esny 2021 fantasy football preview qbs
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ESNY commences its 2021 Fantasy Football Preview series by discussing the top 15 fantasy quarterbacks in the NFL.

August is upon us and NFL training camps have commenced.

That means it’s football season, and fantasy football drafts (whether you’re a part of one or two or 12 leagues) are occurring.

I’m sure you and the other individuals in your league have already come up with an embarrassing and horrific punishment for whoever comes in last place, and I bet you’re already praying that doesn’t end up being you.

So if you’re seriously worried about that potential occurrence, ESNY is here to help. While drafting a quarterback isn’t the most common move in the opening round, this is still a crucial position for your team and one that will be responsible for a significant number of the points scored in your individual matchups.

Let’s take a look at the top 15 fantasy quarterbacks for this upcoming season.

Disclaimer: I didn’t add Deshaun Watson to this list because I seriously do not know if he will play for the Texans, or at all, in 2021. There are 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault/sexual misconduct by Watson during massage sessions. Ten women, eight of whom filed civil lawsuits, have also filed criminal complaints.

Not to mention, there’s still the chance the Texans trade him.

It’s unclear if the league will eventually take action amid Watson’s legal battle, and like many, I’m unaware of his eventual fate, both on and off the field.

I didn’t add rookies either. I don’t think Trey Lance, Mac Jones, or Justin Fields will play the entire season. And while I believe Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson could undergo productive years, the first season in the NFL is a huge developmental period — mistakes will be made and there will be some clunkers.

15. Baker Mayfield (CLE)

I understand people may not be high on Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, and reasonably so. Despite the number of weapons around him (and boy are there a whole lot of them), the 2018 No. 1 overall pick hasn’t taken that significant on-field leap and proven he’s the absolute long-term signal-caller for this franchise.

If there’s a year in which he can tremendously develop and become one of the top quarterbacks in the league, it’s this upcoming one. Given the situation and the terrific offensive assistance, I’d definitely take a flyer on Baker.

14 Daniel Jones (NYG)

Daniel Jones — another quarterback people aren’t high on.

But this could be the year for DJ.

Not only are the Giants returning Saquon Barkley from injury, but the third-year quarterback has a new No. 1 wideout in Kenny Golladay (four-year contract signed in March) and a new slot receiver in Kadarius Toney (first-round draft pick out of Florida).

Jones additionally possesses new weapons in wide receiver John Ross, tight end Kyle Rudolph, and still has Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, and Evan Engram by his side.

If the offensive line improves (which it’s expected to do), Jones should undergo a tremendous year and put up big numbers.

Don’t forget, there’s also a bit of a rushing element to Daniel’s game — he ran for 423 yards (6.5 yards per carry) in 14 games last year.

13. Kirk Cousins (MIN)

Kirk Cousins still carries the ability to put up big numbers — and that’s what fantasy football is all about, right?

Last season, he threw for 662 more yards and nine more touchdowns than he did during his 2019 Pro Bowl campaign. He ultimately finished 2020 with 4,265 yards and 35 touchdowns.

With a highly talented receiver in second-team All-Pro Justin Jefferson and a reliable pass-catching back in Dalvin Cook, expect Cousins to continue producing.

12. Ryan Tannehill (TEN)

Do you realize how stacked this Titans offense is ahead of the 2021 season?

Do you realize because of this, Ryan Tannehill is set up to have a great year?

The veteran signal-caller threw for 3,819 yards, 33 touchdowns, and just seven picks last season and now possesses one of the top receivers this league has ever seen — surefire future Hall of Famer Julio Jones.

Tennessee traded for the veteran wideout back in June; he’ll pair with A.J. Brown in what should be a dominant receiver room for Tannehill.

Not to mention, star running back Derrick Henry will take pressure off Tannehill and allow him to limit the mistakes and efficiently produce through the air.

11. Lamar Jackson (BAL)

I hate to put 2019 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson this far down on the list.

But he just didn’t portray much talent or production through the air last year.

