While everyone is enamored with the elite fantasy football quarterbacks, it’s essential to have a deeper knowledge of the position — from the lower-tier starters to the late-round sleepers — so you can set yourself up to land the best option based on how your draft is unfolding. In 2021, the quarterback position is more exciting than ever with all the dual-threat guys under center — and our preseason fantasy QB rankings reflect that.
A solid rushing floor is everything. Put simply, a high rushing floor limits disastrous weeks from your QB. How much more evidence do we need? Countless times, statue-like quarterbacks such as Matt Ryan looked to be poised for a huge passing week only to produce a mere 10 fantasy points for your team.
Now imagine Ryan with rushing upside. Take the same 10 points and add 20-40 yards on the ground and perhaps a rushing touchdown. That makes his total a tad more respectable. Rushing floors protect against ineffective passing outings. See Lamar Jackson.
Pure drop-back quarterbacks are becoming a thing of the past. Guys like Matthew Stafford and Tom Brady can still be worthwhile fantasy starters, but their margin for error is much slimmer than more mobile QBs like Dak Prescott or even Jalen Hurts. You would rather have Stafford and Brady in real life, but you need to separate real quarterback rankings from fantasy rankings.
Getting at least one mobile QB, whether it be Kyler Murray as your starter early in the draft or Daniel Jones as a late-round backup, gives you options during the season and should hopefully minimize your potential for a sub-10-point week from your QB.
We’ll continue adjusting these QB rankings and providing further analysis until Week 1, so check back for updates!
2021 Fantasy QB Rankings
Rankings are based on standard, four-point passing TD scoring formats
Mahomes is the clear-cut top fantasy quarterback heading into 2021. He tied for the lead in fantasy points per game (FPPG) among QBs with at least six games last year, and the Chiefs executed a full rebuild of their offensive line after an abysmal outing in Super Bowl LV. While Mahomes has shown to be capable of running for his life and pulling off miracles, his newfound friends Orlando Brown and Joe Thuney should help him stay upright. It’s no secret that the Chiefs offense has been explosive since Mahomes took over. Expect that to continue in ’21.
Murray is poised to have his best season as a pro, and his fantasy numbers will bump up as a result. If Lamar Jackson is the alpha of rushing quarterbacks, Murray is right there behind him. Murray charted 11 rushing touchdowns to go along with nearly 900 yards in 2020. As mentioned earlier, his rushing prowess will limit those frustrating weeks from your QB1. Letting Kenyan Drake walk this offseason suggests Arizona will lean pass more in ‘21. With the small and speedy Chase Edmonds and an injury-riddled James Conner set to be the lead dogs in the Arizona backfield, Murray could see a boost in red-zone rush attempts. He is capable of producing a solid outing for your fantasy team even without success through the air. However, he should also see a bump in his passing numbers too. With DeAndre Hopkins in the apex of his prime and the additions of Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson and rookie field-stretcher Rondale Moore, you can expect Murray’s efficiency and volume to jump.
While Allen could arguably be ranked No. 1, a slight regression from his nuclear QB1 2020 performance is likely in order. The good news for Allen this offseason came when the Chargers decided to hire Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley rather than Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Daboll has clearly figured out how to unlock Allen’s potential. With the addition of even an aging Emmanuel Sanders, the already stout Bills receiving corps got a notch better. The only reason he is ranked below Murray is the likelihood the Bills try to involve Zack Moss more in the running game. Buffalo rushed on just 40.8 percent of their offensive plays last year. With numerous presumed positive game scripts, that figure should see a slight increase. While Allen is still going to be a top-tier fantasy quarterback, his volume should see a slight dip.
In Weeks 1 and 2 last year, Wilson exploded with five and six passing touchdowns, respectively, only to see a big dip in air production late in the season. Still, he remained fantasy relevant with his rushing floor, finishing as QB6. Shane Waldron from the Rams replaces Brian Schottenheimer as the offensive coordinator in Seattle after the majority of the blame fell on Schottenheimer’s shoulders for the late-season offensive collapse. A new face calling the plays should prove advantageous for Wilson’s fantasy value. After the offseason drama, Seattle improved its interior offensive line with Gabe Jackson and grabbed an upgrade at WR3 in rookie D’Wayne Eskridge in the second round of the NFL Draft. A healthy Chris Carson, Tyler Lockett, and DK Metcalf bode well in the recipe for Wilson’s success. Don’t be shocked if he finishes as the top QB this year.
