NFL Power Rankings: With Tom Brady gone, Aaron Rodgers is last of greatest QB generation

For a few years, the NFL had a perfect mix of old and new at quarterback.

A group of Hall of Famers who came into the NFL 20-25 years ago were still playing well in their 30s. A new wave, led by Patrick Mahomes, was making its mark at the same time. In terms of the number of big stars at quarterback, the NFL was arguably never better.

This season marks the end of that era, for the most part.

The older stars started to retire. Peyton Manning was gone after the 2015 season. Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan followed. Andrew Luck did too, but long before his expiration date.

Then Tom Brady retired for good (?) after last season. For the first time since 1997, when Warren Moon, John Elway, Dan Marino and Steve Young were among the NFL's top passers, we'll have an NFL season start without Brady or a Manning. It's a transition period.

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The era isn't completely over though. Aaron Rodgers still remains.

Rodgers will turn 40 this season, and he's one of the biggest stories this NFL season after he was traded to the New York Jets. No other regular starting quarterback for Week 1 is older than 35 (Colt McCoy will be 37, but he'll head back to the Arizona Cardinals' bench whenever Kyler Murray is ready). And Rodgers says he's preparing to play for the Jets for a few years.

There's pressure on Rodgers, going from the Green Bay Packers to the crucible of playing with the Jets. There might be more pressure on the younger generation of quarterbacks to carry the league into the next era. The good news is that there are plenty of emerging stars. Mahomes is already a Hall of Fame lock at age 27. Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Tua Tagovailoa and Murray have played at a star level or at least showed star potential, and none of them has reached 30 years old yet. Deshaun Watson has played at an elite level too, though his off-field headlines overshadow that. Rookies Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson are exciting. Next year's draft prospects like Caleb Williams and Drake Maye are already being hyped.

All of that young QB talent is what helps make Rodgers unique this season. He's reaching an age when Brady and very few others have had any success. Some of the quarterbacks Rodgers will compete against were in elementary school when he was drafted. His battle against time and quarterbacks almost half his age isn't as prominent because Brady just shattered all the records for quarterbacks in their 40s, but it's still a great story.

The good news is, when Rodgers is done the NFL should be in a good place. The league is better with great quarterback play and even with a handful of Hall of Famers retiring recently, QB play is still very good at the top. Even when it comes to fantasy football that's very much the case, with 12 of the top 18 all-time fantasy QB seasons delivered over the past five seasons. And maybe Rodgers, who accounted for one of those 12 campaigns in 2020, can deliver one last great moment for the old guard.

Aaron Rodgers (right) is the last great quarterback of a generation headlined by Tom Brady. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images for The Match)
Aaron Rodgers (right) is the last great quarterback of a generation headlined by Tom Brady. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images for The Match) (Carmen Mandato via Getty Images)

Here are the pre-preseason power rankings for the 2023 NFL season. You can read our in-depth preview on each team by clicking the team name:

32. Arizona Cardinals

We're still not sure when Kyler Murray will return from ACL surgery. "I wouldn't want to go out there and hurt the team or hurt myself," Murray said in late July, via the team's site. "The advice I've gotten from a lot of people around me is, obviously, to go when you are ready." The problem for the Cardinals is if they're not competitive early on, it won't make sense for Murray to rush back.

31. Houston Texans

The Texans are making C.J. Stroud compete for the starting job with Davis Mills, even though it should be clear what the team's decision will be. The good news is that all early accounts on Stroud have been positive. He'll be a player to watch in preseason.

30. Chicago Bears

All eyes are on Justin Fields and his development. The Bears are excited about the strides he appears to be making. If Fields hits his ceiling, he could be a massive difference-maker in a weak NFC.

29. Tennessee Titans

This is the one ranking I regret most from the previews (I don't change the order from the preview countdown for these power rankings). Mike Vrabel is too good of a head coach to have a team this bad. Signing DeAndre Hopkins helps the receivers room — and fantasy managers — which isn't in the conversation for worst in the NFL anymore. That move also indicates the Titans aren't thinking about being trade-deadline sellers. I don't expect big things from Tennessee, but 29th is too low.

