NFL

When Should Each Team Draft A QB In the AFC North?

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Quarterbacks are the most valuable assets in the National Football League.  There was no truer example of that then the handsome contract that Brock Osweiler was granted by the Houston Texans.

QB’s can be used as insurance, trading chips and give franchises more stability.  We know that 32 quarterbacks won’t be selected in the 2016 NFL Draft. With that in mind, we are going to look at each team’s quarterback situations and when they should think about drafting one.

Cincinnati Bengals

Current quarterbacks on the roster- Andy Dalton, A.J. McCarron, Keith Wenning

The Bengals quarterback situation is somewhat unclear, as Andy Dalton has been very good at times, and very bad when it seemingly counts the most.  Dalton was having the best season of his career in 2015 before a dislocated thumb ended his year prematurely.  Assuming the former second round pick from TCU played in last year’s postseason, we would have learned a lot more about him.

At this point, Dalton is the guy for Cincinnati, but there’s really no evidence that he can be counted upon in a big spot.

Enter former fifth-round pick A.J. McCarron, who performed fairly well in Dalton’s absence, and even left with the lead in the team’s lone playoff game.  There is media buzz about McCarron being a wanted man, which further underscores the importance of drafting a quarterback, even if you might not need one.

With former sixth-round pick Keith Wenning (Ball State) as the team’s third quarterback, Cincinnati appears to have a loaded roster with young QB’s with potential.

So when should they think about adding a quarterback?

The Bengals have some holes to fill at the wide receiver position and at linebacker, so quarterback really isn’t a priority this year.  Dalton is the unquestioned starter, and McCarron has a couple years left on his contract.  If the team wants to find someone to challenge Wenning, they can do so in an undrafted free agent.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Current quarterbacks on the roster- Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Dustin Vaughan

It’s difficult for the Steelers to think about drafting a quarterback with a future Hall of Famer on the roster, but Ben Roethlisberger isn’t getting any younger (34 years old).  Big Ben has missed time in nine of the 12 seasons he’s played and it would be a little short-sighted to think he’ll magically stay healthy as he gets older.

Landry Jones was up and down in his starts, and he’s entering the last year of his rookie contract.  In a perfect world, the Steelers wouldn’t see Jones play any meaningful snaps in 2016, but if he does, he must play well to keep his job in Pittsburgh….The only problem with Jones playing particularly well is that they’ll be a market for him and it will be more than the Steelers will pay.

Don’t expect Jones to be a member of the team past 2016.

Dustin Vaughan is a project type of player that the team has virtually no investment in.

So when should they think about adding a quarterback?

The easy answer is sooner, rather than later.  There will be a major hole at the backup quarterback position after this season and the starter has been injury prone.  The starter is also 34 and with the abuse that Roethlisberger has taken over his career, nobody can say for certain that he has four more years left in him. It’s tough to envision Pittsburgh taking a quarterback in the first round, as they feel that they are close to a championship.  With that said, they would be doing the team a disservice if they didn’t select a quarterback in Day Two or early in Day Three of the 2016 NFL Draft.

Baltimore Ravens

Current quarterbacks on the roster- Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett, Jerrod Johnson

Joe Flacco is the unquestioned starter, but he’s coming off a torn ACL and played poorly before getting injured.  Still, the team has a major commitment to the best quarterback in franchise history, as he’s only 31 years old.

Ryan Mallett was picked up off the street, and although he has undeniable arm talent, his maturity issues caused the Houston Texans to let him go near the end of last season.  If you can’t count on the former Arkansas star to show up on time for a flight, it’s tough to count on him in a backup role.

Johnson is a project who has one of the worst releases since Tim Tebow.  He hasn’t looked ready to step into a backup role.

So when should they think about adding a quarterback?

At 31 years old, it’s nowhere near time to bail on Joe Flacco.  Even though he hasn’t been worthy of his contract ever since leading the Ravens to the Lombardi Trophy, he’s still by far their best option including anyone in this year’s draft.

With that said, it’s tough to depend on Mallett as a backup and the team should consider addressing that need in the middle rounds of the draft.  If a Christian Hackenberg or Connor Cook were to fall into the middle of Day Two, then Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome should strike.

Cleveland Browns

Current quarterbacks on the roster- Robert Griffin, III, Josh McCown, Austin Davis, Connor Shaw

The Browns have four quarterbacks on the roster and there are major questions about each one.  RG3 hasn’t played at a reasonably high level since his rookie season of 2012….Josh McCown is 36 years old….Austin Davis and Connor Shaw have major arm strength issues.

Conventional wisdom tells us that since Griffin was brought in most recently, the starting job is his to lose regardless of what the team decides to do with the second-overall pick in the draft.  With that said, McCown is likely going to be trade bait or get released, despite him likely being the best quarterback on the roster.

Davis and Shaw are afterthoughts in terms of talent, and one of them might someday be able to develop into a backup.  Both can’t make the roster, and the team will likely keep one of them.

So when should they think about adding a quarterback?

With RG3 on the roster, the Browns can sell not selecting a quarterback with the second-overall pick, and that would be smart if they don’t feel like one is worthy of the selection.  With that said, the team has a reasonably good offensive line and to fully embrace the fresh start of a new front office and coaching staff, it would make a lot of sense to use that selection on a quarterback, whether it be Jared Goff or Carson Wentz.

If the Browns don’t select a quarterback in the first round, it would probably make sense for them to draft a developmental guy somewhere in the middle rounds, possibly a Cardale Jones.  It doesn’t really make sense to use a late round pick on a quarterback with a low ceiling, as they have two of those already on the roster.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.