It is no secret that the NFL has become increasingly more focused on the passing game. The NFL used to hand the ball off to the running back twenty-five times per game but those days are long gone. The rules today are in favor of a more pass friendly league and in the minds of the NFL higher ups, more scoring equates to more viewership. On the field, the numbers tell the same story. The top-15 all-time passing yard seasons have all been by active quarterbacks with the exceptions of Peyton Manning and Dan Marino whose skill set could be directly attributed to what the NFL looks like today.
Last season, Tom Brady led the league in passing yards with 4,577 followed behind by Philip Rivers with 4,515. There were eight total quarterbacks that eclipsed 4,000 yards last season. The gold standard for elite quarterbacks used to be 3,000 yards, but we have discussed that already. The amount of passing yards per game by NFL quarterbacks has continued to grow and this upcoming season will be no different. Last NFL draft was the first time in a long time that four quarterbacks were selected in the top 10 that most draft analysts viewed as elite prospects.
The current young crop of quarterbacks will surely place the NFL in a great place as the QBs we have grown accustomed to over the years play their final seasons. Whether it's Tom Brady, Drew Brees, or Ben Roethlisberger, this crop of signal callers will not be around forever. Let's examine 10 QBs who won't crack 3,000 yards and 10 who surprisingly will.
20 Won't: Joe Flacco
Joe Flacco has been the starting quarterback for the Ravens since 2008. His rookie year was the only one in which he didn’t end up with 3,000 yards and didn’t go down with an injury. But last season a few things changed.
First off, Flacco had his lowest yards per game average in 2017 with 196.3, a huge drop off from the 269 he had the year before.
The second big change is that the Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson late in the first round last year. At some point this year Jackson is going to get the opportunity to play and even if it’s only for a couple of games that will be enough to end Flacco’s impressive streak.
19 Surprisingly Will: Josh Allen
Of all the quarterbacks on this list, Allen might be the most surprising to reach the 3,000 yard mark this season. Most people saw him as an extremely raw talent coming out of college and he was drafted by the Bills which don’t have the best talent on the outside because all their receivers are on the Rams now. But given the fact that his QB competition is AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman, it is safe to say they will want to see what they have in Allen and let him throw the ball around the field. There will be a lot of interceptions for Allen this year and he probably won’t have the best year, but he will get to 3,000 yards.
18 Won't: Blake Bortles
Blake Bortles stepped up to another level for the Jaguars in 2017 when he took the team to the AFC Championship Game in his fourth season. Bortles also threw for 3,600 yards with 21 TDs and 13 INTs for the season. While this was the lowest total for Bortles since his rookie year, it still was well past the 3,000 yard threshold. Despite all this, the Jags didn’t really want to stay with Bortles in the offseason and were looking for different options, before circling back and giving Bortles an extension. That means the chances are there that if the Jags start struggling, they will want to move on later.
17 Surprisingly Will: Alex Smith
To many Alex Smith wasn’t really seen as a prolific passer until the beginning of the season last year with the Chiefs. He started off on fire in the 2017 season with 11 touchdowns to 0 INTs and was looking like the early MVP candidate. He came back down to Earth by the end of the year throwing for 4,000 yards 26 TDs and 5 INTs but ultimately coming up short with a loss to the Titans in the wildcard round. Smith was then shipped to the Redskins for Kendall Fuller and a 3rd round pick.
Without the weapons the Chiefs had it’s going to be harder for Smith to maintain that level of play but he will still get the job done.
16 Won't: Sam Bradford
The 2017 campaign ended the same way that most seasons do for Same Bradford. Unfortunately the story of his career has been his inability to stay healthy for long stretches of time. In the first two games of the season Bradford threw for 382 yards and 3 TDs and 0 INTs. But a knee injury ended the season for Bradford and the Vikings have gone in a different direction.
Now Bradford is on the Arizona Cardinals where there is a transitional period at the quarterback position.
Bradford is great at helping this transition take place and could really excel as he did with the Vikings.
The two big things that will stop Bradford is the possibility for injury and the fact that Josh Rosen is waiting in the wings.
