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2020 AFC North Positional Rankings: Quarterback

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

As the dog days of the NFL offseason continue to settle in, each team’s roster is pretty much set with free agency and the draft in the rear view mirror. Therefore, it’s an opportune time to detox with our annual positional rankings for the AFC North.

The only appropriate place to begin, as always, is at the quarterback position. The 2019 season saw quite a bit of change for quarterback situations in the division and this upcoming year could be more of the same.

Ben Roethlisberger is set to return from injury after missing nearly the entirety of last season, the Bengals will have a new starter in rookie Joe Burrow, Baker Mayfield is looking to bounce back after a shaky sophomore campaign while Lamar Jackson enters 2020 as the league’s reigning MVP. Quite a bit of change one year can bring about, that’s for sure.

You can find last year’s rankings by clicking the link here.

Check out the ranking below, vote on the corresponding poll and join in on the conversation!


1) Baltimore Ravens

Starter: Lamar Jackson

Depth chart: Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley, Tyler Huntley

No team made a bigger jump at this position, and maybe any position on either side of the ball, from 2019 to 2020 than the Ravens did in the quarterback ranking. The reason for that is obvious: Lamar Jackson made the jump from being a raw talent to a unanimous MVP.

Jackson made significant strides in every facet of his game and improved upon his biggest weaknesses from his rookie season. He finished the 2019 campaign with only a shade over 3,000 yards passing but did so in only 15 games, several of which saw him sitting on the bench in the fourth quarter.

He led the NFL in touchdown passes with 36 (to only six interceptions), posted a quarterback rating of 113.3, and completed 66% of his pass attempts. Of course, Jackson wasn’t half bad as runner, either, leading the league in yards per carry (6.9) and tacking on 1,206 rushing yards and seven more scores.

No other quarterback in the division can match Jackson’s rushing ability but even if you cancel that from the equation, he stands alone at the top. Behind Jackson is a quality backup in Robert Griffin III, who is a perfect scheme fit, and two youngsters in Trace McSorley and UDFA Tyler Huntley out of Utah.

Poll

Where would you list the Ravens in the QB ranking?

This poll is closed

  • 90%
    First
    (712 votes)
  • 7%
    Second
    (56 votes)
  • 1%
    Third
    (11 votes)
  • 0%
    Fourth
    (5 votes)
784 votes total Vote Now

2) Cleveland Browns

Starter: Baker Mayfield

Depth chart: Case Keenum, Garrett Gilbert, Kevin Davidson

Whereas Jackson took a significant step forward in his sophomore season, Baker Mayfield moved more in the opposite direction. After setting a new record for most touchdown passes by a rookie (27) in 2019, Mayfield threw five less scores in 2020 while throwing seven more interceptions for a ratio of 22:21.

Mayfield’s passing yardage increased slightly and he continued to flash pinpoint accuracy at times throughout the season. However, his completion percentage dropped from 63.8% to just a shade under 60% in Year 2, as did his quarterback rating and other metrics.

So, why are the Browns ranked No. 2 on this list? Well, it’s a combination of three factors.

First, Cleveland’s quarterback situation is more of a “sure thing” heading into 2020 than that of the Steelers or Bengals. Second, not all of the blame for Mayfield’s regression last year can be placed squarely on him. The Browns offensive line was one of the least-effective groups in the NFL and Freddie Kitchens did little to put his quarterback nor team in a position to succeed.

Additionally, the arrow for the team’s quarterback situation is pointing up. Mayfield now has a new head coach, two new offensive tackles blocking for him and another offensive weapon in TE Austin Hooper. The Browns also bolstered the backup spot by adding a seasoned veteran in Case Keenum, who brings stability and experience.

Poll

Where would you list the Browns in the QB ranking?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    First
    (18 votes)
  • 19%
    Second
    (125 votes)
  • 61%
    Third
    (391 votes)
  • 15%
    Fourth
    (101 votes)
635 votes total Vote Now

3) Pittsburgh Steelers

Starter: Ben Roethlisberger

Depth chart: Devlin Hodges, Mason Rudolph, Paxton Lynch

Last year was a rollercoaster for Pittsburgh, to say the least. When Ben Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending injury in Week 2, it immediately became clear that there was going to be a significant drop-off in production at quarterback.

Mason Rudolph was thrust into starting duties after the Steelers traded longtime backup James Dobbs to Jacksonville. Rudolph showed signs of promise early on but began to struggle as the weeks progressed. A midseason injury to Rudolph opened the door for UDFA Devlin Hodges to take over as the starter.

Unfortunately, Hodges wasn’t much better in his short stint and both quarterbacks wound up alternating time in the starting role as the season winded down. Luckily for Pittsburgh, “Big Ben” appears to be healthy and reading to go heading into the 2020 season.

Roethlisberger is obviously an immediate upgrade over both Rudolph and Hodges. The last time he took the field for a full season in 2018, Roethlisberger threw for over 5,000 passing yards with 34 touchdown tosses.

However, the reason he’s ranked below Mayfield on the list is because at this stage in his career, Roethlisberger is more of a question mark. He has a lengthy injury history to his name in recent years and just turned 38 years old. Furthermore, The Steelers didn’t improve the offense around him in the same way the Browns did for Mayfield, either, and Case Keenum is a better backup than anyone Pittsburgh has on the roster.

Could Roethlisberger bounce back with a quality season and stake his claim to be higher on this list? Sure, but it’s feels appropriate to take a “wait and see” approach.

Poll

Where would you list the Steelers in the QB ranking?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    First
    (58 votes)
  • 63%
    Second
    (402 votes)
  • 15%
    Third
    (101 votes)
  • 11%
    Fourth
    (74 votes)
635 votes total Vote Now

4) Cincinnati Bengals

Starter: Joe Burrow

Depth chart: Ryan Finley, Jake Dolegeta

Rounding out the list is the Bengals, who saw longtime starter Andy Dalton sign with the Cowboys this offseason after a bit of a rocky farewell in 2019. Dalton was briefly benched midseason for then-rookie Ryan Finley and found himself in trade rumors, which continued to swirl in the weeks and months following the end of the season.

With Dalton no longer in the picture, the Bengals are handing the keys over to rookie Joe Burrow, who they drafted with the No. 1 overall pick. Burrow’s resume speaks for itself, as the talented LSU product put forth the most statistically-productive season ever seen by a college quarterback in 2019.

On top of that, he led the Tigers to a National Championship and ran away with the Heisman Trophy award.

Burrow has a good chance to be successful in the NFL very quickly. He has all the tools and intangibles to make an impact early on and Cincinnati has a solid crop of offensive weapons in A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and Joe Mixon.

The Bengals surprisingly did not add a veteran backup to slot in behind Burrow on the depth chart, instead opting to roll with Finley again (for now). While Burrow could jump up these rankings in 2020, it’s only fair to temper expectations for the time being.

Poll

Where would you list the Bengals in the QB ranking?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    First
    (11 votes)
  • 7%
    Second
    (46 votes)
  • 18%
    Third
    (110 votes)
  • 71%
    Fourth
    (415 votes)
582 votes total Vote Now