Quarterback Tiers for 2021 Fantasy Football Drafts

Dak Prescott Dallas Cowboys

A great part about doing a bazillion fantasy football drafts is that you get to see trends develop. A quarterback run here, a drop-off in talent there; you start to see the ebbs and flows of the draft. It’s a hard-earned dataset, gotten through endless hours of mock drafting and poring over the data. Or, you take 20 minutes on 4for4 and snag their ADP data and break it up into tiers… Anyway, here are the fantasy football quarterback tiers as broken up by average draft position data for a 12-team league, as well as some thoughts on the players going inside said fantasy football quarterback tiers. ADP data are for 12-team leagues and 6.03 means the sixth pick of the third round, 12.12 means the twelfth pick of the twelfth round, et cetera.

In a glow up from last year’s iteration of the quarterback tiers article, I’ve included my tier, where I have the player, by my projections.

Fantasy Football Quarterback Tier 1: The Studs
ADP QB-# Player Team 12-Team MY TIER
20 QB-1 Patrick Mahomes KC 2.08 1
31 QB-2 Josh Allen BUF 3.07 1
My favorite: Josh Allen

This one is pretty straightforward. Josh Allen was the QB1 last year, and the Buffalo Bills just handed him a massive contract. He is on the come-up, and threatens Patrick Mahomes for the set-and-forget QB1 going forward. Mahomes is an interesting case because the man broke the league in half two years ago, and hasn’t grown on that. Following his 5,097 yards, 50-touchdown season, he’s paced out to 4,839 yards and 35 touchdowns per season.

This might be his last year atop this board. I’m not really drafting Patrick Mahomes anywhere near his ADP, because Josh Allen is right there next to him. He’s going a full-round later, which could possibly be a second tier, but here’s the thing: he shouldn’t go a full-round later. Wherever you’re comfortable with Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen should also be on your board.

Fantasy Football Quarterback Tier 2: The Contenders to the Throne
ADP QB-# Player Team 12-Team MY TIER
41 QB-3 Kyler Murray ARI 4.05 2
42 QB-4 Lamar Jackson BAL 4.06 2
50 QB-5 Dak Prescott DAL 5.02 2
My Favorite: Dak Prescott

These guys all have a chance of knocking either Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen out of the top tier or joining them up there. Arguably, you could call the top-five a large tier, but my projections and ADP break them up into the second tier. There’s a case for any of these guys to end the year as the #1 quarterback. Lamar Jackson’s done it, that’s an easy case. Dak Prescott was ready to do it before his foot and body went separate directions, and Kyler Murray is just about ready to push over the edge. Ironically, the case for Kyler as the 2021 QB1 is basically “he could do what Lamar Jackson did.”

Lamar Jackson is easily my least favorite in this tier because the man simply cannot stop getting COVID-19. All have a compelling case for the #1 QB overall.

Dak Prescott has the best weapons of the three, and the most potent offense of the three. Also, he’s going last of the group. So, give me Dak out of this group, easy. If you want to dip into this tier, just wait until someone takes Kyler or Lamar, and let that be your signal that your Dak pick is coming up next. If you miss on Dak, though, you have to start treading carefully when you get into the next group.

Fantasy Football Quarterback Tier 3: The Solid Starters
ADP QB-# Player Team 12-Team MY TIER
54 QB-6 Russell Wilson SEA 5.06 3
55 QB-7 Justin Herbert LAC 5.07 3
57 QB-8 Aaron Rodgers GB 5.09 4
70 QB-9 Tom Brady TB 6.1 4
My Favorite: Justin Herbert

This is the tier where ADP and I start to differ. People really want to get Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, taking both with, on average, fifth-and-sixth-round picks. That seems wild to me, given that neither runs the football. Yes, both are coming off of top-five seasons. But, since they both don’t run the ball, they have to recreate their bonkers paces from last year.

Brady and Rodgers combined for 280 passing yards, 2.75 touchdowns, and half a pick per game… and because they didn’t run, they still finished QB3 and QB5. They must overcome an absolutely wild set of circumstances wherein fantasy football priorities do not match with NFL priorities. For fantasy, give me a rushing quarterback who can pass the ball any day of the week.

