In the annual position rankings at PFF, Bruce Gradkowski listed his top quarterbacks heading into the 2021 season. Matt Ryan was ranked ninth behind Lamar Jackson (eighth), Dak Prescott (seventh), Josh Allen (sixth), Deshaun Watson (fifth), Russell Wilson (fourth), Aaron Rodgers (third), Tom Brady (second), and Patrick Mahomes (first). Gradkowski’s reasoning for Ryan’s top ten ranking:
Matt Ryan teaming up with new head coach Arthur Smith could be a good look. The play-action pass game could elevate Ryan’s performance back to the days when he was with Kyle Shanahan or at least back to consistent play on a week-to-week basis.
The addition of Kyle Pitts will be a matchup nightmare for defenses, too. Ryan is a top-10 quarterback, and the Falcons’ 2021 schedule could allow them to get back to competing sooner than some may think. It will be up to Ryan to be as productive as Ryan Tannehill was in this offense, if not more.
I feel safe in saying the top six aren’t really up for debate, but the next five quarterbacks could be placed higher or lower. One thing is certain, Ryan has been criminally underrated coming into this season. Before Arthur Smith, Ryan Tannehill would’ve been lucky to crack most top 20 lists, but now he’s just three slots behind Ryan. The long-time Falcons quarterback knows how much he has left in the tank; Terry Fontenot and Smith must have the utmost faith in Ryan’s ability for the foreseeable future.
“In one respect you understand that if you play well for long enough, these are the conversations that are going to come up,” Ryan said Tuesday. “I understand that I’m not going to play forever, but I also have the mindset that I’m still playing really well and have a lot of good football in front of me.”
Ryan may have enough football left in him, but understanding the offense is equally important as his physical abilities within the system. The transition between offenses can be difficult; in fact, Ryan and Kyle Shanahan took an entire season and offseason to understand each other. Ryan knows exactly how hard it is going to be.
“Transition requires a lot of effort, and a lot of work to learn the new system to make sure you’re as comfortable as you possibly can be with the terminology and what they expect from you,” Ryan said. “There’s always differences, nuances between different schemes and how certain coaches like certain things. I’ve been working really hard to try to get on the same page as them.”
Depending on how quickly Ryan picks up the offense, these rankings could look disastrous. In 2015, Ryan was an average quarterback, but a year later, he was the league’s best on his way to winning the MVP. I think that Lamar Jackson and Dak Prescott are incredible, but if Ryan has a grasp of this offense, he’s the superior quarterback.
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