There has been a lot of recent talk about how the New Orleans Saints are going to be facing one of the weakest schedules in the NFL this season, but why is that?
Well one reason is the level of quarterback play that they’ll be going against. Looking at Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus’ list ranking all of the starting quarterbacks in the league, the Saints are going to be facing six of his bottom-10 ranked starters. It’s important to note that all three of the opposing NFC South are ranked in the bottom-10, so nine of the Saints’ 17 games will be against that level of quarterback.
Here are all of the quarterbacks that the Saints will face this season, ranked from best to worst according to Sam Monson:
Lawrence arrived last season. It took him half the year to get the Urban Meyer residue off, but from Week 9 onward, only Burrow and Mahomes earned a higher PFF grade. Billed as a truly generational talent when he was drafted, Lawrence showed that ability in 2022, and the Jaguars have continued to surround him with talent this offseason.
Cousins is probably at the top of the second tier of quarterbacks — those who you can win with but are unlikely to transform a team into a contender simply by their presence. Cousins has earned a PFF passing grade of at least 77.7 every season in Minnesota. He is an exceptionally accurate passer with plenty of big plays in his arsenal who maybe lacks that transcendent, intangible talent that every team chases at the position.
12. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
Is Stafford physically able to be the player he once was? Last season was a nightmare for the Rams from start to finish, and Stafford wasn’t far different on an individual level. He went from throwing 50 touchdowns including the playoffs the season before to just 10 across nine games before being shut down for the year. The Rams and Stafford are likely on the far side of their Super Bowl window, but how much he has left in the tank is a big unknown.
Goff is in an outstanding offense with one of the best coordinators in football running the show. Depending on the numbers you look at, his stats will make him look like one of the best passers in football, but it’s clear to anybody with a critical eye that that doesn’t quite match reality. Goff ranked 19th last season in PFF passing grade and 30th in big-time throw rate. He is a solid quarterback for the offense he’s in but is not as good as some of the results would suggest.
In his first year with Brian Daboll as his coach, Jones saw an uptick in results, but his performance didn’t necessarily match that improvement, albeit with very little help around him in terms of a supporting cast. Jones has now posted a big-time throw rate under 2.0% for two consecutive seasons, the lowest mark in the league. His rushing threat, however, is a huge boost to that offense, and he should have more success in 2023 with better players to target.
Fields won himself a starting job last season with almost no help around him. New general manager Ryan Poles stripped the roster of talent around him, and Fields was still able to emerge as one of the most dynamic players in the league. His passing is still very much a work in progress, but last season his primary targets were tight end Cole Kmet and speedster Darnell Mooney. This is a huge year for Fields to show what he can do with more help.
Tannehill is very much in the decline of his career at this point, but he is being made to look worse by the collapse of talent around him in Tennessee. The Titans ended last season with the league’s worst offensive line, and they may be entering this one with the league’s worst receiving corps. Tannehill has little chance to prove he is still capable of his best play and is coming off a 75.9% adjusted completion rate and a 2.5% turnover-worthy play rate in 2022.
Bringing in real coaching on offense has the potential to be huge for Jones. As underwhelming as last season was, it’s important to remember that Jones earned an 80.0 overall PFF grade as a rookie, finishing just outside the top 10 of eligible quarterbacks that year. He doesn’t have the dynamic athleticism of Justin Fields or the arm of Trevor Lawrence, but he has already shown he can be a very high-level distributor of the football and a better player than many give him credit for.
25. Bryce Young, Carolina Panthers
Young was the best quarterback in this draft by a considerable margin, and the only thing that made the discussion close was his lack of size — something that becomes obvious any time he is captured on film with anything near him to show true scale. Young has elite accuracy, anticipation and decision-making (back-to-back seasons with a 2.0% turnover-worthy play rate), but success at his size in the modern NFL is without precedent.
Love passed for 9.3 yards per attempt last season and earned a 78.7 PFF grade. On the other hand, he attempted 21 passes and was disastrous the last time he was on the field before that. We have very little idea what Love can become, with the biggest piece of evidence being that the Packers decided it was time to move on from Aaron Rodgers and turn the keys over to his successor. Countering that was the contract they got Love to agree to, which could only have started with the assumption that they were not going to pick up his fifth-year option.
It’s difficult to argue that Mayfield’s 2022 season was easily predictable, but it’s equally difficult to maintain any kind of lofty expectations for him going forward after witnessing it. His 50.6 PFF grade on the year was 13 grading points lower than his previous career-worst mark (which involved a torn shoulder), and it speaks volumes that the Rams were happy to let him walk after he led the team to a remarkable win just after stepping off the plane after they traded for him. Mayfield has very good play on his NFL resume, but it’s getting harder and harder to see it in the rearview mirror.
30. C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans
There were a lot of Stroud fans throughout the pre-draft process, but I was always a little lower on him than most. He has NFL stature and elite accuracy, but outside of the Georgia game in the college football playoffs, he had some real issues under pressure or after the play had broken down. His PFF grade under pressure last season placed him in the 18th percentile, and that only improves to the 34th percentile if you look at a two-year sample size.
There was little we saw from Ridder last season to suggest he will approach even average play at the position. Marcus Mariota played his way to the bench with his performances, and Ridder was simply the young quarterback in line for reps. He posted a 68.5% adjusted completion rate and had two turnover-worthy plays to three big-time throws. He also recorded just 136 dropbacks, so it would be a stretch to draw any concrete conclusions.
32. Anthony Richardson, Indianapolis Colts
Richardson wasn’t even a particularly good college quarterback last season in the SEC. His overall PFF grade came in at 80.3, which ranked 38th in the nation and was being propped up by his rushing ability — something that will need to continue in the NFL. The good news for him is that he landed with a head coach who just executed this development arc with Jalen Hurts. Richardson will need to rely on the limitless athleticism that saw him average 7.4 yards per carry last season while he develops as a passer.