Patrick Mahomes has dazzled NFL audiences with no-look passes, left-handed throws and stellar performances in just his first full season as a starter.
The dynamic Mahomes has the Kansas City Chiefs (11-3) leading the AFC and he's already earning top honors.
Mahomes barely squeaked past Drew Brees as the NFL's top quarterback in 2018 in voting released Friday by a panel of 10 football writers for The Associated Press. Mahomes received six first-place votes, three seconds and one third. Brees got the other four first-place votes.
"When Mahomes got off to a ridiculously good start, many wondered if he could keep up that pace. The answer has been a resounding yes, and the Chiefs gunslinger has shown no sign of slowing," said New York-based Dennis Waszak Jr.
Mahomes has 45 touchdown passes and a chance to become just the third player to reach 50. Peyton Manning set the single-season record with 55 TDs in 2013. Tom Brady had 50 in 2007.
"The poster boy for wild creativity in the wide-open offensive environment that pervades the NFL, Mahomes has that star quality teams crave," said New York-based Barry Wilner, who put Mahomes third behind Brees and Philip Rivers. "He also has the talent they desperately need to succeed."
Brees, at age 39, is having a sensational season. He already broke Manning's record for career yards passing and surpassed Brett Favre's mark for most completions. He's on pace to break his own record for highest completion percentage in a season, and he has the New Orleans Saints (12-2) on the verge of securing the NFC's No. 1 seed.
"He's taken his game to another level this year, posting some of the best marks of a brilliant career," San Francisco-based Josh Dubow said.
Rivers finished third in voting. The 38-year-old is having perhaps his finest season and has the Los Angeles Chargers (11-3) back in the playoffs with a chance to surpass the Chiefs for the top spot.
"One of his generation's most underappreciated players has finally begun to get the praise deserved for the Bolts' 11-wins-and-counting surge," said Minnesota-based Dave Campbell.
Andrew Luck came in fourth after missing the entire 2017 season and returning to help the Indianapolis Colts get back into the playoff chase.
"He's back and so are the Colts. Wonder if Josh McDaniels has any regrets about reneging on that gig now," said Denver-based Arnie Stapleton.
Brady finished fifth in the poll after placing first in September.
"Not the best season by his near-impossible standards, but the G.O.A.T. still has the Patriots a win away from yet another AFC East title," said New York-based Simmi Buttar.
Russell Wilson was sixth followed Aaron Rodgers, Jared Goff, Deshaun Watson and Ben Roethlisberger. Wilson has helped the Seattle Seahawks (8-6) move toward a playoff berth in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season.
"Wilson has gone from a quarterback who rode a great defense to a Super Bowl title early in his career to one leading his team to a likely playoff berth this year," Dubow said. "Few have the ability to extend plays like Wilson, who regularly turns what look like busted plays into big ones."
Rodgers only has thrown two interceptions, but he dropped in the rankings because the Green Bay Packers are 5-8-1 and cost coach Mike McCarthy his job. Rodgers hasn't had a losing record since his first season as starter in 2008.
"Having only two interceptions this season would be more impressive if the Packers were having more success," Tennessee-based Teresa Walker said. "Instead, there's not been much difference since firing Mike McCarthy."
Only 13 quarterbacks received votes. Matt Ryan was named on six ballots, Baker Mayfield was on three and Carson Wentz, who finished third in NFL MVP voting last season, made one list.
1. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
2. Drew Brees, Saints
3. Philip Rivers, Chargers
4. Andrew Luck, Colts
5. Tom Brady, Patriots
6. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
7. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
8. Jared Goff, Rams
9. Deshaun Watson, Texans
10. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers