Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins followed his breakout season in 2015 with another prolific passing year in 2016, which has impressed his peers and league insiders alike. Cousins jumped 15 spots to No. 70 in this year’s NFL Top 100 ranking, which is voted upon by NFL players. Perhaps more tellingly, he’s up seven spots — and a tier — in ESPN’s Mike Sando’s annual NFL QB Tier rankings, which are based on a survey of league insiders.
Sando recently asked 50 NFL insiders, including general managers, head coaches, coordinators and analytics directors, to place 36 quarterbacks into one of five tiers, with Tier 1 representing QBs who can carry their teams and Tier 5 representing QBs who shouldn’t be starting. As Sando explains, “the higher the tier, the less help the quarterback needs to be effective.”
Cousins, who completed 67 percent of his passes while throwing for 4,917 yards and 25 touchdowns last season, ranks 13th among all quarterbacks in Sando’s survey. With an average rating of 2.48, he is the last of the eight quarterbacks placed in Tier 2. “A Tier 2 quarterback can carry his team sometimes, but not as consistently [as a Tier 1 QB],” Sando writes. Tier 1 is composed of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan. Eli Manning (11th) is the only NFC East quarterback who ranks above Cousins, who is sandwiched between the Panthers’ Cam Newton and Cowboys starter Dak Prescott, the first quarterback in Tier 3. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is 21st.
Cousins ranked 20th — and in Tier 3 — last season with an average rating of 2.93. Tier 3 is reserved for legit starters who need a strong running game or defense to win. Cousins and the Redskins had neither last season while finishing 8-7-1.
“He is a 2, and he has no conscience — he just fires,” an offensive coordinator told Sando for this year’s survey. “I think Sean [McVay] did a really good job keeping it in certain families of reads and footworks. The details were well done with him to give him a chance. If not, I think we would see what we saw from him earlier in his career where the confidence is up and down. But he got through all that, and he did it with no defense.”
Cousins’s seven-spot jump is the third-largest among players who appeared in last year’s rankings. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr moved up nine spots, from 16th to seventh, while 2016 MVP Matt Ryan went from 13th to fifth. Rookie quarterbacks aren’t included in the survey. Cam Newton experienced the largest drop, going from 12th to fourth.
Free agent Colin Kaepernick ranks 28th, ahead of starters such as Jared Goff, Tom Savage and Josh McCown. No quarterbacks received enough Tier 5 votes to be placed in the worst category.