25 QB Stats from the 2021 Fantasy Football Season
For the SIXTH(!) year in a row, our 25 Statistics series recaps each position with some of the most meaningful and eye-popping statistics of the year. My goal is to start by giving the broad scope of QB scoring, work through the elite tier of QBs before finding the odd and quirky 2021 stats that might help reframe and give context to a number of questionable signal-callers.
Stayed tuned as the TRUTH podcast episodes roll on to QBs this next week!
Note: All scoring is 4-point standard QB scoring per the Ballers Consistency Charts found at JointheFoot.com.
1. Every year I track the stat of how top-12 performances we saw at the QB position. It’s stayed fairly steady over the last couple of years since collecting this data. But in 2021, we saw a massive jump to nearly 50 QBs hit that QB1 mark.
2. What contributed to that new record of 49 you ask? We also saw a record 15 different teams with more than one QB1 performance on their roster. Heck, the Ravens, Saints, and Jets had three different QBs each register multiple top-12 weeks, the first time that has ever been accomplished.
- Arizona– Kyler Murray (8), Colt McCoy (Wk11)
- Baltimore– Lamar Jackson (6), Tyler Huntley (Wk15), Josh Johnson (Wk16)
- Carolina– Sam Darnold (2), Cam Newton (2)
- Chicago– Justin Fields (4), Andy Dalton (Wk12)
- Dallas– Dak Prescott (10), Cooper Rush (Wk8)
- Denver– Teddy Bridgewater (3), Drew Lock (Wk18)
- Detroit– Jared Goff (4), Tim Boyle (Wk17)
- Houston- Davis Mills (4), Tyrod Taylor (2)
- Miami– Tua Tagovailoa (4), Jacoby Brissett (Wk3)
- New Orleans– Jameis Winston (2), Taysom Hill (2), Trevor Siemian (2)
- New York Jets– Zach Wilson, Mike White (Wk8), Josh Johnson (Wk9)
- Pittsburgh– Ben Roethlisberger (3), Mason Rudolph (Wk10)
- Philadelphia– Jalen Hurts, Gardner Minshew (Wk13)
- San Francisco– Jimmy Garoppolo (3), Trey Lance (Wk17)
- Seattle– Russell Wilson (7), Geno Smith (Wk8)
3. League-wide, we saw a dip in completion percentage and the highest INT rate since 2018.
|Year||Comp. Rate||INTs||INT Rate|
The efficiency metrics took a slight hit with only one QB surpassing the 70 percent completion mark (Joe Burrow) compared to three each of the previous three seasons.
4. The red zone can be a mysterious place for QBs. Some thrive with the opportunity and others fall apart from the pressure of trying to get six. This list is sorted by RZ passing TDs and on the right showing who overachieved or underachieved based on league-wide passing expectation numbers inside the red.
Here are some of the best (and most odd) RZ passing statistics of 2021:
- Jameis Winston had the highest QB rating of QBs with at least 20 attempts inside the 20. Jameis completed 16 of his 21 attempts for ELEVEN(!) passing TDs. Not to be outdone, his teammate Trevor Siemian had ten passing TDs on only 17 RZ completions.
- Joe Burrow finished the year with 34 passing TDs in 16 games played. Only 47% of those came inside the paint (the lowest percentage among qualifying QBs) due to an insane league-leading 13 TDs on deep passes 20+ yards out. Burrow had TDs of 50, 42, 34, 22, 31, 70, 24, 40, 55, 32, 82, 32, 29, 32, 56, 68, 72, and 69.
- Rookie Davis Mills was a beast throwing for eight TDs on fewer than 29 attempts. Other than Mac Jones and Davis Mills, the rest of the rookie QBs struggled inside the 20.
5. The headline for Josh Allen was finishing as the QB1 in back-to-back seasons. However, the route to get there is a bit of a journey despite dropping in nearly every major statistical category from his awesome 2020 campaign. But when you can boom like Allen can, you can finish at the top of the pantheon:
Josh Allen had five #1 overall finishes that helped drive him to his QB1 finish.
For context, that's more No. 1 finishes in 2021 than:
Herbert- the QB2
Tom Brady- QB3
Patrick Mahomes- QB4
Aaron Rodgers- QB5
Matthew Stafford- QB6
& Dak Prescott- QB7
— Kyle Borgognoni (@kyle_borg) January 11, 2022
6. Tom Brady was on absolute fire through the first eight weeks of the season registering top-five performances in 6-of-8 games. He was the QB1 in that span averaging 25.9 fantasy points per game and ending the year as the QB3. The only thing missing from Brady’s 2021 resume? He never finished a week as the QB1.
