prefer Joe Burrow.

He's just so steady and dependable. Burrow ranks 97th percentile or better in every stable metric at Football Outsiders, showing how reliable he is at basically everything. Burrow matches a lightning-quick release with a feathery touch and gives his elite WRs a chance to make a play. We can nitpick the sack rate and we still need to see better in the playoffs, but Burrow's consistent high-end play makes him a safe pick.

That said, Josh Allen is the more talented player with the higher upside in any given game. He's the one QB who can legitimately compare to Mahomes when he's playing at his best.

The problem is we still don't get that best nearly enough. Allen's ceiling is unreal with a 7.3% Big Time Throw rate, per PFF, far ahead of second (5.8%), while his legs add an extra level of deadly scrambling value. He can take over any game and win it on his own.

But Allen still has about four clunkers a season where he tries to do too much or makes huge mistakes, playing like a below-average QB. That's something we just don't get from Mahomes or Burrow. Over the last two seasons, Allen has thrown 29 interceptions and fumbled 21 times. His completion percentage has also regressed to 63%. His style of play also forces it to be The Allen Show, which often leads to injury.

Josh Allen is probably the single most valuable player to his team. But he might be too valuable at times, and when it's all on you in a single-elimination playoff, volatility is death.

I wonder if Justin Herbert could end up being the perfect mix of Burrow and Allen.

Herbert has all the physical tools to match Allen and he has the ability to make game-breaking throws that few on the planet can. But he's also incredibly careful with the ball (1.8% career INT rate), staying away from the mistakes that plague Allen. Herbert is the whole package — arm, accuracy, strength, touch, legs … everything — enough so that I considered him at the top of this tier.

His numbers haven't matched the hype. That extreme care of the ball limits Herbert's willingness to attack downfield, but I'm betting on that being more the fault of departed offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who insisted on making Herbert play like he was late-career Drew Brees, throwing to the flats all game. A guy with a cannon for an arm ranked second to last in both intended and completed air yards at Next Gen Stats.

Absolutely criminal. Lombardi basically turned Herbert into Daniel Jones. Here's hoping Kellen Moore's offense opens things up and allows Herbert to shine. He's +1200 to win MVP if you believe and 9-1 at FanDuel.

Pick: Justin Herbert To Win MVP (+900)
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Tier 3 — A Top 10 in Transition

5. Jalen Hurts, Eagles (15)
6. Aaron Rodgers, Jets (2)
7. Lamar Jackson, Ravens (9)
8. Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars (16)
9. Deshaun Watson, Browns (N/A)

Jalen Hurts is the guy I felt compelled to nudge up my rankings every time I evaluated QBs. I originally had him toward the bottom of this tier, or even a tier down, but it's hard to argue with the production.

Hurts ranked second in EPA + completion percentage over expectation (CPOE) at RBSDM, a huge leap from 22nd the prior year (between Carson Wentz and Daniel Jones). Hurts cut his throw time from 3.11 to 2.76 seconds, and his leap in passing efficiency after the addition of A.J. Brown was what vaulted him into MVP contention.

He also has over 750 rushing yards and 10 scores on the ground in two straight seasons. Hurts converted an incredible 28-of-31 sneaks last year, a ridiculous 90% success rate and 11 more conversions than any QB since 2006. Add all that rushing value to the passing leap and eliminate mistakes — his 1.9% turnover-worthy throws rank second — and Hurts is top five.

I've ranked QBs several times a year for a decade, and this is the lowest spot ever for Aaron Rodgers — and it might still be too high.

Rodgers plummeted from first in EPA + CPOE his two recent MVP years to 24th last season, and his completed air yards took a nosedive while he also threw the second-most interceptions of his career (12). Over the last eight seasons, the numbers say Rodgers played like an MVP twice but was basically average in the other six.

He turns 40 in December and might not have that top level anymore.

QB play 5-year stretch bt 2015 & 2019.

A few things stand out… Mahomes elite, Bortles awful, Watson a star if he's still in there.

But look how mid Aaron Rodgers was for half a decade. Then suddenly #1 EPA + CPOE two straight years… then mid again last year. What happened?!

— Brandon Anderson (@wheatonbrando) August 12, 2023

We get to see Lamar Jackson in a modern NFL offense with OC Todd Monken's arrival, and we'll finally see if he measures up.