Jackson averaged 183.8 passing yards per game in 2020 after averaging 208.5 passing yards per game the year prior. He additionally rushed for 201 fewer yards last year than he did in 2019.

He possesses a great deal of talent, but last year’s struggles have rubbed me the wrong way when it comes to the fantasy side of the conversation.

10. Matt Ryan (ATL)

I understand Matt Ryan is increasing in age. I also understand if you wished for Atlanta to draft a quarterback at No. 4 overall back in late April.

But the longtime Falcon still carries the ability to produce at a high level, and he now has first-round tight end Kyle Pitts — the top tight end in the 2021 draft — on his team.

Pitts should be an extra receiver. His large frame paired with the sheer athleticism almost doesn’t make sense. He’s an enigma and should absolutely be one of the top tight ends in this league if the effort is made.

Despite the fact Julio Jones is off the team, Calvin Ridley and Pitts should still assist in Ryan building on his 4,581-yard, 26-touchdown campaign from last year.

9. Justin Herbert (LAC)

The Chargers could absolutely be a playoff team in 2021.

Their starting quarterback, 2020 first-round pick Justin Herbert, could also be a Pro Bowler for the inaugural time in his career.

Herbert underwent a fantastic rookie season in which he threw for 4,336 yards and 31 touchdowns through 15 games.

The former Oregon Duck might be the next great quarterback in this league, and with weapons like Mike Williams, Jared Cook, and the underrated but talented Keenan Allen, Herbert should further produce on the field.

Not to mention, the Chargers offensive line is improved with first-round tackle Rashawn Slater now in Los Angeles.

8. Tom Brady (TB)

The ageless wonder makes our top ten, and why shouldn’t he?

Let’s just go away from the seven Super Bowls for a moment.

In his first season with Tampa Bay last year, Tom Brady conjured up 4,633 yards through the air (his most since 2015) and 40 touchdowns (his most since 2007).

The GOAT can still rack up terrific numbers, and there’s no arguing the fact he has a tremendous group of offensive weapons alongside him.

This is a team that employs Antonio Brown as, maybe, its third receiver?

Yes, you read that right.

AB, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, Leonard Fournette, and Ronald Jones? All 11 offensive Super Bowl starters returning?

Taking Brady in your fantasy draft shouldn’t be a detrimental decision whatsoever.

7. Dak Prescott (DAL)

Dak is back.

The Dallas Cowboy is returning after an ankle injury prematurely concluded his 2020 season. And despite what you think about him, Prescott is a top-10 quarterback in this league.

Before the injury, his 2020 numbers were incredible — Dak threw for 450+ yards in three of the five games he appeared in last year.

He additionally threw for nine touchdowns and rushed for three more.

Dak will succeed if he remains healthy, and he certainly possesses the right weapons. Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup make up one of the more talented receiving cores in the NFL.

6. Russell Wilson (SEA)

Let. Russ. Cook.

Through the first eight games of the 2020 campaign, Wilson averaged 317.6 passing yards and 3.5 touchdown passes per game. These marks, however, were wildly different compared to his final eight regular-season matchups, a time period in which he averaged 208.9 yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game.

But even with the midseason decline, Wilson still totaled 4,212 yards and 40 touchdowns. While the latter statistic is a career-high, the former mark is just seven yards off of a career-high (Russ threw for 4,219 yards in 2016)

Wilson and this receiving corps, which includes the highly talented tandem of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, have the potential to make noise in the NFC in 2021. Thus, expect Russ to produce at a noteworthy level once again.

5. Matthew Stafford (LAR)

Matthew Stafford has required more assistance his entire career.

Sure, Calvin Johnson is one of the top receivers to ever spend time in this league and former Lions wideout Kenny Golladay put together a fantastic 2019 campaign en route to a Pro Bowl nod.

But Stafford has never consistently possessed a reliable slate of weapons (or reliable coaching) that could assist in him maximizing his own potential.

That’s set to all change in 2021.

Stafford, now a Los Angeles Ram, has an offensive genius in Sean McVay on the sideline, a solid offensive line, and an offensive weapon group that includes Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, DeSean Jackson, and Tyler Higbee.

