2021 Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings
BY KEVIN HANSON (@EDSFootball)
Updated: Monday, May 17th
More way-too-early 2021 fantasy football rankings:
- Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings
- Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings
- Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings
Here are my early fantasy quarterback rankings for 2021 season:
Mahomes is the easy choice as the top-ranked fantasy quarterback given the combination of his elite skill set, supporting cast and coaching. The only real decision for fantasy managers is whether or not to invest the early draft capital necessary to secure Mahomes as their starter. Leading the NFL with 316.0 passing yards per game, Mahomes was only a 260/2 game away from a second 5,000/40 season before the Chiefs rested him in Week 17.
One of the league's best young dual-threat quarterbacks, Allen has exactly 300 rush attempts in his three NFL seasons and has racked up 1,562 yards and 25 touchdowns on the ground. Remarkably, he has rushed for at least eight touchdowns in all three of his NFL seasons.
Continuing to make major strides as a passer, Allen shattered previous career bests across the board in 2020. In his third season, Allen threw for 4,544 yards (284.0/G, 7.9/A) and 37 touchdowns (6.5 TD%) with only 10 interceptions (1.7%). Despite last year's unusual offseason, the trade for Stefon Diggs paid immediate dividends as the duo's instant rapport allowed Diggs to post career highs across the board as well.
While Murray played all 16 games, shoulder and leg injuries slowed him a bit down the stretch. Even so, he finished his sophomore campaign as fantasy's QB2 (and was QB1 after Week 16). When healthy, Murray scored more than 20 fantasy points and finished as a top-12 fantasy quarterback in 10 consecutive games to start the season. Heading into 2021, Murray will be a top-three option once again.
Playing on the franchise tag in 2020, Prescott was dominant before his season was cut short by a compound ankle fracture. From Weeks 2 to 4, Prescott threw for a minimum (yes, minimum) of 450 yards in three consecutive games with a total of 11 touchdowns (eight passing and three rushing). As noted in our Dak Prescott 2021 Fantasy Football Profile, Prescott (three) had more 450-yard passing games than the rest of the league (two) combined in 2020. During that three-game stretch before getting injured, Prescott performed as the weekly QB1, QB4 and QB1, respectively. With a talented trio of wide receivers, Prescott has tremendous upside if he can stay healthy.
It's not a surprise that Jackson's year-over-year numbers dipped following his elite 2019 MVP season. Jackson threw 10 fewer touchdowns in 2020 and threw for 208 yards or less in 12 of 15 games. Even so, his real fantasy success comes from his rushing ability and he has now rushed for 1,000-plus yards in back-to-back seasons.
Over the final five weeks of the season, Jackson averaged only 161.8 passing yards per game, but he threw 11 touchdowns and rushed for 430 yards and four more scores. During that span, he averaged a massive 27.67 fantasy points per game.
6. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
It was a tale of two seasons for Wilson. In his first eight games, Wilson averaged 29.52 fantasy points per game and scored no fewer than 21.9. In his final eight games, he averaged only 17.08 and scored more than 21.9 only once during that span.
Despite Pete Carroll's prioritization to establish the run, Wilson has never finished worse than the QB11 (2016) and has finished as a top-six fantasy quarterback in five of the past seven seasons.
The reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, Herbert had at least 300 passing yards and/or multiple touchdowns in 13 of his 15 starts as a rookie. Even with a new coaching staff in place, the second-year quarterback should benefit from a more normal offseason and he will enter the season already entrenched as the starter. It wouldn't surprise me if he makes a sophomore leap that catapults him into the top five or so QBs.
Rodgers, the reigning and now three-time MVP, led the NFL in completion percentage (70.7%), passing touchdowns (48, 9.1%) and passer rating (121.5) last season. All of those were either career highs or the second-best of his Hall-of-Famer career. But will he be back in Green Bay (or elsewhere) in 2021?
His future is in Jeopardy.— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) April 29, 2021
9. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
Battling a laundry list of injuries, Stafford still managed to play a full 16-game slate. Without his No. 1 target (Kenny Golladay) for most of the season, Stafford's per-game numbers dropped considerably year over year from 312.4 yards and 2.4 touchdowns per game in 2019 to 255.3/1.6 in 2020. Traded to L.A. to play for a more creative offensive mind, Stafford is poised to bounce back with good health in 2021.
10. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
With three (most likely) first-round picks next year, the Eagles have positioned themselves to potentially draft a quarterback early in the 2022 NFL Draft. That said, Hurts should easily hold off Joe Flacco in 2021, which puts him squarely in the top-10 mix in fantasy football. After the Eagles benched Carson Wentz, Hurts scored more than 17 fantasy points in all four of his starts and averaged 23.74 per game over that stretch. While he threw for 300-plus yards in two of his four starts, his rushing stats (46/272/3) over that span put him on a Lamar Jackson-esque full-season pace of 184/1,088/12 rushing.
In his first season in Tampa, Brady scored the eighth-most fantasy points and only three quarterbacks had more top-five weekly finishes than the future Hall-of-Famer. Brady's 40 touchdowns thrown were the second-most of his career and his 4,633 passing yards were a five-year high. Brady will have all of the team's starters and top pass-catchers back in 2021.
12. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
Since taking over as the starter in 2019, Tannehill has averaged only 28.9 pass attempts per game in Tennessee's run-heavy attack, but he's been extremely efficient. Tannehill has averaged more than 22 fantasy points per game and has averaged 8.54 Y/A with a 7.3 TD% over his past 26 games. From Week 7 to 17 (his run as the starter) in 2019, Tannehill was fantasy's QB3. In 2020, he was the QB7. In other words, it's possible that he's too low in my rankings.
13. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
Sustaining his season-ending knee injury in Week 11, the only quarterback to throw more pass attempts than Burrow (404, 36.7/G) through that point in the season was Tom Brady (433, 36.1/G). If Burrow is ready for the start of the season and able to stay healthy, he has a legitimate shot to lead the NFL in pass attempts in 2021. That volume alone makes last year's No. 1 overall pick a worthy back-end QB1 in drafts this summer.
Coming out of the draft, it was good news for Ryan that the Falcons used their top-four pick on the most dangerous playmaker in the draft instead of selecting his future replacement. The bad news (potentially) is that reports suggest it's just as likely that the team will trade Julio Jones this offseason as it is that they won't. If he enters 2021 with the depth chart intact, Ryan will move up a few spots in my rankings.
15. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
The top overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Lawrence has the arm talent to make any throw and is a plus athlete with the ability to extend plays or be used on designed runs. With a top-10 fantasy strength of schedule and the likelihood to trail in most of their games, Lawrence is a QB2 with upside heading into his rookie campaign.
16. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
Watson's mounting legal issues as well as his trade request (under contract through 2025) adds a layer (or multiple layers) of uncertainty for Watson heading into the 2021 season.
From a fantasy perspective, Watson performed as a top-five quarterback in his first season without DeAndre Hopkins in 2020. Patrick Mahomes and Watson tied for the most QB1 weeks (three) last season. With Will Fuller IV now in Miami as well, Watson is a high-risk (given the uncertainty), high-reward (given the talent) option at this point in the offseason.
17. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
Throwing 35 touchdowns and 13 interceptions (both career highs) in 2020, Cousins was especially good down the stretch. Cousins scored a minimum of 20 fantasy points in seven of his final nine games last season. Even though Stefon Diggs led the NFL in receiving, rookie Justin Jefferson (88/1,400/7) more than compensated for the 2019 version of Diggs (63/1,130/6).
18. Daniel Jones, New York Giants
Jones was clearly a winner in free agency. With the Giants signing Kenny Golladay to a four-year contract as the team's WR1 and drafting Kadarius Toney in the first round, the rest of the team's solid group of pass-catchers -- Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and Evan Engram, etc. -- will have easier opportunities. The upgrades to the receiving corps combined with his sneaky rushing upside gives Jones the potential to outperform his draft-day cost.
19. Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints
With Drew Brees retiring this offseason, Winston will likely start for the Saints even though the team turned to Taysom Hill in the four games that Brees missed in 2020. Two seasons ago in Tampa, Winston led the NFL in both passing yards (5,109) but also interceptions thrown (30). In other words, there is plenty of upside if Winston can hang on to the starting gig, but too many turnovers could lead to the Saints turning things over to Hill.
20. Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders
Carr has averaged 253.1, 253.4 and 256.4 passing yards per game over the past three seasons, respectively. Finishing as fantasy's QB13 in 2020, Carr posted a career-high 7.94 Y/A and his 5.2 TD% was the second best of his career. Lacking the upside of many other QB2 types, Carr is likely to outperform his current ADP and ranking -- he's never finished outside the top 20 fantasy QBs in seven seasons. That makes him an under-appreciated option for those in 2-QB or Super Flex formats.
21. Carson Wentz, Indianapolis Colts
Reunited with Frank Reich, who was Philadelphia's offensive coordinator in Wentz's first two seasons (2016-17), it's somewhat of a best-case opportunity to revive Wentz's fantasy utility. Sacked more than any quarterback in the league in 2020, Wentz struggled mightily before being benched. Wentz is an upside QB2 heading into 2021 given the change of scenery yet familiarity with the coaching staff.
22. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
Making major improvements over his 2019 campaign, Mayfield set a career high in passer rating (95.9) and a career low in INT% (1.6%). Outside of a four-game stretch near the end of the season (Weeks 12-15), however, Mayfield's efficiency didn't translate into a usable level of fantasy production.
Mayfield performed as a QB1 (top 12) in all four of those weeks (Weeks 12-15), but he had only one other top-12 weekly finish throughout the rest of the season (Week 7). Over the full season, he finished as fantasy's QB17. Leading a run-first playoff-caliber team likely means another season of modest passing volume and mid-tier QB2 fantasy production.
23. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington Football Team
While I project WFT to draft a QB in the first round of my 2022 NFL Mock Draft, the fact that they didn't add any competition in this year's draft for Fitzpatrick makes him one of my favorite late-round streamers at the position. Meanwhile, Washington upgraded their receiving corps by signing Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries and drafting Dyami Brown in the third round.
24. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
With Pittsburgh re-signing JuJu Smith-Schuster to a one-year deal, Roethlisberger has one of the league's best wide receiver trios at his disposal. Only the one-win Jaguars (66.2%) threw it on a larger percentage of plays than the 12-win Steelers (65.48%) in 2020, per Team Rankings.
At this stage of his career, however, he no longer pushes the ball down the field -- his 9.5 Y/C and 6.3 Y/A were the lowest of his career (excluding a two-game 2019 season). Given that the Steelers used their first-round pick to draft Najee Harris, Alabama's all-time leading rusher, fantasy managers should expect a much greater shift towards the run in 2021.
25. Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers
While he has missed three-plus games in each of his first three seasons, Darnold gets a fresh start in Carolina. Reunited with Robby Anderson, Darnold has the most-talented group of pass-catchers in his young career.
26. Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
27. Justin Fields, Chicago Bears
28. Cam Newton, New England Patriots
29. Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers
30. Zach Wilson, New York Jets
31. Jared Goff, Detroit Lions
32. Drew Lock, Denver Broncos
33. Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
34. Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints
35. Andy Dalton, Chicago Bears
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