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QB2s with Top-5 Potential (2021 Fantasy Football)

Jul 30, 2021

Since 2016, eighteen different quarterbacks have finished the season inside the Top 5 at their position, a 60% yearly turnover of the “elite” fantasy QBs. The odds say three of 2020’s Top 5 won’t make the 2021 cut. With that in mind, we should be looking for the next big QB season instead of assuming a near repeat of last year.

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Below are three quarterbacks who have the opportunity and skillset to make the leap from late-round QB to fantasy darling this season. None of these signal-callers are currently being selected in the Top 12, per ADP, at their respective position.

Kirk Cousins (QB-MIN) ADP QB 18.5
For evidence of “name bias” in fantasy football, look no further than the quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings. Public perception of Kirk Cousins as a bad option for their fantasy teams is just flat wrong. He has thrown 118 touchdown passes over the last four seasons, including 35 in 2020. He’s already finished in the Top 5 fantasy QBs once and has a 6th place finish to boot. He’s always on the field, missing just one game since 2015. Meanwhile, last season was arguably his best (analytically speaking) yet.

Cousins has been remarkably efficient when he has time to throw. Making the most of every throw, Kirk was the third-best starting QB in YPA, at 8.3 yards last season. Couple that with a 68% completion percentage (8th-best), and there’s a recipe for sustained success in this offense. He has a dynamic young wideout in Justin Jefferson (WR-MIN), who fantasy analysts are projecting for a monster sophomore campaign; someone has to throw him the ball.

The Vikings QB was that precise with his throws all 2020 despite being knocked down the second-most of any NFL signal-caller — 65 times! While there’s no denying Cousins’ lack of mobility, his line did him no favors. Inadequate protection is why Minnesota bolstered their offensive front by drafting Christian Darrisaw (OT – MIN) and Wyatt Davis (G – MIN) in the first three rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft. Cleaner pockets, more familiarity with his stud WR, and continued efficiency could make Cousins a shockingly productive fantasy asset.

Trey Lance (QB – SF) ADP QB 23.3
The easiest route from QB2 to Top 5 is the dynamic ability to make plays on the ground AND through the air. Just peep the fantasy leaderboard at the position, and you’ll notice plenty of dual threats atop. The quarterback currently going latest in drafts with that ability is Trey Lance. None question his rushing skills, but some still question his arm. Kyle Yates is not one of those doubters:


San Francisco’s head coach Kyle Shanahan is now on record stating Jimmy Garoppolo (QB-SF) is the starter, which will only help to lower Lance’s opportunity cost. But make no mistake about it, this young man can ball. Additionally, his talents are conducive to the 49ers’ plans to be winners in 2021. Lance rarely made a mistake in his NCAA career, posting one of the lowest turnover percentages in this draft class. Once he usurps Garoppolo, the sky is the limit, and if that comes early on — he is headed to the Top 5.

Baker Mayfield (QB-CLE) ADP QB 17.8
2021 will be the first time in Baker Mayfield’s career that he has run the same offense for two straight seasons. Last year, Baker took strides in limiting turnovers. He set a career-low with eight interceptions as the Browns’ new staff, led by Kevin Stefanski, eased Mayfield into their system. Now, it is time to unleash the former number 1 selection.

As Mayfield learned the intricacies of the new Cleveland scheme, he outperformed his career numbers. During the first 11 Weeks of 2020, he posted a measly 7.0 yards per attempt. However, from Week 12 on, the 26-year-old nearly added a full yard per attempt, tossing the football at a 7.8 YPA clip. Over an entire season, that would put him in the Ryan Tannehill (QB-TEN) range — a top-seven fantasy quarterback in 2020.

What took Tannehill to the next level? A dominant WR. Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr. (WR-CLE) have yet to make a significant connection, but that has been chiefly because of the wideout’s injury-plagued season. Having a healthy OBJ is key to Baker making a leap in 2021.

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Whether you’re new to fantasy football or a seasoned pro, our Fantasy Football 101: Strategy Tips & Advice page is for you. You can get started with Starting Your Own Fantasy Football League or head to a more advanced strategy – like What is the Right Amount of Risk to Absorb on Draft Day? – to learn more.

Aaron Pags is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Aaron, check out his archive and follow him @FantasyTriage.

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