Today starts the mark of a new series. Since it’s the off-season and OTAs have turned out to be pretty uneventful, I’ve decided to rank each division based on position. I’ll be starting with the quarterback position and then eventually make my way through the rest of the offense and defense. Each division will be ranked by their position group as a whole and this is a point I don’t think I can stress enough (talking to you Patriots fans). It should be noted that these grades will be based off their projected starters as well, so be sure to keep that in mind. So with that said, let’s get this underway starting with the AFC.
2019 NFL Quarterback Rankings (AFC Edition)
Obviously, when you talk about the AFC West, you have to start with Patrick Mahomes. What more can be said about this guy that hasn’t been said already? He’s the future of the league and will make it extremely difficult for any team to take the AFC West crown for the next decade.
Philip Rivers has been consistent, throughout his whole career, as a top tier quarterback. While he’s never been able to get the Chargers over the hump, he’s still regarded as an elite signal-caller and puts up numbers and wins to justify it year after year.
Derek Carr was a former MVP candidate once upon a time and put up a career high in passing yards last season despite his best weapon being a tight end. The Raiders made it a point to surround Carr with as much talent as possible in what is essentially a final evaluation year for the young gunslinger.
Even though Joe Flacco is a shell of his former Super Bowl MVP self and practically the definition of average, he’s still a known commodity and is good for at least seven to eight wins a year. I fully expect him to start the entire season as the Broncos continue their rebuild and groom Drew Lock for the future.
AFC South – Andrew Luck, Nick Foles, Deshaun Watson, Marcus Mariota
It was amazing, last season, being able to watch a fully healthy Andrew Luck again. He’s every bit as good as advertised and finally has competent leadership from within the organization. I expected the Colts to be a lot more active in free agency than they were, but I suppose they made up for that by having what I consider to be a pretty solid draft. It’ll be fun watching Luck throwing to what is essentially a track star in Parris Campbell. Expectations should be Super Bowl for the Colts and Andrew Luck this season.
Nick Foles is a former Super Bowl MVP and is joining a stacked squad in the Jaguars. The lack of talent on offense is still a concern for me, but Jaguars fans should be resting a little easier these days knowing they won’t be going into next season with Blake Bortles penciled in as their starting quarterback.
Deshaun Watson has been nothing short of spectacular since entering the NFL and has essentially saved Bill O’Brien’s job with the Texans. I do fear for his health though, as Watson was sacked more than any other quarterback in the league last year and was constantly running for his life throughout the course of the season. Glad to see the Texans weren’t oblivious to this and made it a point to improve their garbage offensive line in the off-season. Give Watson some actual time to throw the ball to DeAndre Hopkins and imagine how good that tandem could actually be.
Marcus Mariota is just an average quarterback with a plethora of injury concerns. Apparently, the Titans believe that as well and thus brought in Ryan Tannehill to be his backup. I’m predicting this will be the last season we see Mariota as a starter for the Titans. After that, he’ll be relegated to backup duties for another team, just like his draft mate Jameis Winston, thus closing the chapter on the extremely below average quarterback draft class of 2015.
AFC North – Ben Roethlisberger, Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Andy Dalton
The AFC North has the potential to become number one on this list. It all hinges on the development of Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson. With that being said, the king of this division is obviously still Ben Roethlisberger. He threw for over 5,000 yards last season and finished with a passer rating of 96.5, however you can expect those numbers to come down a bit this year with the departure of Antonio Brown.
Everyone has fallen in love with Mayfield. However, I’m still not sold. He’s incredibly talented and extremely accurate, but he talks a lot for someone that finished third in the AFC North last year with a 7-8-1 record. I know they added a plethora of talent in the off-season including Odell Beckham Jr., but the team can’t even get him to show up in Cleveland and rookie head coach Freddie Kitchens has been visibly and vocally frustrated by it. All the while, Mayfield has been doing his best to draw attention away from this by getting into a Twitter war with members of the media. The expectations may be a little too high for the Browns and Mayfield this year.
Ravens fans better be praying this off-season that Jackson learns how to throw the ball past 15 yards because I’d put money on that option offense being nowhere near as successful this coming season. Teams now have the off-season to scheme against it and it’s likely to fade out just as quickly as it did during its first go around with Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III. Time will tell if Jackson has the accuracy necessary to hit Marquise Brown deep down the field on a consistent basis.
Finally, there’s the Red Rocket himself, Andy Dalton. This guy is the definition of average and is a perfect fit for the abysmally run Cincinnati Bengals, a team that is deathly afraid of change and sports one of the cheapest owners, if not the cheapest, in all of football. Hopefully, for Bengals fans, this is the last year you have to put up with this mediocre “franchise” quarterback and your team is in position to draft a successor in the incredibly rich quarterback draft of 2020. And let’s be honest, it’s more likely that they will be than anything else.
AFC East – Tom Brady, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen
Yes, Tom Brady is the best quarterback in all of football. No one is debating that or even attempting to argue for someone else. However, the rest of the division is filled with question marks and potential. Since I’m ranking each division by quarterback and not each team, this is where the AFC East ends up. Brady has spent his entire career playing in a division with below average talent at this position and the status quo remains the same until proven otherwise.
I’m a huge Sam Darnold fan and I’m sure the addition of Le’Veon Bell will help with his development, but I’m still concerned about the lack of talent he has to work with on the perimeter. Quincy Enunwa and Jamison Crowder aren’t exactly what I’d call game changers, so it’ll be interesting to see how well he performs with defenses primarily focusing on #26.
I’ll be the first to say that I was wrong about Josh Allen. I thought he was going to be terrible last year and end up being nothing more than a one-year starter. He played pretty well given the lack of talent that was around him. He was actually in an identical situation to Darnold and still is for the most part. He has a good running back in LeSean McCoy and not much else. The Bills need to invest in a true deep threat that can take advantage of Allen’s tremendous arm strength. Until then, it’ll probably be more of the same for Allen, as I feel the Bills wide receiver acquisitions this off-season were overpaid and overrated.
I fully expect Josh Rosen to beat out Ryan Fitzpatrick for the starting job in Miami. Rosen got the short end of the stick in Arizona with his former team switching offensive coordinators halfway through the season and having a first-time head coach that was defensive minded none the less. With all that being said, Rosen has a prime opportunity in Miami. The Dolphins haven’t had a franchise quarterback since Dan Marino and are starved for someone competent to step into the position. I still believe that Rosen has the talent to be a top tier quarterback in this league and he’ll get his chance to prove just that this season.