Offensive Player Rankings, Week 6: Five QBs under 30 I'd want to build a franchise around

The NFL is swarming with young quarterback talent. In Week 5 alone, we saw an EPIC comeback from Lamar Jackson, a possible changing of the guard in the AFC thanks to a huge performance Josh Allen and another Kyler Murray-led win for the league’s lone undefeated team.

With so much excitement surrounding this group of quarterbacks, it’s the perfect time for me to take a closer look at these incredible talents. So today, I’m ranking the top five quarterbacks under 30 years old that I’d choose to build a franchise around.

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Allen has a great combination of arm strength and running ability. He’s playing the position better than everyone else heading into Week 6 of the regular season. There isn’t anything Allen can’t do in the passing game and he’s done a great job of evolving in the Bills’ run game, especially on RPO plays. Several times in Sunday night’s victory vs. Kansas City, I saw Allen not hand the ball off to the running back, decide not to throw it, then follow the running back to where the void was in the defense. I’ve seen other quarterbacks do that on broken plays but not by choice. Allen is able to process what the defense gives him and make the necessary adjustments — part of his game that’s improved immensely since his rookie season.

Mahomes hasn’t been as electric in 2021 as he was over the last few seasons. While those struggles have resulted in his exit from my rankings below, he’s still one of the league’s most gifted and dangerous quarterbacks. You don’t get your team to back-to-back Super Bowls without those traits. He can be inconsistent, but his big-play ability and knack for turning broken plays into positive gains are two huge reasons for Kansas City’s success since he became the starter in 2018. He is as good as they come in terms of quick decision-making and putting his playmakers in position to win their matchups. Simply put, you can never count the Chiefs out of a game with Mahomes under center.

The Chargers’ second-year quarterback is the best pocket passer on this list. His ability to see open voids in coverage allows him to throw his receivers open, which is a quality not often seen from young players. Herbert can make all the throws and get the offense out of almost any situation with his arm, but he also uses his legs well enough to be a threat in the run game — something we quarterbacks like to call “hidden yardage.” He’s taken the Chargers’ offense from good to great in one season, and this unit will continue to rank among the league’s best as long as No. 10 stays healthy. This kid is special.

The options for play-callers seem limitless when Murray is under center. The dynamic third-year quarterback puts fear into the defense before teams even take the field, as the opposition must prepare to face a guy who can extend plays with his legs and hit pass catchers with accuracy in the pass game. Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman told me early in my career to be ready when my team was in position to contend. That’s what we’re seeing in Arizona right now. Murray is playing the best football of his career and the team is peaking. That’s why the Cardinals have the best record in the league heading into Week 6. 

I’m not sure it’s possible for a Dallas Cowboys quarterback to be underrated, but to me, Dak doesn’t get his due. What has he done other than make clutch plays and put the Cowboys in winning situations late in games? He’s improved as a passer, can buy time with his legs and makes good decisions. The moment is never too big for him. I’m on board with everything this guy brings to an offense. There were so many questions surrounding him coming into the 2021 campaign, as he made his way back from the gruesome ankle injury he suffered last season and the shoulder injury that sidelined him in training camp. But those questions were put to rest in Week 1, when he threw for 400-plus yards and nearly led the Cowboys to an upset of the reigning champion Bucs. It’s just unfortunate Tom Brady was standing on the sideline opposite him or Dak and the Cowboys would be 5-0 right now. Dak doesn’t need to prove anything. The product he puts on the field is more than enough.

Top 15 Offensive Players

Each week in the 2021 campaign, former No. 1 overall pick and NFL Network analyst David Carr will take a look at all offensive players and rank his top 15. Rankings are based solely on this season’s efforts. The Week 6 pecking order is below.

NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from last week’s rankings.

The AFC tides turned Sunday night thanks to Allen and the Bills. He took control early against the Chiefs’ Swiss cheese defense and continued to apply pressure until the end of regulation, finishing with 315 pass yards, three TDs and a 139.1 passer rating, and 11 carries for 59 yards and a rush TD. Allen is showing us he has the goods to take the Bills to the Super Bowl.

The Packers don’t beat the Bengals without Rodgers. He — and the Bengals, who had ample opportunities to close the game out — gave Mason Crosby four(!) chances to kick the go-ahead field goal in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime, and Crosby finally connected to give Green Bay the win in overtime. The Packers don’t have the best offense when you look at the numbers, but they get the job done when they need it most and that’s a credit to Rodgers. 

The 49ers held Murray and the Cardinals’ offense in check for most of Sunday’s game, but the third-year quarterback stepped up to the plate with the team’s undefeated season on the line, orchestrating a five-play, 52-yard drive capped by a 9-yard TD pass to DeAndre Hopkins with 5 minutes left. The score and a great defensive performance from Vance Joseph’s group secured the victory. Kyler’s playing smart football but will be tested by another tough defense next weekend in Cleveland. Let’s see if he can help keep the Cards’ streak alive.

