There is one simple truth in the National Football League in 2022…
If you don’t have a quality quarterback, you don’t have a chance to bring home the Lombardi trophy.
Well, look no further than the current state of the position in the AFC.
The Broncos gave up a boatload of draft picks and quality starters in order to secure the services of Russell Wilson.
The Colts gave up on the Carson Wentz experiment after one season, only to acquire a former league MVP in Matt Ryan in order to get over the hump.
And oh yeah… the Cleveland Browns gave Deshaun Watson, who is still facing 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct, one of the biggest contracts in NFL history… before playing a single snap for the team.
So, with all of this movement and an abundance of talent at the position across the conference, it’s time to embark on the fruitless endeavor of ranking these signal-callers heading into the 2022 NFL season.
16. Davis Mills – Houston Texans
Someone had to fall at the bottom of the totem pole… and unfortunately, that spot belongs to Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills. This ranking isn’t meant to be a shot at the former Stanford product. In fact, Mills’ TD-INT ratio of 9-2 through the final five games of the season should give Texans fans a slight bit of optimism heading into the season. However, I don’t think anyone should be shocked if the Texans decide to bring in additional competition at some point during this NFL Draft.
15. Mitchell Trubisky – Pittsburgh Steelers
Do you believe in redemption arcs? Well, Mitchell Trubisky has been given something that most professional athletes can only dream of… a second chance. Once upon a time, the Chicago Bears selected the former North Carolina product over the likes of Deshaun Watson & Patrick Mahomes (spoiler alert, both are ranked higher on this list), only to fail to live up to expectations and eventually be shown the door at the end of his rookie deal. Now, Trubisky will be expected to replace a two-time Super Bowl champion and future Hall of Famer in Ben Roethlisberger, in a loaded division with a Super Bowl-caliber defense. Will he see a Ryan Tannehill-type revival of his career in a new location? Perhaps… but admittedly, I’m pretty skeptical.
14. Zach Wilson – New York Jets
The rookie campaign of Zach Wilson was admittedly… forgettable. Nine touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and five fumbles in 13 games is a product of what I would call ‘growing pains’ in the NFL. It didn’t help that he was battling through some injuries, his top weapon on the outside (Corey Davis) was in-and-out of the lineup, and the Jets’ offensive line was a work in progress. However, there could be some light at the end of the tunnel. The Jets added some depth upfront (Laken Tomlinson) and are in the market for a wide receiver (just missing out on Tyreek Hill), which likely means they will address the position during this NFL Draft.
13. Trevor Lawrence – Jacksonville Jaguars
Speaking of rookie campaigns not going quite as planned… Trevor Lawrence had a rough rookie season. He endured an eight-game stretch (Weeks 9-16) where he accounted for one touchdown pass and seven turnovers… Yikes. Now, can most of his struggles be excused due to the shortcomings of head coach Urban Meyer? Probably… but Lawrence shouldn’t be completely absolved of all wrongdoing. On the bright side, the Jaguars have brought in a proven head coach in Doug Pederson and spent a boatload of money this offseason to help surround Lawrence with more talent heading into 2022. I expect the highly touted prospect to bounce back in a big way in his sophomore season.
12. Tua Tagavailoa – Miami Dolphins
The time is now for Tua Tagavailoa to reach his potential in the NFL. The Dolphins have removed all possible excuses heading into the 2022 NFL season. The Dolphins sent a boatload of picks to the Kansas City Chiefs to acquire the services of the fastest player in the league, Tyreek Hill. They splurged in free agency, giving Terron Armstead a five-year deal worth $74.4 million dollars to shore up the offensive line. And the Dolphins also added Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert in the backfield to bolster the running game. If Tua doesn’t improve on his modest passing production through the first two years of his career (4,467 yards with 27 TDs through 23 games), then the Dolphins will likely be the next premier landing spot for a disgruntled superstar QB in 2023.
11. Mac Jones – New England Patriots
Of all the highly touted prospects in last year’s QB class, it was Mac Jones who saw the most success. He was poised, productive, and led his team to a playoff berth in his first season under center. However, it will be interesting to see if he suffers a sophmore slump with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels out of town. Either way, Jones’ veteran presence as a rookie earns him the highest ranking among all of his rookie contemporaries.
10. Matt Ryan – Indianapolis Colts
It’s not often you see a former league MVP barely cracking the Top-10 in his conference at his respective position, but that is simply how stacked the QB position is in the AFC in 2022. Ryan posted his lowest yardage totals and touchdowns over his last 10 seasons in 2021. However, much of that can be contributed to the fact that he lost Julio Jones (via trade) and Calvin Ridley (mental health) before/throughout the year. To his credit, Ryan kept the depleted Falcons in the playoff hunt heading into the final month of the season. He should return to his floor of 4,000 yards and 25 touchdown passes with a far more talented offensive unit with the Colts in 2022.
9. Ryan Tannehill – Tennessee Titans
Here is one of the trickiest players to rank on this list. On one hand, Ryan Tannehill led the Titans to the best record in the AFC without the likes of Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, and Julio Jones for a vast majority of the year. But on the other hand, he came up short in the postseason again and has many questioning whether or not he will ever be able to get the Titans to the Super Bowl. Well, the Titans seem to believe in Tannehill, but this may be his final shot to get the Titans over the hump before their championship window closes. Tannehill will turn 34 before the season begins and Derrick Henry is 28-years-old in his own right. Have we seen the peak of where Tannehill is capable of taking the Titans? 2022 should give us a definitive answer.
