Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up
View All Scores

The four most underrated NFL QBs going into 2024

Seahawks WRs could be a 'fantasy friendly reality'
Patrick Daugherty and Denny Carter discuss the state of the Seattle Seahawks offense, and how new coaching changes can benefit the receiving room, as well as fantasy managers looking to buy in.

An analysis of the NFL’s most underrated quarterbacks could take on as many forms as there are quarterbacks.

You might approach such an exercise from a film standpoint, accounting for subtleties in offensive or defensive formation. You could emphasize pre-snap adjustments and a QB’s ability to manipulate defenders, as Tom Brady recently suggested to the football watching public’s amazement. You could base your analysis on dawg levels, or whether the QB plays for your home team, or whether his team has won a bunch of games in recent seasons.

It might not stun you to know I’m approaching this analysis from a purely analytical place, weighing heavily metrics that capture a quarterback’s accuracy and efficiency. You may hate this approach. That’s fine. There are, I think, statistical nuggets here that could suggest a surprisingly good 2024 campaign for some or all of the four signal callers below.

Geno Smith (SEA)

The thing about the underwhelming 2023 Seahawks offense is that they were downright elite on first and second down. Only the 49ers were markedly better on early downs than Geno’s Seahawks offense last season.

Screenshot 2024-07-02 at 9.54.12 AM.png

It was on late downs, when defenses could pin back their proverbial ears and attack on predictable drop backs, that the Seahawks fell apart. Perhaps that had something to do with an offensive line graded by PFF as the league’s fourth worst pass-blocking unit. Geno, after all, faced the fourth highest pressure rate (25.5 percent) among 33 qualifying QBs.

I’m (unfortunately) on record as saying Geno would be a quick-lived disaster as Seattle’s starter following the team’s split with Russell Wilson. I had not considered that no QB can succeed in the Jets’ clown-show organization — a reminder for Sam Darnold’s prospects as a starter outside New York.

Geno has done much to change my hot take-riddled mind over the past two years. To boot: Seattle has the eighth highest expected points added (EPA) per play since the start of the 2022 season and the second best drop back success rate, again trailing the EPA machine we know as the Niners. Geno is inarguably a top-flight NFL passer, especially when the Seahawks use play action. In 2023, Lamar Jackson and Brock Purdy were the only quarterbacks with a better net adjusted yards per attempt on play action passes. Geno ranked fourth in completion rate over expected (CPOE) on those attempts.

NBC Sports’ Chris Simms, who has Geno Smith 19th in his quarterback rankings, said Smith’s arm strength and talent is just below that of Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. “They ask him to make a lot of big-time throws and plays,” Simms said, adding that — unlike the game’s elite passers — Smith still has head-scratching throws when he gets too aggressive or locks on to his first read. “He’s a little better when he’s a little less aggressive.”

Under new offensive coordinator Ryan Grubs, Geno and Seattle’s trio of receivers (and Noah Fant) could thrive. The offense Grubs ran at the University of Washington worked because Michael Penix got the ball out on time and avoided negative plays. That’s exactly what Geno has done in his two years as Seahawks starter. Like Penix, Geno doesn’t take sacks. His 2023 pressure to sack rate (14 percent) was the sixth lowest in the NFL. Look for the Seahawks to attempt more passes between 10 and 19 yards this season. It’s been a good range for Geno, and an underutilized one. Only 18 percent of his attempts were between 10-19 yards in 2023.

Seattle’s wretched 2023 season obscured Geno’s solid play. And I’m not worried about Sam Howell usurping Geno after the team made almost comical efforts to confirm Geno remains the starter. I think he’s vastly underrated heading into the 2024 season.

Brock Purdy (SF)

This is my official capitulation on Purdy. I have made glib remarks and snide comments on podcasts and on social media about Purdy as the apple of Kyle Shanahan’s eye since his emergence in 2022. To Brock I say I am sorry. By the start of the 2023 season, it had become clear that Purdy was in no way Jimmy G redux. Purdy could move, could create out of structure, could save a play when things didn’t go just as Shanny had planned.

Purdy, like Garoppolo before him, is a machine sent from the future to add expected points to the 49ers offense. I won’t bore you with the various stats and metrics, but please trust me when I say Purdy has been the NFL’s most efficient passer over his 27 NFL starts. In a San Francisco offense with a rushing attack more efficient than most teams’ passing offenses, the baby-faced Purdy is a dangerous man. Labeling Purdy a checkdown artist held water in 2022, when he averaged six air yards per throw. That label held a lot less water in 2023 with Purdy’s 8.2 air yards per attempt. Purdy, naturally, converted a league-high 64 percent of his 2023 air yards.

As Chris Simms said in ranking Purdy as the league’s 17th best quarterback, Purdy is a “system quarterback, but system plus.” In the modern offense, based on station-to-station passing, it is an ideal formula.

“He’s a damn good athlete,” Simms said. “He can scramble and make the throws. … His feel, his touch, it’s really good.”

