With free agency and the draft well in the rearview mirror, we’ve reached the “dead period” of the NFL offseason.
That is, unless you play fantasy football. Rather than focus on which players are in the “best shape of their lives” and tracking training camp statistics, this is a critical time for the formulation and finalization of rankings. Competitive drafts are already starting to take place, and with the Scott Fish Bowl just a month away from starting, it is imperative that fantasy football players start to feel assured on their overall strategy and specific targets.
With that, I am excited to publish my 2021 quarterback rankings! In addition to ranking the top-40 quarterbacks for the upcoming fantasy football season, I have placed them in tiers in order to give a better idea of the perceived gap between each player. This marks the start of a very exciting draft board finalization process, and I’m extremely excited to get it started with the quarterbacks!
Utilizing research and analysis from our deep dive on the correlation and stability of key metrics, here are some takeaways that are important when it comes to ranking quarterbacks:
- Rushing production is more stable than passing production
- PFF Passer Grade is the most stable metric, but all metrics outside of touchdown% have predictive power
- Efficiency is still rather unstable and difficult to project, so taking quarterbacks who will provide a lot of volume is critical
As you’ll see, I place a high priority on three characteristics: rushing ability/opportunities, overall efficiency, and projected pass attempts. With that in mind, I believe we’ll rightfully be able to combine high floors with high potential pay-offs, which is the perfect combination.
Additionally, based on my PFF grade projections for the upcoming season, I was also able to take into the account a few other notable metrics when it comes to each quarterback’s situation.
First, listed in each quarterback’s average opposing defense grade projection, ranked from most difficult to easiest schedule:
Strength of schedule can be difficult to predict, but this can give us an idea of which quarterbacks may be in position for more success. More importantly and easier to predict, however, is the quality of the players they’ll be throwing to and be protected by. With that in mind, I have calculated the strength of each quarterback’s supporting cast, utilizing a weighted average between their team’s projected receiving grade and pass-blocking grade:
Between their strength of schedule and supporting cast, Josh Allen, Tom Brady, and Dak Prescott would all be in an excellent position to succeed. Conversely, Jared Goff, rookie Zach Wilson, and Ben Roethlisberger face much less-favorable situations. Although quarterbacks play the most important position, and, thus, have great power over the success of the offense, they also are reliant on the circumstances around them for their true talent to match up with results. Utilizing these two tools will be critical in the ranking process.
Finally, utilizing previous research, I also was able to construct projections to forecast each quarterback’s anticipated fantasy output per game. These projections will continue to be updated as we inch closer to the season:
Nevertheless, projections are seemly a mean outcome of a quarterback’s success. Whether it’s the confidence level in said projection, the range of outcomes present, or other factors, they should not be expected to be 100% accurate. Rather, they provide the foundation to rankings. With that in mind, let’s rank the top-40 quarterbacks for this upcoming fantasy season!
Quarterback Rankings + Tiers
Tier 1: The Clear Top Quarterback
Image via NFL.Com
#1: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Although Josh Allen earns a slightly higher projection than Patrick Mahomes, your “tier-1” quarterbacks should be as foolproof as possible. With that in mind, Mahomes remains in a tier of his own. According to PFF, he ranked just behind in Allen in expected fantasy points per game, but Mahomes also has the much longer track record of success; 2020 was his lowest yards/attempt total of his career. With the same dynamic duo of receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce in place, a brilliant play caller in head coach Andy Reid, and an improved offensive line, he’s not only the best quarterback in the NFL, but one of the best-supported as well. Assuming he also continues to accumulate fantasy value as a scrambler, he’s clearly the safest bet to finish as the top quarterback this season.
Tier 2: Clearly Tier-1 Quarterbacks If Not For Mahomes
Photo via Wyoming Tribune Eagle
#2: Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
It’s tempting to rank Allen as the top quarterback, which he was last season. After all, his supporting cast remains exceptional, he is in line to face an easy schedule, and also benefits from the return of offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Still, considering his 90.9 PFF grade was a far cry from his previous numbers (64.2 grade in 2019, 65.3 in 2018), it’s fair to wonder if regression may be in store for Buffalo’s franchise quarterback. It was remarkably impressive to see him take a major leap in terms of accuracy (79.1% adjusted completion rate), which correlates with a decreased average depth of target (9.1 yards), but you still generally favor quarterbacks with a much larger body of work. Nevertheless, his favorable situation, development, and rushing prowess would make him the top quarterback if Mahomes wasn’t so proficient, and it’s very possible we could be overselling the amount of regression he’s in store for; it’s not uncommon for quarterbacks to take a notable step forward in their third season, after all.
