CINCINNATI — Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is expected to be back on the field for the start of the 2021 season after undergoing knee reconstruction surgery in December.
The 24-year-old threw for 2,688 yards, 13 touchdowns and five interceptions in 10 games last season.
Despite flashing his potential as a rookie, Burrow ranks last among AFC North quarterbacks and 18th overall in Pro Football Focus' latest rankings.
"Burrow had the fifth-best passing grade (92.5) when targeting throws 10-19 yards downfield, but he ranked 32nd out of 36 qualifying quarterbacks on 20-plus yard throws. He had a passer rating of just 50.8 on those 20-plus yard passes. But the good news is that deep passing can fluctuate from year to year," PFF analyst and former NFL quarterback Bruce Gradkowski wrote. "The Bengals added some key weapons outside with the addition of Burrow’s former teammate Ja’Marr Chase, who should help with the downfield attack. We still need to see Burrow fully healthy, and the Bengals need to do a better job of protecting him. He showed a lot of promise as a rookie based on the number of snaps he took and the volume of the playbook he was executing."
Burrow being ranked 18th is fair, especially since he's coming off of an injury, but being dead last in the division is a tough pill to swallow.
Former NFL MVP Lamar Jackson leads the AFC North (8th overall), followed by Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (10th overall) and Steelers signal-caller Ben Roethlisberger (16th overall).
Some are critical of Jackson, but he's the best quarterback in the division. His athleticism and playmaking ability make him one of the toughest players in the NFL to prepare for—and it's why Baltimore has a good chance to win the division this season.
If Burrow takes a leap in 2021, it's reasonable to expect him to be much closer to Mayfield in these rankings, if not ahead of him a year from now. The Bengals quarterback went toe-to-toe with Mayfield in Cincinnati's two games against Cleveland last season, despite having significantly less talent around him.
Roethlisberger is obviously the most accomplished quarterback in the division, but is he truly better than the Bengals star? We'll get that answer this season.
Second-year quarterback Justin Herbert (15th overall) is a few spots ahead of Burrow.
It's worth noting that the Bengals quarterback is ranked ahead of Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts and Trevor Lawrence. Former No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray (17th) is one spot ahead of Burrow.
Check out the complete rankings here.
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