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. CINCINNATI BENGALS
There’s a new No. 1 in my rankings for the first time in three years, and that’s largely due to the meteoric rise that Bengals’ star quarterback Joe Burrow took in his second season, leading the Bengals to the Super Bowl.
The 2020 No. 1 overall pick quickly put himself on the map as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, displaying great accuracy and overall touch from the pocket, establishing a game-breaking connection at the NFL level with former college teammate Ja’Marr Chase, helping turn the Bengals’ offense into one of the most explosive in the league.
With Burrow in the fold and healthy, the Bengals will be in the mix long-term moving forward. He’s very much Tony Romo-like. Behind him though, there are some questions. While this is a QB Room ranking, Burrow is just that good that he elevates the entire Bengals’ depth chart at QB to the top spot here.
Behind Burrow, Brandon Allen is a decent veteran presence overall, having started nine career games in the NFL, six of them with the Bengals. He’s not really going to move the needle overall, but he’s not going to lose games when on the field for the Bengals. Cincinnati sure hopes he’s not on the field much moving forward, unless he’s in mop-up duty at the end of blowout wins like he was in 2021.
Jake Browning is the third quarterback on the depth chart for the Bengals. The former Washington Huskies star in college, Browning hasn’t quite caught on in the NFL, spending three seasons with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2019, bouncing back and forth between the active roster and the practice squad.
2. BALTIMORE RAVENS
For the first time in three seasons, the Baltimore Ravens fall from the top spot in my quarterback room rankings. That said, I’m still super high on Lamar Jackson overall.
After an injury-filled season in 2021, Jackson returns with full health and should be able to put the league on notice again. Though the Ravens stripped down the receiving corps around him, there are still plenty of playmakers in the passing game for Jackson to work with.
With his combination of arm strength and touch, and his ability to create with his legs, Jackson is a true dual-threat that is a nightmare for defenses to deal with snap to snap.
One good thing that came out of Jackson’s lost year in 2021 was the emergence of Tyler Huntley as his backup. Huntley looked good in stretches for the Ravens, showing he can run a similar offense that Jackson runs, using his legs and arm to create splash plays for the Ravens. At times, Huntley looked like the better passer too.
Behind Jackson and Huntley, the Ravens recently brought in veteran Brett Hundley, and also signed rookie Anthony Brown from Boston College and Oregon as an undrafted free agent. They certainly have their type at the position, don’t they?
3. CLEVELAND BROWNS
This is where the rankings could be a bit puzzling for readers. When on the field, Deshaun Watson is a phenomenal quarterback. I wouldn’t put him ahead of Burrow or Jackson, but he’s truly a special quarterback when on the field.
Problem is, I don’t think he’ll be on the field much — if at all — in 2022 due to his sizable legal issues off the field. Cleveland’s pursuit of Watson also burned a bridge with former starting quarterback Baker Mayfield, whom the team spent the No. 1 overall pick on in 2018. Mayfield clearly wants out no matter what happens with Watson, and it’s hard to blame him.
Knowing that, I didn’t factor Mayfield into this ranking because it’s very clear he’s not returning to the Browns, and a trade is going to happen soon. If I factored Mayfield in here, the Browns would have the best QB room in the AFC North. It’s that simple.
Without Mayfield though, the Browns could be relying on Jacoby Brissett and Joshua Dobbs throughout the 2022 season, depending on what the Browns get back for Mayfield in a trade. That’s got to be terrifying news for Cleveland fans, but great news for the Houston Texans, who hold three future first-round picks from the Browns in the Watson trade.
Brissett is a solid backup quarterback, but he’s shown throughout his career that he’s not going to move the needle much as a starter in extended action. Dobbs has never truly gotten the chance, but there’s a reason he’s on his third team in his career.
4. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Some readers might not like this, but this is the correct placement for the Steelers’ quarterback room, at least for the time being.
Mitch Trubisky might surprise a lot of people in 2022 after joining the Steelers in free agency following a rough end to his time in Chicago and then a year on the bench in Buffalo. He fits into Steelers’ offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s system quite well, and will have the best bunch of playmakers he’s had in his career. The opportunity to break out is there for the former No. 2 overall pick in 2017.
Behind Trubisky, rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett has a bright future and is the intended franchise signal caller for the Steelers. He has similar traits as Cincinnati’s Burrow, but there’s still a lot of projecting that’s happening with Pickett in the NFL.
Mason Rudolph and rookie seventh-round draft pick Chris Oladokun round out the Steelers’ quarterback room. Rudolph is the only quarterback in the room with starting experience with the Steelers specifically, having started 10 games in his four seasons in Pittsburgh. He’s a solid No. 3 quarterback to have, but there’s a great chance he’s traded during training camp to a quarterback-needy team, opening up the backup job to Pickett, should he not beat out Trubisky in training camp.
2021 AFC North QB rankings:
No. 1 – Baltimore Ravens
No. 2 – Pittsburgh Steelers
No. 3 – Cleveland Browns
No. 4 – Cincinnati Bengals