Fantasy football draft season is here, so it’s time to roll up your sleeves and finalize your prep. One of the most useful weapons to have in your draft day arsenal is fantasy football tiers. With a tier-based approach, you can see how each player stacks up at his respective position. Tiers are slightly different from rankings because it’s not just a straight list of players. These groupings allow for a more flexible approach to drafting that you can ultimately build into your draft board.
Over the next few days, I’m going to update my position-by-position and give you my tiers for 2021 fantasy football drafts. We’ll kick things off today with quarterback fantasy football tiers. Of course, don’t forget that you can check out all of our fantasy football rankings and fantasy football projections.
These three are undoubtedly the top options at their position. Mahomes is an annually threat to top 5,000 passing yards. Allen is coming off a massive 2020 campaign where he took a huge step forward with his arm. While Murray tailed off down the stretch, he did flash elite fantasy production over the first two months of the season.
All three players are more than capable of putting up monster numbers yet again this year, but there’s a problem. They’re going so early in drafts, that they’re essentially priced out of most draft boards. Don’t get me wrong. They’re both extremely valuable, but you’ll be able to construct a more balanced roster by waiting at the position.
It wouldn’t be at all shocking if any of these four players ended up finishing as the No. 1 option in 2020. Sure, Jackson came back to the pack last season, but his legs give him a massive fantasy floor and we’ve already seen what his ceiling looks like. Prescott has been dinged up in camp with a shoulder injury, but all word out of Dallas says he’ll be fine for the start of camp. Rodgers’ status remains up in the air, so we still need to wait and see. But if he’s back with the Packers, he’s locked in as a rock-solid QB1. Wilson is an annual QB1, but he is somewhat held back by the Seahawks’ run-heavy ways. That said, he’s topped 30 touchdowns in five of his last six season.
And we’ve reached the sexy segment in our quarterback tiers. Herbert is the new fantasy football golden boy following his breakout rookie campaign. He’s a fantasy favorite for a lot of people, which might end up causing him to be overdrafted in your home leagues. Hurts is extremely tricky to evaluate for fantasy purposes heading into this season. Yes, he flashed QB1 potential last season, thanks in large part to his elite running ability. But we have an extremely small sample on him. Hurts could easily be top-10 if he’s able to make progress in Year 2, but we also can’t rule out the potential of him falling flat on his face. That’s the risk you take on if you draft him.
Stafford’s value should also be on the rise heading into draft season as people wake up to his potential in Sean McVay’s offense. Burrow also offers a very high ceiling, especially with the Bengals adding Ja'Marr Chase in this year’s draft.
You don’t quite have sex appeal with this group, but you do essentially know exactly what you’re going to get with them. Tannehill has completely revitalized his career in Tennessee and got another fantasy boost when the Titans traded for Julio Jones. Of course, Tennessee is still a run-heavy offense, which caps Tannehill’s upside. Tampa is anything but run-heavy, but we all know Brady isn’t going to add any fantasy points with his legs.
If you want to execute the “safe and upside” late-round approach in your drafts where you take one safe option and one upside option, this is your safe tier. These guys may not all be available at the end of your drafts, but it’s extremely likely that at least one will be. These four signal callers may not have the highest ceilings, but their floors make them appealing options. Ryan is an annual 4,000-plus yard passer. While he lost Jones in the offseason, the Falcons did draft potential all-world tight end Kyle Pitts. Cousins is another consistent high floor option who has a budding super start in Justin Jefferson at his disposal. Like Cousins, Mayfield is at the helm of a run-heavy offense, but does have high quality receivers at his disposal. As for Big Ben, he’s very much in the twilight of his career and doesn’t have the downfield pop he once had. But he can still be serviceable given the impressive weapons the Steelers have on their roster.
This is the group to pair with your safe option. These six players do not come with a high floor, but each of them have the potential to give you a massive return on investment if they hit this year. The rookies at the top are extremely intriguing. Lawrence, Lance and Fields come with several question marks, but any one of them could be this year’s Justin Herbert. As for Tagovailoa, we really can’t draw much from his rookie season. The Dolphins have given him the keys and have surrounded him with tons of speed. Fitzpatrick will be at the helm of an explosive offense with very intriguing receiver talent. Winston is far from a lock to keep the job for the who season, but he does offer a high weekly ceiling.
These guys aren’t likely to be drafted in 1QB leagues, but they’re all in consideration in 2QB and superflex formats. However, none of these guys offer a particularly high fantasy ceiling. For your third quarterback, you may want to swing for the fences and select one of the players in Tier 5b.
You may end up streaming these guys in 1QB leagues, but they’re very much in play as third quarterback options in 2QB and superflex leagues. We haven’t quite given up on Daniel Jones just yet, but he isn’t able to turn a corner this season, it likely will never happen. As for Wilson, he isn’t in as good of a spot as Lawrence, Lance or Fields. But he will be the starter right from the gate and will get a long leash in his rookie season. Mac Jones will also get the start right away for the Patriots. He doesn’t quite have Wilson’s ceiling but isn’t far off. Wentz went under the knife at the beginning of camp, but reports are favorable about his return by the beginning of the season. Still, he’s far from a safe option at this point.
At this point, we really don’t know if Watson will play in 2021, but it’s looking very iffy. His legal case won’t conclude until after the season, but there’s a chance he could be placed on Commissioner’s Exempt list if he’s indicted on criminal chargers. Even if he isn’t, reports out of Houston suggest that Watson has made it clear that he won’t play for the Texans. Perhaps Houston can convince him otherwise, but we really have no indication one way or the other. There’s no question regarding his skill level, but we just can’t count on him being on the field. He’s still worth a shot as a late-round flier. Worst-case scenario is you end up dropping him.
Be careful with Dalton, as he enters 2020 on borrowed time with Justin Fields waiting in the wings. He may open the season as the starter, but it’s unlikely he remains in that job for more than a month. As for Taylor, his stock hinges on Watson’s status, but it looks like there’s a strong chance he’s under center for the Texans when the season opens.
These guys aren’t going to be drafted in regular-sized leagues, but you should keep your eye on them. Newton was a bit of a surprise cut in New England. It’s unlikely he lands elsewhere as a starter, but he could end up positioned well as a priority backup. And that’s exactly how I’d describe Hill in New Orleans. Any slip up from Jameis Winston could have Hill back in the starting gig.
Lock offers upside, but Teddy Bridgewater won the starting job in camp. Of course, he’s far from guaranteed to keep the job. Mariota flashed fantasy potential last year, though the Raiders have made their intention to stick with Derek Carr very clear. Love could be under center if Aaron Rodgers decides to hold out or retire. Mond doesn’t figure to see any action with Kirk Cousins locked in, but his skill set is appealing and he’d be a factor if something happened to Cousins. As for Mills, he’s likely to get a look at the end of the season, as the Texans are an extreme longshot for the playoff picture.