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Quarterbacks to Avoid (2021 Fantasy Football)

May 16, 2021

The bigger question surrounding Aaron Rodgers is whether he will even play in Green Bay this year.

One of the hardest lists to generate is overrated quarterbacks because many quarterbacks put up big fantasy numbers. Here are two stats to keep in mind when it comes to demonstrating the abundance of quarterback options in fantasy football. If you look at the 2020 season totals, 20 of the Top-30 fantasy scorers were quarterbacks. Furthermore, that list does not include Joe Burrow, who played only 10 games last year due to injury. It does not include Jalen Hurts, who was a QB1 the last month of the season. It does not include Drew Brees and Taysom Hill, who were both in the Top-30 among fantasy quarterbacks and were both viable fantasy options at different times in the year. It does not include Ryan Fitzpatrick and Dak Prescott, who were QB1 options the first month of the season before Fitzpatrick lost his starting job, and Prescott went down for the season with an injury.

That means that players on an overrated list will have fantasy value because you can stream just about any starting NFL quarterback against a bad NFL Defense and obtain acceptable fantasy numbers. Overrated fantasy quarterbacks are still usable in fantasy football. They are just being drafted too high for their projected fantasy value.

Here are five quarterbacks that I have concerns about now that the 2021 NFL Draft has concluded, and we have some more clarity regarding likely starting quarterbacks to open the season. They are all going to be viable fantasy players this year, but fantasy owners are likely to be disappointed if they draft these quarterbacks at their current consensus ADP.

*All ADPs based on FantasyPros Consensus ADP.

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Aaron Rodgers (QB – GB)
Rodgers currently has an ADP of 72 as the seventh-ranked fantasy quarterback, which is probably a good ADP for him if he remains in Green Bay coming off a season where he had 4,299 yards passing and 48 touchdown passes. Green Bay figures to be an explosive offense again, with Davante Adams and Aaron Jones still in the mix. Even though Rodgers is 38 years old, there is no reason to believe that he will regress in Green Bay to the point where he is no longer an elite fantasy option. I do question whether he can duplicate his 2020 season. He has not played at that level since 2016. A regression from his 2020 historic season is built into his ranking of sixth quarterback overall.

The bigger question surrounding Rodgers is whether he will even play in Green Bay this year. Whether he is mad about the Packers trading up for Jordan Love in the 2020 NFL Draft, his contract situation, the GM’s handling of the roster, or a combination of all of those things; it seems clear that he does not want to play in Green Bay under the status quo.

Just because he goes to another team does not mean he will be the same Aaron Rodgers we have seen. Keep in mind it took him until his second year with Matt LaFleur to be the Aaron Rodgers we expect to see every year. One of the rumored teams he could be joining is the Denver Broncos. If that were to happen, he would go from playing behind Pro Football Focus’s second-ranked offensive line to their 25th. Another team that has been thrown out there is the Las Vegas Raiders, and he would be behind in the 24th ranked offensive line. If the New York Giants decided to ditch the Daniel Jones experiment, Rodgers would join the 31st ranked offensive line. It is really hard to rank a quarterback until we know the offensive system, the quality of the offensive line, and the quality of the skill position players.

Rodgers would make all his teammates better, just like Tom Brady made everyone in Tampa Bay better in his first year there. None of those potential teams I listed seem to be as good of a fit as Tampa Bay was for Brady. A bad offensive line or subpar skill position players could be the difference between 4,500 yards passing and 40 passing touchdowns versus 4,000 yards passing and 30 passing touchdowns versus a collarbone injury in Week 5 that shuts down the bulk of his season. We need to have a handle on what team he is playing for before he can be properly ranked, and the sixth ranking would be a very high ceiling for some of the potential teams he could join later this offseason.

Jalen Hurts (QB – PHI)
Hurts is currently being ranked as the 99th ranked overall player and the ninth quarterback off the board. This ranking is for a player that threw only 148 passes last year and will now be with his second head coach, Nick Sirianni. There is no guarantee that Hurts duplicates his 23.8 fantasy points per game that he tallied over the last four games with a new head coach that is trying to establish himself in the league. There is no guarantee the defenses in the league do not make some adjustments now that they have some video to look at from Hurts playing last year.

That does not mean I think Hurts is destined to be a bust. I think he is a very promising young player with a bright future. The Eagles helped him by adding DeVonta Smith, the Heisman Trophy-winning wide receiver from Alabama. My issue is that in those last four games, he was the seventh-ranked fantasy quarterback, so he is being drafted near his incredible run to close last season. That ranking does not factor in a possible regression or injury risk of a mobile quarterback. It just assumes he picks up where he left off and plays at that level for 17 games.

