And so it begins… the time has come to put my money where my mouth is and release some actual rankings. I’ll be going position by position, and each of the rankings will include some analysis on particularly interesting players. I’ll also be including the rankings from FantasyPros so you can see how I differ from the consensus. Quarterbacks will be kicking things off. While many believe the best strategy is to wait for a quarterback in the draft or simply stream the position week to week, having a top guy you can plug in weekly is more desirable in my experience.
1.) Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs (FantasyPros Rank: 1st)
As much as I love Kyler and Dak this year, Mahomes has to be #1. His worst fantasy finish was QB8 in 2019, a season in which he only played 14 games. He was QB1 in 2018 and QB4 in 2020. He’s the best quarterback in the league and leads the most explosive offense in the league. Easily my top quarterback.
2.) Kyler Murray, Cardinals (FantasyPros Rank: 3rd)
Kyler Murray needs to make the leap to All-Pro level this season for the Cardinals to have a shot at the playoffs. I believe he will. His rushing upside is arguably the best in the NFL. He ranked 2nd in both rushing yards (819) and rushing TDs (11) last season, while coming 3rd in carries (133). If he can put together a solid season throwing the ball, he could explode in fantasy. He was QB2 last year despite ranking 13th in passing yards (3,971) and 12th in passing TDs (26). If he can get those numbers into the 4,000+ and 30+ range, he’ll easily be fighting for the QB1 spot in fantasy. Murray seems likely to hit those numbers this year with new weapons and a full offseason of work with DeAndre Hopkins.
3.) Dak Prescott, Cowboys (FantasyPros Rank: 5th)
In four games last season Dak threw for 1,690 yards and 9 touchdowns. He also rushed for 93 yards and 3 touchdowns. Stretched over a 16 game season, those numbers would have totaled 6,760 yards and 36 touchdowns through the air and 372 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. Those numbers would equal 523 fantasy points, the most of all time and the only total to ever pass 500. So yeah, he was really fucking good last season. And nothing has changed for Dak. He has Zeke, a great O-line, and one of the best receiving corps in the league. He’s a prime candidate to finish the year as QB1.
4.) Josh Allen, Bills (FantasyPros Rank: 2nd)
I don’t have any problems with Josh Allen if I’m being honest, I just like the other guys more. Since 2012, only one QB has finished 1st in fantasy one season and then proceeded to finish in the top-3 the next season. Drew Brees did it in 2012-2013. So history is not on Allen’s side as the reigning fantasy QB1. I’m sure he’ll have a great season, but I see much more upside with Murray and Prescott.
5.) Lamar Jackson, Ravens (FantasyPros Rank: 4th)
Lamar had a hugely disappointing 2020, but it’s not his fault we drafted him recklessly. His ADP was in the 1st round last season, and he was universally decreed QB1. We over drafted him and paid the price. But all the things that were true of him last year are still true. He still has elite rushing upside (1,000+ yards and 7 touchdowns in 2019 and 2020). He still relies on touchdowns to boost his passing production (36 in 2019 MVP season, only 26 in 2020). And he still needs help from his skill position players.
I expect him to get some help with the emergence of JK Dobbins, drafting of Rashod Bateman, and signing of Sammy Watkins. The rushing is a sure thing and the passing figures to look more like his MVP numbers due to the new weapons. He’s still a somewhat risky pick after his 2020 struggles though, keeping him out of my top four.
6.) Aaron Rodgers, Packers (FantasyPros Rank: 8th)
He’s back baby, and he’s going all scorched earth on the Packers organization. One of two things is going to happen; either he has an amazing season and then gives GB the middle finger one last time before leaving, or he has an amazing season and is convinced to stay. Both of those options include him having an amazing season. He’s Aaron Rodgers, the reigning MVP quarterback who led the league in passing touchdowns with 48 in 2020.
He’s got Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, and old reliable Randall Cobb. The issue is he’s never going to give you rushing production, which is almost essential to be a top-5 QB in fantasy. Also, it’s hard to imagine him repeating those MVP numbers. 2020 was a career year for Rodgers, posting his best TD and quarterback rating numbers ever. It was only the first time he threw more than 26 touchdowns since 2016. It’s natural to expect him to take a step back. Lack of rushing work combined with expected regression makes Rodgers a good, but not great option at QB this year.
