We’re officially in 2021 fantasy football draft season, which means team managers are trying their best to uncover the hidden gems who could be the key to unlocking a championship and a year’s worth of bragging rights, not to mention some cash.
In this first installment of our fantasy football rookie preview, we look at the 2021 quarterback class. It’s a group that could end up with multiple starting-quality fantasy options by the time the season comes to an end.
Here’s our ranking of the top five rookie passers in 2021.
1. Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars
This one seems pretty simple, and it is. Lawrence is the best quarterback prospect to enter the NFL since Andrew Luck, and aside from Zach Wilson (Jets), he’s the only lock to start on opening day. That means he’ll be fantasy football relevant from Week 1 on.
The fact that the Jaguars are one of the league’s worst teams is a good thing for Lawrence’s fantasy value. Jacksonville will be playing from behind more often than with a lead, which means garbage yards and touchdowns for the former Clemson standout. And even when the games are close, Lawrence’s ability to make plays with his legs combined with a talented cast of skill players on the Jaguars roster makes him a good bet to exceed 3,500 yards and 20 touchdowns in Year 1.
2. Justin Fields, Bears
Fields may not be the Bears’ starter in Week 1, but it won’t take long for him to unseat Andy Dalton as September marches on. At worst, you’ll wait four games before Fields starts producing. At best, he’ll be in the huddle with the starters on Sept. 12.
Fields has the best chance to produce top-12 quarterback points out of all the rookies in 2021. He’s the best runner of the bunch — which is a quarterback cheat code — and he has the most reliable target at wide receiver (Allen Robinson). Darnell Mooney is a downfield threat who can earn yards in bunches, too.
Fields is a stud. And he’ll be a fantasy starter sooner than later.
3. Zach Wilson, Jets
Wilson, like Trevor Lawrence, is a lock to start in Week 1 but his road to quality production may be a bit tougher. Sure, the Jets signed Corey Davis and have some quality receivers in Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder, but there’s little-to-no running game in New York to take pressure off of Wilson, who’s coming off a breakout year at BYU that was against lowly competition.
There’s no denying Wilson’s arm talent. He has an elite skill set. But the Jets are coming off a disappointing tenure with Sam Darnold, whose quality arm wasn’t enough to rise above the complications that came along with being New York’s starter.
Wilson is a deceptive runner who will end up being a more productive fantasy player than real-life starter in Year 1, which is all fantasy managers care about. He’s worth rostering as a player who could be usable in November and December once the game begins to slow down for him.
4. Trey Lance, 49ers
Lance would be much higher on this list if there was any confidence in him being the starter early in the season, if at all, in 2021. Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t an elite quarterback, but he isn’t terrible either. He could conceivably start the entire season. Lance is much more appealing in dynasty and keeper leagues as a result.
If Lance does see the field, however, he could leap to the top of this list. He has top-notch playmakers in George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, and his ability to make plays with his legs rivals Justin Fields.
You’re only drafting Lance in seasonal leagues if you have no belief — whatsoever — in Garoppolo’s abilities in 2021.
5. Mac Jones, Patriots
Jones will sit behind Cam Newton for the first part of the 2021 season, if not all of it, as he slowly works his way into the Patriots’ starting lineup. If Newton plays like he did in 2020, Jones could be another September starter out of his bunch.
The problem with Jones is his physical limitations. He won’t score fantasy points with his legs, so he’ll be dependent on a strong supporting cast. The Patriots’ pass-catchers don’t inspire much confidence, so it’d be safe to leave Jones in the heap of free-agent quarterbacks to begin the year. At best, he’ll develop into a Kirk Cousins type. It’ll just take some time to get there.