#3: Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
For the first ten weeks of the season, Kyler Murray ranked second in expected points per game, and led the league by a wide margin with 30.6 points per game. Unfortunately, he suffered a lower-body injury in Week 11 at Seattle, and, from there, ranked just 14th in fantasy points. Nevertheless, I’m still optimistic about Murray moving forward. His 21.5 expected points per game ranked 6th during that span, and, regardless, most of his “struggles” were due to less rushing production. Since his rushing success is based significantly on scramble yardage and explosive rushes, it’s not a surprise that his athleticism being impaired in any way was a notable detriment to his abilities. Some may prefer a more polished passer (career 7 yards/attempt), but remember: rushing production is what is most stable.
#4: Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
That leads us right into Lamar Jackson. Unlike Murray, most of his production (64%) on the ground came on designed quarterbacks runs; he benefits from an offensive system designed specially to cater to his strengths. With over 11 rush attempts per game over the past two seasons, he’s as good a bet as there is to lead the league in most quarterback rushing categories, placing much less pressure on his prowess as a passer. To that end, getting back offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley and Baltimore drafting receiver Rashod Bateman should help, even if he is line to face a difficult schedule and still doesn’t have the greatest supporting cast.
#5: Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Over the first four weeks of the season, Dak Prescott’s 31.8 points per game ranked 1st at the position. Sadly, a dislocated ankle in the following week ended his season, but it’s easy to understand why expectations are extremely high for the Dallas signal caller heading into 2021. In those four games, he attempted at least 39 passes in each game, and considering the state of the Cowboys’ defense and the pass-heavy nature of the offense, there’s little question that he’ll have plenty of opportunities to accumulate volume passing statistics at a very high level. Coming back from the ankle injury, there is some uncertainty as to how much he’ll be utilized as a runner, but it should still be enough to complement his tremendous upside when it comes to passing production. Remember, he was Pro Football Focus’ third-most valuable quarterback in the NFL, has a very talented receiving corps, and will face a very easy schedule of opposing pass defenses. That’s quite the exciting combination.
#6: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Through Week 10, Russell Wilson led the league in expected fantasy points per game, was second in passing yards, and was considered one of the frontrunners for the MVP award. Then, Pete Carroll took over. Likely due to the head coach’s conservative tendencies, Wilson averaged five less pass attempts per game for the rest of the season, and the team cut back on its rate of early-down passes at a significant rate. Add in a new offensive coordinator in Shane Waldron coming in, and it’s hard to know what to expect from Seattle’s offense in 2021. Carroll likely will want to continue to limit the team’s pass frequency, but that relies on the Seahawks being ahead in a lot of games. With a first-place schedule and in a very competitive division, that will be difficult, meaning Wilson should still have enough pass attempts to be a very productive fantasy quarterback. Considering he’s finished in the top-five in fantasy points in back-to-back seasons, he’s a rather safe bet to be worthy of his current ADP (QB7).
Tier 3: Some Reason For Skepticism, But Intriguing Enough To Be Starting QBs
Photo via ESPN
#7: Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Most likely, Tom Brady won’t finish as a top-seven fantasy quarterback this season. However, compared to the quarterbacks ranked below him, I have much greater confidence he will finish as a top-ten player at the position, leading to this ranking for him. Rather than show any signs of slowing down, the 43-year-old quietly had an MVP-caliber season, earning a 91.5 PFF grade, while posting a 6.9% big-time throw rate and just a 1.8% turnover-worthy play rate. Meanwhile, not only did he stretch the field with a 9.6 average depth of target, but did so with just a 2.41 average time to throw- he is able to take chances down the field WITHOUT taking sacks, a rare combination. Would you like for him to provide some value as a runner? Yes, but he’s also going to be in his second season in Tampa Bay after a normal offseason, shouldn’t suffer from as many drops from one of the most talented receiving corps in the NFL, and has an exceptionally easy schedule. Color me intrigued.
