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The Quarterback Carousel: Who Will Crack the Top 10 in 2021?

(Image credit: Nick Wojton/USA Today Sports)

By: Austin Geller

Twitter: @24Ageller

The 2020 season was full of superstar talents at the quarterback position. Quarterbacks like Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray, and Russell Wilson put on shows all season. With the 2021 season just around the corner, the quarterback pool just keeps on getting better with each passing year, the top 10 always twisting and turning. My predictions for 2021’s top 10 quarterbacks are as follows:

1. Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills)

Josh Allen had an incredible turnaround from 2019 to 2020. Not only did he throw for 1500 more yards last season for a total of 4,544 yards, but he accounted for 16 more total touchdowns. In 2020, Josh Allen finished as the #1 fantasy quarterback with 405 points with an opportunity to build on that this season. Fortunately for Josh Allen, the Bills still lack a running game. They just added Emmanuel Sanders to an already great receiving core featuring star Stefon Diggs. Josh Allen, once again, is going to have the ball in his hands all game. With his rifle of an arm and his tough running, especially from inside the 5-yard line, Josh Allen is in an excellent position to repeat as fantasy’s #1 quarterback.

2. Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs)

What is not to love about Patrick Mahomes? He is on arguably the most explosive offense with arguably the most prolific coach in Andy Reid. Mahomes threw for 4,740 yards and 38 touchdowns in 2020, leading the Chiefs to a 14-2 record. Mahomes ended the season as fantasy’s #4 quarterback. The Chiefs still have their explosive weapons in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. More importantly, the signing of offensive tackle Orlando Brown and getting the rest of the starting line back could very well lead Mahomes to have an even better season. The only discrepancy separating Mahomes and Josh Allen is that Josh Allen is more of a runner, especially in goal-line situations. Nonetheless, I predict Patrick Mahomes will end the season as fantasy’s #2 quarterback.

3. Kyler Murray (Arizona Cardinals)

What a campaign for Kyler Murray in 2020. Throwing for nearly 4,000 yards and 26 touchdowns, while also rushing for 819 yards and 11 touchdowns, led Murray to finish the 2020 season as fantasy’s #2 quarterback. I expect similar results this season. Murray now goes into year 3 with a full season under his belt with DeAndre Hopkins. Those two developed one of the best rapports in all of football in 2020 and I expect it to only improve from here. As great as Murray is, the one thing holding him back from cracking my top 2 is his decision-making. He still relies too heavily on his legs, which hurts him in the passing game. In order for him to ascend to the top 2 this year, Kyler is going to have to make more plays with his arm. Regardless, Murray’s talents do not go overlooked. I predict Kyler Murray will end the season as fantasy’s #3 quarterback.

4. Dak Prescott (Dallas Cowboys)

Through the first four weeks of 2020, Dak Prescott was having a season for the ages. Heading into Week 5, Dak was leading the league in passing by a mile with 1,690 yards. He was on track to break the all-time single-season yards record. Unfortunately, Dak’s season was cut short by a tragic foot injury sustained in Week 5 against the New York Giants. However, Dak Prescott is back. Dak returns in 2021 with almost a year’s worth of recovery and rehab. More importantly, he returns to one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL, featuring Ezekiel Elliot, Amari Cooper, and Ceedee Lamb. Dak has every weapon at his disposal this year. Additionally, the Cowboys are regaining some of their best linemen: La’el Collins, Tyron Smith, and Zack Martin. With Dallas’ offensive line back at full strength, Dak should have all day to make plays with his arm. I do believe Dak’s ceiling is limited in fantasy due to the presence of Ezekiel Elliot. Elliot is still their workhorse and he is going to have a large workload, which will take away opportunities for Dak. This is the big reason I believe Dak will not be able to crack the top 3. Regardless, I predict Dak Prescott will end the season as fantasy’s #4 quarterback.

5. Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens)

Lamar Jackson has been a special talent since entering the league in 2018. He has lit up the league with his athletic abilities and his elusiveness on the field. His athleticism has done wonders for fantasy football managers. However, Lamar finished as fantasy’s #10 quarterback in 2020, which was a bit of a letdown for the fantasy football world that expected him to finish top 5 (to say the least). However, 2020 is in the past; buckle up for Lamar Jackson airways in 2021. There have been criticisms about Lamar Jackson’s inability to make a play with his arm. While there is some truth to that, there is also a reason behind it. Lamar has never had help on the outside. Marquise Brown is not a WR1 and Mark Andrews can only do so much at tight end. But with the addition of rookie Rashod Bateman, Lamar Jackson may finally have the weapon he has needed. Rashod Bateman comes into the league as a 6-foot 200-pound thoroughbred that can do it all at receiver. With Bateman most likely to draw a lot of attention, Lamar will be able to finally start hitting more receivers like Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews. Jackson’s passing numbers have the potential to skyrocket this season. In addition to having a much more talented wide receiving core, Lamar is still going to be able to frustrate defenses with his legs. He was top 10 in rushing in 2020 against all running backs; that is the one aspect of his game that will not change. The sky's the limit for Lamar Jackson, but he will need to prove he can still make plays with his arm. I predict Lamar Jackson will finish as fantasy’s #5 quarterback this season.

6. Justin Herbert (Los Angeles Chargers)

Justin Herbert took no time to introduce himself to the NFL. From the moment he took his first snap, he looked like a guy who had been doing it for years. When I think of Justin Herbert, I think of a guy who is the definition of calm, cool, and collected with a cannon for an arm. Justin Herbert finished as fantasy’s #9 quarterback in 2020. He was top 6 in passing yards with 4,336 and top 10 in touchdowns with 31. Despite the excellent numbers, there is still so much opportunity for Herbert’s numbers to escalate. With the departure of Anthony Lynn, Herbert will be in a much better position to let the ball fly, even more, this season.

Herbert quickly developed a great relationship on the field with Pro Bowl receiver Keenan Allen. With a full year under his belt, Herbert will look to build on his rookie year with Keenan Allen and high flyer Mike Williams. In addition to his receiving duo, Herbert will benefit greatly from the return of Austin Ekeler. Aside from CMC and Kamara, I do not know another running back that is used more as a receiver than Austin Ekeler. Having a dangerous weapon out of the backfield to throw to will only boost Herbert’s numbers, even more, this season. Justin Herbert is very similar to Josh Allen in the sense that he loves to keep it himself inside the 5-yard line. His production from inside the five gives him a lot of upside to even finish as a top-five quarterback. Assuming he will progress, I predict that Justin Herbert will finish as fantasy’s #6 quarterback this season with the potential to sneak his way into the top 5.

7. Ryan Tannehill (Tennessee Titans)

Ryan Tannehill has certainly made his mark in the NFL the past two seasons. His transition from Miami to Tennessee has changed his career, especially in fantasy football. Tannehill finished as fantasy’s #7 quarterback last season. He gave fantasy managers a heck of a year with his 3,800 yards and 33 touchdowns, as well as his 286 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground. Tannehill has the opportunity to build on last season’s success in 2021. The addition of Julio Jones has changed the dynamic of the AFC. As difficult as the Titans were before to defend, now defenses have to figure out a way to stop King Henry, as well as the duo of AJ Brown and Julio Jones. Ryan Tannehill now has another weapon to throw to, which opens up the field even more for him. The acquisition of Julio should result in Tannehill’s numbers climbing. Defenses are going to have to choose whether to defend the air or defend the ground. Either way, Ryan Tannehill is going to feast on defenses, whether it is with his arm or his legs. I predict that Ryan Tannehill will finish as fantasy’s #7 quarterback this season with the potential to sniff at the top 5.

8. Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)

Russell Wilson has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL for the last 10 years. That trend will only continue in 2021. The Seahawks come into 2021 with one of the most lethal wide receiver duos in the NFL. The 1-2 punch of D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett have given defenses nightmares over the past two seasons. Wilson lit up the league in 2020 with 4,212 yards and 40 touchdowns. Yet, he was unable to crack the top 5 for quarterbacks in fantasy. Through the first eight games of 2020, Russell Wilson was undeniably the best quarterback in fantasy, averaging over 25 PPG. A pure dominating performance he blessed fantasy managers with. But seasons don’t end after eight weeks. From Weeks 9-16, Russell Wilson’s numbers had a dramatic drop. From averaging over 28 PPG the first eight weeks, Wilson’s average plummeted to just over 16 PPG. Defenses seemed to start understanding Seattle’s offense and more importantly, the offensive line might as well have been chairs because they could not block anybody. There were many criticisms earlier this offseason towards Pete Carroll for not providing more protection for Wilson. Russ has had to scramble more than any quarterback in the league over the last few years. Despite the heat Carroll has taken, Seattle has done practically nothing to help the offensive line issues, leaving Wilson to have to run for his life all year once again. Fortunately, Wilson is always able to extend plays with his legs. But even then, he can only do that so much without exhausting himself. I always say that the game is won and lost in the trenches. I do not care if you are Aaron Rodgers or Mr. Rogers, it is very difficult to flourish when there is no time to throw and make a read. Until the offensive line proves they can protect Russ, his ceiling is limited. I predict Russell Wilson to finish as fantasy’s #8 quarterback this season with the potential to crack the top 5.

9. Tom Brady (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

What a season for Tom Brady. Just when I thought he was in over his head thinking he could just walk into Tampa and bring home a trophy, boy did he prove me wrong. Before I dive into Brady’s fantasy value, I would like to give my congratulations to Tom Brady. It was a well-deserved championship. Once again, he showed the world why he is one of the best to ever do it. But 2020 is over and the 2021 season is upon us. A 43-year-old Tom Brady was top 3 in total yards with 4,633 in 2020 and tied for 2nd in touchdowns with 40. Just a remarkable season for the future Hall of Famer. Tom Brady ended the year as fantasy’s #8 quarterback. I expect that trend will continue in 2021. The Buccaneers are loaded at every skill position starting with Mike Evans all the way to Rob Gronkowski. Brady’s deadly receiving core is back in 2021 to pick up right where they left off. The only difference is that Tampa will have Antonio Brown for the entire season and Tampa will have a whole preseason to work. Tampa’s offense is destined to explode again this season, with Brady leading the way. Due to Brady’s lack of running, his ceiling is limited. Nonetheless, I expect Tom Brady to put up similar numbers as last season. I predict Tom Brady will finish as fantasy’s #9 quarterback in 2021.

10. Carson Wentz (Indianapolis Colts)

Carson Wentz is a quarterback I love going into this season. I am a person that always roots for the underdog; I love seeing someone overcome adversity and rise back up. Carson Wentz will exemplify that narrative this season. Once looked upon as a top quarterback in the league, Carson Wentz has found himself being the laughing stock of football. Philadelphia spent no time choosing to ship Wentz with the arrival of Jalen Hurts. Carson Wentz, now in Indianapolis, has the perfect opportunity to establish his place as a top quarterback in the NFL. This is a blessing in disguise for the former #2 pick in the 2016 NFL draft. The Colts have given Wentz a loaded team to work with. The Colts have a top defense to give Wentz more opportunities on offense, arguably the best offensive line led by the best lineman in Quenton Nelson, a three-headed monster at running back comprising of Jonathan Taylor, Marlon Mack, and Nyheim Hines, and a head coach in Frank Reich that coached Wentz in 2017 during Wentz’s MVP caliber season. Carson Wentz will be looking to make a statement in 2021, so I imagine he is going to be firing on all cylinders. He has a very good receiving core composed of T.Y. Hilton and up-and-coming receiver Michael Pittman. If Frank Reich can work his magic on Wentz again this season, Carson Wentz is primed to be a top 10 fantasy quarterback of 2021. I predict that Carson Wentz will finish as fantasy’s #10 quarterback with the potential to crack the top 7.

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