Charting NFL QBs in Dungeons and Dragons alignment for 2024

It’s the doldrums of the offseason, which means everyone is getting into their favorite/least favorite things to do: quarterback rankings! The signal callers get all the love, but also are the subject of all the rankings. I find rankings of players to be a bit of a chore nowadays, with the difference between the 13th and 15th best QBs not being that large of a gap to make an issue about. There’s more fun ways to discuss quarterbacking in the NFL, which has so many different flavors these days. With more college-like passing games coming to the NFL, the styles of quarterbacking have gained so much variety, that very few QBs play the position the same way, which makes ranking them difficult.

You know what’s easy though? Dungeons and Dragons alignment charts! For those uninitiated, DnD alignment charts are used in a game to help guid your character’s moral compass. The style in which you play your DnD session is based upon that alignment and is broken up into three categories: Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic. Lawful meaning that the character acts within a code of conduct or law, whether good or evil. Chaotic, well, I think you can guess what that one means. Neutral is the medium, doing the best a person can and should do, but not always working with the law. Good, neutral, and evil are also rather simple, you should understand that by now.

But, the question is: what the hell does that have to do with NFL QBs? Well, allow me to shed some light on the subject (if you know what Disney movie that’s from, can we be friends? I think that makes us friends). Using advanced statistics and film, we can put NFL QBs into alignment charts, effectively choosing to discuss the most talked about position in sports in a way that doesn’t make people want to rip their hair out. How I did this is through a few things:

  • Film: I used film as the background for the placement on the chart, trying to mesh style of play and individual process with their statistics.
  • Big Time Throws: I used PFF’s Big Time Throw metric to show how successful QBs are when they lean into the chaos, or how good they are at making the toughest passes.
  • Turnover Worthy Passes: This is the same as BTT, but the outcome is much much worse. Think of it as attacking a goblin, but rolling a 1 instead of an 18. Sometimes, bad stuff happens as a passer, and this metric measures that. Higher TWP, more chaos
  • Sack rate when pressured: This is one of the best indicators of how an NFL QB plays. Pressure isn’t always on the QB, but how often you can create out of pressure and make sure those plays don’t turn into major negatives separates good QBs from great ones. The higher the sack rate when pressured, the more chaotic.
  • Passes outside the pocket: Every QB wants to be early-career Patrick Mahomes, wheeling and dealing outside the pocket to create big plays. However, passing outside the pocket can be incredibly volatile and lead to disaster. The more a QB relies on outside the pocket passes, the more chaotic they are.

With that in mind, here is the first iteration of the NFL quarterback alignment chart. Everything here is now canon and can’t be refuted.

Patrick Mahomes and Neutral Good

If I would’ve done this back in 2020 or 2021, Mahomes would more than likely be in chaotic good. While still fantastic, he led the NFL in passes outside of the pocket and generally leaned more into his athleticism and creative style of play that everyone tries to emulate.

However, as his game has matured, so has his alignment. His passes outside the pocket took a big drop down, but his ability to avoid sacks and still play at an incredibly high level keep him in the good. Also because he’s Patrick Mahomes, he’s going to be in the good region until some Space Jam-esque monsters take his powers.

The Chaos in trying to recreate Josh Allen

When I came up with the idea for this chart, I had Josh Allen in mind. Professor Chaos himself, he finished 2023 second in total passes outside the pocket and second in Big Time Throws, but also second in Turnover Worthy Passes. He lives within the world of chaos, something that has been the Bills’ biggest boost and detractor. However, with every QB below him, it shows the problem with trying to recreate a QB like Josh Allen in the NFL. Allen is the rare QB with the athletic tools to have a high floor, while developing exponentially to complete the high ceiling we get today. For every Josh Allen, we have a Drew Lock, Will Levis or Sam Howell: guys who live within the world of chaos but don’t have the refinement or athletic tools to make it work, making them chaotic evil.

The other QB in Chaotic Good is Joe Burrow, and it also allows me to explain why I think we should describe chaos in a different way. Burrow is a chaotic QB: while only having 90 snaps under pressure in 2023, Burrow’s sack rate was higher than his contemporaries in Allen, Mahomes and Justin Herbert. 17 Big Time Throws to nine Turnover Worthy Passes make it also look really good. However, it’s the style that Burrow plays with that makes him chaotic. While it doesn’t look like Allen, Burrow welcomes pressure and teams sending blitzes at him. He chooses to beat the pressure with his mind rather than his body. He loves being in empty, where he can see and change everything at a whim. That’s a wild style to play with, but it’s a bit more tempered because of his lack of Allen’s athleticism. While his chaos looks different, he’s still a pretty chaotic QB.

The Rookie QBs

I am of the belief that almost every rookie QB in the NFL starts in the chaotic neutral tier. With how the game has changed at the college level, everyone plays in such a wild style that works in college, but may not work in the NFL. That’s why I didn’t use their college stats to put them in tiers, because it’s a lot easier to be a better athlete than someone who’s just entering college. For the 2024 rookie class, all of the top QBs are in the chaotic neutral class except for Bo Nix and Michael Penix Jr. Both of these guys remain in neutral, but neither really lean into chaos. Penix is a stationary passer who doesn’t really welcome pressure, and Nix doesn’t take as many passes downfield. Can they move up and down the board? Absolutely, an important thing to acknowledge with this is that almost no QB stays in the same place throughout their career. It’s the fun part about development!

How to place the injured QBs

I really struggled with some of the QBs who didn’t finish the season due to injury. Indianapolis’ Anthony Richardson was the easiest of the bunch, placing him in chaotic neutral due to his penchant for big plays, but the success of them being a bit hit or miss in his style of play. The Jets’ Aaron Rodgers was more difficult, however. He only played four snaps in 2023, and the last time we saw a full season from him he wasn’t the same Rodgers that we were used to. I placed him in lawful neutral, because as his play has matured, he’s done much, much less passing outside the pocket.

The biggest question mark was Cleveland’s Deshaun Watson. I really had a problem placing him because the last time he played a full season was in 2020, and those 2020 numbers for Watson were, wow. 42 Big Time Throws to 14 Turnover Worthy Passes, but that’s combined with a less than stellar sack when pressured rate and the fifth-most passes outside the pocket. This would’ve made him a lock for chaotic good.

However, four years is a long time ago, and Watson simply isn’t the same QB. While his sack rate when pressured stayed high (13th among QBs with 50 attempts), his Big Time Throws to Turnover Worthy Passes ratio has gone drastically down. He hasn’t been good enough as a passer in Cleveland to justify…much of anything that’s gone down since he made the move, and for that reason he goes in chaotic evil, with a slim chance that changes in the future.

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