For seasons, the late-round quarterback strategy has dominated NFL fantasy football. Quarterbacks play with more job security than most and receive similar opportunities on a game-to-game basis. However, the emergence of the rushing quarterback in recent seasons has completely changed the position for fantasy football purposes. Separating quarterbacks into tiers creates an inherent way to rank and value players. With that said, here are the 2021 fantasy football tier rankings for quarterbacks in half-PPR leagues on Yahoo, ESPN, CBS and more.
Fantasy Football Tiers: 2021 Quarterback Rankings
Tier 1 quarterbacks have elite rushing and passing upside. If one hits their ceiling in both phases of the game, they will provide true difference-making scoring.
A year removed from winning MVP in 2019, Jackson had back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Baltimore invested in Sammy Watkins and Rashod Bateman, providing Jackson additional weapons in the pass game this year.Lamar Jackson – QB1
Kyler Murray – QB2
Murray’s efficiency dropped off as he was injured down the stretch. He has over 500 yards rushing in back-to-back years, with at least 3,700 yards passing. Arizona invested in A.J. Green and Rondale Moore this year to complement DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk.
The second tier presents the elite passers in the NFL. Each of these quarterbacks has a degree of mobility, but they do not compare to the Tier 1 rushers. Any one of them could finish as the QB1, but a rushing ceiling is not there.
Patrick Mahomes – QB3
Mahomes passed for 4,740 yards and 38 touchdowns last year. With Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce entrenched, this passing bonanza is not going to stop any time soon. Mahomes averaged 316 yards passing and 2.5 touchdowns per game last season.
Josh Allen – QB4
Allen took a major step forward in 2020. His completion percentage improved to 69.2%, and he averaged 7.9 yards per attempts. Both were career highs in his 4,544-yard season. Allen has a smaller body of work than Mahomes but a similar ceiling. He also has at least eight rushing touchdowns in his three NFL seasons.
Dak Prescott – QB5
Prescott expects to be fully healthy for the start of 2021. Last year Prescott averaged 371 yards per game in his limited season. Throwing to Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup, Prescott has one of the top receiver units in all of football. He also has at least 459 yards rushing in all of his healthy seasons.
Quarterbacks in Tier 3 have as much upside as the top two tiers but are limited by certain environmental factors. With the right game scripts, these quarterbacks could all rise into the top three.
Russell Wilson – QB6
Wilson continues to be one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the NFL. However, he plays in a Seattle offense predicated on running the ball. A declining defense forced Wilson to throw 558 times last year, but that was a career high. Unfortunately, an archaic offense puts a ceiling on what could be an elite Wilson fantasy season.
Aaron Rodgers – QB7
Now rumored to be returning to the Packers, Rodgers is coming off an MVP-winning season in 2020. While still playing at an elite level, Rodgers will be 38 years old this year on a Packers team that refuses to invest in additional pass catchers outside of Davante Adams. Rodgers’ lack of rushing ability hurts him in fantasy, but he still has a solid ceiling.
Justin Herbert – QB8
Coming off a spectacular rookie season, Herbert threw for 4,336 yards while completing 66.6% of his passes for 7.3 yards per attempt. Herbert offered modest rushing upside with 234 yards last year, but he known primarily as a gunslinger. Herbert lost Hunter Henry but returns Keenan Allen and Mike Williams this year.
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Tier 4 quarterbacks are every-week starters in fantasy. However, they lack an elite ceiling for one reason or another.
Jalen Hurts – QB9
Hurts enters his first season as the starting quarterback after a brief showing last year. Hurts is intriguing for fantasy because of his rushing upside. Hurts rushed for at least 63 yards in each of the three games he started and finished last year. Also throwing for 300+ yards in two of those, Hurts has an elite ceiling. However, he has the least job security of anyone in this tier, making him somewhat risky.
Ryan Tannehill – QB10
Tannehill has completed at least 65.5% of his passes for 7.9 yards per attempt in both of his seasons with the Titans. Tennessee also just added Julio Jones to an offense already containing A.J. Brown. Still, the Titans are historically run heavy under head coach Mike Vrabel, and they changed offensive coordinators this offseason.