28. Los Angeles Rams

Cooper Kupp left practice Tuesday with a hamstring injury that could keep him out a while. It doesn't seem like his Week 1 status is in danger. Hopefully Kupp isn't in for an injury-filled season, because that would make the Rams even more unwatchable.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers seem to have a real quarterback competition. Baker Mayfield looks like the favorite, and there could even be some fantasy appeal, but there have been positive reports about Kyle Trask. The team isn't handing Mayfield the job. It's one of the few true QB competitions to watch in August.

26. Indianapolis Colts

Nobody looks good in the Jonathan Taylor mess. Taylor is being unrealistic and Colts owner Jim Irsay is being petulant. It seems like there could have been a happy medium for a player who had become the face of the franchise if both sides hadn't let the bickering get out of control so quickly. Taylor doesn't have many options, but the situation doesn't look fixable. It's also definitely one to watch in fantasy with Taylor being a potential first-round pick in drafts.

25. Washington Commanders

The team with the most money bet on it to make the playoffs at BetMGM? Yep, it's the Commanders. Bettors like Washington this season. The most money bet on any win total is on the Commanders going over 6.5 wins (the Patriots have the highest number of bets for an over). It's reasonable. The Commanders' defense is very good. They just need solid QB play, and maybe Sam Howell, who is a fantasy sleeper, can do it.

24. Las Vegas Raiders

The Josh Jacobs situation isn't good for the Raiders. Maybe he comes back and signs the franchise tender before Week 1, but that seems very uncertain. Jacobs had a massive season and the Raiders can't replace that. Even if Jacobs comes back, will he be motivated to play well? It's bad news for a Raiders team that isn't looking great on paper. At least Jimmy Garoppolo passed his physical.

23. Carolina Panthers

The Panthers smartly named Bryce Young their starter. There's no reason to play games with the No. 1 overall draft pick. The best thing for Young is getting him as many reps as possible with the first team. And to this point, the Panthers seem happy with how Young has looked in practice.

22. Denver Broncos

Sean Payton's wild comments about last year's Broncos coaching staff was the top headline of training camp. But more important for the Broncos might be losing receiver Tim Patrick to a torn Achilles. On the bright side, running back Javonte Williams seems to be recovering well from last season's knee injury.

21. Atlanta Falcons

Kyle Pitts is back to running routes and his recovery from knee surgery is coming along as expected. If the Falcons get better quarterback play, Pitts could have another 1,000-yard season like he did as a rookie. We just don't know yet if Desmond Ridder is a huge upgrade over Marcus Mariota, who started most of last season.

20. Green Bay Packers

Jayden Reed is a player to watch in August. The rookie second-round draft pick is a versatile receiver, and the Packers are still figuring out what they have at the position. Christian Watson's strong finish to last season puts him at the front of the line, but there's uncertainty behind him. Reed could carve out a role right away.

19. New England Patriots

Will the Patriots sign Ezekiel Elliott? It would make some sense because there is little depth behind Rhamondre Stevenson. But it would be nice to see the young and talented Stevenson get most of the running back load. Adding Elliott would presumably cut significantly into Stevenson's carries and hurt his fantasy ceiling (he's currently the RB10 in Yahoo drafts).

18. New York Giants

Saquon Barkley accepted a one-year deal with a little bit of incentive money and reported to camp. That's great for the Giants. It's also worth wondering how Barkley (or Jonathan Taylor, Josh Jacobs or J.K. Dobbins) will react when their team wants them to carry it 25 or 30 times in a game. Just because Barkley is in camp doesn't mean he's thrilled, and he's still hoping to get a long-term deal next offseason. It's worth wondering about the mindset of any of the unhappy running backs.

17. Minnesota Vikings

The biggest news from the past month for the Vikings was Kirk Cousins being a star of Netflix's "Quarterback" series. It's hard to root against him after seeing him behind the scenes and witnessing all the pain he played through last season. I've never understood the dislike of Cousins, but it's good to see his critics be exposed to a different side of him.

16. New Orleans Saints

Alvin Kamara reportedly wants to meet with the commissioner, not the other way around, to resolve his possible suspension stemming from a fight in Las Vegas in 2022. Kamara faced a felony charge before pleading no contest to a lesser charge. It seems likely the team has something to do with Kamara's desire to resolve the issue because it's easier to know now if its starting running back will miss games.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers

George Pickens is making more training camp highlights, just like he did last year. Those viral clips might lead to him being overrated, including in fantasy, but would it surprise anyone if he made a big leap and became the Steelers' true No. 1 receiver this season?

