Three young quarterbacks soared toward superstar status as the 2021 NFL regular season concluded. Joe Burrow and Josh Allen continued their ascent with memorable playoff performances. The third, Justin Herbert, ranked behind only Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady in Total QBR during a second consecutive impressive season to start his career.

Burrow, Allen and Herbert are three of the most exciting young players in the game. Each has shown enough to enhance his profile since entering the league, but none has played well enough for long enough to cement himself with Rodgers, Brady and Patrick Mahomes as the elite of the elite. Allen has grown into the role, emerging as a consistently dynamic force over the past two seasons. Burrow and Herbert have played only two seasons — Burrow less than that, thanks to a knee injury suffered as a rookie.

Which one of these three rising quarterbacks would you take if allowed to choose just one? I posed that question to two NFL offensive coaches, a former general manager, one long-time evaluator, one younger evaluator, former NFL executive of the year Randy Mueller and The Athletic NFL Draft analyst Dane Brugler. The seven voters ranked the quarterbacks 1-2-3. The results are below, along with explanations. There was almost a tie at the top.

1. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals

Average vote: 1.6

Burrow was the surest bet of the three coming out of college. Any team would have selected him first. Allen and Herbert required more projection, for different reasons, which is why they were not No. 1 overall choices.

“You can make a case for all three, easily,” one of the offensive coaches said. “My gut is it’s Burrow because he’s the best decision maker and he’s the toughest mentally, the most resilient, the best leader.”

The Bengals went from zero playoff victories for 31 years to the AFC Championship Game in Burrow’s first full season as a starter.

“I would take any one of the three, obviously — they are all impressive,” the other offensive coach said. “I just think Burrow has that little extra something. Maybe it’s because he has (Ja’Marr) Chase, but he was that was at LSU. He’s so accurate. He sees things so well.”

Burrow was first on both coaches’ ballots. He was first or second on six ballots overall. Mueller’s ballot was the exception. He had Allen first, Herbert second.

“Coaches want the processor and the most coachable of them all,” Mueller said. “Burrow is the highest level of instincts. To me, that’s why all these offensive coaches were in love with Mac Jones. I just want the best guy, the most talent that we can manage going forward.”

Burrow edged Allen for the top spot because the two offensive coaches dropped Allen to third on their ballots, the only No. 3 votes Allen received. If those coaches had ranked Allen second and Herbert third, then Burrow and Allen would have tied at the top.

“What Burrow is doing with that offensive line is impressive,” said the long-time evaluator, who had Burrow atop his ballot. “His eyes are so quick. He sees it like Brady, Peyton, Brees at their primes. It is almost like Joe Montana, seeing it that quick and delivering it accurately.”

What about all the sacks, including nine against Tennessee in the divisional round? Mueller thought Burrow would always take sacks at a higher rate for a variety of reasons, including the Bengals’ roster construction.