2021 Fantasy Football Preseason QB Rankings

Hello, fantasy friends. It’s year three of TDN’s fantasy football rankings and this season they’re out earlier than ever. If this is your first time coming to TDN for fantasy content, or if you just want a refresher, here is some background on how these rankings were determined. 

More than 40 hours of research went into the ranking process, starting with custom stat projections for more than 250 NFL players—those projections will be publicly available here on TDN in mid-June. After making those projections, I determined the order you’ll see below based on potential upside, injury risk, likelihood of reaching the projected total, how many games they’ll play, etc. Please keep in mind that the rankings below are not simply in descending order of projected fantasy points—although the rankings are very heavily weighted by those projections.

All of my rankings reflect the order in which I would take players if I were drafting today in a 12-team, full-PPR, single-QB league with ESPN scoring and no bonuses.

If you have any specific questions or want to know more about what I think of certain players, follow me on Twitter (@JaimeEisner) or Instagram (@JaimeEisnerTDN). I’d be happy to chat with you! Also, be sure to tune in to the TDN Fantasy Podcast for in-depth audio breakdowns of these rankings, my projections, and all the latest fantasy football news throughout the 2021 football season. 

Let’s get into the rankings! Here are my top 35 quarterbacks, broken down into tiers:

Other RankingsRB | WR | TE

TIER 1

1. Lamar Jackson (QB - BAL)

2. Patrick Mahomes (QB - KC)

3. Josh Allen (QB - BUF)

This trio is the clear cream of the crop. I believe all three of these passers cross the 400-fantasy-point threshold in the upcoming 17-game season. I wouldn’t fuss too much about the exact order of the top three, but Jackson got the nod as QB1 thanks to his high rushing upside and the addition of a trio of new pass-catchers this offseason.

While Jackson is coming off a down fantasy season by his lofty standards, he did finish 2020 strong. From Week 10 on, Jackson was the QB2 with an average of 25.48 fantasy points per game (just 0.87 FPPG behind Josh Allen). Plus, he has a strong chance to play a full season this year after sitting out Week 17 two years ago because Baltimore benched its starters and missing Week 12 this past season on the COVID-19 list.

As for the other two quarterbacks, Mahomes is an absolute stud who will be in contention for the league’s passing touchdown crown and overall passing title. While the jury is still out on how Kansas City’s reshuffled offensive line holds up, the Chiefs and Mahomes shouldn’t be challenged too much in the regular (i.e. fantasy) season. Allen was superb last season and with the same weapons and coaches around him in 2021, there’s no reason to believe he can’t string together a second magnificent campaign.

TIER 2

4. Kyler Murray (QB - ARI)

5. Tom Brady (QB - TB)

6. Dak Prescott (QB - DAL)

7. Russell Wilson (QB - SEA)

8. Ryan Tannehill (QB - TEN)

If you’re not willing to pay the premium to draft the elite of the elite—quite frankly, I don’t blame you—you’ll be thrilled to land any one of these passers in Tier 2. 

Murray ascended into fantasy stardom last season. While he still has work to do to become a better real-life passer, his rushing upside and slightly upgraded weapons should allow him to have a high level of fantasy success—just don’t expect a return to that QB1 spot. Tannehill is extremely efficient and now has a shiny new weapon in Julio Jones to go along with A.J. Brown.

Veterans Brady and Wilson are always steady fantasy presences. Brady, in particular, was a fantasy star from Week 10 on last season (when he finally fully grasped Tampa Bay’s playbook), finishing as the QB4 (24.34) in average fantasy points per game over his final seven games. His entire offense and coaching staff are back, too! Wilson’s second half (17.08 FPPG, QB15) was concerning—as is any sort of re-commitment to Seattle running the ball more—but when you look up at season’s end, he’s a consistently productive top-10 fantasy quarterback.

The wild card of this group is Prescott, who could very well lead the league in passing with enough volume to jump into the first tier for fantasy purposes. However, I can’t put him inside the top five until we see him back on the football field with no limitations after his horrific season-ending injury last year.

TIER 3

9. Aaron Rodgers (QB - GB)

10. Justin Herbert (QB - LAC)

11. Jalen Hurts (QB - PHI)

12. Joe Burrow (QB - CIN)

13. Matt Ryan (QB - ATL)

14. Trevor Lawrence (QB - JAX)

This represents the “I’m perfectly OK with any of these guys as my QB1” tier. There are plenty of risks here—Rodgers’ status in Green Bay and touchdown percentage regression, Herbert has a new coordinator and lost a key weapon, Hurts is so reliant on rushing on a franchise in disarray, Burrow is coming off a major knee injury, Ryan will likely be without Julio Jones, and Lawrence is a rookie—but also a lot of potential. You very well could get through the season with any one of these quarterbacks, but they don’t quite reach set-it-and-forget-it territory.

