Sunday, February 21, 2021

Way-too-early 2021 Fantasy Football QB Rankings

The 2020 NFL season is now two weeks behind us.

Even so, it's arguably never too early to look ahead to the upcoming season. NFL free agency in March and the NFL Draft in April will certainly alter our early fantasy football rankings and we will update these rankings after the start of the NFL free-agency period and the NFL Draft.

More way-too-early 2021 fantasy football rankings:

For now, here are our early fantasy quarterback rankings for 2021 season:

1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Barring injury, 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.

2. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

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%) 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.

3. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

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.

4. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

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 27.67 fantasy points per game.

5. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

In his first season without DeAndre Hopkins, Watson still performed as a top-five fantasy quarterback. In addition, Watson was the top-scoring fantasy quarterback in three weeks last season, which tied him with Patrick Mahomes for the most. Even though Watson is under contract through 2025, he has requested a trade and it's unclear if the franchise will (eventually) cave to his trade demands. Regardless of where he calls home in 2021, Watson elevates the play of those around him and will remain a high-end starter.

6. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

Once again, we enter an offseason with contract uncertainty with Prescott and the Cowboys. Playing on the franchise tag in 2020, Prescott was dominant before his season was cut short by a compound ankle fracture. In Weeks 2 to 4, Prescott threw for a minimum (yes, minimum) of 450 yards in all three games with a total of 11 touchdowns (eight passing and three rushing). During that stretch, he 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.

7. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

It was a tale of two season 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.

8. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

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.

9. Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers

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 and that makes Herbert one of my favorite fantasy quarterback targets in 2021.

10. 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 7-17 (run as the starter) in 2019, Tannehill was fantasy's QB3. In 2020, he was the QB7. In other words, it's certainly possible that he's too low in our rankings.

11. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers have a number of pass-catching free agents, but they are likely to bring back Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski to try to run it back with Brady. 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.

12. 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.

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.

14. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Franchise owner Arthur Blank has said that he'd be "completely shocked" if Ryan weren't back in Atlanta next season. Even though Julio Jones missed nearly half of the season, Ryan finished with comparable numbers to his 2019 season. The 13-year veteran quarterback remains in the (back-end) QB1 mix for 2021.

15. 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) outproduced the 2019 version of Diggs (63/1,130/6).

16. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles

17. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

18. Daniel Jones, New York Giants

19. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

20. Jared Goff, Detroit Lions

21. Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders

22. Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins

23. Carson Wentz, Indianapolis Colts

24. Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers

25. Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers

26. Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints

27. Drew Lock, Denver Broncos

28. Sam Darnold, New York Jets

29. Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears

30. Cam Newton, New England Patriots

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