As we move deeper into the off-season for the NFL and the news quiets down, I thought it would be a great time to bring back a fun series that I have done in the past, starting today with the Ranking the Rooms: AFC North QBs edition.
This series is where I take a deep dive into each position group for all four teams in the division and rank them from best to worst.
With some big names at the QB position in the AFC North, this should be a fun one to kick things off with much debate.
1. Baltimore Ravens
For the second straight year, the Baltimore Ravens land atop my AFC North QBs rankings, thanks to one Lamar Demeatrice Jackson Jr.
Jackson is two years removed from winning the 2019 NFL MVP award and continues to put up video-game like numbers, making the Ravens one of the more dangerous offenses in the entire NFL.
Many will disagree with my placement here because they believe Jackson is nothing more than a glorified running back. That couldn’t be further from the truth for me.
Consider this: Jackson has put up these season averages since becoming the full-time starter in 2018 — 4,047 yards (passing/rushing) 38 TDs, 9.5 TOs (INTs/Fumbles lost) 65% completion percentage, 78.5 QBR, 106 QB rating.
Remove Jackson’s name from those stats there and almost every single one of you would take that from your QB in a heartbeat.
Instead, Jackson continues to be talked down upon because he has the ability to make incredible plays with his legs. It makes no sense.
Behind Jackson things appear pretty weak, with Trace McSorely projected as the No. 2 currently. The former Penn State star appeared in two games last season, throwing for 90 yards — 77 of which came on two completions against the Steelers with Robert Griffin III exiting the game with a hamstring injury.
After McSorely, Tyler Huntley and rookie Kenji Bahar round out the QB room. Make no mistake though — this is Jackson or bust here. The ceiling is just so high with the former NFL MVP that it’s hard to not slot the Ravens in at No. 1.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
This shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Ben Roethlisberger returned in a big way in 2020, throwing for nearly 4,000 yards with 33 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. It’s worth noting, though, that Roethlisberger stumbled down the stretch, throwing for 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions in his final five games as the Steelers went 1-4 after starting 11-0.
Though he is not the Roethlisberger of old, he’s still a good QB that can single-handedly win games for the Steelers. Counting him out in this division due to his final six games (including the playoff loss) last season is foolish.
Behind Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph provides experienced depth, showing that he can step in and not lose games for the Steelers, at the very least, having gone 5-4 in his career as a starter. His ceiling might not be much, but he’s at least competent at the position, which we’ve seen in spurts.
Dwayne Haskins is a very intriguing No. 3 at this point for the Steelers. Though he flamed out quickly in Washington for on- and off-field issues, he has a good arm, impeccable mechanics and is a former top 15 draft pick. Joshua Dobbs will battle him for the No. 3 job, giving the Steelers athleticism at the position.
3. Cleveland Browns
Again, not much has changed here compared to last year.
Yes, Baker Mayfield took a step forward under first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski, leading the Browns to the playoffs, but let’s not forget it was a run-first offense that asked Mayfield simply to not lose games, only occasionally asking him to win them.
I like Mayfield; I was a big fan of his at Oklahoma and really liked him coming out in 2018. He has a rocket arm and has the moxie needed for the position. I just don’t think he’s moved his way into that top 15 tier as others have. That probably happens this year, but I’m still in in wait and see mode.
Behind him, veteran Case Keenum provides good depth, having started 62 games over nine seasons in the NFL. He doesn’t move the needle much though as a starter. However, I should point out that Keenum’s best year as a starter came in 2017 in Minnesota under Stefanski’s watchful eye.
He knows the system and thrived in it before. It’s still Case Keenum though.
After that, third-year pro Kyle Lauletta is the No. 3. The former Richmond Spider has struggled to catch on across the league, so expectations are low.
4. Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow looked pretty darn good behind a porous offensive line before blowing his knee out midway through his rookie season. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: he’s Tony Romo 2.0, which is fantastic for the Bengals.
But he’s very clearly No. 4 in this division — for the time being.
The ceiling is incredibly high for the former LSU star, and the Bengals did right by him, adding playmakers and some pass protection in front of him. While he is participating in OTAs, the Bengals would be wise to bring him along slowly coming back from that devastating knee injury.
Behind Burrow, there’s nothing to write home about for the Bengals.
The Bengals let Ryan Finley — who beat the Steelers in 2020 — walk in free agency. Cincinnati does bring back Brandon Allen though as the No. 2 after starting five games last season in place of Burrow. Behind Allen, second-year pro Kyle Shurmur — the son of Denver Broncos’ offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur — and second-year pro Eric Dungey will battle it out for the No. 3 job.
2020 AFC North QB rankings:
No. 1 – Baltimore Ravens
No. 2 – Pittsburgh Steelers
No. 3 – Cleveland Browns
No. 4 – Cincinnati Bengals