The veteran quarterback has been able to produce his entire career — he’s thrown for over 4,000 yards in eight of 12 seasons and hasn’t dipped below a 60% completion rate since 2013.

And that was with the issues in Detroit.

Stafford and this Rams team should be a tremendous story; he may be a superb value pick in the early rounds of your draft.

4. Aaron Rodgers (GB)

Aaron Rodgers is back in Green Bay.

The superstar quarterback and one of the single-greatest signal-callers in league history underwent some offseason drama, led by an apparent desire to depart the Packers.

Regardless, Rodgers has arrived at training camp and will look to build on his 2020 MVP season.

There’s no doubting the level of production Aaron is capable of reaching. Last year, A-Rod threw for 4,299 yards, 48 touchdowns, and five interceptions with a 70.7% completion rate and 121.5 passer rating. His touchdown-pass total, completion rate, and passer rating all led the NFL.

While he may not be the top quarterback taken in your fantasy league(s), the longtime Packer will definitely be selected early.

3. Josh Allen (BUF)

Josh Allen is my MVP pick, and unless he somehow consistently struggles across a multi-week period, I will be sticking to my guns when it comes to that prediction.

Expect him to undergo a spectacular year on the stat sheet, which will excite fantasy owners of the young quarterback.

The Bills pulled off a phenomenal move last offseason and acquired a true No. 1 wideout in Stefon Diggs. As a result, Josh’s improvement from 2019-20 was spectacular.

Allen’s 2019 Stat Line: 58.8% completion rate, 3,089 yards, 20 touchdowns, nine interceptions, 6.7 yards per attempt, 85.3 rating.

Allen’s 2020 Stat Line: 69.2% completion rate, 4,544 yards, 37 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 7.9 yards per attempt, 107.2 rating.

And no, he didn’t miss any games in 2019 — in both years, he took part in all 16 regular-season matchups for Buffalo.

The Bills have figured out how to maximize their quarterback’s potential and are expected to continue doing so.

Given his obvious talent and glaring upside, it’s clear Allen will only keep producing at a significant level in the NFL — he should absolutely be an early-round pick in your league(s).

2. Patrick Mahomes (KC)

It’s tough to make this type of list and not place the current best quarterback on the planet near the top (I may catch heat for not putting him at No. 1 though).

Patrick Mahomes is primed to have another incredible year in 2021 — he still has his head coach in Andy Reid, still has his offensive coordinator in Eric Bieniemy, and still possesses Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire at his disposal.

The Chiefs additionally made moves to improve the offensive line this offseason after coming up short in their second consecutive Super Bowl appearance back in February.

In an All-Pro 2020 season, Mahomes threw for 38 touchdowns and 4,740 yards with just six picks. His 316 yards-per-game average led the NFL and so did his 1% interception rate.

Mahomes will be an elite quarterback for a long time — he isn’t halting the greatness in 2021.

1. Kyler Murray (ARI)

Yes, I’m serious about this.

Kyler Murray is one of the few perfect quarterbacks for your fantasy team, barring any sort of injury.

Accuracy through the air (67.2% completion rate last year) and sheer athleticism to get outside the pocket and either find open receivers or scramble are present.

En route to his inaugural Pro Bowl bid in 2020, the 2019 No. 1 overall pick threw for nearly 4,000 yards to go with his 26 touchdown passes. Kyler additionally rushed for 819 yards and 11 scores on the ground.

When choosing your fantasy quarterback, you must select a guy that makes plays happen.

Murray does just that, and with superstar wideout DeAndre Hopkins by his side, he should continue growing as a pro-level quarterback.

And by the way, think of the division opponents he’ll be going up against twice next season.

While the Rams sport a fantastic secondary led by Jalen Ramsey, Seattle’s defensive backfield essentially held the opposite status last year and finished second-to-last in passing yards allowed per game. San Francisco’s secondary was also solid last season (fourth in average passing yards allowed), but former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is now with the Jets and veteran corner Richard Sherman is no longer with the team.

Murray could take advantage of multiple NFC West foes.

Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.