The Fantasy Footballers’ Early Top 12 QB Rankings

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Howdy #FootClan! On Tuesday’s show, Andy, Mike, and Jason brought out their consensus Early Top 12 quarterbacks for the 2021 season. With the NFL Draft set to begin on Thursday, these rankings are sure to change in just the next few days. They took a look at the active quarterbacks at the moment to compile the list, and Deshaun Watson is omitted as his status is definitely up in the air. The guys also didn’t include the New Orleans quarterbacks anywhere on the list due to uncertainty there.  

Make sure to check out the episode if you haven’t. You can listen to the podcast here and tune in to the YouTube video version here. As always, make sure to subscribe so you stay in the know. Also, find your way over to the Ultimate Draft Kit. It’s Ultimate Draft Week, so anyone who has ordered the 2021 Ultimate Draft Kit or the UDK+ by this Sunday (May 2nd) will automatically be entered to win. Keep in mind that the price will go up after the draft, so get on it and feel confident going into the season.

1. Patrick Mahomes | Kansas City Chiefs

[Andy 1 | Jason 1 | Mike 2]
2020 Finish: QB4

“How’s that chalk taste, fellas?” – Mike

Mahomes makes it on the consensus rankings at the number one overall quarterback. Andy and Jason agreed on having Mahomes atop the quarterback rankings while Mike differed slightly, ranking him in the second spot.

The Chiefs QB has been phenomenal in his NFL career. In 75-percent of his starts since 2018, Mahomes has been a QB1, so the consistency is there. He has also tied Aaron Rodgers in interception rate (1.0%) and led the league with a healthy 316 passing yards per contest.  

Mahomes’ weapons include Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, so you know he will rack up the yardage. Sammy Watkins is gone, and the Ballers sarcastically alluded to that hurting Mahomes.

Andy pointed out that Mahomes has sustained success over time, which positively affects him weekly. He has an excellent probability of being QB1 due to consistency. Since 2012, no consensus QB1 in ADP has finished in that spot. Mahomes finished as QB10 in 2019 and QB6 in 2020 despite being taken as the QB1 in each of those seasons.

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Kansas City has upgraded its offensive line, with Guard Joe Thuney and Offensive Tackle Orlando Brown. Guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif opted out of the 2020 season but is anticipated to return this season.  

2. Kyler Murray | Arizona Cardinals

[Andy 2 | Jason 2 | Mike 1]
2020 Finish: QB2

“That’s what the people are here for – hot takes!” – Mike

Murray held the QB1 spot from Week 1-16 before Josh Allen swooped in and took that honor from him. He also made league history by throwing for 3,500 passing yards and running for 800+ passing yards in the same season, a feat that had never happened before.  

A concern brought up on the show is how some view the Cardinals’ QB as having red-zone issues. His red-zone stats actually show he took a step forward in 2020, completing 66.7% of his red-zone passes in 2020 to 56.0% from the prior year. He also completed 19 red zone passing touchdowns last season, six more than he did in 2019. As for rushing touchdowns, Murray took it in for nine touchdowns in 2020 versus the three he ran in during the 2019 season.

In Week 11 of the 2020 season, Murray saw a massive drop in production after suffering a shoulder injury. He ranked QB26, QB19, QB14, QB4, and QB20 from Weeks 12 to 16. Obviously, being completely healthy will help him return to standard Murray form in 2021. He should use his feet to get you those coveted fantasy points there as well. 

Note: The Ballers brought up A.J. Green joining the roster. As Jason put it, “That’s gonna hurt, but I think he can overcome with the legs!” [insert my actual laughter while listening to this in a dead quiet office]

3. Josh Allen | Buffalo Bills

[Andy 5 | Jason 3 | Mike 3]
2020 Finish: QB1

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“Nobody can see things going sideways the year after an MVP season — but they always do, and I mean always.” – Andy

Jason believes last year was the ceiling for Allen, while Murray’s season shows he has room to improve. This is why Jason would answer Murray if asked to choose between Murray and Allen. He is not saying Allen can’t repeat this season in his career, but it is doubtful he will find the numbers he saw this year (17-game season stops in to say “hi”).