There's no questioning Jackson's highlight runs, but too much of that running is by design (559 yards) versus scrambling (206), nerfing the value since designed runs come against set run defenses. Jackson holds the ball too long and eats too many sacks, and there are holes in his game that show up on late downs and in the playoffs, where he's been dreadful. In truth, Jackson's passing production has been quite pedestrian since his MVP year. We'll see if Monken and a new receiving corps help.

The rise of Trevor Lawrence came quickly, and it would surprise no one if he ascended to the top five by the end of the season. This is effectively his sophomore season after the lost Urban Meyer year, and Lawrence's numbers took a serious leap over the second half of last season as Jaguars coaches adjusted the offense to fit his strengths.

Lawrence is already excellent at avoiding sacks and turnovers. The next step is to get better under pressure and improve his deep ball, something Calvin Ridley may help with.

Deshaun Watson is icky to talk about and he was dreadful in six starts last season. But in his last full season (2020), he ranked second in PFF QB grades and fourth in EPA + CPOE, playing at a level comparable to Mahomes and Rodgers. He's top five in virtually every advanced QB metric over the last five years.

Is that version of Watson still in there 1,000 days later? Your guess is as good as mine. This ranking might be 10 or 15 spots too high, but it might also be five spots too low. That means Watson is worth the risk. He's one of the biggest swing players in the NFL this season.

Browns To Win the Super Bowl (+3000)

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Tier 4 — The Litmus Tests

10. Dak Prescott, Cowboys (11)
11. Kirk Cousins, Vikings (13)
12. Derek Carr, Saints (14)
13. Geno Smith, Seahawks (32)
14. Jared Goff, Lions (27)

I don't think anyone will be too upset with where Dak Prescott sits, but Cowboys fans probably won't be particularly happy about the guys he's tiered with.

These five are NFL litmus tests — they tell you how good your roster is. If they have good blocking, quality receivers, a reliable run game and a good scheme, these guys can be great. This is the tier Jalen Hurts started in last fall, and it's where MVPs like Matt Ryan and Super Bowl winners like Matt Stafford lived, with good enough play that was elevated by greatness around them.

That's why I have Prescott in this tier. When the talent around him is great, like it looks this year, Prescott can break down the defense and put up huge numbers. On non-turnover plays last season, he trailed only Mahomes in EPA per play, and not by much.

But when the line goes bad or the receivers can't separate, we've seen Prescott's numbers fall off. The accuracy is elite and the interceptions will fix themselves, but Prescott is still reliant on the 10 guys around him to play at an elite level.

Kirk Cousins and Derek Carr are the epitome of The Litmus Tests tier.

Cousins is outstanding from a clean pocket making his top read, but heaven help you if you need anything more than that.

Carr is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career, but he was a bad fit in Josh McDaniels' offense. He held the ball longer than usual and was too aggressive throwing the ball downfield. Pete Carmichael's scheme is built around accuracy and timing, which should help Carr bounce back in a big way.

Cousins and Carr don't feel like borderline top-10 QBs, but that's mostly about the state of the league and the volatility at the position right now — which brings us to Geno Smith.

Smith started 2022 last in my QB rankings, and I wondered if Drew Lock was the better option. Smith was 32, and we'd seen nothing to indicate otherwise in eight seasons.

Then he went out and led the league in completion percentage (70%) and the Seahawks offense didn't miss a beat without Russell Wilson. Smith still has his warts. He struggles against the blitz and has an 8.2% career sack rate, and his play dropped down the stretch as Seattle's young line struggled.

But Smith matches that beautiful Wilson deep ball and adds value with his legs. He played like a top-10 QB last season when he had proper blocking. That's exactly what litmus tests do.

It was a career year for Jared Goff, who's now moonlighted as a great QB for both Sean McVay and Ben Johnson. Charmed life.

PFF is bearish on Goff, his No. 18 QB grade is barely up from his past few seasons. But Johnson's awesome scheme, combined with Detroit's elite blocking, gives Goff plenty of opportunities to get the ball out in play-action without turning his back on the play, playing to his admittedly limited strengths. Goff's had three subpar seasons and three pretty good ones. Litmus test!

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Tier 5 — The Injury Question Marks

15. Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins (21)
16. Matthew Stafford, Rams (10)
17. Russell Wilson, Broncos (5)

If we knew Tua Tagovailoa would stay healthy, he'd be ranked higher. But the repeated concussions are a major issue going forward since they make him more susceptible to another and likely mean he'd be out longer if it happens.

