2021 rookie quarterbacks

Stabilize Your Future: Value The Safety, Upside, And Risk

When I started the Stabilize Your Future journey, I had very little idea which teams would significantly impact their quarterback. Organizations can affect the stability, upside, and risk of their career outcomes. Although situations can change, four of the five rookies seem to be locked into their surroundings; the exception being Justin Fields. After taking some time to digest and figure out which rookies I would target, a list filtered with a comfortability, upside, and floor score. 

This article should help you decipher which rookie quarterback you should target, pending the league settings and your roster build. Unfortunately, players are selected quite frequently without assessing where their league and team stand. For example, if your starting quarterback is Jalen Hurts – who had nine fumbles and threw four interceptions on his way to completing just 52-percent of his passes – it might be best to trade back and grab Fields instead of Trey Lance. I’ll dive more into it shortly, but while Hurts had 19 or more points in all games he started, he might not be the starting quarterback for the entirety of 2021 if he can’t protect the ball. 

Is Your Roster Build for Upside?

I feel strongly about Lance being the better quarterback, but if your team is competitive in 2021, Fields seems like he has a more guaranteed path to starting sooner rather than later. Add in the additional value you could get from moving back – like a 2021 second – and your team gains two starting-caliber assets. If Hurts plays lights out, you might have “wasted” a pick on Fields, but now you have a player like Michael Carter who could be at least a flex option and use Fields as trade bait. 

In addition, don’t undervalue league settings when selecting which rookie quarterback to target.

League Settings

For example, in single quarterback leagues, mid-range quarterbacks are a dime a dozen. Mac Jones seems to be one of the safest in the 2021 class. I would like to think Andy Dalton is his absolute floor, but am I happy with a quarterback with one top 10 finish over a ten-year period? In single quarterback leagues, absolutely not. However, in superflex leagues, Dalton was still an asset as he finished top 20 in all but one season where he played in at least 13 games.

 I see a similar outcome with Jones as to where his rushing upside is limited, but he’s a better passer. His likely range hovers around Derek Carr-type numbers. His ceiling could get as high as Matt Ryan. However, they will have to add multiple weapons to this offense. As long as Jones hits the top 20 consistently, it stabilizes your flex. Having stability at the flex quarterback spot is wildly underrated.  

Maximizing Value

Last but not least, you have your stacks. They aren’t as crucial in dynasty leagues but stacks sure don’t hurt. For redraft, you could be maximizing your potential outcomes. While focusing on dynasty: situations change, injuries occur, and players don’t click. Would I take Fields over Lance just because I had Allen Robinson on my team? No chance. Robinson could be a free agent as soon as 2022, and maybe Robinson sees less opportunity with a more efficient quarterback. But adding in a stacked player to a trade, such as Darnell Mooney, is always a nice bonus.

Darnell Mooney will Assist Justin Fields on His Path to Achieving Maximum Upside

First-Round Rookie Quarterbacks Ranked

  • All following score will be a simple score out of ten—no need to overcomplicate things. 
  • The Boom/Bust Projection will be out of 100-percent. The remaining percentage is the chance they land in no-mans land as a back-end QB2.
  • Stacks shouldn’t add much value to the quarterbacks. It is more so targets to acquire if you have shares of the quarterback.

Comfort in the arms of Mac Jones

Safety

I feel comfortable with the Patriots system and their ability to find the best players to surround young quarterbacks. Throughout Tom Brady’s time with the Patriots, they didn’t have much need for a young quarterback to step up, but whenever they did, the quarterback succeed. When considering Jones as a quarterback to stabilize your future, you can feel extremely safe.

Score: 7/10

Upside

Jones has deadly accuracy, which should bode well for an increased opportunity, especially in the red zone. His concerns about hyper-focusing on receivers and reading through progressions can be fixed. Jones’s upside is capped by his speed (4.83 Pro Day 40 time) and lack of a nose for the end zone while scrambling. However, he could still pass for 4,800 yards and 40 touchdowns with the direction the NFL is heading with the passing game. The upside comparison is Ryan.

“The Patriots have never been great about adding young skill-position players. James WhiteJulian EdelmanRob Gronkowski, Deion Branch, and arguably Ben Watson are the only skill position players drafted by the Patriots since 2000 – outside of quarterbacks – who have had productive careers. 

The lack of successful picks could be the absence of attention given to the area. Since 2000, the Patriots have only drafted 19 players in the first three rounds who played tight end, running back or wide receiver. Only five of those were selected in the first round. ” 

Visit the Detailed Version of Mac Jones

Ryan didn’t do it by himself, however. Ryan has had help from pass-catchers from Roddy White to Tony Gonzales, all the way to Julio Jones. The Patriots have struggled to draft playmakers, but will need to improve if they expect to get Jones to reach his maximum potential.

Score:7/10

Chance it occurs: 40%

Floor

If Jones were to perform at a minimal level, you’re looking at Dalton and Baker Mayfield-type production. The cause of this would be offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels taking the ball out of Jones hands and reverting back to a run-first type offense we saw in the early 2000s. As the NFL progresses to more of a passing league, I don’t find a run-first approach likely, but early in Jones’s career, it is possible.