For as much as we’ve raved about Patrick Mahomes, whose Chiefs are riding the struggle bus, Herbert deserves equal praise for what he’s doing in SoCal. In fact, Herbert joined Mahomes on Sunday as the only quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era with at least 40 pass TDs and fewer than 15 INTs in their first 20 starts. Herbert has the Chargers sitting at 4-1 with one contest (at Baltimore) to play before the bye week. After that, it should be smooth sailing until December if Herbert and Co. keep playing like this.

Adams torched the Bengals’ secondary all game long, whether he separated in his routes or made a contested catch, and ended the game with a career-high 206 receiving yards. The Bengals had no answer for the league’s receiving yards leader (579), and to be honest, I’m not sure any team will.

Henry absolutely owns the Jaguars and has averaged 103.9 rush yards per game over 11 games against them. In Sunday’s win, the two-time rushing champion recorded his fifth career game with at least 130 rush yards and three rush TDs, the most in the NFL since 2010 and tied for fourth-most in NFL history. Only Hall of Famers Jim Brown and Barry Sanders and Shaun Alexander have more such games. Henry’s putting together an impressive campaign and we’re not even to Halloween.

What a way to erase the memory of last year’s painful Week 5 event. Prescott led the Cowboys to a blowout victory over the division rival Giants and had 302 pass yards, three TDs, one pick and a 116.9 passer rating in the process. Five weeks into the 2021 season, the Cowboys have the league’s top overall offense thanks to their quarterback’s efficiency, decision-making and leadership.

Brian Flores’ defense has taken a step back and Brady took full advantage Sunday with 73.2 completion percentage, 411 pass yards, five pass TDs and a 144.4 pass rating (final three are season highs). At some point, it feels like there can’t be anymore firsts for Brady, but he had 400-plus pass yards and at least five pass TDs in a game for the first time in his career, including playoffs (351 games). That has to be the last first right?

In a defensive battle between the Cardinals and 49ers, it was Hopkins to took the game into his own hands late in the fourth quarter with back-to-back big plays. The first was a 30-yard reception to put the Cardinals in the red zone and he followed it up on the next play with a 9-yard touchdown catch with Josh Norman draped all over him. This is what the NFL’s best playmakers do, and Hopkins, who’s no stranger to game-changing plays, took charge when the Cards needed him most.

Lamar Jackson is something else. I thought the Ravens were toast after his critical fumble on the Colts’ 1-yard line in the third quarter. But with a short memory, Lamar helped the Ravens score 16 unanswered points to send the game to overtime after Colts kicker Rodrigo Blankenship missed a field goal at the end of regulation. Jackson then led his team on a 10-play, 68-yard game-winning drive in overtime that ended in a 5-yard TD connection between Lamar and Marquise Brown. Man, what a performance from the 2019 NFL MVP.

Kelce’s 1-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s loss to Buffalo put him at four for the season, tied for second-most among tight ends. The Chiefs have lost three of their last four, but they have a good chance to get back on track next week against Washington. Kelce can be the one to lead the charge as a major mismatch for a struggling defense.

With seven catches for 63 yards against the Bills, Hill became the second-fastest Chiefs player since the 1970 merger to reach 400 career receptions (79 games), according to NFL Research. However, Hill’s outing didn’t come without its flaws. The most significant blunder came in the third quarter, when the Chiefs trailed 24-13, when a Mahomes pass went through Hill’s hands and right into those of Bills safety Micah Hyde, who returned the interception for a TD. The Chiefs rarely feel out of a game but that turn of events proved to be too much, as they never came within fewer than 11 points the rest of the way.

Sean McVay made good on his promise to get Robert Woods “more opportunities” but more Woods didn’t mean less Kupp. The latter finished with seven receptions for 92 yards in the Rams’ 26-17 win over the Seahawks. In fact, Kupp is the only player in the league to receiving at least 10 targets in all of his team’s games this season. 

Ranked second in the league in passing yards, Carr is constantly under pressure from opposing defenses. This Raiders’ passing attack requires someone other than All-Pro tight end Darren Waller to to consistently step up and provide a secondary option. Things won’t get easier for this unit next week either as Las Vegas travels to Denver to face the league’s second-best scoring defense after head coach Jon Gruden’s resignation on Monday night.

On a day when the Raiders struggled to generate any sort of offense, Waller recorded a season-low 45 receiving yards on four catches (he had two drops, per Pro Football Focus). It snapped a nine-game streak with at least 50 receiving yards in a game dating back to Week 13 of 2020. One part of Waller’s game that doesn’t get enough attention is his blocking ability as he’s constantly paving the way for the ground game and other pass catchers.

DROPPED OUT: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs (Previously No. 2); Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks (No. 3).

Follow David Carr on Twitter.

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