Tag Archives: Ryan Tannehill

2021 Preseason Fantasy Quarterback Rankings

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.

Week 10 Primetime Moneymakers: Smash-Mouth Football

Granted, we didn’t get a preseason. But this season is absolutely flying by. We’re already in Week 10 in the NFL and the playoff picture is taking shape. Kansas City is once again looking like the class of the AFC and really the entire NFL. That’s because the NFC is a clouded mess. Three to four teams can make a legitimate claim for best in the conference.

Another 2-1 week brings us to 8-8 on the season. Still not great but it has been a climb from the sub-.500 basement we were in. We are still struggling to nail down these totals, but that is secondary to calling winners. As usual, there is more money to be made and if anyone is going to lay claim to it it might as well be us.

Smash-Mouth Football On Tap in Week 10 Primetime Moneymakers

Indianapolis Colts (5-3) at Tennessee Titans (6-2)

Spread: Titans +1

O/U: 48.5

The Indianapolis Colts (4-4 ATS) come in allowing the fewest total yards (second in rushing and third in passing) in the NFL anchored by Darius Leonard and DeForest Buckner. They are also third in defensive DVOA (second in run defense DVOA). Boasting superb line play on either side of the ball, they might struggle against Tennessee middling run defense but they should give Philip Rivers plenty of time in the pocket. He had seemingly regained his form, throwing six touchdowns and zero interceptions in the two games before his dud in Baltimore in Week 9. Those other secondaries are closer to what the Titans have been.

We saw a stingy Chicago Bears defense take Derrick Henry away last week and the Titans (3-5 ATS) still came away victorious. Ryan Tannehill got the job done, throwing two touchdowns with no picks. That brings him to 19 touchdowns with only three interceptions. Henry was held to just 68 yards on 21 carries last week and 75 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers three weeks ago. An ominous sign with him facing his toughest test. Tennessee only has 10 sacks on the season so they’ll need Malcolm Butler, trade deadline-acquisition Desmond King, and the recently-activated Adoree’ Jackson to tighten things up on the back end.

This is a battle for AFC South supremacy but it’s only the first act. These two teams will face each other in two weeks so this one could put the Titans in the driver seat of the division. The Colts only victory over a team with a winning record was against the Bears. The Titans have two such wins, but one of them was also the Bears. That makes this essentially uncharted territory for both teams with a slight edge going to the Titans. Is their victory of the inconsistent Buffalo Bills convincing enough? They also almost knocked off the Steelers. Take the home team getting no respect from Vegas. Also (reluctantly) take the under as both offenses could struggle.

Baltimore Ravens (6-2) at New England Patriots (3-5)

Spread: Patriots +7

O/U: 43.5

What a matchup this would be if it were 2018. As it stands, the Baltimore Ravens (4-4 ATS) should be looking at this as a tune-up. The Ravens have been highly-scrutinized for their offensive struggles despite having the exact same record through six games as last year. That’s because they’ve fallen from having the top-ranked offense in DVOA in 2019 to 23rd here in 2020. Both phases have regressed but it’s Lamar Jackson’s passing that’s suffered the most. His touchdown rate came down from the unsustainable level of last season while he’s throwing picks at the highest rate of his career.

You’d have to go all the way back to 1994 to find a New England Patriots (3-5 ATS) team that was 3-5 through eight games. Cam Newton has regressed as the season has gone on, though he had somewhat of a bounceback against the lowly New York Jets a week ago in primetime. This is easily the stiffest challenge of Newton’s tenure in New England. His offense is already 24th in DVOA and 28th in passing DVOA. 

New England was hit the hardest of any team by COVID opt-outs; mostly on defense. It has shown. They rank 10th in yards thanks to ranking fifth against the pass. They’re 21st against the run. Sounds like the perfect recipe for Jackson and Co. to get things back on track, which is strange to type about a Bill Belichick-led Patriots team. Jackson has always given the Patriots defense some issues anyway. But in this state, a Baltimore win feels inevitable. Take the Ravens and the points. The under is also tempting but having been burned on several matchups like this, hard pass

Minnesota Vikings (3-5) at Chicago Bears (5-4)

Spread: Bears +2.5

O/U: 43

It hasn’t been the season most envisioned for the Minnesota Vikings (5-3 ATS) but they haven’t given up. They’ve won two games in a row, have an offense ranked seventh in DVOA, and have the league’s leading rusher in Dalvin Cook toting the rock. The Vikings have rightfully limited Kirk Cousins’ exposure. They’ll need to jump out to an early lead if they are to keep this all up. Cousins is 0-3 against the Bears as a member of the Vikings.