Purdy’s “very long” throwing motion, Simms said, isn’t ideal and can get him into tough spots when facing pressure or when a first read is covered. “It takes him a minute to load it up and throw the football.”

Purdy executes Shanahan’s offense as well as any quarterback can. Last year, he was 16.5 percent above his expected completion rate on intermediate passes (10-19 air yards); no one else was even close. His 55 percent drop back success rate leads all quarterbacks and his adjusted EPA per drop back is miles ahead of second-place Patrick Mahomes since the start of the 2022 season. And Purdy has done wonderfully in avoiding negative plays; only four quarterbacks had lower pressure-to-sack rates in 2023.

Screenshot 2024-07-02 at 9.41.07 AM.png

The Athletic’s Matt Barrows suggested this week that Purdy’s stellar 2023 campaign may have garnered good will from the traditional run-first, run-always Shanahan. The Niners in last year’s postseason, Barrows said, were not quite the same conservative offense they had been during Shanny’s time as play caller.

A More Purdy-centric San Francisco offense would give him a real shot to enter the elite QB conversation. Or prove he has no business there. One or the other. As an unapologetic spreadsheet warrior, Purdy’s 16.4 percent bad throw rate in 2023 — in line with Josh Dobbs and Will Levis — makes me squirm.

Dak Prescott (DAL)

Unfairly maligned by the QB Wins mob for a couple subpar postseason outings, Prescott is undoubtedly an elite NFL quarterback — and has been for some time.

Only Patrick Mahomes has been better in the composite EPA/CPOE metric since the start of the 2022 season. No signal caller has a better drop back success rate (52.6 percent) than Dak over the past two seasons.

Screenshot 2024-07-02 at 9.38.58 AM.png

Consider the following, all of which was swept away with the Cowboys’ embarrassing loss to the upstart Packers in last year’s postseason: Prescott in 2023 led the NFL in touchdown passes (36); was third in adjusted yards per attempt (8.2), first in completions (410); third in yards (4,516), first in completed air yards (2,507); fourth in air yards conversion rate (57 percent); and first in on-target throw rate (83 percent). Dak is the rare volume passer who just so happens to be efficient with said volume. It’s a nice combo if you can swing it.

You’re not going to hear any of that on morning sports talk shows breathlessly criticizing Prescott as some kind of borderline starter. You won’t hear that Dak in 2023 make great strides as an intermediate passer, as measured by both CPOE and adjusted net yards per attempt (he was sixth best in the latter category last season).

Free from Kellen Moore’s deeply flawed and predictable offense, Prescott cooked in Mike McCarthy’s system last year. Expect more of the same in 2024. So what if Dallas’ Super Bowl dry spell continues? Super Bowls are overrated.

Jacoby Brissett (NE)

Brissett, per Patriots coaches and beat writers, “is the starter” headed into training camp, as The Athletic’s Chad Graff reported last week.

Perhaps this doesn’t come as a shock seeing that Drake Maye, New England’s quarterback of the future, was considered as something of a developmental project for a team that will probably take (many) years to get back to its former glory. Unless Maye blows away coaches in camp and during the preseason, Brissett will be under center in Week 1 against the Bengals.

Here’s the thing about Brissett: He was pretty damn good the last time he worked as a starter. With the Browns in 2022, as the team waited out Deshaun Watson’s suspension, Brissett ranked third among all qualifying quarterbacks in completion rate over expected. It marked a stark departure from his starting days with the Colts in 2019, when he was 28th among 30 qualifying QBs in CPOE. Probably that has something to do with Kevin Stefanski’s quarterback-friendly offense, which finally made Joe Flacco #elite in 2023.

Brissett in 2022 was middle of the pack in drop back success rate (49 percent) and excelled in intermediate attempts (10-19 yards beyond the line of scrimmage): Only Lamar Jackson had a better QB rating on those throws, and only Jackson and Tua had higher net adjusted yards per attempt on those attempts. He did well in limiting negative plays too, notching a low 3 percent turnover worthy play rate, per PFF, and the league’s 12th lowest pressure to sack rate in 2022.

Brissett struggling as a downfield thrower for most of his 48 games as an NFL starter likely doesn’t mean much in a check-down league. New England’s offense isn’t exactly teeming with downfield burners anyway.

Brissett in 2022 was better than Watson in every measurable way. The Browns were better with Brissett as a capable and strong armed game manager. It wouldn’t shock me if Brissett hangs on to the Patriots’ starting gig for a long while in 2024 — unless New England’s season goes sideways in a hurry and coaches make the switch to Maye to see what the kid has, or doesn’t have.

The Rotoworld Fantasy Football Draft Guide is now available exclusively through a new partnership with Matthew Berry’s Fantasy Life. Buy a FantasyLife+ subscription and get the Rotoworld Draft Guides, along with award-winning Fantasy, Betting & DFS tools. Use ROTOWORLD10 at checkout to save 10%!