#8: Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
After an excellent rookie season in which he exceeded all expectations with a top-ten finish in fantasy points per game, expectations are remarkably high for Justin Herbert heading into his second year as a pro. Still, I wonder if we should perhaps proceed with a bit more caution regarding the Charger’s franchise quarterback. Performance under pressure is one of the most unstable facets of play, and according to PFF, Herbert averaged more yards per attempt (7.6) under pressure than in a clean pocket; his 78.5 grade in a clean pocket ranked just 25th at the position. I do expect him to continue to progress and perform better in those stable situations, but even if he is a better quarterback, that doesn’t mean his overall numbers will completely align with that; he’s also paired with a new offensive coordinator after playing for PFF’s #1-ranked offensive play-caller (Shane Steichen) last year. That said, he’ll be protected by a significantly-improved offensive line, will be throwing to a talented receiving corps, and offers upside simply with the variance of younger quarterbacks. I’m not ready to take him over quarterbacks with much greater bodies of work, yet I can see why many in the fantasy community are extremely optimistic about his future.
#9: Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
Sticking with second-year quarterbacks, former #1 overall pick Joe Burrow was right in contention with Herbert for the rookie of the year award before tearing his ACL and MCL in Week 11 at Washington. The injury makes it easy to forget how productive the 24-year-old was in his rookie season, but he’s definitely worthy of being a top-ten quarterback. Simply based on expected fantasy points, his 23 expected points per game was actually higher than Patrick Mahomes, and significantly higher than his 18.7 points per game; this indicates positive regression. Furthermore, his 86.7 PFF grade from a clean pocket and 7.5 was much higher than Herbert’s, and as someone who doesn’t hold onto the ball (2.6 second average time to throw)with an improved offensive line, the hope is he’ll be able to thrive in more clean-pocket situations. Should him being re-united with former college teammate Ja’Marr Chase also improve his success when working 20+ yards down the field (6.1 yards), his 6.7 yards per attempt should improve significantly, which is critical give that it’s almost a lock that he’ll pass the ball at an extremely high amount; he had over 30 pass attempts in every game and Cincinnati doesn’t figure to hold a lot of leads with a poor defense. I’m not the most optimistic about head coach Zac Taylor’s play-calling abilities and there is risk coming off of an injury, but it’s not often a productive young quarterback who might lead to league in pass attempts isn’t priced as a top-ten quarterback. In other words, don’t be surprised if Burrow ends up being the premier steal from this list.
#10: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
My rankings of Burrow and Rodgers, respectively, should demonstrate how little value I place on prior touchdown success. Research shows that this metric has very little predictive power on future results, making simply looking at points per game from the previous year a poor exercise on its own. Rodgers, for instance, finished third in the NFL in fantasy points, but needed an outlier season in terms of touchdowns (48) to get there. Ironically, expected fantasy points indicates that he was closer to QB10, which is right where I have him placed. There definitely was no quarterback better than he was last year (94.5 PFF grade, 8.2 yards/attempt), but considering that this production was significantly higher than his prior two seasons, I’d be silly to not expect some regression back to the man. Assuming he returns to Green Bay, which is far from a certainty, the mesh between him and head coach Matt LaFleur is special, but expecting him to repeat last year’s numbers would appear to be a stretch.
#11: Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
Whereas Rodgers was the league’s most productive passing quarterback last season, a case can be made that Jalen Hurts amongst the least impressive. The Eagles’ quarterback did average 7.2 yards/attempt, but also earned just a 57.5 PFF passing grade, posted a 65.1% adjusted completion rate, and had more turnover-worthy plays (9) than big-time throws. With that in mind, it will take clear progression just for Hurts to maintain his numbers last year. At the end of the day, though, you’re drafting him for his rushing upside. He averaged 5.5 yards per rush attempt and finished with over 60+ rushing yards and 9+ attempts in all three games he started and finished, and the offense will likely be designed around his success in this area. Plus, considering Philadelphia isn’t expected to be a very competitive team, he should be able to accumulate enough volume through the air to make up his lack of efficiency. Between his limitations as a passer and a new play-caller in head coach Nick Sirianni, he has enough flaws in his profile for him to fall to QB11, but his rushing prowess is too great to rank him any lower.
