I always enjoy writing bold predictions articles because it gives you the chance to take your general feelings about a player, turn them up to 11, and then look really smart when they come true. And if they don’t come true, well they were just bold predictions and bold predictions are meant to be bold. It’s really a win-win.
As it is QB Week, I’ve got four bold quarterback predictions for 2021 fantasy football, all which I could realistically see happening if a few breaks go their way.
Matthew Stafford Finishes a Top-8 Fantasy QB
I am slightly stealing from myself as on this week’s podcast my bold prediction was that Matthew Stafford would finish a top-5 quarterback. I slept on that and woke up feeling like that was WAY too bold. But top 8? Top 8 I can get behind.
Stafford is playing with the best offensive mind he’s ever been with, surrounded by possibly the best overall offensive talent he’s ever had. (I made sure to include the “overall” because even for how much I love Robert Woods, no one compares to prime Calvin Johnson.) Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Tyler Higbee make up a top flight receiver group with Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson in the backfield. And of course, Stafford has Sean McVay at the controls, who made Jared Goff the QB6 in 2018. I think we can all safely say Stafford is a much better quarterback than Jared Goff.
Stafford still has plenty of left in his tank. His 55.4% QPI rating put him on par with Russell Wilson last year. The change of scenery is going to do wonders for Stafford and going as the QB11 right now, he’s primed to outperform his ADP.
Matt Ryan Finishes Ahead of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers in Total Scoring
In 2020, Matt Ryan finished the QB12 in total points per game, scoring 293.4. Tom Brady finished the QB8 with 349.9 points. Aaron Rodgers the QB3 with 387.2. There was clearly a gap between these players, but I’m betting that gap closes in 2021.
First off, Ryan is no stranger to finishing a top fantasy option. Since 2016, Ryan has finished the QB2, QB15, QB2, QB11, and QB12 last year. He now also gets to play under Arthur Smith, the man who’s offense turned Ryan Tannehill from a forgotten commodity to the QB7 last year and the QB9 in points per game in 2019. Yes there’s no longer Julio Jones in Atlanta, but a roster of Calvin Ridley, Kyle Pitts, Russell Gage, Hayden Hurst, and Mike Davis in the backfield is more than a good squad.
Brady’s first year in Tampa Bay was the stuff of legend and he certainly took full advantage of the weapons around him. However, there’s plenty of room for regression in 2021. Brady’s 6.6 TD% last year was his highest by a long shot since 2010. He threw the ball 610 times for over 4,600 yards which is utterly insane when you remember the man is 43-years-old. Finally, only twice in his NFL career has Brady been sacked fewer times than he was in 2020. Even with just slight regression in these categories, Brady could fall from middle of QB1 to end of the QB1 tier.
Now I added Rodgers into the equation simply because I didn’t think Brady by himself was spicy enough. The main argument for Rodgers is a) regression—Rodgers’ ridiculous 9.1 TD% last year has only happened 4 other times in NFL history—and b) who knows if Rodgers even plays this year. Missing some or all of the 2021 season wouldn’t be great for Rodgers’ final fantasy scoring numbers.
Also, shoutout to Jordan for eloquently making the case for Matt Ryan on this week’s podcast.
Kyler Murray Falls Out of the Top 5
There’s plenty of reason to be excited about Kyler Murray this year in both real and fantasy football. Last year we saw Murray continue to build upon a solid rookie year, throwing and rushing for more yards and touchdowns. He put up such good numbers he finished as the QB2 last year. With that in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see Murray going off draft boards as the QB3, in the middle of the fourth round.
While it may not be a surprise, it is a price too rich for my liking.
Last year Murray rushed for 11 touchdowns, which alone accounted for 17% of his total fantasy output. That rushing production is amazing when it’s there, but is sorely missed when it’s not. Ten of Murray’s 11 rushing touchdowns came in the first half of the 2020 season, when he was the unquestioned QB1. However, from Week 11 onward, Murray only rushed for one touchdown and was the QB14 during that time.
Rushing touchdowns aren’t going to completely disappear for Murray and I still expect him to see between five and six in 2021. Still, had Murray scored only six rushing touchdowns last year, he would’ve finished the QB6 in total scoring.
Cam Newton Finishes a QB1
Before we go rushing to judge Cam Newton’s 2020 season, let’s not forget all that he went through. He signed with the New England Patriots late in a weird, COVID-19 riddled offseason. He then proceeded to catch COVID in Week 4. His No. 1 targets were undrafted receiver Jakobi Meyers and journey-man speedster Damiere Byrd. Maybe let’s give Cam another chance before we write him off.
Things are already much improved for Cam heading into 2021. The Patriots went out and spent big on pass-catchers, bringing in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith at tight end, and adding Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne at receiver. Henry and Smith will be a huge boost for Cam as tight ends have been a top target for him throughout his career. The passing game this year has to improve because it really couldn’t get much worse.
Add an improved passing game to Cam’s rushing ability—a rushing ability that scored 12 touchdowns last year—and you can see how a top-12 finish for Cam isn’t wildly out of the realm of possibility. (Also, before you get on my case about how rushing touchdowns were a negative for Kyler Murray but a perk for Cam, Murray carried the ball 14 times inside the 10 yard line last year, 26% of the Arizona Cardinals’ touches. Newton carried the ball 31 times inside the 10, 52% of the Patriots’ touches. Murray isn’t the Cardinals red zone back. Newton is the Patriots.)
Which bold prediction do you think has the best chance of coming true? Let me know in the comments!