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Ben Green/Buffalo Bills

Top NFL Franchise Players: Who Would You Build Your Team Around? (2024 Edition)

Many variables go into a winning football team, but finding a franchise player—most often at quarterback—can quickly get an organization on track with the right support around that player. If the NFL had a re-draft of the entire league today, who would be the top franchise players? The 2024 edition of this annual exercise will be a little different with only a top ten (top 12 with how I ranked the second-year quarterbacks at No. 10), and that’s due in large part to quarterbacks I feel should be in the top 32 that won’t even be starters this year after an odd stretch of player movement this offseason. We’ll start with the franchise building block taking the top spot for the third consecutive year.


1. Josh Allen | Age: 27 | Team: Bills

Some are seemingly down on Josh Allen due to a lack of deep playoff success, but that’s obviously more of a team thing than a player thing. In reality, it’s no exaggeration to say that Allen is one of the best playoff performers in NFL history. He averages 330.2 total yards per game (with 21 touchdowns compared to four interceptions through the air), which is by far the most ever by a player with at least 150 postseason passing attempts. Whether it’s because people don’t know what they’re watching or the preconceived notions/narratives about the player cloud judgement, I don’t think Allen gets enough recognition for the level he plays at with pinpoint accuracy, a rocket arm, intelligence, and the ability to take over a runner. Turnovers are a Kryptonite, but he’s just always asked to do so much for the Bills. I realize this won’t fit the narrative for a player that many “experts” foolishly hated coming out of Wyoming and early in his career with Buffalo, but you’re not going to tell me Allen wouldn’t have similar team success to his contemporaries if he was in a different type of situation or had better luck (Buffalo has been decimated by injuries multiple years). As much as many want to focus exclusively on the quarterbacks, it is a team game.


2. Patrick Mahomes | Age: 28 | Team: Chiefs

Andy Reid and the defense do not get nearly enough credit, but led by Patrick Mahomes the Chiefs have won three of the past four Super Bowls and have a very real chance to become the first team to ever three-peat. What I like most about Mahomes is that—in addition to his natural physical ability—he seems to be at his most contained late in games, including while down double digits (multiple times in Super Bowls), knowing that Reid’s premier offensive attack has easy answers for him to calmly move the ball. Just look at the game-winning drive in overtime of Super Bowl LVIII. Did Mahomes have to be Superman? No, but he did his job and distributed the ball effectively as a headlining part of a championship machine in Kansas City.


3. Jalen Hurts | Age: 25 | Team: Eagles

Outside questions about Jalen Hurts’ ability have accelerated in the past year, but he was already not receiving enough recognition ahead of the 2023 season, so critics were bound to jump on the statistical step back. However, I am a firm believer in Hurts as an elite franchise quarterback at just 25 years old. He was arguably the best player in the league two seasons ago, and he appeared to be at clearly less than 100% while dealing with a knee injury for much of last year. The situation, no doubt, is ideal with A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith—the best receiver duo in football in my opinion—on the outside, but the mainstream does not diminish other guys (aside from Brock Purdy) for playing in positive situations like they do Hurts. The “Brotherly Shove” certainly helps, but Hurts is a touchdown-maker on the ground and has one of the most precise deep balls in football as a dangerous dual threat.


4. Joe Burrow | Age: 27 | Team: Bengals

Last season unfortunately ended with a freakish wrist injury, but Joe Burrow has consistently operated the Bengals offense at a high level since being taken No. 1 overall in 2020. Nothing fazes Burrow, who is one of the toughest signal-callers in football and will stand in the pocket to deliver the ball accurately and on time to his weapons—while also not being afraid to take what the defense gives him underneath. While he didn’t utilize it quite as much when on the field last year, the rushing element of Burrow’s game is also underrated, and it’s something we can see in key spots similar to what Mahomes does. Overall, there’s no doubt that Burrow is one of the NFL’s top franchise players.


5. Justin Herbert | Age: 26 | Team: Chargers

Though not quite as much of an offense-carrying force as Josh Allen, Justin Herbert is similar in that if you throw him in an equal situation to other quarterbacks he might perform as well as anyone in the league. There’s some work to do with the weaponry, but we might get a chance to test that theory with Jim Harbaugh as the new head coach of the Chargers. Skeptics of Herbert as one of the clear top franchise quarterbacks will question the lack of team success, but building an offense around his skill level is a rare opportunity. Herbert’s ability to throw from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage from any platform to any area of the field with jaw-dropping accuracy was probably too good for Harbaugh to pass up a return to the NFL.