Chicago (5-4 ATS) is in the midst of a three-game losing streak. If they are going to avoid their second losing streak in as many seasons (and protect their streak against the Vikings) they will need a few things. First, figure out the ground attack as Minnesota is slightly worse at defending the run. They were already struggling to run and David Montgomery is out this week with a concussion. Could we see a Cordarrelle Patterson revenge game? Second, figure out how to protect Nick Foles. Minnesota was already vulnerable to the pass and is set to be down Cameron Dantzler at corner. 

Matt Nagy is 4-0 as a head coach against Mike Zimmer. His team has a better record too. Still, the dam feels about ready to burst. Despite all of that, the pick is the Bears plus the points. It’s not all sentimentality (admitted Bears fan here). Cook has struggled against the Bears as much as Cousins has. A one-game reprieve from the recent doldrums right before the bye is a very Bears thing to do. The under is, again, the reluctant play. Chicago suppresses their own offense even better than they do opponents. Hard to see Lazor fixing it all in one week.

Free Agency Best and Worst: AFC South

Our fifth stop on our tour squaring the best and worst moves in NFL free agency, the AFC South. We’ve already gone through both the AFC and NFC North. Likewise for the AFC and NFC East. The AFC South was arguably the toughest division in football just a couple of seasons ago. Now, it is a division mostly in transition but one that should still be a dog fight.

Best and Worst of NFL Free Agency: AFC South

Houston Texans

Best Move: None

Yea. This isn’t a cop-out or laziness. The Houston Texans have had one of the weirdest offseasons in recent memory. After giving away arguably the best wide receiver in the game, Houston (led by head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien) did well just to not trade away the franchise in Deshaun Watson, though it’s hard to believe they’re building trust either.

There does appear to be a method to the madness or at least a strategy for navigating what is sure to be an adjustment period for Watson. They added Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb to a group that will still return Kenny Stills, Will Fuller, and Keke Coutee. Fuller and Coutee have struggled to stay healthy (as has Cooks) and Stills has always been a complementary option.

Worst Move: Swapping Receivers

This is a little bit of piggybacking. Taking on David Johnson’s contract certainly qualifies. But this deserves its own section. Let’s go to the tape: Hopkins is a three-time All-Pro, four-time Pro Bowler, and has 315 catches for 4115 yards with 31 touchdowns over the last three seasons. Cooks has none of the accolades and caught 187 balls for 2869 yards and 14 scores.

Production on the field is dependant upon being on the field; something Cooks has struggled with. Nuk has missed all of two games in one more NFL season than Cooks, who has missed time with numerous injuries, not the least of which being multiple concussions. Aside from a change philosophically (and an out in Cooks’ contract in 2021), the benefits are hard to find.

Next Move: Protect the Franchise

Watson is second in the NFL in sacks taken over the last three seasons, trailing only Russell Wilson. This is especially notable because the former Clemson Tiger missed more than half of his rookie season with a torn ACL and is only in second place by 17 sacks. He even led the league in the category in 2018.

When the Texans traded for Laremy Tunsil, the seemed to be moving towards correcting a fatal flaw. Trading away Watson’s top weapon isn’t doing any favors and Tunsil wound up leading the NFL in penalties. Houston still needs an infusion of talent and should look to do so in a draft rife with interior line talent. For what it’s worth, it’s also full of talented wide receivers.

Indianapolis Colts

Best Move: Old Man Rivers

Any time a team adds a Hall of Fame quarterback to their roster it has to set the bar for grading their free-agent class. The Indianapolis Colts courting and subsequent signing of Philip Rivers is no different. They tried to make do with Jacoby Brissett following Andrew Luck’s abrupt retirement, even giving the former New England Patriot a short extension.

Brissett is no Luck and he isn’t Rivers either so the upgrade is obvious. It is a shift in philosophies for Indy and head coach Frank Reich. They have largely been a ball-control offense, playing at their pace and fielding a solid defense. Rivers is the definition of a gunslinger and a talkative one at that. It will be interesting to watch this marriage in 2020.

Worst Move: Missing Out on Diggs

In stark contrast to their division mates in Texas, it is rather difficult to find a flaw in the offseason the Colts have had. They got a new field general, kept their offensive line together, and traded for a solidifying presence along their defensive line. The one thing they “failed” (quotes because it’s subjective) to do is give Rivers ample weapons as he enjoyed with the Los Angeles Chargers.