Tagovailoa led the league in YPA and TD% and ranked first in EPA at the season's midpoint before crashing to 28th over the second half. Now, he needs to prove that was due to the injuries and not teams taking away those quick initial reads, exposing holes in Tagovailoa's accuracy. Adding Mike White as a backup was an important piece of business for Miami.

The last time we saw a healthy Matthew Stafford, he led the Rams to a Super Bowl victory with elite playoff numbers. Perhaps that level of play is still in there, but at age 35, with a prolonged injury and a career of 10th-to-15th-best QB seasons, that upside probably isn't worth gambling on.

And then there's Russell Wilson. Earlier I noted that every time I evaluated QBs, I nudged Jalen Hurts up my list. Well every time I evaluated QBs, I moved Wilson a little further down.

Wilson has never ranked outside my top five and even hit No. 1 a couple of times, but that guy appears to be long gone. He's always had a miserable sack rate (8.5%) and holds the ball way too long and can no longer move well enough to make up for it. The mistakes are up; the accuracy is down.

Normally Wilson is a CPOE god; last year's -4.3% ranked lower than all but one starting QB. Even the deep ball is starting to betray Wilson now. He consistently gets worse as the season goes on and his body doesn't hold up.

I don't think Sean Payton can fix Wilson, but maybe he can at least make him palatable. Let Russ cook? Right now, I wouldn't even let him into my kitchen.

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Tier 6 — The Upside Swings

18. C.J. Stroud, Texans (N/A)
19. Bryce Young, Panthers (N/A)
20. Justin Fields, Bears (22)

I wrote plenty about rookies C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young for the NFL Draft, so you can read more about both there.

I don't evaluate either as game-changing, future top-five QBs, but both look like quality signal-callers who are ready to step in at a decent level right now. I prefer Stroud and expect him to be more NFL-ready in Year 1 because of his elite size and accuracy.

Young quarterbacks typically aren't great, but at this point of the rankings, I'd rather gamble on an unknown upside than fall back on some of the game managers remaining. Stroud and Young will take their lumps but are worth the gamble.

Is there a great quarterback hiding somewhere inside Justin Fields waiting to break out? I don't see it.

Every number is horrendous. Fields is 5-20 lifetime. His career 59.7% completion rate is awful, and so is his 3.6% interception rate, but he throws so little no one really notices.

Fields holds the ball longer than any QB and eats sacks at a historic 13.4% rate, a number so shockingly high I think he just got sacked reading this sentence. He rates bottom-40 percentile or worse on early downs, in standard drops and avoiding negative plays. He ranks last in accuracy at PFF, with an ungodly 24% of his passes deemed uncatchable. That's one in four passes!!

The Ohio State product is an electric, game-changing runner. Every available metric says that he's a terrible thrower. D.J. Moore should help, but the offensive line still looks terrible at pass blocking and Fields just isn't showing much improvement.

He's a chic MVP sleeper at +2000 if you think none of those numbers matter.

Pick: Justin Fields To Win MVP (+2000)

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Tier 7 — The Game Managers

21. Daniel Jones, Giants (28)
22. Ryan Tannehill, Titans (12)
23. Jimmy Garoppolo, Raiders (N/A)
24. Brock Purdy, 49ers (N/A)

Litmus test QBs can post great metrics when the surroundings are right. They can be a reason teams win. Game managers can't even do that with any regularity, but they can at least stay out of the way to not cost them a loss.

That's where I'm at with Daniel Jones, and, frankly, it's where I think Brian Daboll is too. Jones had his best season under Daboll, but he's playing with training wheels.

He ranks last in aDOT and intended air yards to the sticks. Everything is short and under, ensuring Jones doesn't screw anything up. The big growth was avoiding mistakes, but the accuracy is still poor and that's on mostly short throws.

The best value Jones adds is with his legs, with rushing numbers similar to Jalen Hurts, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson. Credit Daboll for unleashing Jones as a scrambler, but until Daboll shows he's willing to take the training wheels off, I can't move Jones as far up the rankings as Smith or Goff.

If you swapped Jones with Ryan Tannehill, would the Giants or Titans get better? Tannehill was great for two years under OC Arthur Smith, but he appears to have regressed in a worse scheme. At age 35, with the worst offensive line in football, it's probably best not to give him the benefit of the doubt anymore. He never really eliminated the mistakes, and now the upside plays are gone.

If you look up "game manager" in the dictionary, you'll find a picture of Jimmy Garoppolo. We've seen how good the numbers are in Kyle Shanahan's system, but I fear he could be a terrible fit with Josh McDaniels.

