The AFC South is a division that features a lot of high draft picks at the quarterback position and a lot of erratic play. Andrew Luck was taken first overall in 2012, Marcus Mariota was taken second overall in 2015, Blake Bortles was taken third overall in 2014, and Brock Osweiler was taken 57th overall in 2012.
Marcus Mariota is a great looking young QB that plays smart and has a ton of upside. Downside? He hasn’t played a full season yet.
In his second season, Blake Bortles had a coming out party and appeared to be one of the bright young stars. Fantasy owners that nabbed him in late rounds were ecstatic as he threw over 4,000 yards and 35 touchdowns. Last season, however, he regressed and many of his stats were inflated in garbage time of games.
Andrew Luck at times has looked like a top three QB in the NFL, but other times tries to do too much and hurts his stock and rank.
Brock Osweiler was probably the biggest disappointment of 2016 after he signed a very lucrative contract with Houston and then essentially hurt the team more than he helped them.
So where do these quarterbacks rank against each other in the AFC South? Let the debate begin.
1. Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts (6-3, 235 pounds, 27 years old)
Luck came into the NFL with a ton of hype; many scouts said he was the best QB to enter the draft since Peyton Manning. It just so happened that irony played into the drama as that was just the quarterback that he was replacing after Indy decided to let Manning walk in free agency since they had the number one pick in the 2012 draft. For the most part, Luck has totally lived up to the hype.
He made the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons, led the Colts to three straight 11-5 seasons and three straight playoff appearances. In his third season, he threw for nearly 5,000 yards and threw a career-high 40 touchdowns. He also played in every game those first three years.
In the two seasons since he has faced multiple injuries, playing in only seven games in 2015. The Colts missed the playoffs in 2015 and 2016.
In 2016, Luck went 8-7 and had a 63.5 completion percentage. He finished with 4,240 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions.
Luck was hardly to blame for the woes in Indy. His biggest receiver, Donte Moncrief, missed ample time due to injury, his running attack finished 23rd in the NFL, and according to Pro Football Focus, his offensive line was ranked last in the division and 25th overall. Don’t get me started on the defensive unit that finished 30th in yards allowed and 22nd in points per game. It’s crazy this team had a winning record while Luck was under center.
Luck is arguably the most talented QB in the game today, but he needs some more help around him, starting with the offensive line. New GM, Chris Ballard, will have the task of ramping up Luck’s supporting cast. If this is achieved we should see Luck elevate to one of the top QBs in the league once again.
2. Marcus Mariota – Tennessee Titans (6-4, 215 pounds, 23 years old)
Mariota has shown a lot of poise in his first two seasons in the league and has strung together some very impressive starts.
He finished last season 8-7 with a 61.2 completion percentage. He threw for a respectable 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns, with only nine interceptions.
He extended a lot of plays with his legs and demonstrated a resemblance of a young Vince Young (who also played for Tennessee) but with better decision making. He did all of this with a rather porous receiving corps. Nothing against Rishard Matthews, Tajae Sharp, and Harry Douglas, but none of those guys jump off the page as elite. Mariota did find solace in his reliable tight end, Delanie Walker, and a triple threat rushing attack that finished third overall in the NFL.
My one concern with Mariota is his durability. According to Pro Football Focus, Tennessee had the number one ranked offensive line in the NFL and yet Mariota has missed multiple games to injury in both of his first two seasons.
If he can do a better job of strengthening and protecting his body he has the potential to be one of the top QBs in this league for a long time. The intangibles are there. The character and leadership are there. The arm strength, football IQ, and ability to extend plays is there. He just needs to be on the field in order to display these traits.
3. Blake Bortles – Jacksonville Jaguars (6-5, 232 pounds, 24 years old)
Bortles has now been the starter in Jacksonville for over half of his rookie season, and two full seasons after that. With 45 starts under his belt, I still don’t know what to make of him as an NFL starting quarterback.
Some games you see the talent there, the ability, the desire, and leadership. But other games, he seems a bit lost, with a horrible throwing motion that takes so long to progress that in many instances he missed open windows that closed before he could get the ball there.
I think some of this is attributed to the coaching staff that was in place when he was drafted. Like with Jared Goff in Los Angeles, the staff is responsible for correctly developing a player and having him NFL ready each and every Sunday.
When you see a regression like we saw with Bortles from 2015 to 2016, and if character and off-the-field development is NOT an issue, then usually coaching is a major attribute to the regression.
There is now a new regime in Jacksonville which hopefully bodes well for Bortles in his advancement. The offensive coordinator was retained for continuity, but former CFL head coach Scott Milanovich was brought in as the new QB coach. I don’t know much about him but Jags fans certainly hope that he has a better NFL showing than Marc Trestman did after coming over from the CFL.
There is no denying the talent that Bortles has. I mean he threw for almost 4,500 yards and 35 touchdowns in 2015. He does, however, need to work on protecting the football as he has thrown double-digit interceptions in each of his first three seasons, 17, 18, 16, respectively.
With a strong receiving corps and two solid running backs, Bortles is in somewhat of a make or break season. If he regresses again, he could be done in a Jacksonville uniform.
4. Brock Osweiler – Houston Texans (6-7, 240 pounds, 26 years old)
This is such an interesting story because with reports swirling that Tony Romo could be headed to Houston, Osweiler may have potentially started his last NFL game, and will become one of the highest-paid backup quarterbacks in league history.
However, for the sake of argument, as it stands today we would assume that Osweiler is still the starter under center until free agency officially opens on March 9th.
Wow. What a disappointment, and what a sigh of relief Elway and the Broncos must have felt after watching Osweiler’s poor season. I don’t think anyone is surprised to find him ranked as the bottom quarterback in the division.
He finished 2016 with an 8-6 record after being benched towards the end of the season and completed only 59% of his passes. He threw for a poultry 2,957 yards (an average of 211 yards per game), 15 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. It’s never a good thing when you have more interceptions than touchdowns. Osweiler also threw for 5.8 yards per attempt, which was good enough for last among all starting quarterbacks (most starters throw for at least 7.0 Y/A).
The worst part about the whole situation was that Houston had a really good team. The defense finished first in the NFL, in terms of yards allowed. The receiving corps was solid with Hopkins, Fuller, Miller, and Strong, and a Pro Bowl caliber running back in Lamar Miller. Watching games you could see that Osweiler was almost hurting the team more than helping.
There is no denying his work ethic, leadership, maturity, and desire to win, but something just isn’t there. He looks clunky at times and gets trigger happy in the pocket letting many passes sail on him into dangerous situations.
In 21 games as a starter, he has had the luxury of having the number one defense in the NFL (2015 Broncos, 2016 Texans). If not for this, Osweiler would not be a starter in this league, and that window may be slowly closing as free agency and the draft draw near.
Comment below with your opinion on the ranking and check back for our ranking of the NFC South quarterback rankings.