The AFC North is very competitive. The Ravens and Steelers were usually the ones on top in recent years, but the Browns have finally become a team to be worried about as well. I think they look better on paper than they will be, though, personally. However, I think they will still have some solid players statistically speaking. Below you will find my predictions for the top 5 players in the AFC North in 2021.
The Best Offensive Players in the AFC North in 2021:
#1. Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson
Everyone says Lamar had a down year last season. But almost anything would be a down year from the out-of-this-world performance he had in his MVP season. This “down” year that critics talk about Lamar still had 33 total touchdowns and became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. There’s no reason to think Lamar won’t go further as a passer this upcoming season because Baltimore added receivers, such as Sammy Watkins and Rashod Bateman. Jackson will be back in the league MVP conversation this December. Look for Lamar to go over 40 passing touchdowns this season, especially with an extra game and a lot of critics talking down on his ability as a passer. I mean, we saw what happened last time people said Lamar was only a running back… he opened the season with 5 touchdowns and won only the second unanimous MVP in NFL history. Lamar will be the best player in the AFC North in 2021.
#2. Cleveland Browns: Nick Chubb
In 2019, Nick Chubb rushed for 1,494 yards. He missed a few games in 2020, but still recorded 1,067 yards and 12 touchdowns. I see Chubb returning to his 2019 form and potentially leading the NFL in rushing. He is a bruiser. I honestly think he is the best player on the entire Browns offense and they have some pretty good players (at least on paper). I think Chubb will easily be the highlight of the Browns’ offense. I am not really that impressed by Baker (at least not yet). So I have to give my man Chubbs some props where they are due. He is a beast. And he was given the third-best odds to lead the NFL in rushing. I have Chubb as the second-best player in the AFC North in 2021.
#3. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow
The Bengals had high hopes for Joe Burrow before his injury, understandably so. In his senior year of college at LSU, he threw for 5,671 yards, 60 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. I understand it is just college, but I could see Burrow developing into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL (as long as the injury doesn’t hold him back going forward). And now he is reunited with Ja’Marr Chase and has Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd to throw to. I mean, I think Joe Burrow (if he stays healthy) will easily be in the top 5 among QBs in terms of yards and touchdowns. Now, I don’t think he will have a better overall season than Lamar Jackson, but I do think he will be the second-best quarterback in the AFC North in 2021.
#4. Baltimore Ravens: J.K. Dobbins
NFL.com actually has Dobbins among running backs that are poised for a second-year breakout in 2021. I have to say that I agree completely and I have been saying that for a while. I couldn’t believe the Ravens waited so long to make him the starter last season. I think he should have been it from the jump. He fits the Ravens offense to a tee. Quite frankly, Dobbins is the type of back who could finally break the single-season NFL rushing yards record set by Eric Dickerson in 1984 (2,105). Adrian Peterson is the closest one to get there with 2,097 in 2012 (I’d be pissed if I got that close). And Derrick Henry is the closest most recently with 2,027 last season. Guess who is in third, though? Jamal Lewis with 2,066 back in 2003 for the Baltimore Ravens. I don’t think it would be crazy for Dobbins to join the 2,000-yard rushing club. In fact, depending on how balanced the Ravens offense becomes and how much Edwards is used, I could see Dobbins rushing for 1,400 + yards in his second season. It’s unlikely with two running backs, but with his 6 y.p.c. average last season, anything is possible. All I know is that if the Ravens start involving Dobbins in the passing game too, things could get ugly for other teams. I think Dobbins will be a part of the best offense in Ravens history this upcoming season and the second-best running back in the AFC North in 2021.
#5. Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris
Ben Roethlisberger is getting too old to throw as much as he did last season. We saw that didn’t was unsustainable towards the end of the season after the Steelers went from going 11-0 to 1-4 to finish the season off and had a terrible playoff game against the Cleveland Browns. Najee Harris is the type of running back that was born for the AFC North. He is physical and has the receiving skills necessary to allow him to be on the field for all three downs. This is the exact type of player the Pittsburgh offense has been missing and was a great pick. I think Harris will quickly become a household name in the NFL.