We’ve reached the worst part of the NFL’s off-season. Free agency is basically over, the draft was weeks ago, and we don’t have anything but the NBA finals to keep us satiated until “schism” season starts in August. So get used to fun lists like these, because we’re scratching our heads for three more months. Here are four lists, ranking the (presumed) starting quarterbacks of the four divisions in the AFC.
Ranking NFL Starting Quarterbacks by Division (AFC Edition)
You guys have no idea how badly I wanted to put Baker Mayfield here instead. But considering Ben did lead the NFL in passing yards last season, and he is still putting up monster numbers late in his career, I couldn’t justify it. Let’s see what happens next year now that Ben lost A.B. and Baker has Odell Beckham Jr.
Baker Mayfield deserved offensive rookie of the year more than Saquon Barkley last year, and I really, really like Saquon Barkley. He broke a record for passing touchdowns that was held by Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson, and he did it with two fewer starts. When the Browns win the AFC North this year, he’ll leapfrog Big Ben.
I asked a few of my sportswriter buddies who came to mind when I said average quarterback, and they all said Andy Dalton. No joke, I googled average quarterback, and Andy Dalton’s image came up more than anyone else. He’s just kinda there. Not bad enough that you need to replace him, but not good enough that you’ll ever win anything with him.
This is going to be a huge season for Lamar Jackson, because honestly, he needs to prove he can play quarterback. He’s a gifted athlete, and he galvanized the Baltimore Ravens last season, pushing them to the playoffs, but Derwin James almost singlehandedly kicked them out. He needs to show that he can play quarterback full-time in 2019.
Andrew Luck is still the man. He may have struggled with injuries and questionable surrounding talent, but now that the Colts have had a couple of strong off-seasons, they could be lethal, and that doesn’t happen without Luck. Luck quietly had one of the best seasons of any quarterback last season, and I expect him to continue that success in 2019.
I think Deshaun Watson ends up in the Most Valuable Player conversation in 2019. I’m really high on him, after two seasons where he showed flashes of absolute brilliance. I’m doubling down on this because in fantasy this year, I’m taking Nuk in round one and Watson as my quarterback. Bank on it.
It’s hard to imagine a Super Bowl MVP need to prove himself, but that’s exactly where we find Nick Foles in Jacksonville. The Jaguars will be the fifth team change for Foles in his curious career, and it’ll be interesting to see whether he can play like he has in Philadelphia for another team. Many people believe the Jaguars are only a quarterback away from being competitive, and there’s no doubt that Foles is an upgrade of Blake Bortles. So we’ll just have to see.
In my “crazy opinions” piece on this very website, I speculated that Marcus Mariota will lose his job to Ryan Tannehill. That should tell you everything you need to know, but just in case it isn’t enough, I haven’t seen enough from Mariota to put him ahead of a bonafide Super Bowl MVP, the next big thing, and the best quarterback prospect of all time.
Do I think Tom Brady is the best quarterback in the AFC East? Yes. Do I think he’s the best quarterback in the AFC? Yes. Do I think he’s the best quarterback in the NFL? Yes. Do I think he’s the best quarterback of all time? Yes. Do I hate his guts anyway? You bet.
The AFC East isn’t a particularly strong division for proven quarterbacks, but Darnold is the best of the trio of 2018 rookies in the division so far. He didn’t rewrite the record book or anything last season, but he did prove to be a good passer and had flashes of brilliance. With an improved coaching staff and supporting cast, we’ll see what he can do in 2019.
Josh Allen is the most curious quarterback in the National Football League. There are reasonable arguments to be made that he is somehow both underrated and overrated at the same time. He needs to make significant progress in year two to seem like an actual franchise quarterback, but his physical gifts make him dangerous enough that you have to sit back and see how it plays out.
Make no mistake, I don’t think Josh Rosen is worse than Josh Allen. As you can probably tell, I’m not a huge fan of Allen’s. But based on what they did during their rookie seasons, you can’t really justify putting Rosen above Allen. Not only did Rosen have horrible numbers and lead the Cardinals to the worst record in the NFL, he was replaced. Hopefully Rosen still has that chip on his shoulder and he uses it to jump up at least one spot this season.
The guy threw for 50 touchdowns last year. There’s no debate to be found here.
Philip Rivers is coming dangerously close to being the best quarterback to never win a meaningful football game. Year after year, he produces crazy statlines, and year after year, he fails to a game that matters in the slightest. Maybe this is the year that changes?
This is a big year for Derek Carr. Unlike last year, he doesn’t have excuses in 2019. He has one of the best receiving corps in professional football, an upgraded offensive line, a decent young back, and a year in the system under his belt. This is his time to return to 2015/2016 form. If he doesn’t, I might really have to live in a world where Justin Herbert quarterbacks the Raiders. No thanks.
Poor Joe Flacco, he’s stumbled into yet another situation where he’s only the starter for as long as it takes the rookie beneath him to be ready. I like Flacco, and lord knows he’s had a tough road to this point, but I just don’t think he has a ton left in the tank. There were rumors that he was going to retire this off-season, and I half-believed them.