7.) Tom Brady, Buccaneers (FantasyPros Rank: 11th)
I’m a lot higher on Brady than most, which I just don’t understand. I love him for all the same reasons I love Aaron Rodgers. They’re two of the most talented QBs of all time coming off of great 2020 seasons. And they both have great skill position players surrounding them. Brady’s first year in Tampa resulted in ranking 3rd in passing yards (4,616) and 2nd in TDs (40). He was QB7 in fantasy.
Imagine what he can do in his second year with a full and (relatively) normal offseason with his team. It’s time to accept that Brady just isn’t going to fall off, and unlike Rodgers, I think Brady can easily replicate his 2020 numbers, if not improve on them. But of course, he will give you absolutely zero ground production, whereas Rodgers gives you a little. That’s why he’s at 7.
8.) Justin Herbert, Chargers (FantasyPros Rank: 7th)
The guy had the greatest season for a rookie QB ever. How can you not be excited for his sophomore season? Gives you solid production with his legs? Check. Surrounded by an elite group of skill position players? Check. Great player whose more likely to improve than regress? Check. I love Herbert, and I end up with him in mock drafts a lot. There’s nothing not to love about this guy. He’s in a perfect situation and is incredibly talented. The only reason he’s not ranked higher is because he is still only a sophomore, and his rookie season took place during the strangest year in NFL history. Do I really doubt him though? No, he’s a great mid-late round target that could easily put together a top-3 season.
9.) Matthew Stafford, Rams (FantasyPros Rank: 12th)
At this point in the rankings I’m mainly looking for quarterback upside, and Stafford has a ton. There is also a lot of risk though. He’s an incredibly talented quarterback who was stuck in a bad situation (The Detroit Lions) for his entire career. Now, he steps into a Sean McVay offense with talented receiving weapons, and the hype is off the charts. Personally, I believe it. I think he’s going to have an awesome season.
Now that Cam Akers is out for the whole year, the Rams will likely go with a more pass-heavy attack than they usually do. Stafford could potentially be an All-Pro level player with the Rams. But he could also produce a classically average Matthew Stafford season. For Stafford, and all other guys ranked below him, you have to take a second quarterback if he is your QB1. You can’t put all your eggs in a risky basket and expect to emerge unscathed.
10.) Russell Wilson, Seahawks (FantasyPros Rank: 6th)
The Seahawks just don’t want to let Russ cook, they don’t. Since 2017, Russell Wilson has 30+ touchdowns in every season. In that same span, the Hawks have never ranked better than 13th in passing play percentage. In 2020, Wilson started scorching hot and then promptly cooled down in the second half of the season. I know he has great weapons, but the offensive line is still a major concern and I don’t see the upside for Wilson that I do for a lot of other quarterbacks. He doesn’t run the ball nearly as often or effectively as he used to and he’s not in a pass-heavy offense. I just don’t trust him or the Seahawks, especially in a division with two of the best defenses in football (LAR & SF).
11.) Joe Burrow, Bengals (FantasyPros Rank: 13th)
Again, upside. Before getting hurt last season Joe Burrow had more pass attempts than any other quarterback in the league. That number will surely come down assuming Joe Mixon is healthy and Cincy plays better than they did in 2020. But, he’s still gonna throw the ball a ton, and his group of weapons is one of the best. Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins could both be a top target in a different offense, and we all know about the Burrow-Ja’Marr Chase connection. Throw in some run support in the form of Mixon and an improved offensive line and Burrow is clearly poised for a breakout season. And oh yeah, the Bengals defense still sucks, so this team is going to play from behind A LOT.
12.) Jalen Hurts, Eagles (FantasyPros Rank: 9th)
As time has gone on I’ve come to like Jalen Hurts less and less. I know there’s upside due to his elite running ability but that’s just about the only thing to be optimistic about. He only played in five games last season and only three of those were started and finished by him. In only one of those did he have double digit passing touchdowns. And in only two did he have 200+ passing yards. Those were against the Cardinals and Cowboys, both terrible defenses.
The offensive line is still a concern and there are very few receiving weapons in Philly. You’ve got DeVonta Smith (a rookie) and Miles Sanders (a RB), and pretty much nothing after that. There was also a coaching change in Philly and we have yet to see how that plays out. There are so many doubts surrounding Hurts and the only bright spot is his legs. I like him as a late round flyer but I’ll never take him as my QB1, its way too risky.