Best QB in the AFC South?

Dec 15, 2019; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) runs for a touchdown during the second half against the Houston Texans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

A top-heavy battle for the top position once again. The Titans and Colts battled it out to determine who would be the ultimate king of the court. Tying at a record of 11-5, the Titans won the tiebreaker and booked a ticket to the playoffs for the second straight year. Thanks in large part to the captain of the ship, Ryan Tannehill.

The Colts, on the other hand, entered the playoffs as a wild card team and exited with numerous questions surrounding the quarterback position.

At the bottom of the barrel, the Texans and Jaguars enjoyed a year of misery. At least for the Jaguars, they netted the first overall pick in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.

Until then, let’s see if we can decipher who the best quarterback was in 2020 and who will be going forward as we are set to enter the new world of a seventeen-game season.

Carson Wentz – Indianapolis Colts (Acquired via trade from the Eagles)

  • 2620 yards and 16 touchdowns
  • 57.4 completion percentage with 6.0 yards per attempt
  • 15 INT and 50 sacks
  • 3-8-1 overall record with 2 GWD
  • 72.8 QB rating with an overall grade of 65.0

Ryan Tannehill – Tennessee Titans

  • 3819 yards and 33 touchdowns
  • 65.5 completion percentage with 7.9 yards per attempt
  • 7 INT and 24 sacks
  • 11-5 overall record with 6 GWD
  • 106.5 QB rating with an overall grade of 90.3

Deshaun Watson – Houston Texans

  • 4823 yards and 33 touchdowns
  • 70.2 completion percentage with 8.9 yards per attempt
  • 7 INT and 49 sacks
  • 4-12 overall record with 0 GWD
  • 112.4 QB rating with an overall grade of 92.5

Jacksonville Jaguars – First Overall Pick

After finishing the season with a whopping one win, the Jaguars clinched the first overall pick. Since they only had one win, it seems irresponsible to consider their QB with the likes of Watson and Tannehill. Instead, the Jaguars’ attention will be shifted to April 29th, where they will select Trevor Lawrence out of Clemson.

It has been reported the Jaguars are maximizing their time with Lawrence and have already started providing him with playbooks and team information. Similar to what the Bengals did one year ago with Joe Burrow. The Jaguars as well are hoping to make the transition for Lawrence as seamless as possible.

The 2020 King? 

If one were to go straight statistics-wise, they’d probably point to Deshaun Watson as the best QB in the South. However, on deeper dive, this title is awarded to Ryan Tannehill.

For some reason, the media continues to give Watson a pass in terms of his overall record. Say the roles were flipped, and Tannehill finished the season with a 4-12 record. The media would eat him alive. 

Instead, it was Tannehill that led his team to the AFC South Title. Tannehill also puts the ice in ice in the veins, finishing 2020 with six game-winning drives, which is six more than Watson’s total of zero.

Tannehill also finished third in EPA+CPOE (expected points added and completion percentage over expected). His overall yards per attempt were down compared to 2019, but he still finished sixth in net yards per attempt with 7.21, after leading the league in 2019 with 7.98. Tannehill also finished the season sixth in QBR with 78.1.

Critics may point to Tannehill only benefiting from play-action, but he actually finished fourth in EPA on pure dropbacks. It is important to note, Watson led the league in this category. But given the lack of offense in the Texans offense, this isn’t too much of a surprise to see Watson at the top.

Simply put, Tannehill is elite, no matter how you dice it up. His efficiency continues to rank near the top in the majority of categories, and has made him the best QB in the AFC south and if not one of the top signal-callers in the league.

In Five Years? 10? 

Here’s where things get dicey down in the South. Predicting the future for this group may be the hardest out of any division.

Let’s kick it off with Trevor Lawrence, the presumed number one pick. He most likely has the most potential to turn into the next big thing. However, given the Jaguars’ history, it’d be hard to bet to place. If the Jaguars play their cards right, they might be just the best positioned in the next five to ten years at the QB position.

As for Wentz, his 2020 season was abysmal. Towards the end of the season, Wentz was benched in favor of rookie Jalen Hurts. The change of scenery might be exactly what Wentz will need to recapture his 2017 magic. Reuniting with former OC, Frank Reich, combined with playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the league, may be exactly what the recipe called for. A more in-depth analysis of Wentz can be found here.

Watson’s future may be the most puzzling. There is no question Watson is one of the best football players on the field. But, off the field, the same can’t be said. Facing numerous lawsuits, Watson’s future career may be in jeopardy. Given the severity of the cases, it would be unfair, to either party, to speculate on his coming years in the NFL. For a more in-depth piece on Watson’s lawsuits, click here.

That brings us back to Ryan Tannehill. At the start of the 2021 season, Tannehill will have just turned 33. Five years from now, he would be 38. Unless your name is Tom Brady, father-time is undefeated. It seems unlikely Tannehill continues to produce at a high level at the age of 38. Combined with the fact that Derrick Henry will no longer be the same back he was five years from now, envisioning Tannehill as the best of this bunch is certainly hard to imagine.

Instead, this title will remain undetermined Most likely, Lawrence will be the favorite for this award five to ten years from now, given the Jaguars play their hand correctly. Watson most likely would have been the clear-cut victor, however, recent allegations foiled that plan. Now we will only wait to see how it all shakes out, for both Lawrence and Watson.