Tier 4: Will Have Efficiency or Volume, But Needs More of The Other To Be a Top-Ten QB
Photo via Forbes
#12: Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
Utilizing projections that look at previous production, it’d be hard to justify Matthew Stafford ranked this high. He’s established himself as a quality quarterback, but he’s generally ranked in the middle-of-the-pack with regards to expected points added per play (EPA/play). That said, he’s still been a productive quarterback with PFF grades above 77.5 in each of the past five years, and I only expect that baseline to be elevated in his new situation. Rather than continuously changing play-callers in Detroit, he’ll be paired with an extremely well-regarded one in Sean McVay, while throwing to a dynamic receiving duo of Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. For perspective, Jared Goff may have ranked as a top-15 quarterback last season had he played the final game of the season, and ranked as QB12 in 2019. It’s pretty safe to say that Stafford should at least finish ranked around this range, but he also features a higher range of outcomes than what is typical for a 33-year-old.
#13: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Sticking with veteran quarterbacks with new play-callers, I actually think Matt Ryan’s situation will be improved from last year. Yes, it’s unfortunate that he’ll be without superstar receiver Julio Jones, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. For starters, Jones missed 7 games last season, so it’s not like Ryan has never played without him. What I care most about, though, is the massive upgrade with who will be calling the plays. In Tennessee, new head coach Arthur Smith fortified himself as one of the top play-callers in the NFL, and we’ve seen what Ryan is capable of when paired with a play-caller willing to invest in play-action concepts (see 2016 with Kyle Shanahan). Especially if tight end Kyle Pitts can make the impact he’s expected to make as a rookie, I don’t think there’s any reason to expect Ryan’s efficiency to decline, and the poor state of Atlanta’s defense increases the chances he’ll be asked to pass at a very high amount. Remember, this was the seventh-ranked quarterback in expected fantasy points last season.
#14: Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
It’s almost as if Tannehill and Ryan made some sort of trade agreement; Ryan gets Smith, but Tannehill now gets to throw passes to Julio Jones. Still, I think we should be careful not to overreact to the Titans’ acquisition of the star receiver. Corey Davis earned an 86.9 PFF grade and averaged 2.58 yards/route run, and efficiency (7.9 yards/pass attempt) hasn’t been the concern with Tannehill. Rather, it’s run-heavy nature of the offense, which places a lot of pressure for him to be as efficient as possible to accumulate fantasy value. With Smith not calling the plays for him anymore, that’s going to be a tough task, even with Jones. It’s hard to overlook his supporting cast and the chance that the Titans play from behind more often and are forced to give him more pass attempts, but I would caution fantasy owners to not expect Tannehill’s mean projection to be even more productive on a per-pass basis the last year.
#15: Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
Although Herbert was a top-ten fantasy quarterback last season, rookies aren’t often the best bets to be amongst the top scorers at the quarterback position. On the bright side, Trevor Lawrence was a very successful three-year starter without many flaws on his prospect profile; his combination of strong college production and consensus from scouts greatly decreases the polarization surrounding the evaluation of his abilities. Even if he isn’t super efficient, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to pass the ball playing for a non-competitive team, and projecting him to a similar year that Burrow had last year (hopefully with better touchdown variance) is more than reasonable.
#16: Justin Fields, Chicago Bears
Lawrence is a lock to be his team’s starting quarterback this season, which puts him as the top rookie quarterback in redraft formats. If given the same amount of games started, though, I’d prefer Justin Fields. The former Ohio State Buckeye’s statistical performance in college was simply otherworldly: two seasons with a PFF grade over 92, an 8.4% big-time throw rate, a 77.9% adjusted completion rate, and 9.2 yards/attempt. Quarterbacks who throw the ball at an average 11.6 yards per target are not supposed to be as accurate as he was, and there is little reason to suggest he won’t be an extremely proficient quarterback at the next level. To top it all off, he’s also a dynamic rushing threat who averaged 8.2 yards per attempt in his final year of college and isn’t afraid to accumulate rushing yardage via scrambles. Heck, even being paired with a well-regarded play-caller in Matt Nagy, who has schemed production with Mitch Trubisky under center, is another bonus. This ranking is assuming Fields doesn’t start the whole season, but if Chicago opts to start him over Andy Dalton, he’s a tier-3 quarterback, even as a rookie.
