Ranking NFL's top 10 clutch QBs: No surprise at No. 1, C.J. Stroud ranks high, Daniel Jones cracks list (2024)

Who is the most clutch quarterback in the NFL? Which quarterback do you want with the ball in his hands with the game on the line?

I looked to the numbers to answer these age-old questions, using two stats:

  • Quarterback conversion rate on game-tying or go-ahead drives in the fourth quarter and overtime
  • Expected points added (EPA) per play in these situations (looks at value added on all plays between rushes, passes, sacks and fumbles)

Essentially, how often does a quarterback lead his team down the field successfully in do-or-die situations, and how does he perform on those drives? I broke those numbers down between a quarterback's career in the regular season, career in the playoffs, and 2023 performance. All of these were evenly weighted and used to churn out this top 10 list of the most clutch quarterbacks in the NFL.

Last disclaimer. I only looked at the 26 current starting quarterbacks with NFL experience. Rookies and other projected starters with only a few starts (like Anthony Richardson) weren't considered.

10. Justin Herbert

Justin Herbert has converted on 42 percent of game-tying or go-ahead drive chances in his career, the 10th-best rate in the league among active starters.

He was effective in the clutch again last year, but the Chargers defense didn't hold up their end of the bargain. Get this, he had five game-tying or go-ahead touchdown passes in the fourth quarter and overtime of losses last year, the most in a season in NFL history.

No one in NFL history has more game-winning drives (14) and game-tying or go-ahead touchdown passes in the fourth quarter and OT (16) at age 25 or younger than Justin Herbert.

I have a feeling he'll be getting more shine now with Jim Harbaugh at the controls.

9. Lamar Jackson

Jackson has the third-highest conversion rate on these clutch drives (48 percent) among active starters behind only C.J. Stroud and Patrick Mahomes.

Problem is, he hasn't delivered in the clutch in the postseason and he was one of the reasons the Ravens blew so many fourth-quarter leads recently.

He has 16 total touchdowns and 15 turnovers in the fourth quarter in the last three years, while the Ravens have blown the most seven-point leads in the fourth quarter in a three-year span in NFL history (nine).

8. Daniel Jones

Hear me out before you pound your fist on the table and yell "Daniel Jones is eighth on this list?!?!?" He had very few clutch opportunities through three seasons but he's been steady lately. He successfully led the Giants down the field to tie or take the lead on 11 of 25 opportunities (44 percent) in the last two years, a top-10 rate in the NFL.

I'll be the first one to tell you that his NFL-record five game-winning drives through seven games in 2022 was a fluke. But, while he may not have been landing haymakers and Saquon Barkley was certainly doing his fair share of the heavy lifting, credit Jones for taking care of the ball and adding value with his legs. His five turnovers in the fourth-quarter and OT in the last two years is the same number as Joe Burrow. He also led a game-winning drive on the road in the postseason against the Vikings in 2022.

7. Joe Burrow

Joe Burrow solidified his status as "Joe Cool" with thrilling wins in each of his first three matchups against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. His conversation rates on game-tying or go-ahead drive chances are at least 40 percent across the board: regular season career, playoff career and in 2022-23. He's top 11 among current starters in all three categories.

His clutch resume isn't perfect though. The Bengals failed to score in their last five drives of the Super Bowl loss to the Rams. They also failed to score on their final two drives of the 2022 AFC Championship game loss to the Chiefs.

6. Dak Prescott

I don't trust Dak Prescott to put the Cowboys on his back in the playoffs, or really shine vs. the top competition, but he also puts up MVP-type numbers, which is why he's high on this list, but not in the top five.

He was 5 of 9 on game-tying or go-ahead drive chances late in games last year, and led three game-winning drives in primetime vs. the Chargers, Seahawks and Lions (even if the Detroit game should have ended differently). The playoff heroics haven't been there though as he's 3 of 9 with those clutch opportunities.

5. Jared Goff

Jared Goff has more clutch moments in 2023 than you probably remember. He ranked third in game-tying/go-ahead drive conversion rate in the fourth quarter and overtime last year (6-of-10, 60 percent), and third in EPA per play in those situations.

He led a game-winning drive on opening night in Kansas City. Outlasted Justin Herbert and the Chargers in a track meet. He led a 12-point comeback vs. the Bears in the final five minutes and had a game-winning drive in the playoffs vs. the Buccaneers.

It's not all sunshine and rainbows, though. He was 3 of 13 passing when pressured in the NFC Championship loss vs. the 49ers, where Detroit blew a 17-point halftime lead. His struggles vs. pressure (20th in EPA per play when pressured in 2023) limit his upside in the clutch, to an extent.

4. Josh Allen

Josh Allen is top 10 in every criteria mentioned off the top, including fifth in clutch drive conversation rate in both 2023 and for his career. He led three game-winning drives as the Bills finished last season on a five-game win streak and stole the AFC East title from Miami.

And before you question his clutch credentials, just remember the heroics in a 42-36 loss to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs a few years ago.

3. Jalen Hurts

All anyone will remember is the Eagles historic collapse down the stretch last year, but I'm not looking past Hurts' excellence in the clutch. He had six total touchdowns and 0 turnovers on potential game-tying or go-ahead drives in the fourth quarter and overtime through 12 weeks last year, culminating with a superstar performance in an OT win vs the Bills. He didn't have many opportunities in the clutch to end the year as Philadelphia was getting blown out. He also gave Philadelphia a chance to win Super Bowl LVII with a game-tying drive before the Chiefs answered.

2. C.J. Stroud

Nobody was better in the clutch than C.J. Stroud last year. The Texans converted on 6 of 8 game-tying or go-ahead drive chances late with Stroud under center. His numbers in those situations were phenomenal. 77% completion rate, 10.7 yards per attempt and a 139.5 passer rating. The best highlight was this game-winning touchdown pass from rookie-to-rookie to cap Stroud's 470-yard, five-touchdown game.

CJ STROUDDDDDDDDDDDD. #TBvsHOU pic.twitter.com/gW2PMBVIbj

— NFL (@NFL) November 5, 2023

1. Patrick Mahomes

The criteria I laid out above says C.J. Stroud is the most clutch quarterback in the NFL right now, but I'm making an exception and giving Patrick Mahomes the crown for two reasons.

1) Sample size alert. Stroud has only played one season and has had eight game-tying or go-ahead drive opportunities.

2). Playoff numbers. This is why Mahomes is the answer to the question I posed at the top. Who do you want with the ball in his hands with the game on the line? It's Mahomes and it's not even close. He is an absurd 15 of 21 converting potential game-tying or go-ahead drives in the fourth quarter and overtime of his playoff career. That's the highest conversion rate (71 percent) of any QB since at least 2000 (min. 10 drives), well above Tom Brady who is second (53 percent). If we had records of this stat prior to that, I'm sure it would say it's the highest rate in NFL history, too.

After Mahomes and co. went 3-for-3 on those drives to beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl, I laid out the stats for why he is the best "closer" in sports since Michael Jordan. Jordan is the gold standard for clutch play in the NBA, making 9 of 18 on potential game-tying or go-ahead shots in the final 24 seconds of his playoff career.

Mahomes is the gold standard in the NFL and everything about his playoff resume screams clutch.

Ranking NFL's top 10 clutch QBs: No surprise at No. 1, C.J. Stroud ranks high, Daniel Jones cracks list (2024)
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