Nothing gets football fans out of their seats faster than a well-thrown bomb downfield, into the waiting arms of a fleet wide receiver.
Great romps from running backs and great defensive plays that turn the tide of a game don’t have the same cache of a QB flinging darts downfield for touchdowns.
In the history of the NFL, there have been many a great quarterback, possessed of strong arms and good football sense.
There are also many great quarterbacks who scramble well, run well and are very surgeon-like with shorter passes in the flats and in seams they find downfield.
However, the truly great ones incorporate all those skills with the added bonus of being able to air it out at will and with pinpoint accuracy.
Here are 15 current quarterbacks with the strongest arms in the NFL, in no particular order.
15. Carson Wentz – Philadelphia Eagles
Before he went down to a heart-breaking injury, second-year man Carson Wentz was lighting it up for the Eagles in 2017. In 13 games Wentz was zipping passes downfield, clicking on 60.2 percent of his attempts. He completed 265 passes for 3,296 yards and 33 touchdowns, against just seven interceptions before suffering a season-ending injury. Before he was even drafted in 2016, scouts raved about his arm and this year he proved it. Of his completions, Wentz had game-long passes over 40, 50, 60 and even 70 yards. In a 34-7 dismantling of Arizona on Oct. 8, Wentz had four TD passes, one for 59 yards to Torrey Smith and his last a 72-yard scorcher to Nelson Agholor to ice things late in the game. Wentz’s arm is the real deal.
14. Blake Bortles – Jacksonville Jaguars
For as much flack as Bortles has taken recently, he’s handled with aplomb. While the haters continue to hate him, Bortles was leading the Jags into the AFC division playoffs and a date with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The thing that might irk most of the “Bortles sucks” crowd is the fact he actually has a fairly strong arm, scrambles well (1,410 yards rushing in four seasons) and throws well on the run. His 2017 completion rate (60.2) and yards (3,687) weren’t spectacular but he was middle of the pack (17th) in yards per attempt (7.05). Given time and opportunity, Bortles can zip throws into tight coverage, like he did shredding Baltimore for four touchdown passes early in the season and later with three against Houston in a blowout Jacksonville win. He may not be the best QB in the league or have the absolute strongest arm, but his team made the playoffs.
13. Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts
If and when he ever comes back, Andrew Luck will be like “found money” for the Colts. They haven’t had him behind center since 2016, with shoulder surgery sidelining him for the entirety of the 2017 campaign. When he is in the line-up, Luck has a deadly accurate arm capable of tearing apart opposition secondaries. In 2016, he completed 346 of 545 passes for 4,240 yards, his 63.5 percent completion rate the highest of his career. In Week 1 of that year, Luck went toe-to-toe with Matt Stafford in a 39-35 loss, going 31-for-47 for 385 yards and four TD passes. While it was just one of his 70 regular season games so far, it was indicative of his worth to the Indy franchise. While his arm isn’t a true cannon, he has good enough velocity and accuracy to get the pigskin into his receivers hands at the right time.
12. Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons
Before we extol the virtues of Matt Ryan’s passing abilities, we will preface it by saying he doesn’t have the strongest arm in football. But, neither does he have the weakest one, by far. Ryan is quite simply a completion machine who is consistently in the top 10 in that category and was 64.7 percent efficient in 2017. He doesn’t need a rifle, then, to find a seam in the opposition defensive backfield, like he did 20 times this season for touchdowns (his lowest total since his rookie year, mind you). Over the course of the past seven seasons, Ryan has passed for well over 4,000 yards in each, along with 194 touchdowns. A good indication of his arm strength came during a decisive drive against an improved L.A. Rams team in the wild card game on Jan. 6, 2017. With the Falcons holding a slim 19-13 lead early in the fourth, Ryan engineered an eight-play drive which included several pinpoint tight passes along with a 52-yard pass and run play with Mohamed Sanu. It was capped by an off-balance eight-yard toss to Julio Jones for the TD.
11. Philip Rivers – Los Angeles Chargers
He may e 36, but Philip Rivers show do signs of slowing down in 2017. The Chargers long-time pivot notched his fifth straight year with over 4,000 yards passing (4,515, good for second overall), along with another 28 TDs and a completion rate of 62.6. He is not as pretty to watch as some of his more celebrated brethren, what with his quirky arm motion, but his arm strength is well above average. In a must-win game against Oakland in Week 17, Rivers did his best to try and get the Chargers into the playoffs. They ultimately didn’t, despite beating Oakland 30-10. Rivers, though, proved he still has a lot left in the tank with TD passes of 56 yards to Tyrell Williams and a perfect toss down the middle for a 62-yard TD by Travis Benjamin late in the third quarter. He’s still got it, going into his 15th season.