Allen did have the QB1 fantasy finish last season, so he has that accolade under his belt. The 45 total touchdowns he accumulated were 16 more than his previous career-high. In the history of the league, only three quarterbacks have thrown for 4,000+ yards while additionally rushing 100+ times in a season (Cam Newton‘s rookie campaign in 2011, Russell Wilson in 2015, and now Allen).  

2020 saw the addition of Stefon Diggs to the Bills roster, and his presence immediately helped Allen improve his game. Diggs returns in 2021 along with Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis, who can cause damage in their own ways. His offensive line will also be returning, which helps due to chemistry.

A concern to look at when talking about Allen is that he faced more blitzes than anyone else in the NFL, yet he tied for the ninth-lowest sack rate in the NFL. Was this pure luck, or is Allen as legit as he looked? While he probably won’t repeat as QB1 in this upcoming season (Drew Brees was the last to do it in 2012), he should still put up great numbers.

4. Lamar Jackson | Baltimore Ravens

[Andy 4 | Jason 4 | Mike 4] 2020 Finish: QB10

“Back end boom.” – Andy (concerning Jackson “booming” in 2020)

One of the first items to point out here is it is fun to have Jackson on your fantasy team. He possesses two of the top-3 QB rushing yardage seasons of all-time, and his rushing ability sets him apart from the other quarterbacks in the league.  

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Last season, the Ravens QB did not have as many boom games as usual. He had 12 games where he went for less than 200 passing yards while having only three games of 3+ touchdowns through the air. There were six games where Jackson was outside the top-15 at the position, tallying the same amount as Cam Newton and Carson Wentz.

In the second half of the season, Jackson seemed to turn things around. From Week 10 forward, he tallied 25.5 fantasy points per game, making him QB2 while only being behind Josh Allen.

Sammy Watkins is now in Baltimore. Watkins being mentioned twice in one article, what year is this? Jason brought up that he believes Baltimore will draft a wide receiver in this draft. We will see if this new weapon can help Jackson on his quest to be QB4.

5. Dak Prescott | Dallas Cowboys

[Andy 3 | Jason 5 | Mike 5] 2020 Finish: QB33 (Season-Ending Injury Week 5)

“Almost difficult for someone to not be good with those weapons.” – Jason

Last season, Prescott started off on fire. Over the five games he played in, he completed 151 of 222 pass attempts and threw for 1,856 yards while tossing nine touchdowns and rushing for another three.

In the Week 5 game facing the New York Giants, Prescott suffered a brutal season-ending ankle injury. The Cowboys went on to have a losing season, going 6-10 despite having a stellar offense. 

Getty Images / Ronald Martinez


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With Prescott back under center, look for the Cowboys and Prescott to put up points. In the last 20 full games the Cowboys QB has played, he averaged 330 passing yards per game and 1.95 touchdowns per game. With Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup making up an incredibly talented wideout group, Prescott should slide right back into top QB talks.

Last season, Dallas’ offensive line was decimated with injuries. Everyone should be back and healthy. Keep an eye on the draft as there is speculation into them taking O-Line help. Will Prescott be Comeback Player of the Year in 2021? There is a strong chance this happens.

6. Aaron Rodgers | Green Bay Packers

[Andy 6 | Jason 6 | Mike 6] 2020 Finish: QB3

“Kinda had a good year.” – Andy

It’s Aaron Rodgers. He’s a magician. And now he is coming off an MVP season. In 2020, Rodgers led the league in completion rate, passing touchdowns (48), interception rate, and QB rating… whew! Add that Davante Adams is a beast and back in the fold this season; Rodgers looks to continue to ride the wave he was on last season. The Rodgers to Adams call will be one you constantly hear in 2021. 

Last year, Rodgers found himself tossing 35 scores in the red zone. He additionally threw three or more touchdowns in 12 games. There were never back-to-back weeks where he didn’t throw three touchdowns.

The offensive line lost All-Pro center Corey Lindsey. OT David Bakhtiari tore his ACL and missed six games, including playoffs. Bakhtiari is not expected to be back for Week 1.

Will we see regression in the Green Bay offense this year? Last year, the touchdown efficiency was out of this world. The Packers were number one in points per game at 31.8 and points per drive at 3.1. Every 97 yards, the Packers scored a touchdown. In Mahomes’ 50 TD season, they scored once every 103 yards to put that into perspective. Regression is likely coming, but that does not mean you should ignore Rodgers. He is a seasoned vet who you can count on.