6. Lamar Jackson | Age: 27 | Team: Ravens

I’ve mentioned the team success factor, but I think things are slightly different for Lamar Jackson in that he’s demonstrably in his own head a bit when the playoffs come around—the frustration is very visible. But it shows that the two-time league MVP cares a lot, and I believe it’s a correctable thing as opposed to an inherent issue in Jackson’s style of play for that time of year (as some argue). It’s almost like Jackson wants to show that he can win as a passer in January, but I think he just needs to be himself as a near-uncontainable weapon at quarterback—just do what it takes to move the ball and win games, and the passing will come from his natural ability. When he gets over the hump, watch out.


7. Trevor Lawrence | Age: 24 | Team: Jaguars

Both the Jaguars and Trevor Lawrence had among the most disappointing 2023 campaigns, but the fourth-year quarterback is still just 24 years old with an exceptionally bright future. It was a bit of a surprise for me from a Doug Pederson-coached team, but Jacksonville felt like they were trying to find their identity too much last season—which makes it difficult for anyone to play to their standard. Lawrence showed outstanding toughness in battling through a ton of injuries to miss only one game (due to the concussion protocol), and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s at his best in 2024. When Lawrence is on, he throws fireballs all over the field and can have an offense humming.


8. Jared Goff | Age: 29 | Team: Lions

The Lions were minutes away from a Super Bowl LVIII appearance, and they don’t get that far without the type of season Jared Goff had leading Dan Campbell’s squad. Not yet 30 years old, Goff has been battle-tested and has consistently shown that he’s a championship-level quarterback dating back to his time with Sean McVay and the Rams. Goff knows where to go with the ball and quite simply throws absolute dots to all areas of the field. Both his teammates and the city of Detroit have rallied around Goff, who is about as good as it gets from the pocket when he’s protected—and protecting the quarterback is probably priority No. 1 for constructing a team.


9. Brock Purdy | Age: 24 | Team: 49ers

I mentioned earlier that Brock Purdy is the other quarterback that isn’t given credit by some due to the stacked team he plays on, a standard that is not held uniformly. Say what you want about playing in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, the bottom line is Purdy plays the position at a very high level and has the unteachable feel for the game that’s helped him have success dating back to his time at Iowa State and in high school. You can just see in his face on the big stages that he’s unfazed by pressure. He delivers the ball with first-class timing and anticipation, and he often does it while standing in a crowded pocket (it’s not like the Niners have a top unit in pass protection). As Shanahan said last summer, Brock is “a legit guy… watch the tape.”


10. The 2023 quarterbacks

With this year being a little different, I decided to go with the three top picks from last year’s draft class—Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, and Anthony Richardson—here at No. 10, feeling it appropriate to keep them behind the top nine. Dak Prescott, Kyler Murray, and Jordan Love are among the other options that had a case for the top ten.


As this indicates, I am expecting much more from Young moving forward after he was in an impossible situation with the Panthers last season—but I believe he’s mentally tough and can push through while showcasing his magician-like qualities with better support around him.


For Richardson, we did not see that much of him after a shoulder-ending shoulder injury as a rookie. But he’s an electric talent as both a passer and a runner, with astronomical upside. The leadership is also a definite plus for the Florida product.


And finally, Stroud arguably has a case for the top five given the age (23) and top-flight production as a rookie. I’ll use this opportunity to explain a bit about why he was a relative miss for us last year. We likely would have had him in the No. 6 through No. 10 range instead of as more of a mid-to-late first-rounder, and it was a lesson learned to not put too much on one really bad game (Northwestern, 2022) paired with a couple of more concerning outings and an off-field test score. I was reading Finding the Winning Edge at the time, and Bill Walsh mentions that that test scores shouldn’t be taken much into account unless they are super low, as Stroud’s apparently was; so, we did take it too much into account (the S2 leak—a super-hot metric at the time—turned out inaccurate). That said, while there’s no question the situation in Bobby Slowik’s attack helped a ton, Stroud is an extremely skilled thrower, continued some of the playmaking he showed versus Georgia in the national title game, and is already a top-notch leader that Houston is thrilled to have.