Garoppolo has a career 2.9% Big Time Throw rate with an ugly 3.6% turnover-worthy throw rate, per PFF. He likes to throw over the middle, but McDaniels wants to throw deep and outside. Derek Carr had an awful year for McDaniels last year, and I fear Garoppolo will be even worse.

I'd still rather have Garoppolo than Brock Purdy in San Francisco, though.

While Purdy is undefeated in healthy starts, he did that against almost exclusively bad defenses down the stretch, with one of the best QB setups in recent memory. Purdy's interception and sack rates are on the high end, his intended air yards are low and he won only twice on the road, both by one score. Every game, it felt like Purdy was a split second away from two or three huge mistakes.

I think it's bananas that Shanahan is turning over the keys to the best job in football to a former Mr. Irrelevant — who's coming off elbow surgery — based on 280 plays against mostly bad competition.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Brock Purdy is the new Tom Brady, and maybe it's not bonkers for a Super Bowl favorite to go into the season with an injured, unknown QB backed up by Sam Darnold. But I'm sure as heck not putting any futures bets on San Francisco until I see Purdy prove it.

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Tier 8 — The Complete Unknowns

25. Kenny Pickett, Steelers (N/A)
26. Mac Jones, Patriots (20)
27. Jordan Love, Packers (N/A)
28. Desmond Ridder, Falcons (N/A)
29. Sam Howell, Commanders (N/A)
30. Anthony Richardson, Colts (N/A)

The six quarterbacks in this tier have a combined 48 professional starts to their names, and 31 of those belong to one guy. We just don't know much about this group yet.

Given the options, I feel like Kenny Pickett has shown the most. He was terrific under pressure and outside the pocket, though he got a lot of help on inaccurate — but catchable — balls from his receivers.

Pickett showed clear improvement over the back half of the season and got the Steelers to basically average on offense. For a rookie QB thrown into the fire with a subpar offensive line, that's not bad.

I suspect both Pickett and Mac Jones end up in the Game Managers tier by the end of the season. It's where Jones started last season before a wonky year — but I'm skeptical they ever move much past it.

Unlike Pickett, Jones has been far better from a clean pocket, struggling against pressure. Expect a bounce-back season with an improved offensive line and a great play caller in Bill O'Brien.

Jordan Love feels like the highest immediate variance in this group. For this season, that's probably a good thing. Love has 83 professional throws, many of them in garbage time. I was not a fan of his coming out of college. The tools are obviously there, but the accuracy is not and he struggled against pressure and turned it over too much.

What does that look like with three years of NFL coaching? We have no idea, but if Love is going to be good, he'll probably look the part right away. He has the highest ceiling in this group for this year.

I'm not a believer in Love or the Packers, but this is a team you want to bet the long tail on with futures, either really good or really bad. Love is +6000 to win MVP (DraftKings).

If I had to pick one QB from this tier to lead the best offense in 2023, it would be Desmond Ridder. I trust his process and decision-making the most, even if the accuracy leaves you wanting.

Ridder didn't throw an interception in four starts as a rookie and he was good under pressure, not to mention his running ability is a good fit for Arthur Smith's scheme. Atlanta has top-10 offense potential if Ridder is even decent. If he's good, this team can make the playoffs and win a game.

We only got one rookie start from SamHowell, but he looked good and beat a Cowboys team playing for playoff positioning, though perhaps with a half-effort vanilla defense. Howell has a nice trio of receivers and a new OC in Eric Bieniemy, who did pretty well with his last QB. Washington does have one of the better backups in the league with Jacoby Brissett.

Indianapolis will turn to Anthony Richardson from Day 1, and it's gonna be a ton of fun to watch. The rookie has limitless potential after basically breaking the NFL Combine with his athleticism. I'm very intrigued by his long-term fit under Shane Steichen after what we just saw him do with Jalen Hurts.

The short term could be a roller coaster. Richardson has precious little game experience and had horrid accuracy in college. I'm not entirely sure he knows how to play the position yet. There will be wild highlights no doubt, but expect plenty of lowlights, too.

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Tier 9 — The Placeholders

31. Baker Mayfield, Buccaneers (17)
32. Colt McCoy, Cardinals (N/A)

I gave Baker Mayfield the benefit of the doubt heading into last season as a former No. 1 overall pick, but not this time.

