The List: Way Too Early Fantasy Football Rankings for ’21

Erik Smith releases his initial PPR rankings for the 2021 fantasy football season

QB Rankings

 

  • Patrick Mahomes II could arguably be in a tier of his own atop the 2021 quarterback rankings, as his 25 points per game from 2020 are the fourth-best mark of the past three years. With a 26 ppg season in 2018, Mahomes is the only quarterback that cracks the top 10 of that list twice. He’s got arguably the league’s best play-caller in Andy Reid, plays for a franchise committed to adding weapons on offense as evidenced by the first-round selection used on Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and won’t turn 26 years old until September 17. In one quarterback redraft leagues, Mahomes will be drafted too early for me. But in dynasty or superflex leagues, it’s hard to put a price on Mahomes.
  • It’s easy to talk about everything that Lamar Jackson can’t do and miss out on the cheat code that he is for fantasy purposes. His 2019 season is the best QB performance of the past three years on a point per game basis, and while he fell to QB8 in 2020, he still topped 1,000 rushing yards for the second consecutive season. Jackson regressed as a passer this year, which was expected considering his unsustainable 9% touchdown rate from 2019. He showed little development as a passer and appeared to lack assistance from his play-caller in scheming receivers open. Still, Lamar was a steady option due to his rushing floor and ended the season with 20+ points in six of seven games. We should view 2020 as his floor when healthy, and if it ever clicks in the passing game, Jackson could be back to QB1 overall status.

 

  • The tough decisions come when setting the dividing line between tier 1 and 2. I’m giving Deshaun Watson the benefit of the doubt despite not knowing his situation for the 2020 season. Watson has topped 20 points per game in each of the past three seasons, something that only Mahomes can claim, and Watson has accomplished this feat despite a crumbling supporting cast and coaching staff around him. This past season was the best of his career, and if he can get on a franchise that properly supports him, the sky is the limit.
  • Another player that I’m giving the benefit of the doubt to is Dak Prescott, but he could slip to tier 2 depending on reports of his recovery from injury. Prescott was putting up an all-time great season in 2020 before the injury, averaging 27 points per game and challenging Jackson and Mahomes for the best fantasy season in recent memory. Prescott led all quarterbacks in attempts per game this past season with 44.4, and Ben Roethlisberger was nearly 4 attempts per game behind him in second place. While the sheer volume is sure to regress, Dak had a pedestrian touchdown rate of 4.1%, and if he improves in that area he can certainly offset less volume. I’ll be drafting a quarterback earlier than usual this year, and Prescott feels like the type I’ll draft often as the last of his tier while maintaining a shot at elite upside.

 

  • Aaron Rodgers misses out on the top tier despite a massive 2020 season where he threw 48 touchdowns. Lacking the rushing upside of the quarterbacks above him, Rodgers needs to run hot in the touchdown department to have a big fantasy season, and his 9% touchdown rate just isn’t sustainable despite his connection with Davante Adams. Rodgers led second place by nearly two percentage points in touchdown rate this season, helping him to his QB4 finish on a point per game basis. This was only his second season with a 9% or better touchdown rate in his 13 years as a starter, and he’s had just two other seasons where he topped a 7% touchdown rate. As great as Rodgers is, I just can’t bet on a repeat season unless he falls to a value in drafts.
  • Justin Herbert put up a shockingly great 22 fantasy points per game in his rookie season, a number that only nine other quarterbacks have topped over the past three seasons. You could make a strong argument for him in the first tier, but I would expect a little regression on his 39.7 passing attempts per game (4th in the NFL) and it will be interesting to see how defenses attack him with a full year of film to dissect. But if you wanted to make a priority of coming out of drafts with Herbert I wouldn’t fault you, and if early rankings are any indication he will be an excellent mid-round value.

 

  • Tier 3 includes three veteran quarterbacks undergoing a change in play-calling in Matthew Stafford, Ryan Tannehill, and Matt Ryan. I’m giving Stafford a slight nod as he has the best play-caller and is the higher-end talent of the three. If Arthur Smith can unlock Ryan like he did Tannehill, Ryan could be an intriguing late-round option, but look at me, I’m talking myself into Ryan like I swore I would never do again. This group is ultimately capped by its lack of rushing ability though, so be sure to resist the hype on Stafford and Ryan if the industry shoots them up into higher tiers due to preseason buzz.
  • I still need to do my full rookie scouting, but I couldn’t push Trevor Lawrence any lower than the bottom of tier 3. He’s been hyped as a generational prospect and has enough athleticism to catch our eye for fantasy purposes. At QB14 you should start looking purely at upside, which Lawrence has, and if he fails, you can rest easy knowing that someone like Kirk Cousins will always be waiting for you on waivers.

 

  • Despite my love of Joe Burrow, I’ll be letting someone else draft him this year. Even if he can rehab from his ACL injury in time to start Week 1, I would expect some rust as quarterbacks typically take some time to feel confident coming off of this injury. Burrow feels like the classic player to target on waivers when he starts the season slow and becomes available in Week 4.
  • Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, and Jalen Hurts are all intriguing options if they are given a starting shot in 2021, but their outlooks are too cloudy right now to rank much higher. If any were given the reigns of an offense, however, they would immediately shoot up to tier 3 thanks to Hill and Hurts’ rushing ability and Winston’s fantasy-friendly style of passing.

 

QB Rankings

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