The jury is still out on Jackson’s passing acumen, but the Ravens finally added players at wide receiver in the NFL Draft that should enhance his air game. Despite only standing at 6-0, rookie first-round wideout (wideout one word), Rashod Bateman plays more like an alpha wide receiver with a wide catch radius. He can be a true No. 1 receiver, allowing Hollywood Brown to flourish in other areas like stretching the field and producing in the middle. Mark Andrews should see less coverage with more threats on the outside and JK Dobbins is set up to break out in 2021, increasing the overall efficiency of an already strong offense. Lamar will still lead all QBs in rushing yards, but you can expect his passing volume to increase with the offseason additions. He’s one of the safest players at QB.
CeeDee Lamb. Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup. Zeke. That should paint the picture. While his 2020 astronomical pace (27.7 FPPG) before the gruesome ankle injury is rather unlikely to continue, the offense has no shortage of weapons. Like Brian Daboll with Josh Allen, Cowboys OC Kellen Moore seems to have tapped into Prescott’s potential. Add Prescott’s rushing floor with a healthy Tyron Smith and Zach Martin, and you get a recipe for a stellar comeback. Oh, the Cowboys defense should still be atrocious. Dallas is going to air it out.
There is a new regime in LA. That shouldn’t concern you. This team is built to pass. Keenan Alen is still among the elites in route running; Mike Williams will get you any 50/50 ball you want; and Austin Ekeler is built for the pass. Don’t expect this team to dramatically change its offensive philosophy. Don’t forget that Herbert possesses a sneaky rushing floor, too (234 yards, five touchdowns). Those who drafted Herbert late last year were rewarded with a top-10 fantasy QB. He should be viewed as such again.
It’s past time to stop sleeping on Tannehill. Is a QB7 finish in 2020 enough to sell you on him? What about the addition of Julio Jones to an already efficient offense? Josh Reynolds in the WR3 spot to replace Adam Humprhies sounds good, too. He also scored more fantasy points on the ground than Russell Wilson, (63.3 for Wilson, 68.6 for Tannehill.) What’s not to like?
Stafford can move a little, too, but for the first time in his career, he shouldn’t have to. Heading into his 13th season, Stafford has never been more equipped for success than this season. PerFantasyPros, the Rams rank as the 13th-best offensive line unit in the league — a respectable ranking considering what Stafford has dealt with in Detroit. Even without Cam Akers due to a torn Achilles’, the Rams running game will still be respectable, which will take some of the burden off Stafford — again, something he’s never had. But make no mistake, Stafford is going to let it fly. Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, DeSean Jackson, Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell, etc…. The Rams have plenty of firepower. Of course, Stafford played with Calvin Johnson, but this group of Rams pass-catchers is the best overall arsenal that he’s been a part of.
And we arrive at the first stone-legged quarterback in the rankings. During his last season in New England, Brady was a rough option at QB. In Tampa Bay, we’ve seen the numbers he can put up. In case you hadn’t heard, the Bucs brought every starter back from their Super Bowl-winning team. Could we see Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown emerge as stars once again to complement Mike Evans and Chris Godwin? If the offense is firing on all cylinders, which can be assumed, Brady should have another stellar year. Proceed with a bit of caution, though. Eventually the 44-year-old future Hall-of-Famer has to fall off, right?
It’s obvious what last year’s MVP brings to the table. As of July, 27, Rodgers was in the Packers’ building, indicating he will be full-go in 2021. While that’s a positive sign, it’s still not all sunshine and rainbows within the Packers’ organization. Will the offseason drama affect the future Hall of Famer’s play? Time will tell. Regardless, we expect last year’s touchdown total (48) will likely fall closer to his average the previous two seasons (25.5), though we know his ceiling remains sky high.
The Eagles added DeVonta Smith to their young corps of receivers. He comes in as the best receiving option and is likely to be a solid security blanket for his former Alabama teammate. Hurts joins Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray with a ceiling of 1,000 rushing yards, but he still doesn’t have complete job security. Last season, Hurts completed a laughable 52.3 percent of his passes, with a 6:4 TD-to-INT split. His rushing numbers were impressive, but he’s a candidate to get yanked early if he doesn’t improve his accuracy. Additionally, the new coaching staff in Philadelphia has no allegiance to Hurts. His upside is league winning, but he’s a risky pick among boom-or-bust candidates in 2021.