15 Surprisingly Will: Sam Darnold
Sam Darnold was drafted with the number 3 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. The Jets decided that they needed to go in a different direction after going 5-11 last season. Even though that was the case Josh McCown started most of the 2017 season for the Jets. In 13 games he threw for 2,926 yards with the team showing that he could succeed in the system. Darnold will have the same opportunities with the team having no incumbent at the position. Expect him to start from day one and not get taken out of the starting lineup. That means he’ll only need a few standout games to reach 3,000 yards.
14 Won't: Marcus Mariota
Marcus Mariota has been up and down in his first three years of the NFL. The 2nd overall pick by the Titans in 2015 has stayed directly in the range of a mediocre quarterback ever since he got under center. Last season Mariota threw for 3,232 yards 13 TDs and 15 INTs.
This could be the year that Mariota explodes but given that fact that he did play 15 games and barely passed the threshold it is also possible he’s just an average passer.
This season Mariota will slip back to just under the 3,000 yard mark because the Titans offense still doesn’t seem to have those explosive threats.
13 Surprisingly Will: Eli Manning
Last season, Eli Manning dealt with issues with Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepherd. After getting his starting job taken away by Geno Smith, people assumed Manning would be done as a starting quarterback in the NFL but the Giants decided to keep him and draft Saquon Barkley with the second pick of the 2018 draft.
Since 2005 Manning has managed to throw for 3,000 yards each year including passing for a 3,468 yards in 2017. Most of the media doesn’t think that Manning can play anymore, but the Giants believed and that’s all that matters. With all his weapons back expect Manning to continue that success at age 37.
12 Won't: Tyrod Taylor
Tyrod Taylor fits perfectly in the range of starting quarterbacks who could throw for 3,000 but won’t start enough games in 2018. Taylor is the starter for the Cleveland Browns right now but with 1st overall pick Baker Mayfield waiting in the wings and Hue Jackson needing to save his job with the potential of Mayfield, this won’t take long. Taylor has thrown for 3,000 yards twice in his career while playing for the Bills in 2015 and 2016. But last year he only reached 2,700, so this season, in a new system, it just isn’t happening.
11 Surprisingly Will: Dak Prescott
After leading the Dallas cowboys to the 13-3 record in his rookie season in 2016, Dak Prescott did not follow through with success. In 2017 Prescott threw for 3,324 yards 22 TDs and 13 INTs with starting running back Ezekiel Elliott hopefully playing all 16 games, people wonder whether Dak will be able to surpass 3,000 yards again.
The loss of Dez Bryant will hurt but expect Dak to still throw for 3,000 yards.
Prescott will likely take a leap in year 3 given the fact that Bryant will not be there demanding the ball. That means Dak will have one more chance to master the offense and improve drastically this upcoming season.
10 Won't: Jameis Winston
If there is one thing Winston has done over the first three years of his career, it is pile up the yards quickly. Winston passed for over 4,000 yards in his first two seasons and that number dipped to 3,500 last year, but that is still well over enough for him to be on the other side of this list. However because of his three game suspension with the NFL, him reaching 3,000 yards is in jeopardy. Last year, Winston also only played in 13 games, but that’s still a slimmer margin then you would like to bank on.
9 Surprisingly Will: Jimmy Garoppolo
Jimmy Garoppolo played two games for the New England Patriots in 2016, throwing for 500 yards 4 TDs and 0 INTs. Even though he went down with an injury, people could tell there was something special in his quarterback play. In 2017, the 49ers traded for him with a second round pick in the 2018 draft. Garoppolo played in six games with the team and won all five games he started, throwing for 1,560 yards 7 TDs and 5 INTs with head coach Kyle Shannahan the 49ers expect to have an explosive offense in 2018. Garoppolo is set up to easily throw for 3,000 yards. All he has to do is continue performing at a high level and not get hurt.
8 Won't: Case Keenum
Case Keenum was a career journeyman heading into the 2017 season. Most of that is because most people didn’t think he would get another chance as a starter after his stint with the Rams in which he threw more interceptions than touchdowns. He was supposed to simply be a backup to Sam Bradford in Minnesota. Kennum got his opportunity and ran with it, throwing for 3,547 yards, 22 TDs and 7 INTs.