8. Derek Carr – Las Vegas Raiders
It feels appropriate that Derek Carr is finally getting some of the public recognition he deserves. If you look back at the Raiders 2021 season, Carr’s leadership really stands out as one of the reasons the Raiders made it to the playoffs. Jon Gruden left the organization in the middle of the season, Henry Ruggs III was released from the team under horrific circumstances and Carr was without his pro bowl tight end, Darren Waller, for five of the last six games of the season. Yet still, Carr posted a career-high 4,804 yards through the air and gave the eventual AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals a run for their money in the Wild Card Round. Now with his former teammate from Fresno State (All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams) in the mix, Carr could be in store for another career year in 2022.
7. Russell Wilson – Denver Broncos
Let Russ cook… That is exactly how the playbook should read in the city of Denver. The Broncos landed one of the crown jewels of the quarterback position this offseason by mortgaging their 2022 & 2023 first and second-round draft picks in order to acquire Russell Wilson. Now, on paper, the Broncos appear ready to explode on the offensive side of the football… if Russ lives up to expectations. Now I completely understand that the relationship between Wilson and Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll wasn’t perfect, but Russ really did struggle in 2021. He posted career lows in both passing and rushing yardage while topping the 300-yard mark through the air just once last season. Do I think Russ will find immediate success with his new team? Yes. However, his struggles in 2021 should not be overlooked.
6. Deshaun Watson – Cleveland Browns
Here is where things begin to get really interesting on this list. Watson is easily the most polarizing player on this list for a multitude of reasons. On the field, Watson is one of the most talented players who has ever come into the league. He’s a threat to torch your defense through the air or on the ground. When we last saw him, he accounted for over 5,200 total yards, and 36 total touchdowns at the age of 24. He is a special talent at the QB position. However, a lot has changed since his 2020 campaign. He is now a member of the Cleveland Browns, hasn’t played professional football in over a calendar year, and could still face discipline from the NFL surrounding his pending 22 civil lawsuits. Could he be the missing piece to a talented Browns roster to help them get to the Super Bowl? Yes. Could he miss a significant amount of playing time this upcoming season stemming from a possible suspension from the league? Yes. The range of outcomes is all over the place for Deshaun Watson. If we revisit this list a year from now, I would not be shocked if he is ranked significantly higher.
5. Justin Herbert – Los Angeles Chargers
Speaking of special talents at the QB position, few appear to have a brighter future than Chargers’ signal-caller Justin Herbert. If one were to say that Herbert flashed in his rookie season, then you can say he shined in 2022. He threw for over 5,000 yards in his second season while tossing 38 scores. And if it wasn’t for a weird finish in the season finale against the Las Vegas Raiders, then more people would be talking about Herbert’s last-second heroics to save the Chargers’ season in the closing moments of that football game. Herbert has superstar written all over him, but simply needs to elevate this team to the postseason in order to climb the rankings ladder on this list.
4. Lamar Jackson – Baltimore Ravens
Did someone say special talents at the QB position? No one has a more unique set of skills than Baltimore Ravens quarterback, Lamar Jackson. Before falling victim to the first significant injury of his NFL career, Lamar was well on his way to posting his first 4,000 yard passing season while still topping the 1,000-yard mark on the ground for a third straight season. The stress he puts on opposing defenses is only comparable to the likes of Michael Vick. Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the game and the Ravens are in the toughest division in the NFL, but they do possess the best offensive weapon in the league and will aim to reclaim dominion over the AFC North.
3. Joe Burrow – Cincinnati BengalsHowever, the AFC crown currently resides in the city of Cincinnati in large part because of the stogie-smoking son of a gun that rocks a Bengals uniform, Joe Burrow. The Bengals made one of the most unprecedented postseason runs in recent memory due in large part to the play of their quarterback. Burrow put the Bengals on the map when he took down the Kansas City Chiefs at the end of the regular season, and then took center stage when Burrow did something only Tom Brady has done before… beat Patrick Mahomes in the playoffs. He engineered a comeback at Arrowhead stadium to help the Bengals reach the Super Bowl for the first time since the Boomer Esiason era. The Bengals ultimately came up short in the Super Bowl, but Burrow proved that he can take his game to the levels of the elite on the biggest stage. Moving forward, the Bengals’ offense may be the scariest unit in the league for years to come with Joe Burrow at the helm.
2. Josh Allen – Buffalo Bills
What more could this man have done last postseason? Josh Allen was damn near perfect… going into Arrowhead Stadium, outplays Patrick Mahomes, and yet still has to watch in disbelief as Mahomes snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the span of 13 seconds. Brutal. But the biggest takeaway from that playoff classic was that Josh Allen is not afraid of the moment. He went toe-to-toe with the league’s premier star and was quite frankly the better man on that day… He just wasn’t the last man with the football. Allen is on the verge of something special in the city of Buffalo, but to quote the great Ric Flair… “To be the man… WOOOOOO… You gotta beat the man.”
1. Patrick Mahomes – Kansas City Chiefs
That man… is still Patrick Mahomes. While some may want to knock Mahomes down for his first real postseason failure against the Bengals, I still believe that Mahomes is the cream of the crop at the QB position. He’s been to four-straight AFC Championship games, appeared in two Super Bowls, and has a championship ring at the age of 26. And that championship ring matters in comparison to the other 15 quarterbacks on this list, who have a combined one Super Bowl ring among them (Russell Wilson). Mahomes proved that he is human in last year’s AFC Championship game, but a human that can still reach peaks that others simply haven’t achieved at this point.
Derek Tate was born and raised in the Tampa Bay Area. He has been covering the NFL for the last five years and is currently the Sports Director and Play-by-Play Announcer for the TV station in northern Michigan, NewsNet. When he isn’t watching, analyzing, living, eating or breathing NFL Football, he enjoys spending time with his one-year-old daughter, Kennedy.