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Patrick Mahomes (QB1) -- Mahomes' kid gloves were finally removed from Week 8 on, allowing him to average 26.3 fantasy points and 43 attempts while engineering the league's second-highest pass play rate in neutral game script as the unanimous QB1. Putting the ball in his hands more — an intended approach that will presumably carry over into this year — resulted in a career-high 4.1 rushes weekly.
Lamar Jackson (QB2) -- Jackson's unsustainable 9% touchdown rate from his MVP campaign came crashing back to Earth, but his 66% completion rate and 11.5 carries per game (playoffs included) following a stint on the team's COVID list remains proof that nothing stops this train. Ravens also injected its backfield (J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards) and receiving corps (Rashod Bateman, Sammy Watkins, Tylan Wallace) with explosiveness compared to last year's opening lineup.
Josh Allen (QB3) -- Replacing oft-injured John Brown with veteran Emmanuel Sanders and, more importantly, latching onto OC Brian Daboll for another year cements Buffalo putting the band back together for the exact scheme that allowed Allen to record career-highs in pass attempts (35.7) and fantasy points (24.8) per game. Anything short of top-two odds for MVP should be bet with confidence.
Dak Prescott (QB4) -- Has averaged 23 fantasy points in 20 full starts engineering Kellen Moore's offense. 30.5 in four healthy games last year paced Prescott for a top-two finish in back-to-back seasons before injury.
Kyler Murray (QB5) -- Averaged 29.2 fantasy points (scoring no fewer than 21.7) and 6.0 designed runs prior to crunching his throwing shoulder during the first quarter of Week 11. Averages across his next six starts — 18.6 fantasy points, 3.8 designed scrambles — suggest an injury that should be a thing of the past following a career-high 8.3 rush attempts per contest.
Justin Herbert (QB6) -- Unexpectedly thrust into the fire for his first career start against the defending Super Bowl champs in Week 2, 22-year-old Herbert averaged the fourth-most fantasy points (22.2) of any rookie quarterback since 1945. Logical improvement in his second year since coach Brandon Staley and OC Joe Lombardi are safe bets to maximize Los Angeles' talent (and remain an upgrade over last year's coaching staff). Only helps that the Chargers' former center, Dan Feeney, permitted the most pressures (33) at his position, whereas free agent pickup Corey Linsley allowed the lowest pressure rate in the NFL.
Jalen Hurts (QB7) -- 25.2 fantasy points and 12.6 carries per game in three full starts to close the year. Trading up for Heisman WR Devonta Smith should be viewed as the organization's reassurance that Hurts will be evaluated for a full year before assessing how to use its two first-round picks in the 2022 Draft.
Russell Wilson (QB8) -- Career-high 22.5 fantasy points per game opposite last year's second-toughest passing schedule is proof Wilson is truly unlimited. Seattle's bumbling coaching staff will still try to prove otherwise after moving on from OC Brian Schottenheimer and subsequently re-signing Chris Carson to #EstablishIt into Earth's core.
Aaron Rodgers (QB9) -- Career-highs in touchdowns (48), completion percentage (70.7%), and touchdown rate (9.1%) were clearly outlier numbers in Rodgers' age-36 season. Green Bay's otherworldly 38:0 TD-to-INT ratio inside the red zone is also bound to regress. With just 32.9 fantasy points totaled on the ground all year, any bet on Rodgers at his current Average Draft Position (Underdog QB9) is a bet on outlying efficiency in back-to-back seasons. Still a tremendous contrarian option to stack with Broncos receivers in large-field Best-Ball tourneys ahead of any potential trade.
Ryan Tannehill (QB10) -- Julio Jones' arrival keeps Tannehill's floor-ceiling combo afloat even without Arthur Smith, whose play-action offense catered an average 21.6 fantasy points across 26 regular-season starts for the 32-year-old QB. The internal promotion of TEs coach Todd Downing to OC suggests Tennessee's league-high play-action rate (and thus Tannehill's efficiency) won't miss a beat.
Matthew Stafford (QB11) -- Sean McVay sheds Jared Goff's declining 7.1 air yards per attempt the past two seasons for Stafford's 9.8 and the most weapons either have worked with in the last five years. Fingers crossed the 33-year-old's efficiency offsets his lack of mobility as a darkhorse MVP candidate.
Tom Brady (QB12) -- Bucs miraculously return the same starting 11 that ranked third in Football Outsiders' Adjusted Sack Rate, simultaneously helping 43-year-old Brady average a four-year high in fantasy points per game (21.1). Tampa Bay's explosive receiving corps coupled with Brady's league-high in downfield shots (91) cancel out the perpetual quicksand underneath him.
Joe Burrow (QB13) -- A.J. Green's departure (along with Ja'Marr Chase's arrival) is addition by subtraction after Burrow led the league in dropbacks (46.4) and pass attempts (41.1) per game across nine full starts. Cincinnati's swinging gate o-line is still a looming concern after he struggled under pressure (37.3% completion rate).
Matt Ryan (QB14) -- While Ryan's floor remains high given his fresh start under intuitive play-caller Arthur Smith — the veteran averaged 8.9 YPA from play-action just last year — and a vote of confidence via Kyle Pitts, the 'risk of ruin' is suddenly baked into the veteran's outlook since he averaged 1.5 fewer YPA in seven games without Julio Jones last year.
Trey Lance (QB15) -- This ranking obviously assumes Jimmy Garoppolo is traded/released ahead of camp, which I believe is the only way to handle Lance in top-heavy Best-Ball tournament structures. 28:0 TD-to-INT ratio and 10.5 carries per game in 2019, his lone year as North Dakota State's starter.