10. Tom Brady – New England Patriots
What can we say that already hasn’t been said about Tom Terrific? His gifts are many and about the only knock anyone can make on him is that his arm strength isn’t overpowering. However, what he might lack in power he makes up for with impeccable mechanics. It’s also hard to argue that he doesn’t at least possess average arm strength, considering that he led the NFL in passing yards (again) with 4,577 in 2017. And he did it at age 40, when most signal-callers are retired. One of the game’s all-time great QBs looks far from done and proved it again in 2017, tossing 32 more TD passes to push his career total to 488. He went head-to-head against Drew Brees and the Saints earlier in the 2017 season (which could very well be a Super Bowl match-up) and one upped him every step of the way in a 36-20 Pats victory. Brady hit for a season high 447 yards and three TDs on 30-of-39 passing.
9. Case Keenum – Minnesota Vikings
After four seasons of relative anonymity, undrafted, but strong-armed QB Case Keenum is finally in the spotlight. Sure, injuries to starter Sam Bradford as well as understudy Teddy Bridgewater paved the way for journeyman Keenum to take the reins of the offence, but he made the absolute most of it. Stints with Houston (where he also played college ball) and the Rams didn’t prove fruitful and the Vikes signed him on a one-year deal worth $2 million. How that investment has paid off. Thrust into a starting role in Week 2, Keenum went 12-3, with 3,547 passing yards and 22 touchdowns, against just seven interceptions. He was very efficient, with the ability to throw game-breaking TD passes against tough teams, like the L.A. Rams on Nov. 19. The two playoff-bound clubs staged a thriller and were tied 7-7 going into the fourth quarter. That’s when Keenum took over, completing a 65-yard TD bomb to Adam Thielen in the middle of the quarter to take a commanding 21-7 lead en route to a 24-7 triumph.
8. Eli Manning – New York Giants
Whither Eli Manning? After the most disappointing season of his career, where his impressive consecutive games streak was snapped at 210 in a ludicrous move by coach Ben McAdoo (who was later fired), the future is cloudy for four-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champ. He still has plenty of arm strength — which is way above average — and proved it, despite the absence for much of the season of premier target Odell Beckham Jr. While he didn’t surpass 4,000 yards, which is difficult to do without a guy like Beckham, Manning showed the powerful Philadephia Eagles he still has it in a late season 34-29 loss. Manning attempted an eye-popping 57 passes that day, completing 37 for a season-high 434 yards. Manning zipped passes of varying lengths all day, keeping the Eagles off balance and his underachieving team in it. A 57-yard TD toss to Tavarres King late in the third quarter was a thing of beauty.
7. Sam Bradford – Minnesota Vikings
It will be interesting to see what the Vikes do this off-season, as all three of their quarterbacks, including Bradford, the surprising Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater are all free agents. Bradford is the most expensive of the three, by far, commanding a $18 million salary this season. However, he played in just two games before a season-ending injury and is shelved through the playoffs. Even still, the very accurate passer (he was the league’s most efficient in 2016 with a 71.6 percent completion rate) was superb in a Week 1 victory over New Orleans by a count of 29-19. Bradford was 27 out of 32 that day, for 346 yards and three touchdowns. He has proven throughout his career he can make any and all kinds of throws and in that game he hit Stefon Diggs twice for scores (18 yards and two yards), as well as Kyle Rudolph for a 15-yarder. A good indicator of his arm strength and precision can be seen in his touchdowns vs. interceptions with Minnesota in two seasons. He has 23 TDs against just five interceptions, which has increased his rating considerably from his early days.
6. Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers
Not only can Cam Newton run — which he is renowned for — but he also has a gun for an arm. It’s actually under-rated, considering the running back-like yardage he piles up year over year. He’s his own best back-up threat, in that regard. In 2017 Newton ran for a career high 754 yards, while passing for a pedestrian 3,302 (18th best in the NFL). Newton didn’t have a great passing season, overall, with 22 TD tosses against 16 interceptions, however, he did come up big in key games for the playoff bound Panthers. And it was in the only game the Cats would play in the post-season that Newton showed off his considerable arm. With his team down 24-12 to New Orleans early in the fourth quarter, Newton went to work, alternating passes to TE Greg Olsen and RB Christian McCaffrey on a 68-yard drive that culminated in a 14-yard TD toss to Olsen. After the Saints took a 31-19 lead late in the fourth, never-say-die Newton started from his own 25 and in three plays, had the Panthers in the end zone again, a beautiful 56-yard touchdown pass to McCaffrey the topper.
5. Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints
We think there is a showdown a-comin’ and it may pit two legendary quarterbacks together in football cage match for the ages. Before Drew Brees and Tom Brady tangle in a Super Bowl of our dreams, Brees will have to first beat Case Keenum and the Vikings in the divisional playoffs, then the survivor of Atlanta Falcons-Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Conference championship. We think the 38-year-old veteran and his prolific arm are up to the task. Brees added to his growing legend in 2017, finishing fourth in passing yardage with 4,334, while tossing 23 TD strikes with just eight interceptions. The durable veteran led the Saints to a 11-5 record this season and then went out and beat Cam Newton and the Panthers 31-26 in the NFC wild card playoffs. The Panthers shut down the Saints run and Brees met the challenge head on, flinging 33 attempts and completing 23 of them for 376 yards and two touchdowns. He showed off his prodigious arm strength on his team’s first score late in the first. After starting with an incomplete pass and on his own 20, Brees heaved a beautiful spiral down the middle to a streaking Ted Ginn Jr. that hit him near the Panthers 30, with Ginn Jr. running it the rest of the way in. Wow, just wow.
4. Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens
His overall numbers aren’t legendary and he’s not overly accurate, but many would be surprised to know Joe Flacco’s arm strength is top shelf. One scouting website states that Flacco has “one of the best deep-ball arms in the game.” It helps that the New Jersey native is 6’6″ and quite mobile for a big man. Even though the Ravens allowed the Bengals to spoil their playoff chances with a huge comeback win in Week 17, all in all it was good year for them and Flacco. Even in that loss to Cincinnati, Flacco was fairly unflappable, chucking two TD passes against one interception and giving his team a chance to win it. In the middle of the fourth quarter the Ravens were down 24-20 when Flacco showed why he is still a premier pivot with a great arm. A short drive of 45 yards was punctuated by Flacco making key passes of 10, 11, 10 and finally six yards (to Mike Wallace) for a go ahead TD. Unfortunately, the Bengals Andy Dalton answered that with a massive drive for a TD to stun Baltimore.
3. Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers
Big Ben has a big arm. And when the chips are down and he has opposition defenders all around him, he can make a variety of passes to burn them. He has been known to throw accurate bombs even while half falling down. The big Ohioan had another superb season in 2017, finishing fifth in yardage with 4,251 yards, along with 28 touchdown passes. His signature game — and one indicative of his career — came in a key match-up with a resurgent Baltimore club on Dec. 10. Roethlisberger gave the faithful at Heinz Field that day their money’s worth, completing 44 of an incredible 66 pass attempts for 506 yards and two touchdowns. He and pass-catching sidekick Antonio Brown had a field day, with Brown hauling in 11 passes for 213 yards. Roethlisberger wrapped up an AFC North title for Pittsburgh by rallying his troops to overcome a 38-29 deficit with late scoring drives culminating in a touchdown and a field goal to win it 39-38. Now for the AFC division playoffs.
2. Matt Stafford – Detroit Lions
It really is too bad that Matt Stafford‘s arm is shelved for another nine months and not being showcased in a playoff game. The Lions did finish 9-7 but that wasn’t near good enough in a log-jammed NFC to make the playoffs. For his part, Stafford’s gun was again superb in 2017, as he finished third in passing yardage with 4,446 yards (his seventh straight season of 4,000 or more), as well as 29 TD passes against 10 interceptions. Even when his team loses, as they did seven times last season, Stafford was still a force. In a 20-15 loss to a very good Pittsburgh Steelers team, Stafford had quite a day, despite not throwing a TD pass. He was 27 out of 45 for a season high 423 yards. With his team down 20-12 early in the fourth quarter, Stafford nearly got them into the end zone, settling for a field goal instead. Starting at his own 25, he interspersed run plays with some pinpoint passing, including a 23-yarder to Theo Riddick and another to Golden Tate for 17-yards to get within four of the end zone. Impressive stuff.
1. Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
Good quarterbacks make themselves look good. Great quarterbacks make everyone else around them look better. Put Aaron Rodgers in the latter category. The Packers offence sure missed Rodgers this season as the team sputtered to a 7-9 record (the team was 4-1 before he went down to injury early in a 23-10 loss to Minnesota in week 6). In the games he did appear in (six and a small part of a seventh), the elite strong armed passer completed 154 of 238 passes for 1,675 yards and an impressive 16 touchdowns, with just six interceptions. After a long layoff, Rodgers came back to guide the Packers into a tough tilt in Carolina. He showed off his exceptional skill set, and quite a bit of rust too. But, shakiness aside — he was intercepted three times — Rodgers still passed for 290 yards that day and three touchdowns. Two of those strikes were for 33 yards to Randall Cobb and another a 24-yard missile to Richard Rodgers.