There probably isn’t a young quarterback with more firepower around him than Burrow. Cincinnati took Burrow’s buddy from LSU Ja’Marr Chase in the first round of the draft; Tee Higgins has cemented himself as one of the top No. 2 options in the league; and if you have Tyler Boyd sitting at WR3, you’re in great shape. With all that being said, Cincinnati didn’t improve the offensive line enough to have complete faith in their ability to protect Burrow, who missed the final six games of last season because of a torn left ACL. If he miraculously stays protected and healthy, the numbers should be through the roof. Expect Cincinnati to be among the league leaders in passing attempts.
Cousins isn’t a flashy option at the position, but he has somewhat of a safe floor. He quietly finished as QB11 and continues to build rapport with Justin Jefferson. It’s safe to say Minnesota’s defense can’t be any worse than last year, so we can expect a slight dip in his passing attempts. He won’t win you a league, but he won’t lose it for you either. One slight worry with Cousins: Itwas reportedthat Minnesota had an eye on Justin Fields leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft. They grabbed Kellen Mond at the start of the third round instead. Mond won’t be an immediate threat to Cousin’s job, but it could be worth monitoring if Cousins starts slow out of the gate.
Make no mistake: Jacksonville has weapons. DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault, Marvin Jones, James Robinson, and Travis Etienne are a solid group for a rookie QB making his transition into the NFL. We’ve seen rookie QBs like Baker Mayfield and Justin Herbert make an immediate impact in recent years, and Lawrence has been viewed as a generational talent. He should be ranked accordingly. Regardless of your opinion on Urban Meyer, Lawrence has the tools and supporting cast to help your team right away.
Even with the loss of Julio Jones, Ryan will continue to have some explosive weeks. He will also have dreadful weeks. It remains to be seen whether Art Smith will try and carry over his ground attack from Tennessee, but Derrick Henry’s don’t grow on trees. Ryan will be a boom-or-bust candidate any given week, but there is upside to chase late in the draft.
Big Ben has massive bust potential this year, but he also has one of the best receiving corps in the NFL surrounding him. First, let’s look at the bad: He aired it out 608 times in 2020, third most in the NFL, yet only finished as QB14. Father time looked to have caught up to him. He’s more of a facilitator now and didn’t have success in the deep passing game last year. Pittsburgh’s shiny new toy, Najee Harris is set to see loads of work on the ground, too. He’s always a candidate to miss games, and the Steelers offensive line got even worse on paper. However, if he does see anywhere close to the same number of attempts, he could still end up in the middle part of the rankings.
People were quick to write off Tua after a lackluster rookie season. Remember that he was coming off a serious hip injury suffered during his final year at Alabama. Although his rookie season wasn’t what many hoped, he did show off his ball placement and accuracy skills. The Dolphins went out and got him two receivers that excel in getting open deep, Jaylen Waddle and Will Fuller V. They play more to Tua’s strengths than DeVante Parker or Preston Williams. Tua already has experience hitting Waddle in stride, and they should pick up right where they left off. Mike Gesicki and Hunter Long are more than serviceable options at tight end, too. Put simply, Tua wasn’t set up for success in 2020. In ‘21 he is, and he could easily outperform his ADP (QB23).
Carr shows excellence in flashes but hasn’t shown the kind of consistency you’d like as your ‘set it and forget it’ quarterback. He’s likely going to have a solid year, but his upside is capped due to lack of rushing opportunities and weapons. We all love Darren Waller, but there’s not much else in Las Vegas’ holster unless Henry Ruggs III really breaks out. Additionally, the Raiders completely decimated one of the best offensive lines in football. They now rank as the 28th-best unit according to FantasyPros. Taking a gamble with Tua has a much higher chance of paying off huge.