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7. Russell Wilson | Seattle Seahawks

[Andy 7 | Jason 8 | Mike 8] 2020 Finish: QB6

“I just didn’t want to talk about Russell Wilson again.” – Andy

Wilson’s 2020 campaign was a tale of two halves. In the first half of the season, Wilson was tied for first in Consistency Ranks but moved to 18 in the second half. Fantasy managers missed playoffs because in Weeks 9-13, he averaged 265 passing yards and one passing score. I felt your pain if Wilson was on your roster as I had him and Prescott in the Scott Fish Bowl. Wilson had this same issue in 2019 when his second half was underwhelming.

The Seattle QB has finished as QB11 or better in fantasy over his nine-year NFL career. He additionally managed to average 10.9 wins in nine seasons. Rushell Wilshon is just a master of efficiency.

The Ballers agree that Wilson did have the most disappointing 40 touchdown fantasy season of all-time. 16 different quarterbacks have thrown for 40 or more touchdowns, but Wilson happened to have the fewest passing yards per game, most sacks taken, and lowest yards per completion out of them all.  

8. Jalen Hurts | Philadelphia Eagles

[Andy 12 | Jason 7 | Mike 7] 2020 Finish: QB35 (Took over as starter Week 14)

“Love Hurts.” – Andy

One big story from the 2020 season was Hurts taking over as quarterback for Carson Wentz. Hurts has the rushing upside you look for in a QB1. In 2020, Hurts rushed for 68 yards per game. This season, the Eagles will be getting a healthy offensive line back. Hurts also found himself with the longest average time to throw among all QBs at 3.39 seconds, also known as sacks. He will need to work on that in this upcoming season, but the repaired O-Line should help.

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Andy reminds listeners to “stay water,” meaning opinions can change as we receive new information. Mike points out that “the weapons on the team are his left and right leg (right now).” The Eagles’ current underwhelming wide receiver situation is Jalen Reagor, Travis Fulgham, and Greg Ward. Pay attention to the draft to see if they find themselves a weapon that can dominate.  

The Eagles have a new Head Coach in Nick Sirianni and a new Offensive Coordinator in Shane Steichen. Will these coaching changes help Hurts take the next step forward?  

9. Justin Herbert | Los Angeles Chargers

[Andy 8 | Jason 9 | Mike 11] 2020 Finish: QB9

“He’s legit. He’s a great quarterback. He’s going to succeed.” – Jason

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Herbert’s rookie season was impressive, passing for 31 touchdowns while setting a record for completion percentage (66.5) for rookie quarterbacks with 500+ attempts. He additionally averaged 8.1 yards per attempt on plays of 3- and 7+ yards on top of a QB rating of 121.    

It seems as if Herbert is game script-proof as he completed exactly 66-percent of his passes whether the team was leading, tied, or trailing. Out of all QBs, Herbert was the only one to have zero variance in all of these scenarios.

The Chargers pass-catchers are Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Austin Ekeler. This receiving core was one Herbert continued to gel with as he progressed through 2020. Having dependable weapons can always bolster a quarterback’s ranking. He did lose TE Hunter Henry to the Patriots, but the Chargers did sign Jared Cook.  

A big concern fantasy players have is the “sophomore slump.” Will Herbert be able to continue on the path he was on in 2020? The Chargers look to be a better overall team in 2021, but we don’t know if it will be hard for Herbert to improve on his 2020 season. The Chargers brought in new HC Brandon Staley and New OC Joe Lombardi, so these changes are worth keeping in mind.

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10 Ryan Tannehill | Tennessee Titans

[Andy 11 | Jason 10 | Mike 9] 2020 Finish: QB7

“What if his name wasn’t Ryan Tannehill — like… Ryan Fireball?” – Andy

2020 was the year that Ryan Tannehill proved himself. In his 2019 season, Tannehill finished with eight QB1 performances despite not starting until Week 7. In 2020, he confirmed that the second half of 2019 wasn’t just a fluke.  

Tannehill ranked 18th in pass attempts in 2020 while ranking 15th in passing yards. He had a career-high of 33 passing touchdowns to rank 7th in that category. Jason noted that if A.J. Brown or Derrick Henry were to go down with an injury, the team has shallow depth. He would not keep up his efficiency level if one or both of his primary weapons were out.  