Speaking of which… Russell Wilson and Justin Herbert are in this tier alongside Rodgers and Brady. I like them both, but I rarely end up with them (more on that in a second). If you want a stable guy, after taking lots of potentially risky picks, then snag Wilson. He’s the only QB to total at least 30 touchdowns in each of the last four seasons. He’s as safe as safe comes at quarterback in the middle rounds.

If Justin Herbert had started all 2020, he would have broken the rookie passing touchdown record, and the rookie passing yardage record. He’s all upside, baby! …Unless you think he takes a step back. He’s boom-bust in a tier full of steady Eddies. If you want to swing from your heels here and get Herbert, have at him.

Fantasy Football Quarterback Tier 4: The Upside Plays (Conspicuous Question Mark)
ADP QB-# Player Team 12-Team ADP TIER MY TIER
83 QB-10 Matthew Stafford LAR 7.11 4 5
84 QB-11 Jalen Hurts PHI 7.12 4 5
86 QB-12 Ryan Tannehill TEN 8.02 4 3
96 QB-13 Joe Burrow CIN 8.12 4 5
My Favorite: Ryan Tannehill

This tier is mostly guys that we aren’t certain about because they had monumental shifts in their value over the season. Matthew Stafford went from the hapless Lions to Sean McVay and the potent Rams’ offense. So, we think he’ll take a step forward.

We aren’t sure if Jalen Hurts is good at football yet, but we do know that he sure does run a lot. Toss him in there, too! After all, it worked for Lamar Jackson! [Editor’s Note: Jalen Hurts is not Lamar Jackson.]

Then, we get Joe Burrow. Burrow is extremely talented and might be the most talented guy in this group when all is said and done. But, at this point, I can’t trust him. Camp reports are that he’s extremely shaky on his surgically reconstructed knee, and that willing the offensive line to be better doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be better. There’s only so much a Ja’Marr Chase can do to bolster an offense if Joe Mixon gets them to second-and-7, and then an unblocked edge knocks down a Joe Burrow pass and it’s suddenly third-and-7. The offense needs to show me something before I buy into its captain.

There is one player in this tier that I want, and it’s Ryan Tannehill. If I can get him at value, or even in round seven, I am doing backflips. He’s in my QB3 tier, alongside Justin Herbert and Russell Wilson. The man is simply good at football. He’s one of the most efficient passers in the league over the last two seasons, he has the most 50+ yard passing plays in the last two seasons, and he is the most efficient rushing quarterback over the last two seasons. There are zero reasons to not take Ryan Tannehill in round seven unless you already have a quarterback.

Fantasy Football Quarterback Tier 5: “Oh wait we need quarterbacks?”
ADP QB-# Player Team 12-Team ADP TIER MY TIER
111 QB-14 Trevor Lawrence JAX 10.03 5 7
117 QB-15 Matt Ryan ATL 10.09 5 7
123 QB-16 Baker Mayfield CLE 11.03 5 7
My Favorite: Trevor Lawrence

Trevor Lawrence was the first overall pick. Matt Ryan got the fourth-overall pick as part of his weaponry. The lasting memory we have of Baker Mayfield is the Browns stomping the Steelers in the playoffs. I don’t touch this tier, at all. You can see the gap between the ADP tier and by tier (my tier six is two guys). This tier really feels like someone who remembers that they’re supposed to wait on QB, and then they take a QB whose name they’ve heard recently.

Trevor Lawrence has a lot of buzz because he was the first overall quarterback this offseason. But, here’s the thing: Ryan Tannehill was QB12 last year with 21.5 fantasy points per game. Only 3 rookie quarterbacks have ever averaged more than that per game their first year in the league. It’s not a winning formula to take Trevor Lawrence in a 1QB league, to me. He might be the best prospect of the last decade, but the last best prospect of the decade (Andrew Luck) mustered 17 fantasy points per game. I’m not going to draft Trevor Lawrence, but I do think that he could have some usable weeks as the season progresses.

Matt Ryan is just a guy going where he should go: outside the top-12 at quarterback. A lot of people want to hoot and holler about Kyle Pitts, and while Kyle Pitts might be really good, he and Calvin Ridley together won’t be enough to drag a statue like Matt Ryan into the top-12. He feels like the top of the QB2s in two-quarterback leagues, but I have zero interest in 1QB leagues outside of spot starts.

