AFC North Poised to Become Heisman Trophy Central for Quarterbacks

Todd Karpovich

If the Cincinnati Bengals select Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, he'll become the fourth former Heisman-Trophy winning quarterback in the AFC North.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson won the award in 2016 at Louisville, and Cleveland's Baker Mayfield took home the accolade the following year at Oklahoma. Baltimore's backup quarterback Robert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy in 2011 at Baylor. 

While Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn't win a Heisman Trophy, he represents the old guard of the division. Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said there will definitely be a sense of excitement watching these players potentially compete against one another in 2020.

"Baker Mayfield is a tremendous talent," DeCosta said at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine. "Lamar, we feel really good about him. Joe Burrow is one of the best quarterbacks we've seen in a long time. And then Ben is a Hall-of-Famer." 

Of those players, Jackson is coming off the best season ... by far. He became just the second player in NFL history to win the NFL's Most Valuable Player by a unanimous vote, joining Tom Brady in 2010. 

Jackson completed 265 of 401 passes for 3,127 yards and an NFL-high 36 touchdowns, which was also a franchise record. Jackson finished with 1,206 yards rushing — sixth best in the league and the most by a quarterback in NFL single-season history.

Jackson is the only quarterback in NFL history to produce at least 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a season. He is also just the third quarterback in league history to produce at least 35 passing touchdowns and seven rushing touchdowns in a season, joining Steve Young (1994) and Cam Newton (2015).

The Ravens went 14-2 and won the AFC North crown for a second straight season. They will be the favorites to repeat as division champs with the core of their roster intact. 

Mayfield is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2019 campaign when he threw for 3,827 yards with 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions (78.8 rating). Mayfield will be working with a new head coach for the third time in as many seasons. The Browns finished 6-10 amid loft expectations entering the season.

Roethlisberger is poised to come back from an elbow injury that prematurely ended his season. The Steelers (8-8) managed to stay competitive without him in the lineup and a healthy Roethlisberger will be a boost to their 2020 prospects. 

Burrow could be a long-term answer for the Bengals, who went 2-14 last season. He has the talent to eventually shift the balance of power in the division.  

"It just makes our division really fun," DeCosta said. "Every game is a dogfight. There are no easy games in the AFC North. We respect those guys very, very much and we can't wait to get started."