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Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Wide receiver Corey Davis is now a member of the New York Jets while Jonnu Smith found himself in New England. These solid secondary targets are now gone. It is essential to pay attention to the draft to see if they address this.

A coaching change to note is the Titans hired Todd Downing as their new OC when Arthur Smith left for head coaching duties in Atlanta. Downing was the TEs coach for the Titans before his promotion. Because Downing stays within the system, Tannehill won’t have to learn a new one.

11. Tom Brady | Tampa Bay Buccanneers

[Andy 9 | Jason 12 | Mike 10] 2020 Finish: QB8

“He keeps eating plants, and he keeps winning Super Bowls.” – Andy

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Tom Terrific seems to never age. Here he is at 43-years old, winning Super Bowls and partying like he’s Rob Gronkowski. Brady entered the league in 2000, before most of this upcoming draft class was alive and when I was just getting my driver’s license.  

In 2020, in his 20th NFL season, Brady threw for the fifth-most yards of his career (4633) and second-most touchdowns of his career (40). From Week 7 on, the Buccanneers play-caller was QB6. He had Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as targets, and they return to the team in 2021. The offensive line is also elite, only helping with Brady’s yardage.

It is hard to tell when age will catch up to Brady or if it even will. This is the most prominent concern people find when drafting Brady. He had his highest touchdown rate since 2010 with 6.6, which means his TD could regress in 2021. If he keeps eating his plants, he’s sure to stay on course.

12. Matthew Stafford | Los Angeles Rams

[Andy 10 | Jason 13 | Mike 12] 2020 Finish: QB15

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“He’s an elite option – for certain weeks.” – Jason

Stafford finds a new home in Los Angeles, taking over at quarterback for the Rams. He is now in a Sean McVay offense which bodes well for the veteran QB. The new Rams QB has Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Tyler Higbee around him, options that should help his throwing stats. At 33 years of age, Stafford is by no means considered “old” in quarterback terms. He should find himself playing plenty more seasons.

Last season, Stafford suffered from multiple injuries late in the season to his thumb, ribs, and ankle. A concern with Stafford is his health, although he did play in all 16 games of 2020.  

He additionally has big expectations to live up to as he played in Detroit for 16 seasons and has three playoff games to show for it. Will joining a new team that looks to have a good 2021 season on paper be just what Stafford needed to take the next step forward? And will he see the same passing volume as he did when he was with the Lions? Only time will tell, but 2021 is on track to be a good one for Stafford. Stafford is currently tied with Brady for the 4th highest odds to win MVP.

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What’s coming up the next time you hear from the Ballers? Put on your draft day pants and get ready for football time.  You can check out more recaps on The Fantasy Footballers’ Early Top-10 WR Rankings, Early WR Rankings Part 2, Early Top-10 RB Rankings, and Early RB Rankings Part 2.


Chad Forcier says:

Coming into my third year playing FF in a redraft league that is full PPR and only one QB. I think the more interesting thing to get into would be strategy for what represents good value based on format. I went late on QB last year. Our top 4 finishers QB draft were 1. Russel Wilson (3rd round)/ Mayfield (who ended up dropping him before the playoffs, he won with Tannehill), 2. I drafted Matt Ryan and ended up dropping him and rolling with Herbert off waivers for most of the year, 3. Newton/ Cousins- he never really upgraded but had Chubb and Jax Robinson by the end of the year and 4. Rodgers/Watson. She got hosed by CMC and Kittle injuries but was rolling out a top end QB1 every week. I think given our format, she probably should have traded one of them for an RB. None of Dak, Murray, Jackson or Mahomes carried their drafters to fantasy football glory.

Not to toot my own horn but I picked up Herbert (in week 4-5 iirc) and Hurts (late in the year) off waivers last year based on grading them using fantasy points against (of their competition) to get an adjusted point expectation . How anomalous is that kind of thing? To think that there will be a handful of top 10 QBs during the final 4-5 weeks of the season that will be outside of the top 24 consensus picks? would you guys consider doing some data work around ADP versus actual ranking during the final 10 weeks of the FF season. That would be fascinating just as a way of proving whether or not there’s value in ADP of the different positions, specifically one as variable as QB. Or I just got really lucky and that was a really unusual situation.

The more telling draft story last year was that Kelce and Waller were our 1/2 finishers. The TE article from a few weeks ago is really fascinating.

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