Monday, April 5, 2021

Post-Free Agency 2021 Fantasy Football QB Rankings

FantasyPros tracks fantasy football rankings accuracy and Kevin Hanson's 2020 rankings were 9th-most accurate (among 149 experts tracked). Hanson has now finished top 20 in accuracy six times since 2011.

The majority of free-agent signings are now behind us with the 2021 NFL Draft next up on the NFL calendar.

With (most of) free agency behind us, I have updated my fantasy football rankings for the upcoming season and I'll update these rankings after the NFL Draft and throughout the summer.

[Note: Our fantasy quarterback rankings will be updated here.]

More way-too-early 2021 fantasy football rankings:

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

1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

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 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.

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. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

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.

5. 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 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

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. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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.

11. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

Watson's mounting legal issues as well as his trade request -- even though he's 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.

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 7-17 (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.

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

Will the Falcons draft Ryan's heir apparent? Based on my 2021 NFL Mock Draft, the answer is yes, but Ryan will be under center in Atlanta for (at least) another year. 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. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles

Trading Carson Wentz to the Colts and moving back to No. 12 in the draft all but assures that Hurts enters 2021 as the team's unquestioned starter. After the Eagles benched 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.

16. 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 replaced the 2019 version of Diggs (63/1,130/6).

17. 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, the rest of the team's solid group of pass-catchers -- Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and Evan Engram, etc. -- will have easier opportunities due to the attention that Golladay commands. In addition to his rushing ability (110/702/3 over two seasons), Jones has the potential to vastly outperform his low draft-day cost.

18. Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints

With Drew Brees retiring this offseason, Winston is in "prime position" to take over as the starting quarterback, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, 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) and interceptions thrown (30).

19. 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. While the Colts have a massive hole at left tackle following the retirement of Anthony Castonzo, they also have one of the league's best offensive lines. Wentz is an upside QB2 heading into 2021 given the change of scenery yet familiarity with the coaching staff.

20. 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 to 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.

21. Cam Newton, New England Patriots

22. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

23. Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders

24. Trevor Lawrence, Free Agent

25. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington Football Team

26. Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins

27. Jared Goff, Detroit Lions

28. Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers

29. Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers

30. Drew Lock, Denver Broncos

31. Andy Dalton, Chicago Bears

32. Zach Wilson, Free Agent

33. Sam Darnold, New York Jets

34. Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints

35. Tyrod Taylor, Houston Texans

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