Trevor Lawrence has an ADP of 163, and Tua Tagovailoa has an ADP of 176. Hurts may very well do better than both of those players, but not significantly better that I would want to take Hurts six or seven rounds higher. I think I like those players better with some upside at their low ranking rather than Hurts being ranked at or near his ceiling as the ninth overall quarterback.

Matthew Stafford (QB – LAR)
Stafford is currently ranked as the 12th ranked fantasy quarterback, which means that he would need to score around 290-300 fantasy points to live up to that ranking. He has no value as a runner. He has not scored a rushing touchdown or topped 115 rushing yards since the 2016 season. He is a lot like Philip Rivers at this point of his career. His entire fantasy ranking is going to be found in his passing numbers. That means he needs to have around 4,500 passing yards and 30 passing touchdowns to justify that ranking.

I do not see the offense in place for him to have that type of success. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are good receivers, but Tyler Higbee is a very inconsistent tight end, and Van Jefferson is mostly unproven. They did have the third-ranked offensive line by Fantasy Pros in 2020, but this was an offense that was much more focused on running the ball than they were in 2019 when they were the 31st ranked offensive line. Last year, they ranked seventh in rushing attempts with 473, and their 590 pass attempts ranked 12th in the league.

Stafford has a much stronger arm than Jared Goff, and it is possible that his play-action passing and deep throws result in monster numbers in limited passing attempts. I still think that Stafford is being ranked at his ceiling. He has no value as a runner, the offense he is joining is not among the best in the league, and he is going to need to have a fantastic year to hit that 12th ranking. It also does not take into account he has had problems with injuries the last couple of years, and he could miss some games this year. I would rather go with one of the unproven quarterbacks with more mobility than Stafford in an offense focused on running the football and playing great defense.

Matt Ryan (QB – ATL)
Ryan was a very solid fantasy quarterback last year with 293.4 fantasy points, but he was not very good in the second half. He averaged 19.29 fantasy points per game in his first eight games and only 17.40 fantasy points per game in his last eight games. He had a stretch from Week 11 to Week 14, where he failed to tally more than 15 fantasy points in a game. He could be poised for a big year. The Falcons added Kyle Pitts to a group of receivers that already includes Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. That threesome has the potential to be one of the best in the league.

However, there is talk that Julio Jones could be traded before Week 1, as trading him after June 01 would save them $16 million in cap space this year. Part of the reason that Ryan struggled last year is that Jones only played nine games last year. Adding Pitts and subtracting Jones is not going to turn the team into one of the best offenses in the league. The best-case scenario is that Pitts is a star and replaces Jones in the offense, which means maintaining the status quo from last year with a star player that has a better chance to stay healthy the entire season.

The Falcons have a very one-dimensional offense. They have a great quarterback with some great targets, and that is all they have on that side of the ball. They had only the 21st ranked offense line last year, according to Pro Football Focus. Their running game averaged only 3.7 yards per rushing attempt, which was 31st in the NFL. Matt Ryan did have 293.4 fantasy points, but he also needed 626 pass attempts to produce those points. He was not very efficient last year on a team that won only four games. Adding Pitts does not do much if they also lose Julio Jones in a trade. Ryan is now the 14th ranked quarterback, and I do not think that ranking reflects the reality that Julio Jones is likely to be in another uniform by Week 1. Ryan is being ranked at his ceiling if Jones is not going to be on the roster.

Kirk Cousins (QB – MIN)
Cousins always seems to start the season slowly. In 2020, he averaged only 15.16 fantasy points per game in his first five games. That was similar to 2019, when he averaged only 13.13 fantasy points in his first five games. Every season, Mike Zimmer tries to take the air out of the football, and every year he is forced to change course when Minnesota’s offense is a dumpster fire early in the season, and they do not score enough points to win games.

I know there is a lot of excitement with the emergence of Justin Jefferson, but this team will also not have offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak back. There is no guarantee that drafting Christian Darrisaw in the first round immediately fixes an offensive line ranked 26th by Pro Football Focus last year. I think this is still a flawed offense that will put up huge numbers one week and struggle to move the ball the next week. I also think that Cousins will start the season slow before he picks up the pace once Zimmer realizes they need to pass the ball more than 12 times per game in today’s NFL.

Cousins is currently ranked 15th among fantasy quarterbacks or 146th overall. You are not going to destroy your fantasy roster drafting him there. He probably will end up somewhere in the QB2 tier that he is being drafted. I just would not play him early in the year, and he is not worth rostering for five weeks until he picks up the pace. I would gladly own someone else early in the year and claim Cousins on waivers once he has a good matchup on the bye weeks. Whoever drafts him is probably going to cut him when the numbers are not there early in the season.

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Derek Lofland is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Derek, check out his archive and follow him @DerekLofland.