Trevor Lawrence (QB16) -- The only quarterback to grade over 90.0 as a true freshman in the Pro Football Focus College era, Lawrence inevitably steps into OC Darrell Bevell's blitzkrieg offense with a blooming WR1 (D.J. Chark), a proven red zone hog familiar with the system (Marvin Jones), and the untapped explosiveness of both Travis Etienne and sophomore Laviska Shenault from the slot. Career 5.7 carries per game only heighten Lawrence's ceiling.
Tua Tagovailoa (QB17) -- Tua unsurprisingly played like an injured rookie who wasn't available for offseason reps, dragging Chan Gailey's offense to a median 5.1 yards per play across nine starts. Miami's offseason upgrades — Will Fuller, Jaylen Waddle, the transition to co-offensive coordinators — still stand to impact Tua more than any individual player in that unit.
Justin Fields (QB18) -- Surgical accuracy — No. 2 among this year's class with an 80.8% adjusted completion rate (per PFF) — and 4.41 40-speed at 6'3/228. Only pause is that Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy, while buying themselves another year in trading up for Fields, sound convinced to start Andy Dalton in the Alex Smith-Patrick Mahomes mold.
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Kirk Cousins (QB19) -- Minnesota's abysmal defense forced Cousins into a firefight weekly, seeing him complete a nearly-nice 68.9% of his passes for 8.1 YPA from Week 5 on. The organization's comical crony-sition from OC Gary Kubiak to his son Klint keeps Cousins in a familiar offense with a similar outlook for 2021.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB20) -- No quarterback had a higher rate of passes to the intermediate level of the field (10-19 yards from the line of scrimmage) last year than Fitzpatrick (28%), whereas none had a higher rate of passes behind the LOS than Alex Smith (23%); one signing signaled the most drastic metamorphosis of the offseason. Fitzmagic also spiked QB1-performances in 4-of-6 starts before being benched over Miami's bye (and 16-of-26 dating back to 2018). Zero risk of being benched as a one-year bridge since the team failed to add a single quarterback in the draft.
Baker Mayfield (QB21) -- Cleveland returns the same offense and coaching staff that limited Mayfield to a career-low 30.3 pass attempts per game. What could be defined as a career year with competent play-calling and elite pass-pro merely resulted in the 26th-most fantasy points per game among quarterbacks.
Zach Wilson (QB22) -- Knocks on Wilson (6'2/214) include BYU's cupcake schedule — only three of the Cougars' 12 opponents last year ranked in the top-half of the FBS — and the five-lane highways he peered through behind Panthers third-round LT Brady Christensen, Titans UDFA RG Chandon Herring, and new Jets teammate Tristen Hoge. But don't let that fool you: Wilson is an unquestioned 17-game starter with a strong three-wide set of receivers (Denzel Mims, Corey Davis, Elijah Moore), road-grating left side of an offensive line, and surprising rushing upside (averaged seven carries in 30 career starts at Brigham Young) to boot.
Sam Darnold (QB23) -- Joe Brady most recently schemed career-highs for five separate players against the league's toughest passing schedule in his first year as Carolina's play-caller. It's the best-case scenario for Darnold as long as his confidence (and career) isn't completely shot after regressing across the board under Adam Gase.
Deshaun Watson (QB24) -- This is where I'd feel comfortable taking Watson given that the rest of this tier are also QB3 placeholders. Pending legal issues aside, Watson is still fresh off career- and league-highs in passing yards (4,823) and yards per attempt (8.9) amidst an in-season coaching change and the loss of both DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller.
Ben Roethlisberger (QB25) -- Steelers got away with averaging 40.5 pass attempts (with the league's lowest run play rate in neutral game script) because it faced the second-softest slate of passing defenses last year. Najee Harris' arrival is expected to take the ball out of 39-year-old Ben's hands despite the team's uninspiring o-line paving for both.
Daniel Jones (QB26) -- Jones averaged 32 fantasy points against 2019’s No. 13 (first start with little film on him), 20, 27, and 28 pass defense DVOAs and has rolled over for 12.1 in 22 surrounding starts. Hope is not a strategy, and any thoughts Jones will improve in Jason Garrett's sluggish offense is just that.
Derek Carr (QB28) -- Raiders lost its team leader in air yards and end zone targets (Nelson Agholor) and are projected to start three of last year's backups in place of Pro Football Focus' No. 8 C, No. 52 G, and No. 53 LT. Anyone not named Darren Waller should be avoided.
Carson Wentz (QB29) -- Frank Reich previously milked a career-high 21.7 fantasy points per game from Wentz in 2017, but last year's league-highs in interceptions (15) and sacks taken (50) are a clear indication Philadelphia's four-year extension was purely a gamble. Colts can still escape gifting a first-round pick to the Eagles if Wentz plays less than 75% of the team's snaps, threatening his outlook as a 17-game starter, potential season-ending injury pending.
Mac Jones (QB30) -- The nation's most accurate quarterback within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, Jones' lack of rushing juice and middling arm make him a 'safety net' in this range just in case he wins the job outright over Cam Newton in camp.
Jameis Winston (QB31) -- Two sacks and a dropped interception on 14 dropbacks with the Saints last year. Even if Winston is the favorite to win the job out of camp (and all reports suggest as much), Taysom Hill's presence is too much to bear inside the five-yard line.
Teddy Bridgewater (QB32) -- Gifted the league's easiest schedule of opposing pass defenses in 2021, Bridgewater has upside if only because he can (unlike Drew Lock) dump the ball off and reap the ensuing rewards.