Joe Burrow – QB11
Coming off an ACL and MCL tear, Burrow is expected to be ready for the start of 2021. The Bengals invested in Ja’Marr Chase this offseason in a receiver room that already has Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Burrow averaged 269 yards passing with 65.3% completion percentage when healthy. Cincinnati runs an uptempo, pass-heavy offense, benefiting Burrow in fantasy.
Matthew Stafford – QB12
Moving from Detroit to Los Angeles presents a massive upgrade for Stafford. He will now play with Cooper Kupp and Roberts Woods, among others. More importantly, Sean McVay will call his plays. Stafford still completed an efficient 64.2% of his passes for 7.7 yards per attempt last season.
Tom Brady – QB13
Last year Brady turned back the clock with 4,633 yards passing and 40 touchdowns. He averaged 290 yards passing per game. The entire starting lineup returns this year, headlined by Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski
Tier 5 quarterbacks are starters in most weeks. Some leagues will have these players available for streaming. In poor matchups streamers can also replace most of these quarterbacks. This group is made up of mostly younger players that could ascend to higher tier.
Trevor Lawrence – QB14
Lawrence is the top quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck. He enters a solid situation in Jacksonville that returns every starting offensive lineman. They also invested in Marvin Jones to complement Laviska Shenault and D.J. Chark. With Travis Etienne playing running back, this scheme should provide Lawrence with early success.
Tua Tagovailoa – QB15
Tagovailoa went through adversity as a rookie. However, Tagovailoa was coming off a serious injury without any offseason practice. Miami went 6-3 in his starts and added weapons this offseason. Jaylen Waddle and Will Fuller bolster a receiving room already containing DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki. Tagovailoa should take a step forward in a potentially explosive offense.
Trey Lance – QB16
Jimmy Garoppolo remains with the team, leaving Lance’s starting status unknown. While Lance comes with risk, he has the upside to be one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks immediately. Lance rushed for 1,100 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2019 before COVID-19 shortened his 2020. With head coach Kyle Shanahan devising a pass-friendly approach, Lance could vault into the top 10 quarterbacks immediately upon insertion.
Matt Ryan – QB17
Ryan enters 2021 at age 36 with a new coaching staff. He also loses Julio Jones. However, Calvin Ridley remains in place, and Atlanta spent a top-five pick on Kyle Pitts. While this may hurt Ryan’s efficiency, negative game script could lead to favorable situations for fantasy. Ryan still has at least 4,400 yards passing in each of his last three seasons. He has been above 4,000 yards passing in every year since 2011.
Baker Mayfield – QB18
Closing out 2020 strong, Mayfield eclipsed 250 yards passing in five of his last six games with the Browns. Cleveland now returns Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry from injury-plagued seasons. While Mayfield offers little rushing upside, he plays in one of the most explosive offenses in football. He also has at least 3,563 yards passing in each season. A step forward in Kevin Stefanski’s second year as head coach is firmly in the realm of possibility.
Tier 6 quarterback are firmly streaming options to start the year. However, most play in offenses capable of taking a step forward. With improved play, any of these options could ascend the rankings into every week starter territory.
Justin Fields – QB19
First round pick of the Chicago Bears, Fields expects to open Week 1 behind Andy Dalton. Fields posted elite numbers in college, completing 70.2% of his passes for 9.3 yards per attempt. He also had at least 383 yards rushing in back-to-back seasons. On top of his unknown starting status, his only legitimate weapon is Allen Robinson. The Bears continue to rebuild, but Fields’ dual-threat ability makes him a strong streamer once he starts games.
Daniel Jones – QB20
Now entering his third season with New York, the Giants continue to surround Jones with weapons. This offseason they brought in Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney to complement Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram. Jones passed between 2,900 and 3,100 yards in each of his first three seasons, failing to average more than 233 yards per game. However, he had decent upside on the ground with 423 yards rushing last year. Continued rushing production and increased efficiency could raise Jones out of pure streamer territory.
Carson Wentz – QB21
After impressing early in his career, Wentz receives a change of scenery in Indianapolis. Wentz averaged 280 yards passing per game in 2018 before tearing his ACL. He has never looked the same since, but perhaps head coach Frank Reich can coax the production back out of Wentz. T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman and Parris Campbell certainly provide an upgrade at receiver. Wentz should also benefit from playing behind one of the NFL’s top offensive lines.