Stefon Diggs would have made a perfect option. His versatility would have allowed him to be the short-area weapon a la Keenan Allen but he is also explosive enough to be the downfield threat that Mike Williams was. Instead, Rivers will lean on T.Y. Hilton who dealt with injuries last season and is somehow already 30 years old. There weren’t many misses for Indy but this opportunity might be one.

Next Move: Find Another Corner

Indy signed former Minnesota Vikings corner Xavier Rhodes in free agency to replace the departed Pierre Desir alongside Rock Ya-Sin and Kenny Moore. The problem is Rhodes, who will be 30 when the season starts, allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete over 80 percent of their passes in his direction.

Minnesota’s defense was once among the best in the game but they have slipped of late, falling from third in passing yards allowed in 2018 to 15th  in 2019. Indy finished the season ranked 23rd so expecting Rhodes to be a stabilizing presence is probably a stretch at best and a recipe for disaster at worst.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Best Move: Moving Foles

When the Jacksonville Jaguars signed Nick Foles to a four-year, $88 million contract the thought was they overpaid for an average quarterback who had a magical run. After one season and Gardner Minshew, that thought has largely remained the same. What has changed is who will be paying Foles going forward.

Jacksonville managed to extract a draft pick from the Chicago Bears for the journeyman quarterback, reuniting him a veritable who’s who of his former coaches including John DeFilippo who was the Jags offensive coordinator last season. Kudos to general manager David Caldwell for actually getting something for Foles, let alone a fairly valuable mid-round pick.

Worst Move: Sticking with Marrone

Making coaching changes for the sake of changing coaches is never the way to go. But the fact of the matter is coaches have been fired who have accomplished much more than Doug Marrone has. Our first section dedicated to a coach, this is not advocating for anyone to lose their job. But when assessing offseasons, it’s fair to question if Jacksonville should’ve moved on.

Marrone is 21-27 in three full seasons down in Duval. This is on-brand for him; he went 15-17 in his two seasons at the helm for the Buffalo Bills. Jacksonville ranked 31st and 26th in points the past two seasons and his once stout defense has been parted out because of cap and culture issues. Loyalty to Marrone could keep the Jaguars in neutral in 2020.

Next Move: Replenish the Cupboard

With 12 selections in the 2020 NFL Draft and a team seemingly stuck in place, Jacksonville needs to get back to what got them the buzz they had a couple of seasons ago. They have to get some talent back on the roster, namely on that defense. And to be even more specific they need to get their secondary at least close to what it was when Jalen Ramsey was still in town.

Jacksonville brought in Rashaan Melvin to replace the departed A.J. Bouye who bolted for the Denver Broncos. That is really a lateral move and not a particularly good one. This draft has got some talent at the top at the position so it would be wise for Caldwell and Co. to get back to what got them to this point.

Tennessee Titans

Best Move: Not Overcommitting to Henry

The sentiment around paying top dollar for a running back (giving them a second contract) is well documented. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who would say that’s a good idea. So the Tennessee Titans slapping the franchise tag on Derrick Henry almost makes too much sense. After all, his 300 carries, 1500 yards, and 16 scores all led the league. He’s still a runningback.

Christian McCaffrey just finagled the Carolina Panthers for a record-setting contract. Yes, he became the first player to have 2500 yards rushing and receiving in his first three years, that hasn’t helped the Panthers win much. Tennessee rode Henry’s legs far more than their quarterback’s arm. But they still had the wherewithal to not overpay for diminishing returns.

Worst Move: Overcommitting to Tannehill

No one can deny the impact switching from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill had on the Titans. For example, Henry averaged 3.68 yards per tote with Mariota under. That number jumped to 5.92 with Tannehill, no small feat. Tennessee looked beyond his raw stats and rewarded him with a lucrative, averaging just under $30 million per year.

If Tennessee had looked at Tannehill’s raw stats, at least those from Miami, they might not have been so generous. First, he dealt with injuries in his last three years, an issue Tennessee had with Mariota. But his career even before then could be described as mediocre with even his best of seasons leading to a .500 record. The Titans get great marks for their handling of Henry. Not so much with Tannehill.

Next Move: Repeat Success

This section was close to suggesting Tennessee go hunting for their next franchise passer; sort of a Brett FavreAaron Rodgers situation. Instead, in much broader terms, they need to recapture their 2019 magic. That won’t be easy despite the simplistic appearance of their attack.

Henry isn’t likely to have the stretch he had from Week 7 on and the returns on backs who had 300-plus touches the season before is also ugly (take note, Panthers fans). Teams are going to focus on putting more on Tannehill’s plate. He had flashes of being able to answer the call last season, but consistency hasn’t been his forte. Titans fans better hope that has changed.