Score: 5/10

Chance it occurs: 20% 

Overall Outlook

If you need stability or if you’re just looking to take a player you could flip in 2022, Jones is your guy. I see him as an investment whose stock will only increase. My concerns lie more in the divisional matchups than they do in his abilities. Even if Cam Newton starts most of 2021, expect Jones’s value to increase, as Patriots beat reporters are some of the best at making their guys look good. 

He’s the perfect quarterback for two-quarterback leagues. I’m willing to take him early second round, especially if I need a second quarterback or roster Newton. 

Score: 19/30

Boom/Bust Projection – 40:20 

Stacks to note: Nelson Agholor, Josh Reynolds, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Myers, Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, James White, and Damien Harris

Can Zach Wilson Reach His Upside?

Safety

The system Zach Wilson is walking into makes me feel so much better than Fields or even Trevor Lawrence. However, he’s still an inexperienced quarterback who went to somewhat of a small school. Coming out of college, he was my riskiest prospect. However, playing in Mike LaFleur’s scheme – where it’s focused on high efficiency and running the ball – makes Wilson much more appealing. If the situation flipped and he went to a team like the Bears, we are talking a likely 3/10. 

Score: 7/10

Upside

The Upside Associated with Zach Wilson and His Deep Ball are Undeniable

The constant movement underneath will open up deep-ball opportunities. Jimmy Garopollo led the league in deep ball completion percentage in 2019, while Nick Mullens led in 2020. If Wilson is even a shadow of himself from college, this could be the perfect marriage. He has the best completion percentage (74.1-percent) of any college quarterback since 2012 for balls thrown 30 yards or more.

Visit the Detailed Version of Zach Wilson

The best thing Wilson does is complete deep balls; The best thing quarterbacks under Shannahan have done is complete deep balls. With LaFleur bringing over the same system from San Francisco, Wilson could thrive. In addition, Wilson has a knack for knowing when to take off. Wilson rushed for 286 yards on 72 carries but got in the end zone on ten of them. There’s a good chance he won’t score on 13.9-percent of his carries in the NFL, but if he can punch in five or six touchdowns on the ground, they could push him into the top ten and possibly the top five. 

Score: 8/10

Chance it occurs: 50%

Floor 

Although I’m bullish on the system, there is still a world where Wilson’s lack of experience and mechanics hinder his ability. Wilson’s floor could be out of the league when considering a very tough division and rookie positional coaches. However, even if he does fail, there’s a good chance he gives you multiple years of usable low-end weeks. Although I love his upside, be wary of his floor. In single quarterback, he’s an ideal value at his ADP. In two-quarterback leagues, I might be more interested in him if he’s my third quarterback. 

His rushing floor is dependent on touchdowns, and his passing floor is dependent on big plays. As a result, there could be multiple weeks throughout the season where he provides single-digit fantasy points. 

Score: 5/10

Chance it occurs: 35%

Overall Outlook

Wilson has been growing on me since the draft. He is competing with Lance for the biggest riser and could possibly overthrow him in the category. His upside is immense, and if Wilson catches on, I believe he could be 2021’s version of Herbert. The Jets will be losing, and Wilson will have to throw.

My concern is they bring him on too quickly and don’t develop him correctly. It could stunt his long-term upside as we watch him disintegrate into nothing. However, they revamped the offensive line, and 2021 feels like a different Jets organization from what we have been accustomed to. 

Score: 20/30

Boom/Bust Projection – 50:35

Stacks to Note: Denzel Mims, Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, Keelan Cole, Chris Herndon, and Michael Carter

The Possibilities with Justin Fields

Safety

Fields is the prospect who I thought was the safest. Now he’s the most concerning. He struggles to read blitzes and the Bears blocking is more like floundering. Although he’s a physical specimen with tree trunks for legs, you never want your quarterback taking hits. 

The positive outlook is 2021 looks to be the worst the NFC North has been on defense in decades. However, Matt Nagy alienating Mitchell Trubisky and struggling with playcalling has me worried for Fields. It might be best if Dalton does start the year with two of their first three games being tough matchups.   

Score: 6/10

Upside

To say Fields can run is an understatement. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry on his way to 19 rushing touchdowns over 34 games at school. But to say he’s “just a running quarterback” is asinine. He threw for another 67 touchdowns and 5704 yards while winning Big 10 Offensive Player of the Year twice. 

Justin Fields Escaping Pressure — Something He Might Have To Do Often In 2021 to Reach His Upside

Fields has the physical tools to succeed, and if given a proper opportunity, could be the best quarterback in this class. His 4.46 40 shows he can still obtain breakaway runs and beat defenders to the edge. Meanwhile, he still has plenty of arm talent. He had a higher completion percentage than Lawrence while also having a greater yards per attempt. If he can put it all together, we are talking a more reliable Robert Griffin III.   

