Andrew Luck was the first overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft. Blake Bortles was the third overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. Marcus Mariota was the second overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft. Deshaun Watson was the twelfth overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. Each team in the AFC South has a first round quarterback starting for them. How would you rank the quarterbacks in this division?
I wrote about it last week (or maybe it was earlier this week; it doesn’t matter anyways). I would put Andrew Luck at the top of the list still, even though he hasn’t played for an entire season. He put up top ten quarterback numbers while playing for an abhorrent team and behind an offensive line where mediocrity is disguised as salvation. I don’t think he’ll be great right away. Give it until about Week Five. At that point, Luck will be back slobbering and taking brutal shots and putting it right on T.Y. Hilton.
From there, it’s Deshaun Watson, Marcus Mariota, and then Blake Bortles. Watson was spectacular last year. He was a revelation across six games, but it was only for six games. He threw touchdowns at an impossible and unsustainable rate. Watson’s going to be great for the long haul. But I’m still expecting a drop-off this year, and I need to see it for more than six games.
Mariota has bounced up and down like a red rubber ball. Last season he fell down the stairs after a pretty good 2016. His red zone performance collapsed. He didn’t look the same. The quick release and snap decision-making weren’t there. This season should be a bounceback. With Matt LaFleur as the offensive coordinator, there will be more outside zone runs, play action, bootlegs, and quick spread passing. It shouldn’t be run-heavy, run-shotgun pass any longer. Mariota should finally get to play in an offense that attacks the defense’s weaknesses instead of ramming its head into the wall like a colorful bird into a pellucid window.
Bortles is a mediocre middle manager. As long as he doesn’t turn the ball over, he’s fine. He’s there to give the ball to Leonard Fournette, throw drag routes, convert third downs with his legs, get a lead early, and then let the best pass defense in the world claw and rake opposing quarterbacks and wide receivers. This year he should be even better at it. Last season Jacksonville didn’t flip the switch on offense until around Week 10; since that point, things got better. This offseason they signed Andrew Norwell to play left guard. Corey Grant should get some more carries. There’s no confusion about how they want to move the ball or win games. They’ve doubled down on who they are. I don’t think Bortles is good, but I think he can be good enough for the Jags.
Watson over Luck for best in the division.
Reason 1: No ugly-kitten neckbeard face-kitten. Watson has the discipline to keep his facial hair to a minimum and carefully control a very precise mustache. Luck allowing his beard to grow to the size of a fully grown European badger belies his laziness as a quarterback and goes a long way toward explaining why it took eleven years for Andrew Luck to return to the field at a leisurely pace.
Well at least two of the 4 QBs have a bald spot, so they are out.
I’m honestly splitting hairs between Marcus Mariota and Deshaun Watson. I think Watson has a higher ceiling; if he reaches it, he’ll be a MVP candidate. But I like Mariota’s situation a bit more due to his offensive line and supporting cast. Sure, he doesn’t have a DeAndre Hopkins like fWatson does, but I like Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor and Delanie Walker a little bit more collectively.
All of this has the caveat that if Watson is anywhere near as good as he was last season, then yeah, he’s this division’s best QB. Luck doesn’t have the supporting cast to really help him make a good return. The ‘’Blake Bortles is good’’ ship has long since sailed. We’re now boarding the ‘’Blake Bortles is Trent Dilfer’’ ship.
Mariota is set up to have the best year. Luck has the best track record. Watson has the highest upside. Bortles has a long career as a backup quarterback ahead of him.
Watson will have the best season of the AFCS QBs. On my flight back to Houston this afternoon, they had a replay running (as one of many options of entertainment channels) of the 2017 NCAA Championship Game where Watson led his team to victory over a stout Bama defense. The things we saw his rookie season last year with the Texans are just a continuation of his ascension to greatness.
The Titans are already an injury-riddled team halfway through camp. Mariota will have exciting moments for the highlight reel, but not at Watson’s level. He’s also missing too many other key pieces on the roster to compliment him appropriately, so he’ll roll in as the second-best signal caller.
Luck is done, as are the Colts as a whole, but he’ll notch third-best in the division while slogging through an ugly season for Indy.
The Jags have the most complete roster in the division, sans the QB position, and Bortles won’t individually put up anything to rank higher than fourth in the AFCS at QB. I’m not even sure Bortles would be the #2 QB for the other teams in the division.
Let us do this in reverse order, shall we?
4. Blake Bortles. I think even Jaguars fans would agree. Not that Jacksonville can’t win with him (they did it last year, after all), but Bortles is undoubtedly the worst of the QBs in the division.
3. Marcus Mariota. I expected more from him. While Mariota was likely hampered by the schemes employed by Ken Whisenhunt, Mike Mularkey, and their offensive coordinators, the guy has not produced like you’d expect the second overall pick would. 2018 is MONSTROUS for him. If Matt LaFleur is the next Sean McVay that many believe he is, Mariota will repeatedly be put in position to succeed this year. If he can’t do it in what should be an extraordinarily QB friendly offense, it’s probably not happening. It’s make or break for Mariota this season.
Now we come to the hard part. Who’s the best QB in the division—Andrew Luck or Deshaun Watson? If he’s truly healthy, given his track record of success on this level, I’d give Luck the nod. There’s no doubt the Texans have a better supporting cast, but that’s not the question.
That said, we won’t know if Luck is really back until we see him do it week after week, and that’d be quite an accomplishment behind what should be another subpar Colts offensive line. It’s also fair to mention that the injury Luck suffered, as witnessed by the amount of time it kept him on the shelf, appears to be far more serious than the torn ACL DW4 suffered.
I’ll give Luck the benefit of the doubt for now and put him No. 1 based almost entirely on what we’ve seen him do in the past. But there is no one—NO ONE—I’d rather have under center for the Texans than Deshaun Watson, this year or for the next ten, and I’d say there’s an excellent chance that Watson ends any debate about who the best quarterback in the division is this year.
That’s probably more telling than anything else about how I view the AFC South QBs.
Those are our rankings. How would you rank the AFC South’s quarterbacks, loyal reader?