NFL training camps are starting up and that makes this the perfect time for preseason fantasy football rankings. Specifically, let’s get into whos and wheres of it all, ranking the top 12 players in each position group. First up on the board, the most important position in all professional sports: quarterback.
The rankings are based on a couple of criteria. First, the player’s individual situation (i.e. supporting cast, system, etc.). The second is past performance; was the player trending up, down, or are they poised for a bounceback? And the last part is the strength of their respective schedule. It’s important but last due to being so far from the season we don’t know for sure who will be good or not.
Ranking the Top 12 Fantasy Football Quarterbacks for 2021
1. Kyler Murray
Last year, we touted Kyler Murray as an MVP candidate. Things didn’t work out in that regard but Murray did finish 2020 as the fantasy QB2, behind only Allen. Well, this season he’s poised to do even more damage in his third year under Kliff Kingsbury and with an improved receiving corps.
A.J. Green has struggled to stay healthy but when right he is a difference-maker. Even if he continues to be unreliable, Arizona drafted Rondale Moore out of Purdue to join DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk.
Don’t fret over the signing of James Conner. Neither he nor Chase Edmonds is workhorse material. Kenyan Drake had 239 carries (6th) and 10 touchdowns (10th) and Murray still was able to chip in 819 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. Murray’s production has increased each of his first two seasons.
2. Patrick Mahomes
“What once was, will be again” is the perfect way to describe what’s likely coming from the Kansas City Chiefs and 2018 NFL MVP, Patrick Mahomes. Last year, he missed a game and finished second in yards and fourth in touchdowns. We all know how the Super Bowl went for the Chiefs and they went out and did something about it this offseason, revamping their offensive line.
They did lose Sammy Watkins, but Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson are back. Both checked in ahead of Watkins in the pecking order last season. The retooled line could mean a heavier emphasis on the run. But with Andy Reid and Mahomes, it’s far more likely the latter returns to dominance. Especially with a schedule that is 10th-easiest, per FantasyPros.
3. Matthew Stafford
It’s possible no one is more excited for the upcoming season than new Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford. After spending 12 years toiling away with the Detroit Lions, it’s like going from a Ford Pinto to a Ferrari. In four years under head coach Sean McVay, L.A. has never ranked lower than 11th in yards. And, prior to finishing 22nd last season, the same was true of their scoring. Detroit has been top-10 in scoring just twice and yards three times.
Going from Jared Goff to Stafford should help get them back on track and even take them to new heights. Goff, who was never viewed by most as a franchise quarterback by most due to the hand-holding done by his coach, still finished last season as a low QB2 (21st). Stafford finished 18th in a rudimentary offense in Detroit. He also has a top-10 fantasy schedule and three tremendous wideouts in Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and free-agent signee, DeSean Jackson.
4. Josh Allen
Last year’s QB1 doesn’t fall too far in our preseason rankings and even this dip shouldn’t be the result of regression from Josh Allen. Instead, teams will undoubtedly be more prepared for his passing ability and the Buffalo Bills should put greater emphasis on the ground attack in 2021. And, as has been the theme with our first two passers, he’s projected to have a soft schedule.
It’s not just happenstance that should see Allen right back near the top fantasy quarterbacks. Buffalo went out and added Emmanuel Sanders to last year’s receptions and receiving yards leader, Stefon Diggs, underrated slot man Cole Beasley, and last year’s rookie sensation Gabriel Davis. We could also see him run more to make up for any dip in his passing numbers.
5. Dak Prescott
Dak Prescott was QB4 through the first five weeks of the 2020 season. We all know what happened to him, but we may have forgotten that first part. Proclaiming himself healthy enough to play a game today, we should see the extended version of the preview from last year when the Cowboys led the league in total and passing yards with him under center.
Amari Cooper is coming off his third consecutive 100-yard season (his fourth in five years) and CeeDee Lamb should be even better in his sophomore campaign. Michael Gallup is in a contract year and could put up good numbers in search of big money. The x-factors could be tight ends Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz, the latter of which came on strong for Dallas. Their offensive line not holding up is the only thing that could hold them back.
6. Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers, the 2020 NFL MVP who led the league in completion percentage and touchdown passes, reportedly has no plans to return to Green Bay and play for the Packers in 2021. It’s new territory for everyone to have the reigning MVP trying to force his way off the team he won the award with. Not to mention, the Packers went to the NFC Championship Game after going 13-3 in the regular season.