Ryan Fitzpatrick – QB22
Fitzpatrick takes his talents to Washington to play with the Football Team. Fitzpatrick completed an efficient 68.5% of his passes for 7.8 yards per attempt with Miami’s weak receiving corps. He now moves to Washington, who invested in Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown to complement Pro Bowl talent Terry McLaurin. For the first time in many years, Fitzpatrick has some job security.
Kirk Cousins – QB23
Playing in a run-first offense, Cousins lives through pure efficiency. He has completed at least 67.6% of his passes in every year with Minnesota and has also eclipsed 8 yards per pass attempt in his last two years. Cousins benefits from having Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen in his receiving room. While he has never averaged more than 269 yards per game with Minnesota, he is a strong streamer in the right matchup.
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Quarterbacks in Tier 7 either have job security issues or play in sub-optimal offensive environments. Some can be used as streamers when starting, but others should be left on waiver wires until they get a few games under their belt.
Sam Darnold – QB24
After a failed stint in New York, Darnold finds a new home in Carolina. Fortunately, Darnold will now play with a competent play caller in Joe Brady. He also has the pleasure of throwing to D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson. Unfortunately, Darnold does not have any rushing upside and likely has a short leash due to previous failure.
Jameis Winston – QB25
After sitting behind Drew Brees for a year, Winston is the front runner for the New Orleans quarterback job. Winston will compete with Taysom Hill, but he provides more upside from a passing standpoint. Winston still runs the risk of ceding work to Hill situationally even if starting, making him a dicey streamer.
Zach Wilson – QB26
Wilson joins a rebuilding Jets organization. He benefited from a cupcake strength of schedule. However, he also completed 73.5% of his passes for 11.0 yards per attempt. Wilson has sneaky dual threat ability and New York invested in Elijah Moore and Corey Davis to help bolster the offense. It may take Wilson some time, but he has plenty of upside in 2021.
Derek Carr – QB27
While Carr thrown for at least 4,000 yards in three straight seasons, the situation in Las Vegas continues to deteriorate around him. This year he lost Nelson Agholor and most of his offensive line. Henry Ruggs returns, but he completely flopped in a full-time role in Year 1. With the Raiders regressing all around Carr, a breakthrough season seems unlikely.
Quarterbacks in Tier 8 project to start immediately but play in unfriendly fantasy environments. They may be streamer worthy at some point, but those weeks look few and far between.
Ben Roethlisberger – QB28
The Steelers lost a majority of their offensive line and insisted drafting a first-round running back in Najee Harris will solve their problems. Roethlisberger has solid weapons in Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster. However, he played poorly with all three last year, and now the coaching staff looks likely to take the ball out of his hands.
Jared Goff – QB29
Goff moves from a fantasy-friendly environment in Los Angeles to a desolate wasteland in Detroit. Anthony Lynn takes over as offensive coordinator, and Goff will be throwing to Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman and fourth-round rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown as his top pass catcher outside of T.J. Hockenson. Already notorious for poor performances in cold weather, the NFC North is not an ideal place for Goff to rehabilitate his career.
Cam Newton – QB30
The supposed front runner for New England’s starting quarterback job, Newton will look to improve on Year 1 in the organization. Newton’s best asset was his legs last year, as he rushed for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns. However, he performed poorly as a passer, with just 2,657 yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Newton also played with one of the worst receiver units in all of football, headlined by Damiere Byrd with Julian Edelman injured. This year they brought in Nelson Agholor, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith to help rebuild the offense.
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Tier 9 quarterbacks may or may not have a role in 2021. If they end up starting, they could easily jump a tier or two. However, they could also provide zeros as backups. This makes them purely midseason streamers.
Tyrod Taylor – QB31
The supposed starter in Deshaun Watson‘s absence, Taylor offers some rushing upside. However, this is one of the worst offenses in football. Brandin Cooks is a competent receiver, but Randall Cobb looks like the next best option.
Taysom Hill – QB32
Hill would immediately assume Winston’s spot on the ranking if named starter. Hill would provide a downgrade for the New Orleans skill position players, but his upside as a pure rusher puts him squarely in the weekly starter conversation.
Deshaun Watson – QB33
Watson is a top five quarterback when healthy. However, he has requested a trade and still has legal issues clouding his 2021 status.
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