#17: Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers
Similarly to Fields, Trey Lance isn’t likely to start all 17 games as a rookie, but a strong case can still be made to take him over Lawrence. Now, whereas Fields and Lawrence have strong bodies of work at high-end college programs, Lance has a one-year sample size at North Dakota State, where he demonstrated some inaccuracy (72% adjusted completion rate) and dropped back less than 20 times ago. What he did show, however, was his rushing prowess. Not only did he averaged 6.9 yards/attempt and run for 1,150 yards in total, but all indications are that he’s the type of rushing quarterback that one molds their offense around. Plus, even though he’s inaccurate, he’ll also be playing for a head coach (Kyle Shanahan) who schemes open receivers as well as anyone, as well as having the great combination of excellent supporting cast with easy projected strength of schedule. Thus, even if he isn’t as strong of a “real-life” quarterback as Lawrence and Fields, his production could potentially be even better. He’s the type of boom-or-bust pick that’s perfect as your backup quarterback.
Tier 5: Intriguing Variance, But Not Comfortable Having as Starting Fantasy QBs
Photo via Dolphin Nation
#18: Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
Whereas Herbert and Burrow showed a lot of promise in the rookie seasons, the results were much more mixed for Tua Tagovailoa. The former 5th overall pick earned the starting job halfway through the season, and although the Dolphins went 6-3 in his starts, that was moreso due to the strengths of the rest of the roster. After passing for just 6.3 yards/attempt and earning a 63.9 PFF passing grade, he’ll need to make a notable second-year leap to be viable in fantasy. Can he do it? To do so, it will take much more aggression and big plays – just an 8 yard average depth of target and 2.3% big-time throw rate. That’s where his revamped supporting cast, led by deep threat Will Fuller, contested-catch specialist Devante Parker, and rookie Jaylen Waddle come into play. All of these receivers could coax Tagovailoa into taking more shots down the field, and, at the very least, Fuller and Waddle have the ability to make plays after the catch. Considering that most of his poor performance came under pressure, I could definitely see him taking advantage of an easy projected schedule and progressing in his second year, giving him the type of intriguing variance you want from your backup quarterback.
#19: Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
After regressing in his sophomore season and starting the 2020 season poorly, faith was being lost in Baker Mayfield to be the Browns’ franchise quarterback. Fortunately, he turned his season around from there, eventually finishing with a 6.1% big-time throw rate and a career-high 76.1% adjusted completion rate. Will this carry over into 2021. I don’t see why not. The 26-year-old averaged 8.1 yards from a clean pocket as opposed to 4.5 yards under pressure, meaning that his production came in much more stable circumstances, and his surrounding cast is elite. Head coach Kevin Stefanski utilized play-action passes on 30.1% of Mayfield’s drop backs, to which he averaged 9.5 yards/pass attempt, and the partnership between the two should only be stronger with a normal offseason to work together. Meanwhile, he’s protected by arguably the best offensive line in the NFL and will get star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. back, only increasing the likelihood of his efficiency. Volume remains a concern, but if you take out the three games he played in torrential downpours, his overall volume looks much better. There’s little upside present, but perhaps he can mirror Tannehill’s recent fantasy feasibility with exceptional efficiency.
#20: Carson Wentz, Indianapolis Colts
There were plenty of surprises last season, but a case can be made that Carson Wentz’s decline was the biggest of them all. After being an MVP candidate in 2017 and earning a PFF grade of 76.5 or higher in three straight seasons, he averaged just 6 yards/pass attempt and earned just a 60 passing grade in 2020, and was benched in Week 13 in favor of Jalen Hurts. As a result, even now that he’ll have a fresh start with the Colts, he’s fallen from being a top-12 quarterback drafted to in the mid-20s at the position. Yet, is this completely called for? Wentz still averaged almost 19.8 expected fantasy points per game last season, a near top-ten finish, which is quite impressive given how poorly he played. Sure, there should be questions about his “real-life” quality of play, but he should see positive interception luck, provides value as a runner, and has the type of “big-play-oriented” style of plate that will lead to some high-end performances. The narrative surrounding him as been poor, but if you can look past that, he’s certainly an appealing backup option.