7. Justin Herbert went on a tear registering eight top-12 weeks in a row to finish the year. He’s on a historic Hall-of-Fame level start to his career. He has the most completions (839), attempts (1267), passing yards (9,350), and passing TDs (69) through a QB’s first two years in the NFL. Players to throw for 5,000+ passing yards in a season before turning 24: Patrick Mahomes, Dan Marino, Matthew Stafford, and Justin Herbert.
8. It was a banner year for Joe Burrow and the Bengals wrapping up an AFC North title. You likely felt the weight of his ridiculous Week 16 & 17 performances throwing for 971 yards and eight combined TDs. To put those numbers in perspective, Tom Brady never had more than one game in a season hitting of 400 & 4. Only four QBs have thrown for multiple games of 400+ yards and 4+ TDs in their 1st two years in the league: Burrow, Patrick Mahomes, Dan Marino, and the immortal Billy Volek.
9. Burrow is also the only player in league history to complete 70 percent of his passes and be sacked more than 50 times in a season. He recorded five games of 5+ sacks taken, tied for the most for a QB in a season over the last decade. Through 26 career starts, his sack rate is 8.2 percent and he’s lost the 7th most yards on sacks (601) of any QB in league history. Is it the O-Line? Is it Burrow?
10. There are way too many Aaron Rodgers statistics floating out there on the internet it’s hard to truly find something different.
Aaron Rodgers threw 37 TD passes and just 4 INT this season.
He now has 3 seasons of at least 35 passing TD and 5 or fewer INT.
Every other player in NFL history has combined for just 1. pic.twitter.com/hP3UrFKwny
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 10, 2022
But I’ll give you one I found particularly intriguing from the future back-to-back MVP. Rodgers had only two games all year without multiple TDs. He had zero games with exactly ONE TD. Here is how Rodgers compares to the other top fantasy QBs in terms of the number of games and how many passing TDs each threw.
|Player||Fantasy Finish||Passing TDs||Games w/ 0 TDs||1 TD||2 TDs||3 TDs||4 TDs||5 TDs|
11. Kyler Murray started out hot as the Cardinals began the year 7-0. He was particularly effective throwing the deep ball tying Tom Brady for most 20+ yard completions (35) and completing a league-leading 49.3 of those attempts. While Kyler improved his overall completion rate, TD rate, yards per attempt, and passing yards per game, he dropped to fewer than five rushing attempts per game and averaged only 5.2 rushing fantasy points per game compared to 6.5 his first two years in the league. Another weird stat quirk for Kyler… he fumbled the ball 13 times on the year but the Cardinals recovered ALL 13… statistically impossible to repeat.
12. So… what do we do with Patrick Mahomes? He was on fire to start the year as the QB1 through Week 7 including 25+ fantasy points in five of his first six starts. But the Chiefs’ defense started coming alive in the second half allowing just 16.1 points per game from Week 8 on. Mahomes wasn’t needed to put his foot on the pedal. It’s worth mentioning Mahomes led the league with 50 “throwaways”, the most since Aaron Rodgers had 59(!) of those in 2018 according to PFF. He also led the league in Red-Zone INTs including three in one game against Washington.
13. Although it slowed down towards the end of the year, Jalen Hurts led all QBs in rushing yards (784) and rushing TDs (10). He had four games with multiple rushing TDs, tied with Cam Newton‘s 2020 (yes as a Patriot) for the most by a QB in a single season. Hurts averaged 8.43 rushing fantasy points per game in his 15 starts. If you include his four starts in 2020, that number jumps to 8.82. For context, through his 49 career starts, the best-rushing-QB-of-all-time Lamar Jackson is at 8.6.
14. As we detailed, Dak Prescott came into the year as the early favorite for Comeback Player of the Year Award. He hit a lull from Weeks 13-15 but finished strong in the final three weeks as the QB2, QB5, and QB1. Dak finished the year with the highest completion rate (69%) and TD rate (6.2%) of his career. Dallas finished the year with the most points per game (31.2) in the league including seven games of 35+ points. The wildest part of that equation was the fact Dallas games hit the under in eight of their final 11 after the Week 7 bye.
15. Lamar Jackson was hobbled down the stretch leaving Week 14 against the Browns and missing the final four games of the season. Yet, the Ravens still finished with the 5th most QB points scored on the year thanks to some heroics (at least for fantasy purposes) with Tyler Huntley and the aforementioned Josh Johnson. The Ravens offense transformed from being dead last in total pass attempts (405) in 2020 to ranking 9th with 610 attempts on the year due to all their RB injuries. Lamar had nine games of 30+ pass attempts in 2021; he had seven total through his 1st three years in the league!
