The AFC North is the only division in the NFL in which all four starting quarterbacks are guaranteed to have been first-round draft picks. The AFC East could be the second if Tua Tagovailoa starts for the Miami Dolphins this year, but more likely Ryan Fitzpatrick will begin the season under center.
Every other division has at least its one exception, whether it’s Drew Lock or Dak Prescott, Gardner Minshew or Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo or, yes, Tom Brady.
And in this case, two of those four quarterbacks are first-overall picks in Baker Mayfield and Joe Burrow. Ben Roethlisberger was picked just outside the top 10 in 2004. Though he ended up being drafted 32nd in 2018, Lamar Jackson already has set NFL records, and became the second-ever consensus MVP in 2019.
Roethlisberger, of course, has won multiple Super Bowls and has plenty of accomplishments of his own. Mayfield was the rookie of the year in 2018 and showed a lot of potential, even if he had some setbacks last year. Jackson is 19-3 as a starter and a very dynamic player, while Burrow is among the cleanest prospects to come out of college in years, despite the fact that he hasn’t stepped foot in an NFL building yet.
That was enough for Sean Wagner-McGough to rank the AFC North third in the league in terms of quarterback play, trailing only the NFC South, which includes among others Drew Brees, Brady, and Matt Ryan, and the NFC West, with Russell Wilson, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jared Goff, and Kyler Murray (two more first-overall picks).
“There’s a reasonable case to be made that the AFC North will be the best division by quarterbacks in one year”, he writes. “There’s just a few what ifs. Mayfield needs to rebound after a disappointing 2019 season that came after a good rookie year. Joe Burrow needs to prove why he was the consensus top pick in this year’s draft. And Big Ben needs to overcome the elbow injury that wrecked his 2019 season”.
“All three of those what ifs could happen”, he goes on. “Mayfield was legitimately good in 2018. Burrow holds as much potential as advertised and he’s joining a team with some decent players at the skill positions. And Big Ben was great as recently as 2018 before his 2019 season was doomed from the start”.
This AFC North might have the most potential at the quarterback position in the entire league. Not all of that potential has been fully realized yet, of course, especially in Burrow’s case, which is why they’re not ranked at the top yet. But as he writes, it wouldn’t be in the league bit surprising if that is where they rank at this time next year.