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Best Ball Strategy

2021 Best-Ball QB Tiers

by John Daigle
Updated On: April 6, 2021, 6:32 pm ET

Jump to: RB Tiers


Tier One


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.

Josh Allen (QB2) -- 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.

Lamar Jackson (QB3) -- 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 quietly return 8-of-11 starters on offense and arguably upgrade its backfield (J.K. Dobbins) and second receiver spot (Miles Boykin/Devin Duvernay) with more explosive options.

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 injured player that should return to form in the regular season opener following a career-high 8.3 rush attempts per contest.


Tier Two


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 expected to maximize Los Angeles' talent (and are an upgrade from whatever the hell last year's coaching staff was doing). 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 out from No. 6 to No. 12 overall should be viewed as the organization's reassurance that Hurts will be evaluated throughout the year.

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 the ground.

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 total fantasy points 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 years.



Tier Three


Tom Brady (QB10) -- 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 downfield shots (91) cancel out the perpetual quicksand underneath him.

Joe Burrow (QB11) -- A.J. Green's departure 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 to throw both under pressure (37.3% completion rate) and deep (18.8%) throughout his rookie year.

Ryan Tannehill (QB12) -- Tannehill suddenly finds himself vulnerable without Arthur Smith, whose play-action offense catered an average 21.6 fantasy points across 26 regular-season starts. 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.

Trevor Lawrence (QB13) -- 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 sophomore Laviska Shenault from the slot. Career 5.7 carries per game only heighten Lawrence's ceiling.

Matthew Stafford (QB14) -- 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.

Matt Ryan (QB15) -- While Ryan's ceiling has never been higher given his fresh start under intuitive play-caller Arthur Smith — the veteran averaged 8.9 YPA from play-action just last year — any selection under center at No. 4 overall would threaten the 35-year-old's 17-game outlook.

Justin Fields (QB16) -- Fields leached onto the ball at the nation's third-longest average time to throw (3.11 seconds) in his final year but at least one front office is bound to overlook that tendency for a shot at rebuilding around his 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. Both highs and lows in raw production last year can be thrown out the window since Ohio State stayed plagued with COVID absences throughout its eight-game season.

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, the transition to co-offensive coordinators, an inevitable addition on offense with one-of-two first-round picks — still stand to impact Tua more than any individual player in that unit.

Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB18) -- 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 this offseason. Fitzmagic also spiked QB1-performances in 4-of-6 starts before being benched over Miami's bye.

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.


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Tier Four


Baker Mayfield (QB20) -- 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 (QB21) -- 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 four NFL-caliber hogmollies, including Dane Brugler's No. 76 overall prospect LT Brady Christensen, keeping him upright. But don't let that fool you: Wilson's gunslinger, Tony Romo-esque traits resulted in 12 scores and a 62.5% completion rate on throws 20-plus yards deep, all the while averaging 12.6 adjusted YPA (to account for sacks and interceptions). Wilson's strengths combined with Denzel Mims, Corey Davis, and Jamison Crowder give all a chance to flourish in the rookie's first year.

Cam Newton (QB22) -- 9.1 carries per game including a position-high 19 rushes inside the five. Newton's incentive-laden one-year deal still needs to dodge a quarterback during the first two days of draft weekend to be relevant.

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) -- 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 throughout the year. Nothing more than a QB3-placeholder at this time since pending legal issues could carry into Week 1.

Trey Lance (QB25) -- 28:0 TD-to-INT ratio and 10.5 carries per game in 2019, his lone year as North Dakota State's starter. A redshirt year under a progressive play-caller and veteran quarterback would do wonders.

Carson Wentz (QB26) -- 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.

Ben Roethlisberger (QB27) -- Steelers got away with averaging 40.5 pass attempts behind the league's lowest run play rate in neutral game script because it faced the second-softest slate of passing defenses in 2020. 39-year-old Ben's immobility and decrepit arm won't endure another year of that approach.

Daniel Jones (QB28) -- 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 (QB29) -- 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.


Tier Five


Jameis Winston (QB30) -- 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.

Mac Jones (QB31) -- The nation's most accurate quarterback within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, Jones' lack of rushing juice and middling arm makes his rumored top-five draft capital of utmost importance.

Jared Goff (QB32) -- Carrying out Anthony Lynn's bidding behind an uninspiring o-line with Breshad Perriman, Tyrell Williams, and Quez Watkins in three-wide sets leaves little ceiling to the imagination.

Andy Dalton (QB33) -- 33-year-old Dalton proved he was unable to save a sinking ship with a career-low 6.5 YPA last year. What's changed?

Drew Lock (QB34) -- Five QB1-finishes across 18 career starts suggests Lock is receiving the benefit of the doubt based solely on poor front office evaluation. Career 13.6% deep ball percentage is a moot point given his XFL-worthy 25.6% completion rate on said attempts.