14. Cleveland Browns

Elijah Moore could be a fantastic addition to the Browns. He was an intriguing prospect and had a good rookie season for the Jets. He was upset last season and lashed out, leading to the Jets trading him. While Moore could have handled the situation more professionally, he can be a very productive receiver in what might be a fantastic offense.

13. Los Angeles Chargers

The return of left tackle Rashawn Slater is huge for the Chargers. He suffered a season-ending injury last year, but is healthy in training camp. Slater is one of the best young tackles in the NFL, and he could help Justin Herbert immensely.

12. Jacksonville Jaguars

Calvin Ridley has been standing out at training camp. If the Jaguars are getting the Ridley we saw in 2020, when he was one of the best receivers in the NFL for the Falcons, it's a game-changer for the Jaguars' offense.

11. Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks are dealing with multiple running back injuries early in camp. It should be fine by Week 1, but it still could result in more passing for Geno Smith early in the season. That might not be a bad thing.

10. Baltimore Ravens

J.K. Dobbins is on the PUP list at camp, and it seems to be way more about his contract situation than an injury. Head coach John Harbaugh said "there’s some complexity to" Dobbins' absence, and it's not hard to read between the lines. Jonathan Taylor, Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs have played at an All-Pro level. Dobbins hasn't come close. This holdout seems strange since he has such little leverage.

9. Miami Dolphins

The Jalen Ramsey injury is a tough one. He's reportedly out until December, and it's never wise to buy into the most optimistic end of an injury timeline. Perhaps the Dolphins make the playoffs and have a fully healthy Ramsey for the postseason, but it's hard to depend on that.

8. New York Jets

The Jets meeting with Dalvin Cook is fine, but it continues to be a concern in regards to Breece Hall. The Jets tried to get Jamaal Williams in March, reportedly wanted to draft Jahmyr GIbbs and now are involved with Cook. Would a team be doing that if it felt its star rookie from 2022 was going to be returning from ACL surgery with no issues? There are also huge fantasy expectations for Hall, adding another reason to monitor the situation.

7. Detroit Lions

Running back Jahmyr Gibbs, the team's first first-round draft pick, has been working at receiver. This marks the 1,000th time that there have been training camp reports of a running back working at receiver. In the first 999 cases that running back never saw more than a handful of snaps, at most, out wide. We get excited over these reports every August and they don't end up being worth anything. Maybe Gibbs is the outlier because the Lions do need some receiver help, but we'll see. Either way, Gibbs is ready to be a fantasy contributor from Day 1.

6. Dallas Cowboys

Whether it's Ezekiel Elliott or some other veteran, it seems inevitable that Dallas adds someone at running back. Mike McCarthy wants a run-first offense, Tony Pollard is very good — and an elite fantasy option — but has never come close to being a true workhorse, and there's no proven back behind him. Ronald Jones' two-game suspension doesn't help.

5. San Francisco 49ers

It's all good news from 49ers camp on Brock Purdy and how he's throwing after elbow surgery. That would eliminate the health concern with Purdy. He'll still need to avoid the sophomore slump, but if he's 100 percent that's a big plus.

4. Buffalo Bills

The Bills won't rule out Von Miller playing in Week 1 as he returns from an ACL tear. Miller might not be on the field in Week 1, but the fact that it's considered a possibility is a great sign for Buffalo. He should be back early in the season, even if it's not for the opener.

3. Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Burrow seems to have avoided a serious injury when he pulled up with what the Bengals are calling a calf strain. The team said he'll miss several weeks, but the regular season is still several weeks away. We'll assume Burrow will be back for the opener. If not, we know that's really bad for the Bengals, who are also among fantasy's powerhouse teams.

2. Philadelphia Eagles

While it seems like it would be difficult for Jalen Hurts to be better than he was last season, the message from reporters is that Hurts is having an outstanding start to Eagles training camp. If there is another level for Hurts this season, he's going to win his first MVP.

1. Kansas City Chiefs

Defensive lineman Chris Jones is holding out, with his contract set to expire after this season. The Chiefs can't afford to be without him, but he reportedly wants $30 million per season. There's probably a compromise to be had, and the Chiefs' defensive success rides on it.

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