Five scariest quarterbacks entering 2022 NFL season

Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks knows the ins and outs of this league, providing keen insight in his notebook.

But first, considering Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and the most daunting QBs to face today …

One way to spark a strong reaction from the football world is to insinuate that a superstar is a system player, someone who is elevated by the pieces around him and lacking the skills needed to succeed in any situation. Former Ravens and Jets linebacker Bart Scott recently did the honors, setting social media on fire after he said that he and others would rather face Tom Brady than Peyton Manning.

“I’d much rather go against Tom Brady every day of the week than go against Peyton Manning,” Scott said last week on ESPN Radio’s Bart & Hahn Show. “… I believe that’s how everybody feels. Like, in the heyday, never ever have I said when I’m playing the Patriots, ‘I’m so afraid of Tom Brady.’

“I lost as a No. 1 seed to Peyton Manning with the Baltimore Ravens. Peyton Manning gives you a different set of anxiety. … With Tom Brady it was more about Bill Belichick, the entire team, the execution, them having a game plan.”

While I believe there is a lot more nuance needed to fully understand the point Scott tried to make, there is something different about facing a player who is in the system compared to someone who thrives within the system. For instance, a quarterback who can operate outside of the play designs crafted by the offensive coordinators poses a bigger threat to the defense. Whether making plays on an impromptu scramble or firing a no-look pass across the field, the quarterbacks who keep defensive coordinators up at night are the ones who are able to make plays beyond the diagrams on the chalkboard.

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In the mid-1990s, I had a chance to witness it firsthand when I played with the Green Bay Packers in the midst of Brett Favre‘s run to three consecutive MVP award wins. The Hall of Famer was the best player on the planet during that time and his improvisational skills kept defensive coordinators and defenders on their toes.

As No. 4’s teammate, the presence of a magician at the position not only changed the way opponents defended us but it gave the team the kind of confidence that can result in rings and banners at the end of the season. The offense expected to score every time it had the ball with Favre in the huddle. From the coaches to the players, the goal was to score 30 or more points each week. Anything less than flawless execution and efficient performance drew the ire of the coaches, particularly Mike Holmgren, and created some tense moments on the sideline and in the locker room.

On defense, the emphasis was on getting the ball back to give Favre more chances to put points on the board. Whether we were up or down, the team’s confidence was unshakeable due to the presence of a unicorn in the offensive huddle.

I’m certain Brady’s teammates in New England and Tampa Bay feel the same way about TB12 in the huddle. I think Brady would be the first to admit, though, that he’s never been the most athletically gifted passer around. There is something different about having a transcendent star at the position with the potential to make a play from anywhere on the field in a variety of ways.

Looking at the starting quarterbacks in today’s league, there are a handful of quarterbacks who have the star qualities and blue-chip traits that led to sleepless nights for defensive coordinators and defenders around the league. The combination of IQ, athleticism and arm talent makes them a nightmare to defend, and it requires more than just the Xs and Os to slow them down.

Here are my top five scariest quarterbacks in the league right now.

Rank – 1

Patrick Mahomes

Kansas City Chiefs · Age: 26

Do not let a sub-par 2021 campaign — by his incredibly high standards — overshadow the fear factor created by former regular season and Super Bowl MVP. Mahomes has the capacity to shred defenses with a variety of laser-like tosses from inside and outside of the pocket. The sixth-year pro has dazzled the football world with his ability to throw the ball down the field, but 2022 could give him a chance to showcase a more disciplined and patient approach. With Tyreek Hill now in Miami, Mahomes might play more small ball and pick apart opponents with a barrage of passes thrown at short and intermediate range. If he continues to refine his approach while maintaining the fearlessness and efficiency (66.1% completion rate, 105.8 passer rating, 151:37 TD-INT ratio) that has made him so hard to stop, the Chiefs’ QB1 could go down as the scariest quarterback in NFL history.

Rank – 2

Josh Allen

Buffalo Bills · Age: 26

Allen is a freak show at the position, possessing super-sized dimensions with A-plus arm talent and athleticism. It’s hard to find 6-foot-5, 237-pound quarterbacks with the capacity to throw the ball over the top of the defense or run through a defense on designed QB runs and impromptu scrambles. Allen has put up MVP-like numbers over the past couple years while emerging as one of the premier offensive weapons in the game. As a modern-day single-wing quarterback with a unique set of skills, opposing coaches must craft game plans that account for a dynamic runner and thrower at the position. With few defenses housing enough athletes, particularly at the second level, with the size, length and strength to get Allen to the ground, the stuff the box or fall back into coverage dilemma created by Allen’s skills make it hard for defensive coordinators to rest easy when prepping for the Bills.

Rank – 3

Aaron Rodgers

Green Bay Packers · Age: 38

The four-time MVP is no longer the athlete he once was, but that does not make him a lesser threat at the position. Rodgers continues to torment opponents with a beautiful mind and mythical arm that enables him to pick apart defenses with exceptional pre-snap reads and post-snap throws. He routinely throws receivers open against tight coverage with pinpoint tosses while also showing the ability to toss rainbows over the top of the defense when defenders make a mistake in coverage. Rodgers always cashes the lottery ticket when the defense messes up, and his ability to identify the misplaced defender keeps defensive coordinators on edge. Despite the loss of an All-Pro receiver who made life easier for Rodgers in the pocket, the remarkable skills and efficiency of the veteran passer will enable the Packers’ offense to continue to thrive with No. 12 in the huddle.

Rank – 4

Lamar Jackson

Baltimore Ravens · Age: 25

The so-called slump from the former NFL MVP in 2021 has led some observers to have amnesia when recalling Jackson’s impact as a playmaker on the perimeter. After tallying a pair of 1,000-yard seasons as a rusher, defensive coordinators are well aware of his ability to take over the game on the ground. No. 8 is an explosive runner with superb ball-handling skills as an option quarterback executing a variety of power-read and counter-read plays. He has shown the ability to take it the distance as a runner from anywhere on the field and that forces opponents to pay extra attention to him in the box. With the fifth-year pro displaying enough proficiency as a passer down the middle of the field to punish opponents for overplaying the run, defensive coordinators have to pick and choose when to ratchet up the pressure against a quarterback who possesses the athleticism and arm talent to counter aggressive tactics.

Rank – 5

Justin Herbert

Los Angeles Chargers · Age: 24

It’s easy to see why Brandon Staley has so much confidence in his quarterback. Herbert has compiled gaudy numbers in his first two NFL seasons while displaying the IQ, athleticism, arm talent and swagger to develop into an all-timer at the position. Measuring 6-foot-6, 236 pounds with the ability to throw the ball out of the stadium or hit a bullseye on the dartboard, the third-year pro is the prototype at the position as a passer. Herbert can throw with touch, timing and anticipation or fire the ball through tight windows between the hashes. As a former three-sport star in high school with light feet, the big-bodied QB can make plays outside of the pocket, too. That underrated dimension to Herbert’s game makes him a weapon on the perimeter on zone reads and designed quarterback runs. Although the Chargers want to limit his exposure to big hits, the franchise quarterback possesses an array of skills that challenge the minds of defensive coordinators and the athleticism of defenders.

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