The only constant at the top is inconstancy, as we’ve been
talking about the past week or so. Regardless of whether I’m
right about the who—which top QBs, RBs, and WRs from last
year, in particular, will fall from grace in 2021—we already
know I’m right about the what: Many, if not most of them,
certainly will. The historical data is overwhelming on that point,
friends. So who are this season’s “disruptors”
best positioned to replace last year’s studs? Let’s
break it down.
A quick reminder of the Top 10 fantasy QBs from last season…
Note: All rankings are based on FFToday’s
Non-PPR league scoring.
DAL: There isn’t a more obvious candidate for Top 10 elevation
this season than Dak, whose 2020 campaign was cut brutally short
by a compound ankle fracture and dislocation. He scored only nine
fantasy points in that abbreviated Week 5 appearance v. the Giants,
yet still managed to average 31.2 FPts/G on the season. How good
was that? Peyton Manning averaged 31.0 FPts/G in 2013, the year
he scored the most fantasy points in the history of the game!
Prescott had a long way to go to best Manning’s all-time mark,
granted, but it’s only a matter of time before someone does
(keep reading). Though it could be him, I’m skeptical the
Cowboys will want or even need him to carry the offense as much
as he did early last season. A decimated offensive line should be
back to full strength in 2021 and Jerruh used 8 of 11 draft picks
to bolster a sieve-like defense. Dallas also replaced defensive
coordinator Mike Nolan with Dan Quinn, late of the Falcons and architect
of Seattle’s historically great defenses in 2013 and 2014,
led by the “Legion of Boom.” Put another way, I can’t
see the new $160M man needing to chuck it 55+ times each Sunday,
as he did in the two games prior to his early Week 5 exit.
That said, reduced passing volume doesn’t necessarily degrade Dak’s
value. He averaged over 300 rushing yds/season prior to 2020 and
has scored 24 career rushing TDs. That’s six more than Peyton scored
in three times as many seasons. He can do it with his arm or his
legs and the Dallas offense is absolutely loaded (Zeke, Amari, CeeDee,
et al.). Unless he’s cut down by injury again, Dak is a surefire
Top 10 performer.
Stafford, LAR: Players like Prescott
have revolutionized the position this past decade and here’s the
only statistical proof needed to drive that point home. In the ten
years since 2011, QBs have topped the 400-point mark 33 times, or
just over 3 times per season. In the ten years prior, that happened
only four times TOTAL. Put another way, there were three more 400-point
QBs in 2020 alone (Allen through Brady above) than there were the
entire decade from 2001 to 2010!
Run-pass threats like Dak have clearly caused this explosion in
QB fantasy points, but that doesn’t mean “traditional”
talents like Stafford can’t still rack them up. The former
Lion was a Top 10 regular from 2011 to 2017, in fact, missing the
cut just once during that stretch (QB15 in 2014). It didn’t
hurt that he played in some pass-happy attacks with some great battery
mates (e.g., Megatron), but neither of those things were true last
season—career-low attempts for a 16-game season coupled with
Kenny Golladay’s injury—and he still managed to finish
a respectable 15th overall.
The talent is still there, in other words, and now Stafford moves
west to Los Angeles after 12 seasons in Detroit, where he’ll
command a QB-friendly scheme and work with much better weapons than
he did in 2020 (Woods, Kupp, DeSean, etc.). Jared Goff was no worse
than QB16 in four seasons under Sean McVay and Stafford is a more
talented flinger in almost every respect. Don’t forget the
Rams have already lost Cam Akers for the season, possibly forcing
McVay to employ a more pass-heavy attack. Though it’s always
tricky projecting quarterbacks working in completely new systems,
I like Stafford’s chances of elevating what had become a stale
LA attack and finishing in the Top 10 this season.
CIN: Burrow isn’t the running threat Dak Prescott is and
he doesn’t possess Matty Stafford’s cannon-like right arm, but he
showed enough play-making ability and moxie as a rook to pique this
guy’s interest. Fresh off a scintillating Natty performance—521
total yards, five TD tosses, and another TD run v. Clemson—the 2019
Heisman winner looked like the real deal in Cincy and a worthy #1
selection, even if he was ultimately overshadowed by fellow 2020
Herbert (GO DUCKS!!!). His 21.9 FPts/G were actually better
than many established names (Stafford, Big Ben, Brees, and Fitzy)
and if he hadn’t shredded his knee in Week 11, who knows where he
might have ended up?
That surgically repaired right knee is concerning heading into 2021,
but the current Bengal and former Tiger/Buckeye is more nifty than
dangerous when running (think A-Rodge). Simply put, he’s the
kind of QB who can keep plays alive, but can’t necessarily
make them with his legs. No matter because keeping plays alive is
what allows Burrow to leverage elite accuracy and uncommon instincts.
He didn’t complete 76% of his passes last year, as he did
down on the Bayou, but spinning the pigskin right on the money is
what earned him that NCAA hardware and lofty draft position.
Another reason I’m bullish on Burrow? The Bengals upgraded his bodyguards
(FA Riley Reiff and second-round pick Jackson Carman) and have surrounded
him with an enviable trio of young, talented pass-grabbers (Tyler
Boyd, Tee Higgins,
and now former LSU teammate, Ja’Marr
Chase). If this isn’t the year McVay disciple Zac Taylor turns
Cincy around, I’m not sure it’s actually going to happen. Provided
he stays healthy, I like Burrow to rebound from that abbreviated
rookie campaign and join Herbert as a Top 10 sophomore sensation.