QB2s with Top-5 Upside (2021 Fantasy Football)
Sunday’s Super Bowl is still fresh in our minds, but with the Buccaneers’ victory, the 2020 season is officially a wrap, and it’s time to look ahead. Every year, an underrated quarterback or two blows his ADP and ECR out of the water with league-winning production. Who could those players be in 2021?
I took a look at the most current FantasyPros ECR to see who the experts have in the QB2 tier (QB13-QB24). I’ve narrowed that list of 12 names to four who have top-5 upside. What about the guys who didn’t make the cut? Baker Mayfield, Derek Carr, and Kirk Cousins didn’t make the cut because they play on run-heavy offenses that limit their overall production. Ben Roethlisberger played well to start 2020, but he limped to the finish line. This may be his final season. While Daniel Jones has certainly proven himself to be mobile, we haven’t seen enough from him to say that he has top-5 upside. Jared Goff gets a downgrade in situation, Tua Tagovailoa has received anything but commitment and praise from his coaching staff, and despite huge potential and a lot of talent, Trevor Lawrence has a lot of dysfunction and surrounding-talent issues to overcome in (presumably) Jacksonville.
With all of that out of the way, let’s jump in!
Jalen Hurts (PHI)
Carson Wentz trade rumors have reached a fever pitch over the last few days, and by the time this article is published, he may be long gone from Philly. For now, he’s still on the team, but after being benched for the final four games of the season in favor of rookie Jalen Hurts, it’s safe to say the Keystone State will be known as Pennsylvania — and not “Wentzylvania” moving forward.
In his four starts, Hurts showed plenty of upside and plenty of rookie miscues. He went 69/133 for 919 passing yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions in that span, completing a measly BLANK percent of his passes to go with a modest touchdown-to-interception split. While those numbers won’t win you any weeks on their own, Hurts piled up a healthy 46/272/3 line on the ground that not only buoyed his fantasy value but shot it out of the water. He was the QB7 from Weeks 14-17 thanks to his dual-threat abilities, and those abilities give him the upside to finish as a top-five fantasy signal-caller in 2021.
Matthew Stafford (LAR)
Stafford’s move to LA gives him a big boost in fantasy upside, but could he realistically finish as a top-5 option at the position? The former Lion will get an upgrade in offensive line, coach, and receivers with his new team, and the gunslinger has always had a ton of potential and talent that could re-emerge in full force in Los Angeles. Of the players listed in the QB13-QB24 range, Stafford has as much upside as any player. He has the ability to extend plays and is willing to throw the ball downfield, which should benefit the speedy Van Jefferson, who could be ready to take a second-year leap. Both Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp finished as top-10 players in yards-after-catch in 2020, and Stafford will get the advantage of dumping the ball to them as well as talented second-year man Cam Akers. With better coaching, more protection, an upgrade in receivers, and a fresh start, Stafford is a guy who has all the makings of a guy with top-5 upside.
Taysom Hill (NO)
Is it finally Hill’s moment to shine? The only football chatter louder than that of Wentz’s imminent deal is that of Drew Brees‘ potential retirement. If the future Hall of Famer does hang it up, Hill seems poised to take over the reigns. He’s a guy that Sean Payton loves, and he is extremely mobile. From Weeks 11-14, Hill finished as the QB6 while starting each game for New Orleans. He completed 71 percent of his passes for 834 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions and did plenty of damage as a rusher, with 39/209/4 on the ground. His ability to run the ball definitely gives him the upside to produce as a top-fiver, and with two reliable targets to gobble up passes in Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, and an elite offensive line, Hill has the weapons around him to succeed.
On the flip side, there’s certainly a chance that Jameis Winston (QB36) wins the starting job in New Orleans, and he’s got top-5 upside as well. Just two seasons ago, Winston led the NFL in passing yards and interceptions while throwing for over 5,000 yards and 30 touchdowns in the process. He was a No.1 overall pick for a reason, but Winston has been plagued by character issues and poor decision-making throughout his career. If the tutelage and leadership of Drew Brees and Sean Payton have helped Winston grow in those areas and clean up the mistakes, we could see a career revival of the highest order in New Orleans. Keep an eye on both of these quarterbacks this offseason, because whoever wins the starting job will be highly undervalued in 2021 fantasy drafts.
Matt Ryan (ATL)
We’ve seen him finish as a top-5 fantasy quarterback within the last five years, so we know it’s possible. But is it possible for the upcoming season? Absolutely. When we’re talking QB2’s with upside, we need to look at opportunity. Atlanta has finished in the top-5 of team passing attempts each of the last three years, while Ryan led the league in attempts in 2020 and completions (2020, 2019). Ryan’s star receiver, Julio Jones, appeared in only nine games last season and missed the Pro Bowl for the first time in six years. Calvin Ridley took a huge step forward in 2020 (90/1,374/9), and if he and Jones can play a full healthy season together, Ryan has one of the best receiving corps in the league. Couple that with his penchant for throwing a ton of passes and Atlanta’s severe deficiencies in the run game, and you’ve got a recipe for something special.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – which allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team, and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.