That loss in the playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl winner Tampa Bay Buccaneers likely highlighted just how much was afforded to Tom Brady and highlighted how “little” the Packers have done for Rodgers who was QB3 in 2020 and has but one Super Bowl appearance/victory whereas Brady has seven wins in 10 appearances. The bottom line is if he reports as we eventually expect, don’t expect him to take it easy on opponents this season.
7. Russell Wilson
#LetRussCook is so 2020, the 2021 Seattle Seahawks plan to…let…Russ…Cook? Wait, what? That’s right, it seems after looking off Russell Wilson‘s overtures for more input, Pete Carroll and John Schneider (in that order) set about making it up to their seven-time Pro Bowl quarterback by beefing up his blocking, as he’d been requesting.
Wilson has been ranked outside the top-10 in fantasy quarterbacks just twice in his career and both times he was 11th. He was QB1 in ‘17, QB9 in ‘18, QB4 in ‘19, and QB6 last season. The dude is consistent. With the upgrade to his protection and D.K. Metcalf another year in and Gerald Everett stepping in at tight end, Wilson could be in for a monster campaign.
8. Tom Brady
All Tom Brady did in his first season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was throw for his most yards since 2015, the second-most yards of his career, oh, and win his seventh Super Bowl (number two for Tampa). He finished the season as QB8, his highest finish since 2017 when he was QB3. There isn’t much left to say.
Oh, the Bucs are practically returning their whole Super Bowl roster and Brady said that he wasn’t even fully comfortable with the playbook until “midway through” last season. The rest of the league should be on notice. In fact, we might have him ranked too low on this list. He could finish much, much higher.
9. Ryan Tannehill
It might surprise some to learn that Ryan Tannehill was a top-10 fantasy quarterback (QB7) last season. That’s probably because it was just his second time in the top-10; the last was in 2014 when he was QB8. Also, he has this guy named Derrick Henry who’s pretty good at running the football. So no one would blame you for not noticing Tannehill’s career-high 35 touchdown passes.
The Tennessee Titans want to ensure they get similar production from their quarterback. After losing Corey Davis to the Jets in free agency, they made one of the offseason’s biggest splashes in trading a second-round pick to the Falcons for Julio Jones. He should be able to replace Davis’ production and then some opposite A.J. Brown.
10. Lamar Jackson
2019 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson was also QB1 in fantasy that season. Last year, however, he regressed some and finished as QB10 as his production was down across the board as the Ravens, like many other teams, navigated COVID. His security blanket, tight end Mark Andrews, missed two games in protocol and Marquise Brown didn’t cut it as a number one receiver.
Enter free agent signee Sammy Watkins and 2021 first-round pick Rashod Bateman. Together they should give Jackson his best trio of receivers since he’s been a pro. Baltimore probably still lacks a true number one option at the wide receiver position, but at least they are trying to give Jackson more weapons. He does have one of the toughest schedules for quarterbacks, though.
11. Justin Herbert
In many ways, Justin Herbert should be poised to take a major leap forward this coming season. He finished last season in this same spot after getting the surprise nod in Week 1 and never looking back. He led all rookies in passing yards and touchdowns and finished sixth and 10th, respectively, in the NFL.
One thing could stand in Herbert’s way. Tight end Hunter Henry will be catching passes in New England this season after signing there as a free agent. The Chargers will try to replace his production (60 catches, 613 yards, and four touchdown grabs with journeyman Jared Cook but he’s never been the most consistent. Guess he’ll have to make do with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams (and running back Austin Ekeler).
12. Deshaun Watson
2020’s passing yards leader, Deshaun Watson threw a career-best 33 touchdowns, on a career-high 70.2 percent completion, with a career-low seven interceptions. He could put up better numbers for the Houston Texans this season, even if the Houston Texans record won’t have much to show for it. Will Fuller is gone but Brandin Cooks had over 1100 yards last season and Chris Conly arrives as a bigger body that can handle some of the verticality Fuller brought to the offense.
Watson is currently facing 22 civil suits stemming from alleged sexual misconduct. The outcome of that outweighs all of this. On the field, the Texans signed a trio of backs to join David Johnson in the backfield and upgraded the offensive line so they could look to run more this season. There are also rumors he could soon be on the move, assuming his legal issues get taken care of, with the Broncos listed as a potential landing spot. That would skyrocket him up this list.
2021 NFL Preseason Fantasy QB Rankings
We’ll revisit this as we get closer to the regular season. But it’s more likely the order changes than the actual names. Watson’s situation, for example, could shake up this entire list or even allow for a new name to make it on.