Welcome to Quarterback Week at NerdBall! I’m kicking things off with my top 30 quarterbacks for the 2021 fantasy football season in redraft leagues.
2020 was an unprecedented year for quarterback play in the NFL, with records set for quarterbacks in a whole manner of statistical categories, including highs for completion percentage (65.3%) and touchdown percentage (4.8%), plus a record low for interception percentage (2.2%). More importantly for fantasy purposes, we saw a record year for passing touchdowns (871), a low for interceptions (394), and quarterbacks blew away what we’d ever seen before from a rushing perspective, with record highs in rushing yards (9591) and rushing touchdowns (122).
This all meant we saw record scoring from a fantasy perspective. The average QB score in 2021 was 17.4 points per game, with the previous best coming in 2015 with 16.6 PPG. On reflection I believe the numbers we saw in 2020 were an anomaly due to the unusual offseason caused by the pandemic that led to defenses being less prepared than in previous years and were exploited by the league’s passers, and I expect the numbers to move back toward the norm this year.
As I said at the start, I’ve compiled these rankings based on one quarterback redraft leagues for 2021, but the order that the quarterbacks are ranked will not change if you play in two quarterback or Superflex leagues. I’ll look to update these rankings as the season gets closer as there remain some teams where there the quarterback situation is still uncertain heading into training camp (Denver, Chicago, San Francisco), though I’ve based my rankings on what I believe will (and think should) happen.
Top 30 Quarterbacks for 2021 Fantasy Football
|Rank||Player||Team||vs NerdBall||vs FF Calc|
|1||Patrick Mahomes II||KC||0||0|
|2||Kyler Murray||ARI||↑ 3||↑ 1|
|3||Josh Allen||BUF||↓ 1||↓ 1|
|4||Dak Prescott||DAL||↓ 1||↓ 2|
|5||Lamar Jackson||BAL||↓ 1||↓ 1|
|6||Aaron Rodgers||GB||0||↑ 2|
|8||Deshaun Watson||HOU||↑ 10||↑ 8|
|9||Justin Herbert||LAC||↓ 1||↓ 3|
|10||Ryan Tannehill||TEN||↑ 1||↑ 4|
|11||Matthew Stafford||LAR||↓ 2||0|
|12||Matt Ryan||ATL||0||↑ 3|
|13||Joe Burrow||CIN||↑ 1||↓ 1|
|14||Tom Brady||TB||↓ 4||↓ 6|
|15||Kirk Cousins||MIN||↑ 5||↑ 4|
|16||Jalen Hurts||PHI||↓ 3||↓ 6|
|17||Jameis Winston||NO||↑ 9||↑ 4|
|18||Carson Wentz||IND||↓ 2||↓ 1|
|19||Ryan Fitzpatrick||WFT||↓ 4||↑ 3|
|20||Trevor Lawrence||JAX||↑ 3||↓ 7|
|21||Justin Fields||CHI||↑ 5||↑ 5|
|22||Derek Carr||LV||↑ 3||↑|
|23||Cam Newton||NE||↑ 4||↑ 4|
|24||Trey Lance||SF||↓ 7||↑ 1|
|25||Baker Mayfield||CLE||↓ 3||↓ 7|
|26||Ben Roethlisberger||PIT||↓ 5||↓ 2|
|27||Tua Tagovailoa||MIA||↓ 8||↓ 7|
|28||Daniel Jones||NYG||↑ 2||↓ 5|
|30||Sam Darnold||CAR||↓ 6||↑|
I’ve pulled out five players where my rankings are currently different to the fantasy consensus found at FF Calculator, and have done more of a deep dive to explain why I’ve ranked them where I have.
Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers (My Rank QB9, Consensus QB6)
Its not a huge drop off for Justin Herbert compared to the consensus but for me I’m just trying to keep some perspective. I have Herbert in line with how he performed last year, finishing as the QB10 in total points and the QB9 in points per game. With Dak Prescott returning to health, he jumps ahead of Herbert, and I have both Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson as surer bets for the 2021 season. I may move Herbert up to eight when we learn what is happening with Deshaun Watson for 2021, but if he plays, Watson has higher upside for me.
Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans (My Rank QB10, Consensus QB14)
Just like in 2020, the career resurgence of Ryan Tannehill is not being respected in fantasy and I have him with an arrow up again in 2021. Tannehill was the QB7 in fantasy last year, and the QB11 in points per game, and feel he is set to land in that range again. The addition of Julio Jones is an upgrade on the spotty performances we saw from Corey Davis who has now left for the New York Jets, and Tannehill is a solid rusher who will truck defenders to score on the ground. Only three quarterbacks had more rushing touchdowns than Tannehill in 2020—Cam Newton, Kyler Murray and Taysom Hill. That’s an impressive feat when you have the option of Derrick Henry close to the end zone. I’m comfortable taking Tannehill as a QB1 in fantasy, and his ninth-round ADP is spot on where I have him currently.
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles (My Rank QB16, Consensus QB10)
Jalen Hurts is a tough evaluation for me based on his small sample size in 2020. In five games he showed the athleticism that we saw in college, rushing for over 70 yards per game, which gave him the highest fantasy rushing points per game of any quarterback to play five or more games (10.8). However his passing numbers were poor, completing just 51% of his passes and just 11.4 passing points per game. With defenses able to scheme Hurts better heading into 2021, I think his rushing floor will be lower and therefore he drops down to be a QB2 option and a spot start candidate only.
Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (My Rank QB14, Consensus QB9)
Despite all the weapons around him, I’m not buying Tom Brady at his QB9 ADP heading into 2021. Brady averaged 20.8 points per game in 2020, good enough to be the QB8 in fantasy and the QB12 in points per game and though I think he can still perform at a high level for the Bucs to be in the mix for a championship again, I’ve got him seeing a slight regression to be a borderline QB1 for this season. Brady has been defying his age for years and it would not surprise me if he did it again in what will now be a familiar offense in 2021, but I’ll happily let him be someone else’s QB1 in 2021.
Cam Newton, New England Patriots (My Rank QB23, Consensus QB28)
We’re getting into the back end of the quarterback rankings now, but Cam Newton offers some solid QB2 upside in his second year in New England with some more established weapons around him. His rushing ability is a strong as ever as he finished as the QB3 in fantasy rushing points, as he led all quarterbacks with 12 rushing touchdowns in 2020. With an uptick in his passing game in a more familiar offense, plus the upgrade is weapons, Cam’s upside could be a borderline QB1 with spot start potential. I’ll be happy to snag Cam as my QB2.