Mayfield finished behind the likes of Cam Newton last season at QB17. It’s not that Mayfield doesn’t have weapons or isn’t a promising young passer; he just doesn’t get the volume. He’s in the Ryan Tannehill range of passing attempts with less efficiency and rushing prospects. The Browns got better on defense and retained arguably the best offensive line in football with two top-15 backs. Cleveland is once again going to run the heck out of the football. If Odell Beckham Jr. can return to prime form, maybe Mayfield’s efficiency can spike, but Mayfield isn’t considered a great option in fantasy this year.
Wentz is a wild card in 2021. Could his reunion with Frank Reich mean a return to stellar play from ‘17 before the injury bug stuck? Wentzreportedly loves football again, which is good news. It seemed apparent he wasn’t enjoying his time in Philadelphia. However, he’s unlikely to be a top-tier QB in his situation. On a run-first team with lackluster options at wideout, he won’t be running a prolific, high-powered offense. He may look a lot better in real football terms, but it’s just tough to get excited about him in fantasy this year. At least he’s less likely to get injured behind a much better o-line.
Like Tua, Jones definitely has things going in the right direction. Saquon Barkley is coming back and Kenny Golliday is added into the fold. Whatever your opinion may be on KaDarius Toney, he’ll help the offense move the ball. If Danny Dimes can get the ball in the hands of his playmakers, he could enjoy a fantasy-relevant season, especially if he averages north of 30 rushing yards per game again.
Winston, with hisnewfound eyesight, has a ceiling as high as a top-10 QB. Assuming he wins the quarterback battle with Taysom Hill, a Sean Payton offense led by a gunslinger has a nice ring to it. If he limits his turnovers, he could easily see 5,000 yards passing with close to 40 touchdowns in a 17-game season.. No one will be shocked if that happens, right? Even in his disastrous 30-INT season with the Bucs in 2019, he put up a QB3 finish. Of course, he could just as easily lose the starting job and Hill could be a top-10 candidate thanks to his rushing floor. Stay tuned.
Lock, like Winston, is another ‘throw caution to the wind’ gunslinger, but he hasn’t had any past success, even with solid weapons around him. He completed just 57.3 percent of his passes in 2020 and hasn’t shown much promise. If you’re going to draft Lock, just prepare for the likely scenario of Denver replacing him with Teddy Bridgewater early in the season.
The Jimmy G era is coming to an end in San Francisco, but when? In the year the 49ers made it all the way to the Super Bowl, Jimmy G finished at QB14. That is exactly where his ceiling is if he winds up being the full-time starter for the 49ers this year. You’re better off taking a flier on backup Trey Lance and stashing him for the fantasy playoffs.
You know you want to draft him. He might get benched by Week 4, but it will be a fun four weeks with those weapons on an emerging offense.
Goff was once somewhat of a fantasy darling. He’ll be behind a good offensive line, but other than T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift, there are no reliable pass-catchers around him, an unfamiliar territory.
With so much uncertainty surrounding Deshaun Watson, we’re ranking Taylor as Houston’s starter…. for now. Like the Texans, don’t plan on making him a part of your long-term plan in single-QB leagues, though there’s some dual-threat potential if Taylor gets high volume playing from behind all the time.
The only hope is a Ryan Tannehill-like revival of his career. However, Tannehill was nowhere near as bad as Darnold has been. At least Darnold has better weapons than he’s ever had.
Wilson will likely struggle in year one, but at least he’ll start right away. The Jets upgraded their WR corps, but it’s safe to assume it will take time for the very young offense to jell.
Newton is likely to be benched at some point this year, perhaps after Tom Brady and the Buccaneers roll into Foxboroin Week 4. Newton can be a viable DFS play while he’s starting, but Mac Jones presents more season-long upside.
Fields could impress as a rookie. He has the tools to be a stat stuffer, and his low ranking is an indication of the unknown. How long will theBears coaching staff pretendAndy Dalton is worth keeping in there? Time will tell.
As mentioned earlier, Winston is the Saints projected starter in 2021. If Hill wins the job, his rushing prowess will present a solid fantasy profile.
He’s in play in two-QB leagues if he’s starting, but have an alternative ready.
Jones will see playing time, but New England will likely start him off with training wheels.
Lance has tremendous upside if named a starter early in the season. Take a flier if you failed at QB early in the draft.
Teddy Bridgewater, Broncos.If Bridgewater takes over, he’ll be a decent matchup-based streamer based on the weapons around him.