We have already begun setting the table for the 2021 season. We jumped in early with seasonal rankings and player write-ups that will be updated throughout free agency and the NFL Draft. Building off those initial seasonal rankings, we are now laying the groundwork for dynasty formats.
Since I have already laid out initial thoughts and nuggets on players regarding their 2021 outlooks, I’m not going to double down completely on the same approach here. I encourage you to go check those out if you want to see my thoughts on a player heading into this upcoming season. Instead, we are going to lay out the positional tiers with a short synopsis of those tiers and then at the end of the week provide linear top-200 lists for 1QB and SuperFlex formats. At the end of the week, top-200 and top-300 rankings will come out for all formats as a cross-reference.
Some real quick methodology here. If you are new to how I do tiers, I make my dynasty tiers based on a blend of age, fantasy performance, career arc, team situation, and fantasy archetype. There is some overlap to actual player rankings, but these tiers do not specifically follow the rankings, rather those archetypes. There should be tier movement for some players here based on how free agency and the draft plays out, so check back in as news develops this offseason.
The purpose of tiers not being a carbon copy of player rankings is to spot a potential arbitrage situation and shop in different buckets based on how you are constructing your team. A veteran starter that can accrue points immediately based on where a current roster is and other times chasing more youth and upside for the future.
On a linear list, someone such as Joe Burrow is going to be higher than Tua Tagovailoa, but they are not drastically different dynasty options at this current moment than the ranking number in front of their names may suggest in terms of age, career arc, contract situation, and how both players accrue the points they put up.
A player like Aaron Rodgers is still going to be valued on a linear list because the capability of having a season such as the one he had a year ago, but someone such as Matt Ryan is not in a completely different tax bracket despite the gap in the number in front of a name on an ordered list.
As one more reminder, tiers do not equal rankings for players in different tiers, either. A player such as Russell Wilson may rank a tier below a player that is younger and has more fantasy longevity in terms of fantasy value, such as a Trevor Lawrence, but Wilson offers more immediate value for the upcoming season, which is of value for specific startup team builds and approaches.
*Player Age = Age on 9/1/2021
Patrick Mahomes (Age 25.9)
Deshaun Watson (25.9)
Kyler Murray (24.1)
Lamar Jackson (24.7)
Josh Allen (25.3)
Justin Herbert (23.5)
Dak Prescott (28.1)
The top fantasy tier of the position is filled with young, mobile passers that offer the ability to turn in high-scoring passing seasons paired with rushing upside. Quarterbacks continue to elevate in output through the air and with their legs and this archetype of quarterback is hard to arbitrage in fantasy.
From an age perspective, Dak Prescott is the only quarterback here than will be 26 years old or older at the start of the season, but he has shown he belongs in this subset as potential seasonal QB1 overall candidates as he was leading the position in points per game prior to his injury last season after being the QB3 in points per game in 2019.
*Since the initial timing of this post, Deshaun Watson is facing serious off-field allegations that have placed his current and future status in jeopardy. As of this time, we are in a holding pattern while selecting or acquiring him in fantasy is dependent on your risk tolerance. I have completely removed him from seasonal rankings, but he is still in the Dynasty Ranks in the rankings hub.
Joe Burrow (24.7)
Trevor Lawrence (21.9)
Justin Fields (22.5)
Zach Wilson (22.1)
Trey Lance (21.3)
Tua Tagovailoa (23.5)
Baker Mayfield (26.4)
Jalen Hurts (23.1)
Mac Jones (23.0)
The secondary tier is our top rookies and younger options that may not have shown a true QB1 ceiling to date, but still have a lot of their story to be told and have contractual stability. Justin Herbert showed a true fantasy ceiling last season, which bumped him above the other first-round quarterbacks from a year ago.
Joe Burrow suffered both a torn ACL and MCL in Week 11 last season. He had five 300-yard passing games, but closed as the QB18 in passing points per game (14.9) and the QB32 in passing points per pass attempt (.370).
Tua Tagovailoa’s rookie season was more of a struggle for counting stats than Burrow’s, but Tagovailoa’s .367 passing points per attempt were right below Burrow’s. Lack of surrounding talent on offense while coming off a severe injury cloud as potentially limited Tagovailoa’s rookie performance, but he did not offer as much on his own merit to avoid the conversation this offseason on which direction his career could go from here.
The other year-two player here is Jalen Hurts. Hurts fits the mold of having the potential to be a Tier One fantasy asset in a ceiling outcome, but there is still a question mark on just how much the Eagles are committed to even making Hurts the starter for the 2021 season after selecting him with the 53rd overall selection in last year’s draft. Hurts scored 19.3, 37.8, 18.6, and 16.3 points in his four starts last season. The last time we saw Hurts on the field, he completed just 7-of-20 passes for 3.6 Y/A in just three quarters of play and still produced those 16.3 fantasy points. For as much as Hurts has left unanswered as a passer, the past two seasons we have seen passing seasons from Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen that many believed did not exist in their range of outcomes.
Baker Mayfield is the one tweener here in terms of age and contractual situation, but he is still on his rookie contract and given the quarterbacks that Cleveland has had over the previous 20 years, is a safe bet to be extended by the franchise. Out of the quarterbacks in their mid-20s that were not in that opening tier of fantasy studs, Mayfield is the one we can feel the strongest about being a locked-in starter for his current team in 2022. That said, Mayfield has given us only fleeting moments of being an actual fantasy QB1. Mayfield has closed as the QB20, QB28, and the QB25 in points per game to start his career with 14 QB1 scoring weeks in 45 regular season starts.
As for the rookies, I did deeper dives on them and their landing spots in the draft hub. Both Justin Fields and Trey Lance had collegiate careers that rank in the 80th percentile or higher in both passing and rushing performances for all prospects to enter the league since 2000. The fantasy ceilings for both Fields and Lance is enormous.
Both Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson do not have the rushing floors of those two, but both also offer dual-threat ability. From the same prospect pool mentioned above since 2000, Lawrence has a 95th percentile passing career paired with a 55th percentile rushing career while Wilson is at 86th percentile passing and 56th percentile rushing.
The lone one-dimensional first-round rookie this season is Mac Jones, who had a massive season with 11.2 Y/A and 41 touchdown passes to just four interceptions this past season at Alabama. Jones offers zero rushing upside and given Tagovailoa’s rookie season outside of the Alabama environment of not having to make many tight window throws, Jones’s landing spot will be weighted more than the other rookies that create fantasy points while also learning the ropes as passers in the NFL.
Russell Wilson (32.8)
Ryan Tannehill (33.1)
Matthew Stafford (33.6)
Kirk Cousins (33.0)
Derek Carr (30.4)
Our post-30 veterans that still have multiple seasons left in the league paired with starting quarterback security. With the way the NFL is trending, all of these passers have several seasons each left on the table if they choose to keep playing.
Both Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill have been QB1 options for fantasy and offer Tier One upside on a per game and per season basis despite being older than the quarterbacks in that initial tier. Wilson has now finished as a top-10 overall scorer in each of his nine NFL seasons, even if he has closed the past two seasons with weaker back half of the seasons than how he has blazed the front half of those campaigns. Tannehill has now been a top-10 weekly scorer at the position in 16 of his 26 regular season starts with the Titans.
Kirk Cousins does not get a lot of praise, but he is a productive quarterback. Cousins has thrown more 25 or more touchdown passes in six straight seasons.
Aaron Rodgers (37.7)
Matt Ryan (36.3)
Tom Brady (44.1)
Ben Roethlisberger (39.5)
All of the quarterbacks here are older than passers in the previous tier and have an element of being at the career crossroads at play despite each being productive passers and being capable of QB1 scoring seasons any year they are active. They each come with longevity risks, but have high floors while playing.
Aaron Rodgers was absolutely sensational a year ago as the league’s MVP, setting career-highs in completion rate (70.7%), touchdown passes (48), and touchdown rate (9.1%). He will enter the season almost 38 years old, but he can play as long as he wants like Tom Brady has. Rodgers should be expected to have some recoil on his 2020 counting stats and despite how flawless Rodgers was as a passer last season, he still was the QB4 in points per game since his rushing yardage per game has dropped from the season prior in four straight seasons.
Father Time is undefeated, but Brady showed he is still capable of being a fantasy asset for win-now fantasy teams. His 40 passing touchdowns were tied for second in the league as his 6.6% touchdown rate was his highest in a season since 2011.
Matt Ryan has finished lower than QB15 overall in just two of his 13 NFL seasons while averaging at least 17.0 fantasy points in seven of his past 10 seasons. He turns 36 years old this May and there have been surrounding rumors that Atlanta could be looking to move on from Ryan or at minimum, bring in a 2021 backup via the draft. But if Ryan comes into 2021 as the starter, he still has two top-shelf wideouts at his disposal and the unknown impact Arthur Smith can have on the offense.
Daniel Jones (24.2)
Carson Wentz (28.7)
Jared Goff (26.9)
Jimmy Garoppolo (29.8)
Sam Darnold (24.2)
Drew Lock (24.8)
Teddy Bridgewater (28.8)
Jameis Winston (27.7)
Taysom Hill (31.0)
Cam Newton (32.3)
Ryan Fitzpatrick (38.8)
Tier five are the quarterbacks that are technically starting quarterbacks today that have some ambiguity attached to them, whether that be performance-based or potentially have a limited amount of time as being starting quarterbacks by the time September comes around or beyond 2021. There is some upside here, but these are depth, matchup-based plays, and 2QB options more than anyone being a headpin in a successful quarterback stable.
We have covered the trades of Jared Goff to the Lions and Carson Wentz to the Colts. Both quarterbacks have QB1 seasons on their resumes, but have trended negatively the past two seasons after their year-two breakouts. We know that both are starting quarterbacks in 2021, but nothing is guaranteed beyond that.
Daniel Jones has Tier One capability as evidence of his ceiling moments as a rookie. The 2020 season that Josh Allen just put together throwing the ball after two seasons of subpar passing output will give many hopes that Jones can have that breakout potentially in his range of outcomes. The infrastructure that Jones has compared to Allen in Buffalo is certainly the lacking component of the comparison and he could just as easily go the route of Sam Darnold, but Jones still likely has a two-year window with the Giants to channel the best of what he has offered in small samples.
Sam Darnold has been the QB34, QB26, and QB39 in points per game through his three seasons in the league. Darnold has not been afforded much (if any) help during his rookie contract, but was only ahead of Dwayne Haskins in passing points per attempt (.281) this past season. In a move to Carolina, Darnold will have a fresh start on the second act of his career. While expecting Darnold to just flip the switch in a fashion like Ryan Tannehill did getting out from under the thumb of Adam Gase is still more wishful thinking than supported by evidence of Darnold’s play to date, D.J. Moore, Christian McCaffrey, and a reunion with Robby Anderson provide Darnold with the best supporting cast he has had. Darnold also will not move out of QB2-territory in terms of fantasy cost, so if you are into the upside factor, there is low investment.
The last time that Winston was a full starter in 2019, he led the league in passing yards (5,109) and was second in touchdown passes (33) orbiting a league-worst 30 interceptions. When Drew Brees went down mid-season last year, Winston got the immediate call in relief, but in going 6-of-10 with multiple turnover-worthy plays, the Saints then turned the next four starts without Brees over to Taysom Hill.
Hill was serviceable as a spot starter for a four-game stretch, but still has a ton of question marks as a full-time passer. But for fantasy, Hill scored 24.4, 17.5, 23.6, and 18.9 in his starts, which is definitely appealing. We also know that even if the team goes in another direction as the starter, that Hill will still be involved in sub packages and near the goal line.
Hill’s presence and ability to still be a part of things even if Winston is the starter is a thorn in Winston fully re-emerging as a potential QB1 option while the Saints are unlikely to be as free-wheeling as those Buccaneer offenses Winston led, leaving him as an upside QB2 option with Hill.
Ryan Fitzpatrick will turn 39-years-old this November coming off a career-high 68.5% completion rate and 7.8 yards per pass attempt, which was good for his third highest mark of his career. When he has been on the field, Fitzpatrick has turned in fantasy points, averaging 20.1 fantasy points per game over his past 18 starts. In Washington, this is arguably the best offensive line and defense that Fitzpatrick has been attached to in several years.
Cam Newton is coming off a season in which he threw just eight touchdown passes and did not throw more than one touchdown in a game until Week 17, but Newton still turned in eight QB1 scoring weeks, which was more than players such as Ryan Tannehill, Baker Mayfield, and Derek Carr, among others.
Kyle Trask (23.5)
Davis Mills (22.9)
Jamie Newman (23.8)
Kellen Mond (22.1)
Jordan Love (22.8)
Ian Book (23.4)
Bringing things home, our secondary tier of rookie quarterbacks and the inclusion of Jordan Love, who was selected in the first round a year ago. Love was the first quarterback selected in the first round to not start a game as a rookie since Jake Locker in 2011. In fact, Love did not even dress for a game as a backup while Aaron Rodgers turned in arguably his best season to date. There are no signs that Love will find the field soon, but potentially he could be traded himself to open a door outside of waiting on Rodgers and the Packers to part ways.
As for the secondary rookie passers, Kyle Trask is stuck behind Tom Brady, who may play forever. Trask does not offer much on the rushing end of things, but improved across the board over his two years as the starter at Florida and enters the NFL in the 91st percentile in career yards per pass attempt (9.1 Y/A) and 92nd percentile in touchdown-to-interception ratio (4.6).
Davis Mills is the best bet here to draw immediate starts in year one with the ongoing situation surrounding Deshaun Watson. At this time, we do not know if Watson will be available to play for anyone in 2021 and the Texans had very loosely accounted for that with the acquisitions of Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Finley. Knowing that they are basically punting the 2021 season, the team had to take a shot a mid-to-late round quarterback contract to add for 2020 and future competition in preparations that Watson will either not be on their team or available come the start of this season.
Gardner Minshew (25.3)
Mitchell Trubisky (27.0)
Taylor Heinicke (28.5)
We are past the point of locked in starting options, but there is potential here still that any of these passers could either find a new home this offseason that makes them a starting quarterback in 2021, or have potential to start in season depending on their situations.