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FANTASY FOOTBALL: QB-starter rankings for 2021, in advance of the NFL preseason kickoff


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Bills signal-caller Josh Allen (4,965 total yards/45 TDs last year) still has enough upside to emerge as fantasy's top-ranked quarterback by season's end.


  1. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
  2. Josh Allen, Bills
  3. Kyler Murray, Cardinals
  4. Lamar Jackson, Ravens
  5. Dak Prescott, Cowboys
  6. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
  7. Justin Herbert, Chargers
  8. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
  9. Tom Brady, Buccaneers
  10. Matthew Stafford, Rams
  11. Ryan Tannehill, Titans
  12. Kirk Cousins, Vikings
  13. Matt Ryan, Falcons
  14. Baker Mayfield, Browns
  15. Joe Burrow, Bengals
  16. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
  17. Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars
  18. Sam Darnold, Panthers
  19. Derek Carr, Raiders
  20. Deshaun Watson, Texans (in-limbo ranking … could be traded or suspended soon)
  21. Daniel Jones, Giants
  22. Drew Lock, Broncos
  23. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington Football Team
  24. Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins
  25. Jalen Hurts, Eagles
  26. Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers
  27. Jameis Winston, Saints
  28. Jared Goff, Lions
  29. Cam Newton, Patriots
  30. Jacob Eason, Colts
  31. Zach Wilson, Jets
  32. Andy Dalton, Bears (Justin Fields could be the starter by Week 6)


a) With 17 games now on the regular-season schedule, it’s possible that two or three quarterbacks will surpass 5,000 yards passing in 2021.

However, for my money, Patrick Mahomes remains the only healthy lock for 5,000 yards passing and 40 total touchdowns.

So, in that vein, Mahomes merits the top spot here … despite finishing fourth in points per game last season.

b) Josh Allen (4,965 total yards/45 TDs last year) possesses more fantasy upside than Mahomes, given his two-year total of 17 rushing touchdowns. But he remains No. 2 on our listing for two prominent reasons:

**It’s hard to imagine Bills wideout Stefon Diggs surpassing last year’s staggering tallies of 127 catches, 166 targets, 1,535 yards and eight touchdowns.

**Receiver Cole Beasley (82 catches, 967 yards, 4 TDs last season) won’t have the lightning-fast John Brown (now with the Raiders) clearing out underneath coverage this year, perhaps making it difficult for Beasley to crack 100-plus targets for a third straight time.

**The running back tandem of Devin Singletary and Zack Moss will undoubtedly exceed last year’s cumulative total of seven touchdowns. Why is that? Because it’s an incredibly low hurdle to clear in 2021.



c) Dak Prescott (reported shoulder strain at the beginning of camp) has averaged 322 yards passing and 2.1 touchdowns in his last 21 starts.

Robust numbers for sure, but is it really worthy of a No. 5 ranking?

After all, charting the last two seasons, Prescott (and his fantasy owners) endured six outings of zero or one touchdown.

For us, though, as long the Cowboys have a bottom-five defense, in terms of points and rushing yards allowed, Prescott will be obligated to continually post personal bests in attempts, completions and passing yards.

It also helps that his troika of Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup all possess the potential for 1,000 yards receiving in 2021.

d) With 3,971 yards passing and 37 total touchdowns last year, Kyler Murray now bears a strong fantasy resemblance to the Bills’ Josh Allen.

However, we’re not ready to commit to a top-2 ranking, given one crucial consideration:

**As Murray creeps closer to a contract extension north of $200 million, he’ll likely become more conservative when escaping the pocket. In other words, the odds of notching double-digit rushing touchdowns in back-to-back seasons become prohibitively long.

(Quick fun fact: The incredible Lamar Jackson has never racked up double-digit rushing TDs in a single season.)

e) No one’s expecting Rodgers to fully match his NFL MVP numbers from last season (4,299 yards passing, 51 total TDs).

But then again, Rodgers (13 outings of 300 yards passing and three-plus touchdowns in 2020) has never been on the precipice of choosing his next team either, as might be the case in just six short months.

So, let’s just assume complacency won’t be a lingering concern in 2021.

f) How epic was Justin Herbert’s rookie campaign with the Chargers (4,336 yards passing, 36 total TDs in just 15 starts)?

It might stand as the gold-standard output of highly touted quarterbacks in Year 1 for decades; and yes, that includes the NFL’s move to 17-game seasons.

Last year, with a mid-level receiving corps, Herbert rolled for 300 yards passing and/or three touchdowns in 11 of his 15 starts.

About The Managing Editor

Jay Clemons remains the only sports writer on the planet to capture Cynposis Media’s national award for Sports Blog Of The Year (beating out,,, The Players’ Tribune in 2015), along with the Fantasy Sports Writers Association’s pre-eminent award for Best Writer (2008). Through the years, Mr. Clemons has been a key figure with numerous blue-chip sports/media brands, namely the Detroit Lions, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report and the NBC/Universal family. With Sports Illustrated (2006-11), Clemons served a triple role with‘s heralded football coverage—editing Peter King’s famed ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ column, penning award-winning pieces for NFL and then writing/narrating scripted videos within the NFL and baseball realms. In 2013, Clemons’ first year with the company, FOX Sports South enjoyed a monumental increase of approximately 34 million Web hits in a 12-month cycle—merely posting 11 million hits the previous year. 

Then, over a two-month span in 2014, FOX Sports South amassed 19.5 million Web hits—a 60-day record for any FOX affiliate. And in 2015, Clemons claimed the aforementioned Cynopsis Media award on FOX Sports’ behalf, the company’s only national writing award during that period. Clemons, a graduate of Michigan State University  and Wayne State University, has been an on-camera Web-TV host for Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports. In 2015, he also became the first-ever sports journalism professor at Kennesaw State University in suburban Atlanta.

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