The career numbers are terrible — 2.8% INT rate, 7% sack rate and rising, slow-release, barely 60% completions — and the advanced metrics look just as bad. At this point, it's honestly bad news that former second-round pick Kyle Trask doesn't appear to be competing for this job either.

Assuming Kyler Murray doesn't make a miraculous recovery, it looks like 37-year-old Colt McCoy will get the Opening Day start. Believe it or not, this will be McCoy's ninth NFL season with a start. He's 11-25 lifetime, eats a ton of sacks and will be playing behind one of the worst lines in the league.

Arizona's season could be over before Murray ever steps onto a field.

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5 Key Takeaways for Bettors

1. The AFC is going to be an absolute bloodbath.

Scroll back up to the top of the rankings and start counting AFC quarterbacks. The AFC makes up all of Tier 1 and 2 and all but one name in Tier 3. My top-four QBs and eight of my top nine all play in the AFC.

In case you forgot, only seven teams make the playoffs. That means at least one of the top-nine QBs is guaranteed to miss the playoffs, and it means the task for any AFC team without one of those top-10 guys only gets that much harder.

Be very careful with any AFC future. Any favorite may have to go through three top-10 QBs just to get to the Super Bowl, and any sleeper faces a serious mountain to climb to even make the playoffs.

On the other hand…

2. The NFC could be wide open and looks ripe for the perfect sleeper.

Jalen Hurts is the only NFC quarterback in my top nine, but he's followed immediately by Dak Prescott, Kirk Cousins, Derek Carr, Geno Smith and Jared Goff, all vying to be the second-best QB in the NFC.

This conference looks wide open. It is not difficult at all to imagine a totally random team suddenly ending up the NFC 2-seed, especially since Philadelphia and Dallas are in the same division. A top-2 seed exponentially increases futures upside for both teams and player awards.

Could one of those Litmus Test quarterbacks make a run at the MVP with a perfect supporting cast? Might a young QB like Justin Fields or Bryce Young make a top-10 leap? Could one of those unknown NFC guys — like Jordan Love, Desmond Ridder or Sam Howell — lead this year's NFC sleeper team?

Chances are the answer is 'yes' to at least one of those questions. Our job as bettors is to decide which one.

3. This is a year of unprecedented quarterback volatility.

Tom Brady is retired. Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson are rapidly aging out. Jalen Hurts and Trevor Lawrence jumped from Nos. 15 and 16 in the rankings last year to the top eight this year; Geno Smith and Jared Goff leaped from the bottom six to the top half of the league.

All the volatility at quarterback could make this a wildly unpredictable season since this is the most important position in team sports. No outcome is too far out of this world. No future, even the wildest ones, are unbettable.

Truly anything can happen this season with these unknowns at QB. Bet accordingly.

4. Brock Purdy is the biggest question mark for any Super Bowl contender this season.

This is a quarterback's league. Looking back at the top of the rankings list, every QB in the top 10 is favored to make the playoffs right now — that's 10 of the 14 available slots.

Five teams have Super Bowl odds at +1100 or shorter entering the season. Four of them have a top-five QB according to my rankings. The other one is San Francisco, with Brock Purdy at No. 24.

Maybe all the pundits are right. Perhaps it truly does not matter who plays quarterback for the 49ers. Heck, maybe Purdy is the real deal and San Francisco will have one of the top offenses in the league again like they did last season.

Or maybe the injury lingers and Purdy never gets into a rhythm. Maybe a faltering offensive line leaves Purdy rushing decisions and those vaunted Niners weapons don't stay healthy. And we all remember that QBs other than Jimmy Garoppolo are 14-29 lifetime under Kyle Shanahan.

You have to make a big decision on Brock Purdy. If you believe, you're in on the 49ers. If you're out on him, the entire NFC is blown wide open.

5. The AFC has three big question marks on contenders: Deshaun Watson, Tua Tagovailoa and Russell Wilson.

The AFC is so crowded that a couple of good teams will likely miss the playoffs on injury luck alone, so the stakes aren't quite as high as the NFC.

Still, Watson, Tagovailoa and Wilson have each posted elite QB numbers and shown the ability to lead a Super Bowl-caliber offense — and the pieces and schemes are there for all three.

But the AFC already has Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Trevor Lawrence, Lamar Jackson, Aaron Rodgers… you get the point.

You probably need to pick at least one of these three names to believe in. You're risky if you choose two, and there's almost no chance you should back all three.

It's your pick. Think of it as a little football game of FMK.

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