Computer Model Predicts NFL’s Best Quarterback This Year


NFL fans and analysts have their own ideas of how quarterbacks will perform throughout the 2021 season, but one predictive computer model is attempting to determine this year’s QB rankings with a more scientific method.

On Tuesday, statistical analysis website FiveThirtyEight ran a computer program to rank every quarterback in the NFL.

Here’s how it works:

“The top quarterbacks for each team and their value in Elo points, which are used in our quarterback-adjusted model. Our ratings are a rolling average of recent performances and incorporate both passing and running. Initial rookie ratings are based on draft position; undrafted rookies begin their careers with an Elo value of zero, while a first overall draft pick starts with an Elo value of 113.

“This forecast is based on 50,000 simulations of the season and updates after every game. Our traditional model uses Elo ratings (a measure of strength based on head-to-head results and quality of opponent) to calculate teams’ chances of winning their regular-season games and advancing to and through the playoffs. Our quarterback-adjusted Elo model incorporates news reports to project likely starters for every upcoming game and uses our quarterback Elo ratings to adjust win probabilities for those games. A team’s current quarterback adjustment is based on its likely starter in its next game and how much better or worse that QB is than the team’s top starter.”

Here’s the program’s top 10:

  • No. 10 Kirk Cousins
  • No. 9 Lamar Jackson
  • No. 8 Ryan Tannehill
  • No. 7 Tom Brady
  • No. 6 Kyler Murray
  • No. 5 Ben Roethlisberger
  • No. 4 Dak Prescott
  • No. 3 Patrick Mahomes
  • No. 2 Josh Allen
  • No. 1 Aaron Rodgers

This formula seems to heavily lean on recent NFL performances, explaining why reigning league MVP Aaron Rodgers holds such a commanding lead as the top QB in 2021.

This also explains why rookie quarterback options like Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Mac Jones fall so far down the list. With no prior NFL experience, these young players are only being evaluated based on their draft position.

One of the most questionable rankings on this list would have to Seattle superstar Russell Wilson at No. 13 behind Ryan Fitzpatrick. While Wilson struggled in the late stretches of the 2020 season, there’s no reason why he should fall this far in the 2021 rankings.

These predictive computer models may not be anywhere close to perfect, but they sure are fun to discuss.


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