#21: Daniel Jones, New York Giants
With just 6.6 yards/pass attempt over the first two seasons of his career, it is easy to see why Daniel Jones isn’t a coveted fantasy asset. We’ve seen quarterbacks make third-year leaps, however, and I could see him making that jump this season. Even if his production hasn’t improved, his PFF passing grade jumped from 65.6 to 74.4, he decreased his turnover-worthy play rate to 3.1%, in addition to demonstrating more accuracy (74.8%). The main culprit was a conservative offense, but although Jason Garrett remains as offensive coordinator, the addition of receiver Kenny Golladay should get him to be more aggressive naturally. The 24-year-old averaged 15.2 yards/attempt and earned a 95.6 PFF passing grade on passes thrown 20+ yards down the field, so it’s not as if he can’t thrive on these types of passes, and doing so could have massive implications in terms of his overall efficiency. Combine that with his rushing production (423 rushing yards last year), and you could be looking at a much more productive player than he’s being priced at (QB25).
Tier 6: Other Starting Quarterbacks
Photo via Sports Illustrated
#22: Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders
With a current ADP as QB27, it’s clear the fantasy community doesn’t have a lot of faith in Derek Carr. I’m a little confused as to why he’s being drafted THAT low, considering he finished 11th in expected fantasy points last season. Considering he has the second-most difficult projected and a worse supporting cast, his performance should decline, though he’s also in line to accumulate volume just from throwing the ball so often. Obviously, you’d rather prioritize a more volatile quarterback in a backup spot, but at least you have a good idea of what you’ll get from him.
#23: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington Football Team
Volatile is the perfect word to describe Ryan Fitzpatrick. With an ultra-aggressive style of play, he’ll have his share of high-end weeks. On the converse, the low-end of his range outcomes is quite low, and if you start him in the wrong week, you could be in trouble. There’s a lot to be intrigued about with him, but his presence in Washington may do more to the fantasy value of receivers Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel than anything else.
#24: Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
In terms of real-life value, Kirk Cousins’ ranking would be much higher. However, we’re playing FANTASY football, to which Cousins holds less appeal. After passing for over 8 yards/attempt in each of the past two seasons, his production in terms of efficiency isn’t in question. Yet, he’s also projected by PFF to rank 21st in pass attempts and plays in an offensive system that has consistently ranked near the bottom in early-down passes. Add in the lack of rushing value, and the pay-off probably isn’t worth his current ADP (QB17).
#25: Zach Wilson, New York Mets
From veterans to a rookie, Zach Wilson is probably the player on this list that I’d want to stash on my bench. The Jets don’t project to be a great team by any means, but that also means a lot of pass attempts, and I wouldn’t dismiss the BYU product’s chances of having a productive season. After all, he’s coming off a college season in which he earned a 95.4 PFF grade, and offensive coordinator Mike LeFleur likely will look to implement a favorable offensive scheme with a lot of play-action concepts, something Wilson thrived in. I wouldn’t anticipate much in the way of touchdown production, but the combination of potential volume, enough rushing production, and his well-regarded prospect profile makes him at least an interesting late-round quarterback.
#26: Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers
Speaking of the Jets, they’ll be hoping that Wilson’s tenure with him goes better than Sam Darnold’s. In his three seasons with the organization, the former third overall pick averaged just 6.6 yards per attempt, and never earned a PFF grade higher than 65. With the lowest yards/attempt and passing grade among quarterbacks in 2020, it really was a season to forget for the 24-year-old. On the bright side, he’ll get a new opportunity in Carolina, which involves playing under offensive coordinator Joe Brady and a much better supporting cast, but there just zero data points that point to a strong-enough increase in production.
#27: Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints
I did say you want some sort of a volatility from a backup quarterback, right?
Ok, maybe not that much volatility! Winston was productive for fantasy in Tampa Bay, but a lot of that came simply based on volume, and he’s likely not going to pass at the same rate with the Saints. The hope here is that head coach Sean Payton incorporates more favorable passing concepts for him (he did utilize much more play-action passes with Taysom Hill), and that he has positive interception luck. At the same time, he isn’t particularly accurate in the intermediate areas of the field, where Payton’s offense, and Taysom Hill likely takes away from his red-zone touchdown opportunities. There are reasons to be intrigued, as there always is with Winston, but also some clear red flags.
#28: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. At his peak, Ben Roethlisberger was one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL. Unfortunately, the 39-year-old holds very limited fantasy appeal. After missing most of the 2019 season due to an elbow injury, the hope was that he’d continue to produce big plays at the rate he had in the past. Instead, he averaged just 7.4 yards per target, leading to him passing for just 6.3 yards/attempt. Barring a massive uptick in aggressive, the only thing working in Roethlisberger’s favor is passing volume, but drafting running back Najee Harris in the first round indicates that they’ll be much more reliant on their rushing attack this sense. In other words, make sure you have your backup quarterback before this point.