TIER 4

15. Justin Fields (QB - CHI)

16. Matthew Stafford (QB - LAR)

17. Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB - WSH)

18. Kirk Cousins (QB - MIN)

19. Tua Tagovailoa (QB - MIA)

20. Zach Wilson (QB - NYJ)

If you’re a fantasy player who prefers to draft a second quarterback, this is the tier you’ll be happy to get your QB2 from. All six of these players should be able to get you between 18-19 fantasy points per game on average and can be more than solid bye week fill-ins or matchup plays. The top three—Fields, Stafford, and Fitzpatrick—will likely be ranked as QB1s for a handful of weeks in the regular season based on matchups, too. 

TIER 5

21. Tyrod Taylor (QB - HOU)

22. Trey Lance (QB - SF)

23. Derek Carr (QB - LV)

This feels like the speculative tier. Taylor has proven to be a better fantasy quarterback than public perception would have you believe, but there’s a good chance he’s not Houston’s starter once we get to the fantasy playoffs. Lance is a high-upside, low-floor rookie with an unclear start date. Carr is the most known commodity but needs someone other than Darren Waller to step up for him to be a no-doubt top-20 fantasy QB.

TIER 6

24. Jared Goff (QB - DET)

25. Baker Mayfield (QB - CLE)

26. Daniel Jones (QB - NYG)

27. Ben Roethlisberger (QB - PIT)

28. Carson Wentz (QB - IND)

29. Cam Newton (QB - NE)

30. Jimmy Garoppolo (QB - SF)

This is the shrug emoji tier. Goff will be on the fringe of fantasy relevancy just based on pure volume—the Lions may never lead a game in the fourth quarter. Mayfield’s per-pass-attempt numbers will be much better than this, but he might not throw the ball even 550 times over 17 starts. Jones has a lot more weapons at his disposal this season, but, quite frankly, isn’t very good. Roethlisberger will have some big weeks but is sharply trending in the wrong direction. Wentz… yeah I’m not going to even guess what Wentz is going to do this season. Newton and Garoppolo will be OK while they’re still starting, but both are poised to lose their jobs mid-season.

TIER 7

31. Jameis Winston (QB - NO)

32. Sam Darnold (QB - CAR)

33. Drew Lock (QB - DEN)

34. Mac Jones (QB - NE)

35. Andy Dalton (QB - CHI)

And here are the rest. I know what Winston was able to do fantasy-wise the last time he was a starter, but that was an anomaly. He doesn’t have as many wide receiver weapons, is in a different offense, and will lose an undetermined number of snaps to Taysom Hill. Darnold needs to prove he can be a good fantasy quarterback for more than 2-3 games in a row (and not just at home) before he’s draftable. Lock, like Daniel Jones, has plenty of weapons and probably won’t do anything with them. Mac Jones has no weapons and won’t be starting right away. Dalton’s days are already numbered. 

*NOTE: Deshaun Watson is intentionally not ranked. Once his status for the 2021 season becomes clear, he will be added to the rankings.

TOP 35 QBs

  1. Lamar Jackson
  2. Patrick Mahomes
  3. Josh Allen
  4. Kyler Murray
  5. Tom Brady
  6. Dak Prescott
  7. Russell Wilson
  8. Ryan Tannehill
  9. Aaron Rodgers
  10. Justin Herbert
  11. Jalen Hurts
  12. Joe Burrow
  13. Matt Ryan
  14. Trevor Lawrence
  15. Justin Fields
  16. Matthew Stafford
  17. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  18. Kirk Cousins
  19. Tua Tagovailoa
  20. Zach Wilson
  21. Tyrod Taylor
  22. Trey Lance
  23. Derek Carr
  24. Jared Goff
  25. Baker Mayfield
  26. Daniel Jones
  27. Ben Roethlisberger
  28. Carson Wentz
  29. Cam Newton
  30. Jimmy Garoppolo
  31. Jameis Winston
  32. Sam Darnold
  33. Drew Lock
  34. Mac Jones
  35. Andy Dalton

Written By:

Jaime Eisner

Managing Editor

Managing Editor of The Draft Network. He’s a former editor for Sports Illustrated, FanRag Sports and Arizona Sports. He’s the co-host of the TDN Fantasy Podcast and has an extensive background covering fantasy sports and sports betting.

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