In the offseason he signed with the Broncos, which seems like a graveyard for QB signings lately.
Inevitably, Kennum will revert back to his pre-Vikings form and the Broncos will start three different players at the QB position.
7 Surprisingly Will: Cam Newton
Cam Newton had a very up and down season in 2017. He got a lot of flak for his comments and attitude. As much as Newton isn’t known for his passing numbers, he has been consistent in getting over the 3,000 yard mark despite the fact that he has a defensive head coach and no true number one receiver. Newton still manages to be one of those quarterbacks who finds a way to perform no matter the circumstances. This season will be no different and he actually might pass for 4,000, given the work he’s been putting into the offseason.
6 Won't: Andrew Luck
When healthy, Andrew Luck is one of the top ten quarterbacks in the NFL. However that is the big problem; he hasn't been healthy lately. When Luck played in 2016 he threw for 4,240 yards, 31 TDs and 13 INTs. But an injury in his right shoulder which has persisted since 2015 kept him sidelined for 2017.
This year the news is good so far, because Luck has started throwing but as always, the question is his health. At this point, Luck is a 50/50 proposition to play more than 12 games in 2018.
5 Surprisingly Will: Baker Mayfield
Yes all the news out of camp is that Mayfield doesn’t look ready for the NFL yet and doesn’t know the almighty playbook that got the Browns to 0-16. Here’s the thing though; Hue Jackson can’t afford to not start Mayfield at the first sign of trouble.
If the Browns start off 0-2, which is going to happen because they play the Saints and Steelers, everything will be on high alert.
That means people will call for Jackson to be fired of Mayfield to start. At that point they will still be bad but have to throw the ball just to stay in games and Mayfield will sling for some yards. Remember, Deshone Kizer almost got to 3,000 last year so it’s going to happen if Mayfield gets the opportunity.
4 Won't: Ryan Tannehill
Each season Ryan Tannehill has been in the NFL and played 16 games, he has thrown for at least 3,000 yards. He was about to do the same thing in 2016 with 2,995 yards in 13 games until he went down with a left knee injury. He was set up to have a great year in 2017 but yet again the left knee went out in training camp. So now Tannenhill has missed a over a year due to injury and time will tell how quickly he can get back to that level. But like some of the other QBs on this list, his injury history will probably keep him away from 3,000 yards.
3 Surprisingly Will: Deshaun Watson
Deshaun Watson was on pace to have one of the best rookie seasons by a quarterback in NFL history in the first seven games of the season. He threw for 1,699 yards 19 TDs and 8 INTs in those games, which was on pace for 3,883 yards and over 40 TDs through the season. However, Watson’s glorious season was cut short with a non-contact injury that he suffered at practice. The knee injury caused him to miss the rest of the season and really sunk the Texans. All indications are Watson is good to go for the season. Watson will continue his climb and ultimately reach 3,000 yards next year.
2 Won't: Derek Carr
Derek Carr has thrown for over 3,000 yards each year of his career in the NFL. However last year, his numbers started to dip and he threw for 3,400 yards.
Carr is getting a coach who hasn’t been in the NFL in over 10 years with Jon Gruden so who knows what kind of offensive style they will run when the games start.
He also has been banged up in recent years but has never missed any significant time because of it.
That is a tough system to keep up when someone has shown that they get banged up from time to time.
Even further, Carr doesn’t get sacked too much so if he has a season when he does things could get ugly quick.
1 Surprisingly Will: Patrick Mahomes
Patrick Mahomes was drafted with the 10th overall pick in the 2017 draft by the Chiefs. When they traded up to make the decision, it stunned the NFL because most thought that Deshaun Watson would be the second QB taken in the draft. However, when the season started, Alex Smith was on fire for the first part of the year and retained the starting job for the rest of the season. But with him being moved in the offseason, the Chiefs offense now has explosive weapons with Tyreke Hill, Sammy Watkins, Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt surrounding Mahomes. He should easily pass for over 3,000 yards.