#29: Jared Goff, Detroit Lions
Whereas Matthew Stafford goes to go to a premium situation in Los Angeles, Jared Goff arguably will be in a less-favorable situation than Stafford ever had to deal with in Detroit. Outside of a high-end 2018 year, he’s mainly averaged PFF passing grades around 72, and averaged just 6.7 intended yards per pass attempt last year. This style of play makes him quite reliant on other circumstances, and with the most difficult projected schedule and a poor supporting cast, it’s very likely that scores the least amount of fantasy points of his career.
Tier 7: Quarterbacks Unlikely To Start All 17 Games
Photo via NFL.Com
#30: Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans(?)
After ranking third in expected fantasy points this season, Deshaun Watson would rank easily as a top-five quarterback if his situation was in the clear. However, between him requesting a trade and there being an investigation regarding sexual assault claims made against him, there’s also a likely chance he simply does not play next season. It may be worth a shot at the end of the drafts, but especially in best-ball formats, the probability he doesn’t have any impact for your team also should be taken into account.
#31: Cam Newton, New England Patriots
With 18.6 expected fantasy points per game last season, Cam Newton produced quality backup numbers in New England. The value he brings as a rusher is nice, but there likely won’t be any value added in the passing game, and the selection of Mac Jones in the first round also means he could be not playing by the time your top quarterback is on his bye week. If guaranteed the full-time starting gig, he’d probably rank in the tier-5 group.
#32: Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints
In his four games as a starter last season, Taysom Hill ranked 7th in expected fantasy points, and that even looks better if you take away a very strange Week-12 game in Denver. Having an offense designed around his rushing abilities and being paired with Sean Payton would make him a clear starting fantasy quarterback, but I’m quite skeptical he ends up playing over Jameis Winston.
#33: Teddy Bridgewater, Denver Broncos
Teddy Bridgewater did rank 18th in expected fantasy points last season, and could benefit from an intriguing supporting cast in Denver. Regardless, there isn’t of a potential payoff to compensate for the low likelihood he starts all 17 games.
#34: Drew Lock, Denver Broncos
That’s because the team still appears to have faith in Drew Lock. The Missouri product is similar to Winston in that he takes a lot of chances down the field and produced a 6.4% big-time throw rate. Still, he also had just a 63.4 PFF passing grade and has struggled greatly with accuracy (68.7% adjusted completion rate).
#35: Mac Jones, New England Patriots
In terms of fantasy value, Jones definitely is in a tier behind the other first-round rookie quarterbacks, even without factoring in limited projected playing time. As a quarterback who averaged just 8.8 intended yards per target (very low for college), provides zero value as a rusher, and won’t be playing with a great receiving corps, he isn’t likely to provide much value in redraft formats.
#36: Andy Dalton, Chicago Bears
Dalton will be playing in a favorable offensive system, but his conservative style of play with no rushing production makes him not a starting fantasy quarterback for a successful team as is, and the chances he keeps a first-round quarterback on the bench for the entire season are low.
#37: Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
#38: Jordan Love, Green Bay Packers
If Aaron Rodgers doesn’t play in Green Bay next year, then Love could be an intriguing backup quarterback option given that he’ll be in a decent situation with head coach Matt LeFleur calling the plays. That said, his lack of production in college at Utah State make me wonder how much he’ll be able to take advantage of that situation.
#39: Tyrod Taylor, Houston Texans
Taylor isn’t likely to hurt you in terms of interceptions, has averaged 9.7 intended yards per pass attempt for his career, and also offers value as a runner. That said, no quarterback will likely have a less impressive supporting cast than the starter for the Texans, and I don’t anticipate Taylor starting for the whole season even if Watson doesn’t play.
#40: Davis Mills, Houston Texans
Instead, it’s likely they’ll give some opportunities to third-round rookie Davis Mills. As a pocket passer with a small track record in college and with the history of mid-round quarterback, I’d strongly lean against him overcoming the poor situation he might find himself thrust into.
- Best Value: Joe Burrow
- Least Optimal Value: Kirk Cousins
- Most Intriguing Non-Rookie Backup Quarterback: Carson Wentz
- Most Intriguing Rookie: Justin Fields
- Player With The Widest Range of Outcomes: Justin Herbert