16. Derek Carr started off the year hot as a top-12 QB each of the first three weeks. Things cooled off but he still deserves a ton of credit for willing the Raiders to the playoffs in an otherwise tough season off the field for Las Vegas. He ranked 4th in completions, 2nd in 20+ yard passing plays, and 5th in passing yards. However, he also joined Matthew Stafford (2012) and Kirk Cousins (2016) as the only QBs to throw for more than 4,800 yards but 25 or fewer passing TDs in a season.
17. The Washington Football Team came into the year as a defense you likely did not want to target for fantasy. Instead, they regressed as a unit mightily allowing the most fantasy points to the QB position, the most passing TDs, and the most QB rushing yards in the NFL. That trifecta of stats has not been dubiously accomplished by a fantasy defense Here were some of the unsung QBs that went “off” against the Football Team:
18. 300-yards is a bit of an arbitrary number. I get it…Imagine placing bets on these outcomes before the year…
- Jimmy Garoppolo (5) had as many as Patrick Mahomes.
- Davis Mills would have as many 300-yard games (4) as all his rookie counterparts (Mac Jones, Justin Fields, Trevor Lawrence, Trey Lance, and Zach Wilson) combined.
- Journeyman Josh Johnson became the first signal-caller since Kyle Orton in 2011 with multiple 300-yard passing games in the same season… for different teams. The 35-year-old came in relief in Week 9 against the Colts and was an emergency start for the Ravens in Week 16.
- The only team without a 300-yard passer in 2021… the New Orleans Saints. Jameis Winston… no sir. Trevor Siemian was on the doorstep hitting 298 in their Week 10 loss to the Titans. New Orleans ranked dead last in passing yards per game averaging a paltry 187 through the air.
19. Matthew Stafford joins Drew Brees (2012) as the only QBs in NFL history to throw for 40+ TDs and lead the league in INTs. Stafford tied Trevor Lawrence with 17 INTs on his final throw of the regular season in overtime against the 49ers in Week 18.
20. Speaking of the No. 1 overall pick, we need to put Trevor Lawrence‘s season in context. You may want to give him a free pass because of Urban Meyer (understandable) but the stench of his rookie season needs to be known. His 12 passing TDs and 214.2 passing yards per game were the lowest EVER for any QB with 600+ passing attempts in a season. Among QBs taken No. 1 overall since 1990, his 2.0 percent TD rate is tied for the second-lowest with Texans bust David Carr. Among rookies QBs to start at least 12 games in a season, that TD rate is the lowest ever.
21. I’ll highlight a couple of other rookie-related stats that stood out here:
- Justin Fields led all QBs in aDOT on Play-Action pass attempts.
- Mac Jones finished 8th in completion percentage and 2nd all-time among rookie QBs at 67.56, mere percentage points behind Dak Prescott at 67.76.
- According to PFF, Zach Wilson led all QBs in sacks where the “QB was responsible” with 17.
- Davis Mills had the highest NFL Passer Rating on “deep” attempts at 123.5
- Trey Lance had as many play-action passing TDs (4) as Jimmy Garoppolo despite 390 fewer dropbacks.
22. Somehow, someway Ben Roethlisberger led the league in “game-winning drives”. To be clear, this is a bit of a looser term and according to Football Outsiders, it is an”offensive scoring drive in the fourth quarter or overtime that puts the winning team ahead for the last time”. Big Ben’s six GWDs are the most of his career, a stat he’s led the league in now three times. But beyond the theatrics for a team that finished 8-2 in one-score games, he matched his career-low in TD rate, yards per attempt, and QBR. For fantasy purposes, he was a top-12 QB just three times, all within a span of a month during Weeks 11-14.
23. Ryan Tannehill‘s fantasy season was a bit of a disappointment although locking in the AFC’s No. 1 seed despite Tennessee’s litany of injuries was a feat in itself. In Week 18, Tannehill finally exploded for his only 30+ point fantasy week of the year. In 2020, he had six of those performances. He did add seven red-zone rushing TDs this year, 2nd most in the NFL behind only Jalen Hurts.
24. Let’s get weird. Top-5 QBs should be a predictable thing right? In 2021, there was at least one QB every single week that finished inside the top-5 that was ranked outside the consensus top-12 at the position that week according to FantasyPros. What’s even crazier about this list is almost every single one of these QBs either didn’t finish the season as the starter, wasn’t even on the team in 2020, or might not be the team’s starter in 2022.
25. Every year I loved researching “non-QBs” who end up throwing a TD. The list is not quite as extensive as 2020 when slot WRs had five TDs themselves. Here is 2021’s crew including two Week 18 entrants: