As we are rolling along this offseason, we are laying the groundwork for early best ball drafts, new dynasty startups, and everything else under the fantasy sun as we gear up for the next NFL season. The league’s landscape is going to shift a lot through free agency and the NFL draft, but we are starting that early outlook at the ground floor with positional ranks.
These will move and be updated throughout the offseason (and I surely will have a lot more to say on players as we move on) so keep tabs on them through the spring as we dig deeper in-depth as rosters change and schedules are released. After recapping the historic performance that quarterbacks had throwing and running the ball this past season, we are kicking things off with the quarterback position.
1. Patrick Mahomes: Mahomes has been the QB1 (26.1 points), QB6 (20.5), and QB2 (24.9) in points per game over his three seasons as a starter. He leads all quarterbacks in fantasy games of 20-plus points (30) and games with three or more passing touchdowns (21) over that span.
* Deshaun Watson: Watson has averaged over 20 fantasy points per game in each of his four seasons in the league. Coming off a season where he averaged a career-high 19.4 passing points per game and led the NFL in yards per pass attempt (8.9 Y/A) in a season where his surrounding cast was at its lowest, Watson has shown he can thrive under any circumstances.
With Watson’s current off-field situation in limbo, drafting him is completely dependent on your risk tolerance level. We were in a similar place of unknown with Tyreek Hill at this point in 2019 early drafts, but going all-in on risk-vs- reward is not really necessary at the quarterback position in 1QB formats. I am leaving Watson out of the official rankings until the matter is resolved because I would not currently draft him myself.
2. Lamar Jackson: After setting a record for fantasy points per game in 2019, Jackson dipped to 10th a year ago (22.2) as the inevitable passing regression took him from 17.1 passing points per game in 2019 down to 13.1 per game last season. Jackson still is the best dual-threat option when all is working and has a terrific floor, becoming the first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. An added game, added weaponry, and more aggressive offensive mindset on early downs (Jackson was 37th in percentage of pass attempts on first down at 37.5%) and Jackson can immediately compete to be the top-scoring quarterback once again.
3. Josh Allen: After finishing as the QB6 in 2019, Allen had a career-season in year three as he led all quarterbacks in fantasy scoring overall and was the QB3 in points per game (24.7). Allen made a seismic jump as a passer with 19.4 passing points per game while throwing for 4,544 yards and 37 touchdowns. After zero career 300-yard passing games through two seasons, he had eight in 2020. Even if his passing stats recoil, he also is paired with a tremendous rushing upside, being the first quarterback in league history to rush for seven or more touchdowns in three straight seasons.
4. Dak Prescott: After being the QB3 in points per game in 2019 (21.1 points), Prescott was pacing the position a year ago at 26.9 points per game through five games prior to missing the remainder of the season with a gruesome ankle injury. Prescott was averaging a career-high 5.5 rushing points per game, so we will have to wait on the impact of the injury for his rushing performance, but his supporting cast is still among the best in the league.
5. Kyler Murray: Murray has now been the QB12 (17.8) and QB5 (23.7) in points per game through his two NFL seasons. Murray led all quarterbacks in rushing fantasy points a year ago (147.9) as his rushing line (819 yards and 11 touchdowns) accounted for 44.6% of his output after 30.6% as a rookie. Murray has been just the QB26 and QB19 in passing points per game to start his career, but if that passing game output finally clicks, he has just as high of a ceiling as anyone at the position.
6. Aaron Rodgers: After questioning a potential decline over the previous three seasons and the Packers drafting his potential replacement in the first round this past season, Rodgers roared back as the league’s MVP, setting career-highs in completion rate (70.7%), touchdown passes (48), and touchdown rate (9.1%). Even for Rodgers, we should anticipate recoil in those rate stats while his rushing yardage per game has dropped from the season prior in four straight seasons. Rodgers is rumored to be trying to force his way out of Green Bay this season. Only a handful of teams will able to make that kind of play for his services should the Packers be willing to part with the 16-year signal caller. If Rodgers stays in Green Bay, we know what we are getting, but could arguably have a strong supporting cast in a place such as Denver as well.
7. Russell Wilson: Wilson is the only quarterback to throw 30 or more passing touchdowns in each of the past four seasons. After closing 2020 as the QB6 in overall scoring last year, Wilson has now finished as a top-10 overall scorer in each of his nine NFL seasons. The only downside for Wilson is that he has made a trend of being a meteoric starter to seasons before fizzling to close campaigns for fantasy. Wilson has had just four top-10 scoring weeks post-Week 8 in 17 games the past two seasons as opposed to 10 in 15 games over the front halves of those seasons. As an added pro if he puts a full season together moving forward, Wilson’s 32.1 rushing yards per game were his most since 2017.
8. Justin Herbert: Herbert was the QB8 in points per game (22.2). After being pressed into the starting role by accident in Week 2, Herbert then set a rookie record with 31 passing touchdowns while averaging 3.6 rushing points per game (12th). Herbert did cool down the stretch with just two QB1 scoring weeks over his final six games, but is now free from a staff that had him throw just 35.1% of his passes on first down, which was 39th in the league.
9. Jalen Hurts: Hurts scored 19.3, 37.8, 18.6, and 16.3 points in his four starts last season after the Philadelphia season was a lost cause. His 272 rushing yards in those starts were second in league history for a quarterback over his first career four starts behind Lamar Jackson. Hurts was last in the league in completion rate (52%), but also last in expected completion rate (55.5%), according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Despite that, he still led all rookie passers in yards per pass attempt (7.7 Y/A) from a clean pocket. If the Eagles commit to Hurts for a season, he joins the high-floor group aided by rushing production with the upside of crashing a ceiling should he improve from a passing stance.
10. Tom Brady: In his first season with Tampa Bay, Brady closed the year as the QB8 overall and the QB11 in points per game (21.1) at age 43. 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. Brady got better as the season wore on, throwing multiple touchdown passes in each of his final 11 games of the season. With a full offseason and if the Buccaneers are able to retain Chris Godwin, Father Time still waits to claim Brady.
11. Ryan Tannehill: Even with efficiency regression in play for Tannehill across the board from his 2019 output, he still closed 2020 as the QB10 in points per game (21.5 points). Tannehill has now been a top-10 weekly scorer at the position in 16 of his 26 regular season starts with the Titans. One looming question is if there will be any impact from Arthur Smith’s departure to Atlanta while former tight end coach Todd Downing transitions to offensive coordinator. Tannehill thrived under Smith, especially in the play-action game, fishing as the QB4 in overall fantasy points using play-action in 2020 (107.8).
12. Matt Ryan: We are now in the portion of fantasy options that do not offer as much with their legs as the quarterbacks above. We know what we have in Ryan. The soon-to-be 36-year-old quarterback 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 has thrown for at least 4,000 yards in 10 straight seasons. Ryan has completed over 400 passes in each of the past three seasons and has led the league in completions in each of the past two seasons. Forced to rely solely on passing output, Ryan has turned in just four top-six scoring weeks over the past two seasons, but will get to work with Arthur Smith as mentioned above this season with Tannehill.
13. Matthew Stafford: Stafford has not closed a season as a QB1 in each of the past three seasons, but a change of scenery in his trade to the Rams may get him back there. Stafford has had comparably good weaponry throughout his career to what the Rams currently offer, but Sean McVay is the best coach he has worked with while this will surely be the best team has played for on paper entering a season arguably over Stafford’s career. One thing to watch out for is Stafford is having surgery on the torn UCL he played with a year ago this offseason.
14. Kirk Cousins: 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. Over the past two years, Cousins has ranked fifth and sixth in the league in passing points per attempt and seventh and third in yards per pass attempt. The unfortunate part is that efficiency has been tethered to pedestrian volume as Cousins has been 29th and 26th in pass attempts per game over those seasons. After rushing for 13 touchdowns over his three seasons as a starter with Washington, Cousins has rushed for three touchdowns over his three seasons with the Vikings.
15. Joe Burrow: Burrow completed 65.3% of his passes and averaged 17.4 points per game (QB17) over his 10 starts as a rookie. He threw 13 touchdown passes to five interceptions. His 45.3 dropbacks per game were second in the NFL and he took a sack on 7.3% of those dropbacks. All of those hits caught up to him as Burrow suffered a torn ACL and MCL and had reconstructive knee surgery in December. Burrow continues to trend positively towards starting the season and can be a riser through the offseason if all is 100%, but that injury could take away partial output to start the season from the 3.2 rushing points per game Burrow added as a rookie.
16. Trevor Lawrence: Lawrence started 15 games as a freshman in 2018, completing 65.2% of his passes for 8.3 yards per attempt to with a 30-to-4 touchdown to interception ratio, closing that age 19 season down by throwing for 347 yards (10.8 Y/A) and three touchdowns against Alabama. From that point on, Lawrence raised his completion rate, yards per pass attempt, and adjusted Y/A (which factors in TD/INT rate) in each of the following two seasons. For his career in the red zone, Lawrence connected on 51 touchdowns to just three interceptions. Not only paired with a stellar passing resume, but Lawrence is also no slouch in athleticism, either. While he does not have the rushing resume of other top players in this class, Lawrence is still in the 56th percentile in career rushing output for all prospects since 2000. Lawrence added 177, 563, and 203 rushing yards over his three seasons at Clemson with 18 touchdowns on the ground. Playing under Urban Meyer, Lawrence’s athleticism should be a component of the offense.
17. Carson Wentz: While it has been a tough road for Wentz since his breakout 2017 season, he has closed the past three seasons as the QB18, QB15, and QB21 in fantasy points per game. His saving grace at the time a year ago in a travesty of a season was him averaging a career-high 4.8 rushing points per game after 1.7 per game over his first four years in the league. From a clean pocket, Wentz averaged just 6.5 Y/A in 2020, which was 40th in the league. Now, Wentz will look to channel the magic he and Frank Reich had in 2017 while his current supporting cast in Indianapolis still leaves a lot of question marks on the table on elevating him back to QB1 status.
18. Baker Mayfield: I know I have now gone out of order and I will explain in a moment why. After a step back during his second season, Mayfield rebounded across the board off his 2019 efficiency numbers in completion rate (62.8%), yards per attempt (7.3 Y/A), and touchdown rate (5.4%). For fantasy, Mayfield has struggled to make a huge impact, closing as the QB20, QB28, and the QB25 in points per game to start his career with 14 QB1 scoring weeks in 46 regular season starts.
19. Tua Tagovailoa: It was a tough road for Tua in his rookie season despite his team posting a 6-3 record in his nine starts. Tagovailoa managed just 6.3 Y/A (37th) with 11 touchdown passes. Tagovailoa finished higher than QB15 in just one of those nine starts. Entering an offseason with no workouts and coming off a major injury, we did not even know if Tagovailoa would play as a rookie and the Dolphins only gave him marginal help. Tua’s top receivers were Mike Gesicki (29 receptions), Lynn Bowden (27), DeVante Parker (23), and Jakeem Grant (21). We are still left with questioning how much Alabama’s supreme talent depth at receiver played a role in elevating Tagovailoa, but the lights are still on for a year two jump with Miami making strides in adding talent to their offensive roster this offseason in Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle.
20. Zach Wilson: At 6’2” and 214 pounds, Wilson is not built as sturdy as the other top quarterbacks in this class, but his off-script playmaking and arm strength playmaking are the traits that have boosted his draft stock this entire offseason. As a true freshman at age 19 in 2018, Wilson took over as the starting quarterback just five games into the season. In that freshman year, he completed 65.9% of his passes for 8.7 Y/A with 12 touchdowns to three interceptions. Wilson regressed in 2019 and missed time with a shoulder injury. In his sophomore season, Wilson saw all of his rate stats regress from his freshman season before roaring back in 2020 with by far his best season, completing 73.5% of his passes for 11.0 Y/A and a 33-to-3 TD-to-INT rate. Out of all quarterback prospects since 2000, it was just the eighth time that a quarterback had completed over 70% of his passes to go along with over 10.0 yards per pass attempt and over 30 passing touchdowns in their final collegiate season. Expected to start immediately in Week 1 along with Trevor Lawrence, Wilson is an upside-QB2.
21. Justin Fields: Fields enters the NFL ranking in the 97th percentile in career TD/INT rate (7.4:1), 94th percentile in career completion rating (68.4%), and 93rd percentile in career yards per pass attempt (9.2 Y/A) for all prospects since 2000 while also coming out in the 85th percentile in career rushing output among the same group. Fields may not start Week 1 like we are expecting with Lawrence and Wilson, but it should not take long with Andy Dalton as the only hurdle to climb. Once Fields is able to suit up, he is the archetype of quarterback that has been at the top of the position in recent seasons.
22. Derek Carr: Carr is coming off arguably his best season as a passer. His 7.94 Y/A were a career-high as his 5.2% touchdown rate was his highest rate in a season since 2015. Carr’s depth of target (8.5 yards) significantly spiked from his 6.9-yard aDOT in 2019 and 7.1-yard mark in 2018. Carr closed the season with five QB1 scoring weeks over his final seven games to build off of, but with that factored in, closed the season as the QB13 in overall scoring and the QB19 in points per game, making him the QB19 or lower in points per game output in six of his seven seasons in the league.
23. Daniel Jones: A breakout candidate for many last year, Jones struggled in his second season, managing just 11 touchdown passes after 24 as a rookie. While Jones’s touchdown rate (2.5%) was suppressed from his 5.2% mark as a rookie which overshot his peripheral passing stats, his yards per attempt (6.6) and completion rate (62.5%) were right on par with his rookie campaign. Through two seasons, Jones has been the QB16 or lower in 19 of his 26 starts. The one positive for Jones is that he finished with 3.1 and 3.5 rushing points per game through two years. Josh Allen’s 2020 turnaround as a passer may give some hope for those believing Jones can still access his ceiling if everything comes together.
24. Ben Roethlisberger: Big Ben has expressed his desire to play in 2021, but there are still some hurdles to clear for him and the Steelers surrounding his salary. This past season, Roethlisberger had plenty of volume, attempting 40.5 passes per game (second in the league), but he averaged just 6.3 yards per pass attempt (38th), which was a career-low. That went along with a career-low depth of target of 7.4 yards, which was 32nd in the league. A 5.4% touchdown rate (11th) kept Roethlisberger afloat as the QB14 in overall scoring and the QB13 in points per game, but Roethlisberger was more of a floor play as he posted just five QB1 scoring weeks and eight as the QB17 or lower.
25. Sam Darnold: 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.
26. Ryan Fitzpatrick: Fitzpatrick joins his ninth NFL franchise, getting an opportunity to head into 2021 as the starting quarterback for Washington ahead of Taylor Heinicke. 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.
27. Jameis Winston: 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.
28. Jared Goff: The first two seasons of pairing Goff with Sean McVay were a 180 from Goff’s lackluster rookie season. Over the 2017-2018 seasons, Goff’s 60 touchdown passes were the fourth-most in the NFL. His 5.8% touchdown rate was eighth in the league over that span among all quarterbacks with over 100 dropbacks while he averaged 8.2 yards per pass attempt (sixth) and 12.8 yards per completion (fifth). The wheels then began to loosen as Goff threw 42 touchdown passes (18th) over the past two seasons as his touchdown rate fell down to 3.6%, which was 41st among passers with over 100 dropbacks. Goff’s Y/A fell to 7.3 yards (24th) and his yards per completion dipped to 11.2 yards (23rd). Now, Goff looks to revitalize his career with a Detroit roster that currently has Quintez Cephus and Geronimo Allison at the top of their depth chart at wide receiver.
29. Trey Lance: Coming into college, Lance was not really on anybody’s radar. He was a two-star prospect with an unimpressive list of collegiate offers. After sitting behind Easton Stick in 2018, Lance got a chance to start at North Dakota State in 2019 at just age 19 and turned in one of the most statistically bonkers seasons, completing 66.9% of his passes for 9.7 Y/A and throwing 28 touchdowns to zero interceptions. While that is impressive in itself, Lance also added 1,100 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. 6’4” and 224 pounds at his Pro Day, Lance has the requisite build for a quarterback while paired with an absolute howitzer and being the most gifted runner among all these quarterbacks. The only immediate concern with Lance is when does he finally start for the 49ers? Given his collegiate competition, playing in just one game (versus Central Arkansas), and Jimmy Garoppolo still being in San Francisco, Lance could a slower burn for fantasy that comes on strong to close his rookie season.
30. Mac Jones: Jones was strong filling in through Tua Tagovailoa’s injury in 2019, completing 68.8% of his passes for 10.7 Y/A and a 14-to-3 TD-to-INT rate, but then just blew the doors off his 2020 campaign when fully locked in as the catalyst of the Alabama offense. Last year, Jones completed 77.4% of his passes for 11.2 Y/A to go with 41 touchdowns and just four interceptions. The only quarterbacks to hit those same thresholds of 70% completions and over 10.0 Y/A to go with 40-plus touchdowns in their final season were Joe Burrow a year ago and Baker Mayfield in 2017. And with Jones, he had that season playing SEC against top opponents. Although he is not someone to count on for rushing performance like the top-four quarterbacks in this class, Jones did come out his Pro Day in the 71st percentile athletically at his position, showing he is a better athlete than his profile suggests. The Patriots had just 12 passing touchdowns a year ago, which was tied for the fewest in the league. They also averaged 6.6 yards per pass attempt, which ranked 26th.
31. Teddy Bridgewater: Bridgewater did not throw more than two touchdown passes in any of his starts with Carolina last season, but was ninth in the league in rushing points at the position. Transitioning over to Denver, Bridgewater’s game-managing style should placate to a defensive-minded coaching staff sooner than later while Bridgewater will have a strong stable of young pass catchers when he does push Drew Lock.
32. Cam Newton: Restructuring his deal, Newton is returning to the Patriots. 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. Unable to completely go unscathed in preventing multiple benchings in 2020 when Jarrett Stidham was behind him, Newton should concede ground to Mac Jones at some point in season.
33. Jimmy Garoppolo: Garoppolo has made it through one complete season as an NFL starter, He has been a QB1 scorer in 10 of his 30 regular-season starts with the 49ers, but does have a 5.2% touchdown rate with San Francisco. With the 49ers already selected their next franchise quarterback in Trey Lance, Garoppolo will be fortunate to hold onto the job for the entirety of the season.
34. 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.
35. Drew Lock: Lock has made 18 career starts and has finished higher than QB20 for fantasy in just five of them. The hits have been big (all of those are top-eight scoring weeks), but Lock’s completion rate (57.3%), touchdown rate (3.6%), and interception rate (3.4%) were all worse in his second season. Expected to be pushed by Teddy Bridgewater, Lock will need to make a massive stride forward as this situation is similar to the one Mitchell Trubisky was in a year ago.
36. Tyrod Taylor: The Texans added Tyrod Taylor on a 1-year deal that could be one part insurance should Deshaun Watson end up holding out should the relationship between the Texans and their star quarterback reach a stalemate, he is outright traded, or Watson’s off-field allegations escalate even further. In all of those events, Taylor can also serve as a, early-season starter, backup and mentor to a young quarterback.
37. Andy Dalton: Signing a 1-year deal for $10M, Dalton appears to be in line to be the Bears starting quarterback for the 2021 season. Dalton will turn 34-years-old in October of the season, coming off completing 64.9% of his passes with 6.5 yards per pass attempt with the Cowboys last season. In nine starts for Dallas, Dalton averaged 14.9 fantasy points per game with an average scoring week as the QB19, posting one QB1 scoring week over those starts. Trading a completely superior set of skill players for Chicago, Dalton will give ground to Justin Fields sooner than later.
38. Davis Mills: With Stanford only playing six games in 2020 and two career ACL tears, Mills has just 491 career dropbacks on his resume for a four-year player. On that resume, Mills enters the NFL in the 78th percentile in career completion rate, the 52nd percentile in yards per pass attempt, and the 40th percentile in touchdown-to-interception rate. A traditional archetype elevated by tools, Mills also does not bring much to the table on the rushing end with 86 career rushing yards. At this time, we do not know if Deshaun 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, Mills can make multiple starts as a rookie.
39. Taylor Heinicke: After his performance in the Wild Card Round versus the Super Bowl champs in which Heinicke threw for 306 yards and scored 24.8 fantasy points, Washington immediately gave him a small two-year extension. Heinicke will turn 28-years-old this March with just two career starts under his belt for three organizations.
40. Marcus Mariota: In the one game that Mariota played last season, he still showed there is upside with his mobility as he was the QB9 in fantasy points in Week 15, passing for 8.1 Y/A and adding 88 yards and a rushing score on the ground.