Baker Mayfield is the QB of a run-first team who isn’t sure if their WR1 is still good. No, thank you.

Fantasy Football Quarterback Tier 6: Deeper Upside Plays
ADP QB-# Player Team 12-Team ADP TIER MY TIER
130 QB-17 Kirk Cousins MIN 11.10 6 7
131 QB-18 Justin Fields CHI 11.11 6 7
135 QB-19 Trey Lance SF 12.03 6 5
136 QB-20 Tua Tagovailoa MIA 12.04 6 5
138 QB-21 Deshaun Watson HOU 12.06 6 5
142 QB-22 Ben Roethlisberger PIT 12.1 6 6
My Favorite: Trey Lance

This quarterback tier is big and varied. It’s mostly questionably sturdy upside plays… and Big Ben & Kirk Cousins. Let’s set those guys aside for now, and look at my tier five guys: Trey Lance, Tua Tagovailoa, and Deshaun Watson. First off, there’s no point where I will draft Watson. But, I have to do projections for every team at every position in the league, so here he is.

That leaves us with Lance and Tua. Lance is crushing 49ers camp and is a shoo-in to get the start sooner rather than later. I love taking cracks at him alongside another upside quarterbacks late. He is a tier higher than Justin Fields only because the 49ers had a plan for Lance, and Fields just sort of fell into the Bears’ lap. I would guess that Lance starts about 13-14 games whereas Fields starts about half the Bears’ games this year.

I like Tua as the last of the rushing upside quarterbacks available to you in a standard draft. You could pair him with Lance and walk away with a guy who ends the year in the top half of the top-12 in fantasy points per game… you’re just not sure which one.

Ben Roethlisberger and Kirk Cousins both are just okay, but hitched their wagon to talented wide receivers. Cousins has 30+ touchdowns in every season with Minnesota, providing a nice floor. Roethlisberger has a decent floor possibility with Johnson, JuJu, and Claypool, as well. Ultimately, in a 1QB league, I don’t want to draft these guys. But, they represent the last players I’m okay having on my roster in a 1QB league.

Fantasy Football Quarterback Tiers 7 & 8: 17-Game Starters… But Nobody Said They Were Good
ADP QB-# Player Team 12-Team ADP TIER MY TIER
148 QB-23 Derek Carr LV 13.04 7 6
154 QB-24 Ryan Fitzpatrick WAS 13.10 7 8
158 QB-25 Daniel Jones NYG 14.02 7 7
159 QB-26 Zach Wilson NYJ 14.03 7 8
170 QB-27 Cam Newton NE 15.02 8 9
171 QB-28 Carson Wentz IND 15.03 8 8
172 QB-29 Jared Goff DET 15.04 8 8
173 QB-30 Sam Darnold CAR 15.05 8 8
My Favorite: Derek Carr

No, thank you. These are all pretty much guys who only deserve to go in 2QB leagues unless you want to take an upside swing on Ryan Fitzpatrick and Daniel Jones. To be honest, if your QB1 is in this tier: you messed up. These guys are solely the realm of QB2s and depth play. A lot of these guys don’t offer a ton of upside, they just offer you someone who will start 17 games this year. Derek Carr is a great bargain here in 2QB leagues since he will likely end up inside the top-15, and he’s going as QB23 off the board. Obviously, he won’t go in round thirteen in that instance, but the QB order is what matters, here.

Everyone else is just a guy who has a high likelihood of starting every game… and Cam Newton. This is solely the realm of 2QB leagues, and are all pretty decent QB3s in a 2QB league. There’s a case to be made for Daniel Jones as a QB1 upside guy, but he needs to have more touchdowns (35) than turnovers (36) for me to really believe it.

Do you want more 2021 fantasy football discussion? Then check out these links!


quarterback Beersheets Arizona Cardinals Seattle Seahawks Los Angeles Rams San Francisco 49ers New England Patriots

[Header Image Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dak_Prescott,_September_2016.jpg under CC BY SA 2.0]

About Jeff Krisko

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