What is the AFC North QB hierarchy?

Where does Baker Mayfield land?

By: Jeremy Trottier

The AFC North has a pretty phenomenal quarterback grouping, including Ben Roethlisberger, Baker Mayfield, Joe Burrow, and Lamar Jackson.  Each of these players has its own strengths and weaknesses, as well as vastly different players on their respective teams.  In this article, I will be ranking these quarterbacks based on how they performed last year, as well as how I believe they will perform in 2021, and their team around them for production.  This is a combination of those three factors, as well as any recent history that needs to be considered.

The quarterbacks will be ranked from four (worst in the division) to one (best in the division) based on those prior aspects of the game.

Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers – #4

In no way is this meant to disrespect the legacy of Big Ben first off, but at this point he is the oldest of the QBs in this division by a large margin.  One of the first things to note is that the Steelers offensive line is relatively lackluster to say the least, which is going to force Ben to throw a significant portion of his passes under pressure.  Having Najee Harris may help take some pressure off him, but for the same reason, he may also be ineffective due to lack of o-line.  

Roethlisberger did perform relatively well in 2020, at least during the stretch of 11-0 games for Pittsburgh.  However his end of season/postseason performance was lackluster at best.  Overall, he is nearing the end of his career more than likely, and the protection he has been given is worse than last years.

Joe Burrow – Cincinatti Bengals – #3

First off, Joe Burrow is a very good quarterback from the sample size we saw last year, that much is true.  The Bengals did draft Ja’Marr Chase, who will most definitely be a great asset for Burrow to throw the ball to.  The issue here lies with his protection, as well as his mobility now.

Granted, the Bengals did sign Riley Reiff and draft Jackson Carman, which is both relatively respectable moves.  However will those two moves really just fix the line of 2020 that collapsed under most pressures?  With some of the best pass rushers in the league in your division (Myles Garrett, TJ Watt, Calais Campbell, etc.), protection needs to be a huge point of emphasis.  With Burrow coming back off major knee surgery, his mobility will be limited, and I do not believe this line is enough yet to justify moving Burrow higher.

Baker Mayfield – Cleveland Browns – #2

Coming off one of the better years of his career, Baker Mayfield should be considered at the very least a very good quarterback right now.  After only throwing eight interceptions last year to 26 touchdowns and 3,563 yards, he definitely had an impressive campaign.  With Odell Beckham Jr. returning, a very good draft class to add to the defense, and an extremely stout offensive line, Baker is primed to have another high-level season in 2021. 

One other note to look at here is the coaching.  With the Kevin Stefanski addition last year, and the Browns making the playoffs for the first time in 18 years, this should also be a factor in Baker’s success.

Lamar Jackson – Baltimore Ravens – #1

The removal of Orlando Brown Jr. normally would make me lower a QB on this type of list, but this is Lamar Jackson, his mobility will prevent issues.  The 2019 NFL MVP had a very slight decline from his MVP season, but still led the Ravens to a 11-4 record and to his first playoff win.

The addition of Rashod Bateman and Sammy Watkins will definitely help Lamar in making the decision to throw much more often.  They also brought in Alejandro Villanueva to fill in the other tackle spot alongside Ronnie Stanley.  Overall, Lamar should have a field day in 2021 due to his new weapons, and the development of J.K. Dobbins should also most definitely take some pressure off of Lamar.  

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