GRADING NFL STARTING QUARTERBACKS in the AFC

by Wayne Root

AFC NORTH QUARTERBACKS
 
BALTIMORE RAVENS 
Who starts in 2022? The Ravens picked up the fifth-year option on Jackson, and the offseason talk will concern whether there is an extension before the season starts. Jackson will return, but 2023 could be interesting if the Ravens struggle to make the postseason and an extension has not been reached. The Ravens’ offense runs through and with Lamar Jackson. Tyler Huntley did a nice job when Jackson was out last year and is a solid backup. Brett Hundley just continues to find spots on rosters without menacing anyone for a starting job. It would be surprising if Anthony Brown, who played at Boston College and Oregon, manages to stick. Grade: B+
 
CINCINNATI BENGALS 
Who starts in 2022? Burrow proved he is a franchise quarterback, and the Bengals have the most cap space among playoff teams. Burrow has two years left on his rookie contract and a fifth-year option, so it's about maintaining what could be a Super Bowl contender for years to come. You have Joe Burrow, so what else do you need? All one has to do is remember the former LSU star’s rookie year to remember it takes one play for everything to go awry. Best hope and pray the Heisman winner stays healthy because Jake Browning and Brandon Allen wouldn’t lead teams to the postseason in the USFL. Grade: B
 
CLEVELAND BROWNS 
Who starts in 2022? Cleveland traded for Deshaun Watson and picked up a hefty, five-year, $230 million contract. Watson still could be subject to a six game minimum multi-game suspension to start 2022, but he gives the Browns a proven playmaker at the most-important position. Baker Mayfield has been traded to Carolina. It doesn’t matter what happens with Deshaun Watson. The Browns lose all sorts of credibility for the acquisition amid scandal and then the contract to try and skirt the quarterback losing too much salary during a possible suspension. Jacoby Brissett and Joshua Dobbs are the backups. Brissett is serviceable, and had better be for Kevin Stefanski with what could be looming for Watson. Grade: D-
 
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 
Who starts in 2022? As it stands, Wilson and Rodgers are out as the home-run swings. The Steelers signed Mitchell Trubisky on March 17, and he will compete with Mason Rudolph for the starting job. Pittsburgh also could draft a long-term option in the first round, but right now Trubisky could win that starting job in Week 1. It doesn’t matter what happens with Deshaun Watson. The Browns lose all sorts of credibility for the acquisition amid scandal and then the contract to try and skirt the quarterback losing too much salary during a possible suspension. Jacoby Brissett and Joshua Dobbs are the backups. Brissett is serviceable, and had better be for Kevin Stefanski with what could be looming for Watson. Grade: D-
 
AFC SOUTH QUARTERBACKS 
 
HOUSTON TEXANS
Who starts in 2022? Houston hired Love Smith and traded Watson to Cleveland. Davis Mills is the starting quarterback as of now, but the Texans could be in the mix to draft a quarterback in the first round. It's a true rebuild with Watson finally gone. 
Given the chance to play as a rookie Davis Mills showed some talent. He delivered where many others could have crumbled. Kyle Allen, Jeff Driskel, and Kevin Hogan are also in the room. Lovie Smith must hope Mills continues to show growth or this team will go deeper in reverse, something that doesn’t seem plausible. Grade: D-
 
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Who starts in 2022? The Colts traded Wentz to Washington and filled the quarterback void with Matt Ryan, who has 107 TDs and 45 interceptions the last four seasons despite playing on losing teams. He solidifies the QB position on a loaded roster. The Colts’ decision to continue to hope and pray for aged quarterbacks to find one more season of magic turns to Matt Ryan. There seems to be more hope with the former Falcon than Carson Wentz or Philip Rivers. Jack Coan had his moments at Notre Dame but not sold on him as an NFL QB. Same with Sam Ehlinger. Then there is Nick Foles, who is always good to have around and can deliver wins … and big wins … if needed. He’s a solid backup to Ryan. Grade: C+
 
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 
Who starts in 2022? The Jaguars are still looking for an effective new coach. Lawrence has three years left on his rookie deal. Lawrence has franchise-QB talent. The right coach needs to cultivate that. Trevor Lawrence suffered through an unfair rookie season on a bad team and a worse coach in Urban Meyer. Doug Pederson should bring far more out of the former Clemson star. E.J. Perry, Jake Luton, and C.J. Beathard behind Lawrence are enough to give Pederson nightmares. This isn’t having Foles behind Wentz. Grade: C-
 
TENNESSEE TITANS 
Who starts in 2022? Tannehill is going to be their starting quarterback in 2022. He has two years left on his contract. Perhaps Tennessee brings in a veteran backup for some competition just in case. The fuse is burning — and so probably is his temper — on Ryan Tannehill. He needs to deliver a deep, deep playoff run in 2022. Malik Willis is the future in waiting. Logan Woodside is just waiting for direct-deposit checks to continue landing in his bank account. Grade: C+
 
AFC EAST QUARTERBACK
 
BUFFALO BILLS
Who starts in 2022? Allen is locked up with a long-term contract in Buffalo that runs through 2028, and now the key for the Bills is to continue building a team around him that can win a Super Bowl. All Josh Allen has to do is stay healthy and he will be in the running for one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Matt Barkley is another backup who eats up years and dollars. And Case Keenum also has found his way to the Bills. This is definitely a room with experience and knowledge. Grade: A
 
MIAMI DOLPHINS 
Who starts in 2022? The Dolphins hired Mike McDaniel, and despite almost two years of Watson rumors the Dolphins are sticking with Tagovailoa, who has two years left on his rookie contract. Miami also brought in veteran Teddy Bridgewater, who adds competition in training camp. Tua Tagovailoa does nothing to generate headlines but winds up in them over and over. That’s what happens when you are chosen as a franchise QB and it feels as if no one is sold on you … yet or maybe ever. He gets Tyreek Hill, which should help this year. Behind Tagovailoa are Teddy Bridgewater and Skylar Thompson. No one will be surprised if Bridgewater is asked to keep his arm warm early and often for the Fish. Grade: C
 
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 
Who starts in 2022? Bill Belichick made the right call with Jones, who will be the starting quarterback in 2022. There’s no doubt about him starting but he is struggling with the new offensive coordinator. Bill Belichick appears to have found a solid quarterback in Mac Jones, who delivered as a rookie in one of the hottest spots in the NFL. The former Alabama star must continue to blossom. There will always be that huge shadow in Foxboro. Behind Jones are Brian Hoyer, who it seems will play forever and ever, and Baily Zappe, who put up enormous numbers in college at Western Kentucky. Would Belichick ever trade for Jimmy G and bring him back? The NFL isn’t Bowling Green, Ky. Grade: C+
 
NEW YORK JETS 
Who starts in 2022? Wilson will be the Week 1 starter, but last season proved it does not hurt to have a seasoned veteran backup in place. Mike White and Joe Flacco combined for four starts in 2021. The Jets signed Flacco to a one-year deal as on March 17. Way too early to say terrible things about Zach Wilson. Have to wait until the first quarter of 2022, at least, are over before getting nasty. Joe Flacco and Mike White were around in 2021 and still have a spot with Gang Green. Wilson is in the spotlight and this is a big-time season. Grade: C-
 
AFC WEST QUARTERBACKS 
 
DENVER BRONCOS
Who starts in 2022? The Broncos hired Nathaniel Hackett and traded for Seattle's Russell Wilson, a major shakeup in the AFC West. Wilson enters his ninth season with a fresh start, and Denver gets a proven starting quarterback who has played in two Super Bowls. Talk about a gigantic improvement, the Broncos go from a merry-go-round of mediocrity to Russell Wilson. Behind the great Wilson are Brett Rypien and Josh Johnson, who remarkably keeps on finding homes anywhere and everywhere. Wilson is the key and Nathaniel Hackett knows he can not miss any time. Grade: B+
 
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
Who starts in 2022? This is a case where Raiders owner Mark Davis is going to stay loyal to the quarterback who got Las Vegas to the playoffs. Carr has one year remaining on his contract, and the Raiders pulled off a blockbuster trade that brings in his college teammate Davante Adams. This is a no-excuse year for Carr. 
Derek Carr gets much better with the addition of his college teammate Davante Adams. That’s is a nice pair of hands to add to a quarterback who can find players all over the field. No more Marcus Mariota as the backup so that leaves the other seats in the room to Chase Garbers, Nick Mullens and Jarrett Stidham, who once was going to replace Tom Brady in New England. Grade: B-
 
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS 
Who starts in 2022? Herbert will start, and the pressure to make the playoffs is there after the Week 18 miss against the Raiders. Herbert is 15-17 as a starter. Justin Herbert is one of the stars of the present and future in the NFL. Now if he can get the rest of the Bolts to light things up in 2022 there is reason to dream. Chase Daniel deserves a 30-for-30 on how to succeed financially in the NFL without really playing. Brandon Peters and Easton Stick won’t make defensive coordinators lose sleep. Grade: B-
 
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Who starts in 2022? Mahomes' contract runs through 2031. How much of that will be paired with Andy Reid? The rest of the NFL can't like the answer. Patrick Mahomes is generational. It is nice to have Chad Henne behind the great Mahomes in case something goes wrong. It doesn’t guarantee wins but it gives you somewhat of a chance. Shane Buechele and Dustin Crum feel like camp arms no matter how young they are. Grade: A

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

© 2022 Al McMordie's BigAl.com. All Rights Reserved.