Everyone knows that Patrick Mahomes is the . After just five seasons as a full-time starter, the face of the Chiefs already has a strong case for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But the AFC, which houses his powerhouse Chiefs, is for the league’s top young talent at the position. Eight of the top 10 players — and seven of the first eight — in CBS Sports’ first edition of reside in the conference.
Bills star Josh Allen recently said on “Kyle Brandt’s Basement” that Mahomes is “ ,” at least until someone else in the conference actually wins a Super Bowl. But it’s safe to say Mahomes isn’t alone among superstar signal-callers in the fight to represent the AFC in the big game. Between Allen, the Bengals‘ Joe Burrow, the Chargers‘ Justin Herbert and even new Jets QB Aaron Rodgers, which of Mahomes’ peers is actually closest to contending for the title of top AFC passer?
To assess this, here’s a look at all 16 of the AFC’s projected 2023 quarterbacks, with their key numbers of the last five seasons, which is how long Mahomes has been Kansas City’s full-time starter:
Obviously the first word must be a reminder that every QB is, at least to some degree, a product of the team around him. Mahomes certainly benefitted from a playoff-caliber supporting cast upon arrival, whereas, for example, Lawrence took a major leap in 2022 after enduring a shoddy setup and coaching staff as a rookie. We should also say that, if we were considering all-time production as opposed to just the last five seasons, future Hall of Fame candidates like Rodgers and Wilson would be more surefire picks to contend for the label of AFC’s best QB entering 2023. The game is fast-changing, however, so recency bias is necessary.
The thing separating Mahomes from the rest of the pack most is the absurd playoff resume: 14 postseason games (with all but three wins) and three Super Bowl appearances in five years. That’s Tom Brady-level historic. His touchdown output is also only rivaled by Rodgers; despite starting nearly as many games since 2018, perennial MVP candidate Josh Allen has thrown 54 fewer scores than the Chiefs star. Of course, Allen also offers more on the ground, but if you’re looking for an even clearer rival to Mahomes, it’s Burrow. Even though Burrow’s first year came on a rebuilding…