Score: 10/10

Chance it occurs: 48%

Floor 

Fields has issues feeling pressure and recognizing the blitz. In his two years with Ohio State, he took 52 sacks in 22 games — or 2.36 per game. In comparison to the other 2021 first-round picks: 

Lawrence – 0.91

Zack Wilson – 1.9

Lance – 1.42

Mac Jones – 1.75

Even Dwayne Haskins – the Ohio State quarterback who preceded Fields – only had 1.43, and he wasn’t considered mobile. 

Visit the Detailed Version of Justin Fields

The floor here worries me and occasionally has me thinking about trading back and going with Wilson if I receive enough value in return. As mentioned above, Nagy struggled with play calling. Even Nick Foles came out publicly and confirmed. Rookie quarterbacks who struggle with protection don’t make it long in the NFL. Fields could fall victim especially after struggling with sacks throughout college. 

However, even if Fields does take sacks and eventually falls out of the league, we should see enough rushing sustainability to make it not a complete bust in fantasy. Think Marcus Mariota, but a safer temporary floor. 

Score 6/10

Chance it occurs: 48% 

Overall Outlook

Fields has the high upside and while he could out of the league, he could also provide you with three to four years of high-end QB2 numbers. If someone offered me a trade where I would move back but still get Wilson, it would take me an additional early second-rounder to even consider it. Preferably, I would want a 2022 first round to try to get another quarterback or a 2023 first if you’re confident in Wilson. Otherwise, don’t overthink it and just draft Fields. He fits well with both single and two-quarterback leagues. 

Just realize he has just as likely a chance to bust as he has to boom. Falling into mediocrity is not something I see happening with Fields. 

Score 22/30

Boom/Bust Projection – 48:48

Stacks to Note: Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Anthony Miller, Dazz Newsome, Cole Kmet, Tarik Cohen, and Damien Williams

The Pure Upside of Trey Lance

Safety

Safety is the reason Lance sets himself apart from Fields. The gap for these two is rather large with Lance going to the 49ers. Although I’m not sold he starts year one, he still should be a force for many years to come. 

Shannahan has maximized the potential of many quarterbacks. With a solid roster, a great front office, and weapons which fit his skill set, Lance is the safest quarterback in the 2021 NFL draft

Score: 9/10

Upside

Lance isn’t just safe. He offers rushing upside and intelligent play. Couple his ability to freeze linebackers, with the 49ers being first in explosive play rate in 2019 and 11th in 2020 with backup quarterbacks and no pass catchers: Money in the bank. Stardom is on the horizon for Lance and the more I write about him, the closer he gets to Lawrence. My only question is volume.

Score: 9/10

Chance It Occurs: 80%

Floor 

Although Lance had almost 2800 yards and 28 touchdowns with no interceptions in 2019, he only has 318 career passes through 17 starts. In addition, he only played against two FBS schools. There have only been five quarterbacks selected in the first round with 17 or fewer starts since 2006. Two of them – Kyler Murray and Cam Newton – have been successful. The other three – Dwayne Haskins, Mark Sanchez, and Mitchell Trubisky – have flamed out. 

Visit the Detailed Version of Trey Lance

If Lance does not hit, it could send this franchise into turmoil. They won’t have another first-round pick until 2024, so finding him weapons if the offense can’t stay healthy could prove an issue. The good news is they should have some cap relief in 2022, so free agents are options, but it still is a slight concern. His inexperience comes more into question than the help surrounding him. Although he was wildly efficient, he has a very limited sample size.

Either way, Shannahan will do whatever it takes to make sure Lance is the future. Plus, if he needs a year to develop, all is good. They still have Jimmy Garoppolo

Score: 7/10

Chance It Occurs: 10%

Overall Outlook

If there was one quarterback who climbed my rankings significantly more than any other over the past two seasons, it’s Lance. He’s a safe prospect with a high floor and an even higher ceiling. If I’m positioned to take Lawrence, there are times where I question swapping picks. But with Lawrence being the far more NFL-ready prospect, it would take something powerful to get me to move. Regardless, Lance is by far and away my second-best prospect in 2021 and third-best over the past two seasons.

Score: 26/30

Boom/Bust Projection – 80:10

Stacks to Note: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jalen Hurd, George Kittle, and Elijah Mitchell

Was It Always Trevor Lawrence?

Safety

Interestingly, my top prospect from last year in Herbert and my top prospect in 2021 in Lawrence got here. I felt far more comfortable in the situation for Herbert; meanwhile, I can’t deny the talent of Lawrence. 

Lawrence is a remarkable specimen. His leadership and command of the offense is undeniable. However, it’s a case of whether he can overcome his coach if things start to go south. Sure, Urban Meyer’s system could work, but so far, he has rubbed people the wrong way by bringing in questionable coaches and favoring players like Tim Tebow. We will see if Meyer is a detriment to Lawrence or a stepping stone to help him reach his maximum potential. 

Score: 9/10

Upside

If Meyer turns out to be the next star coach from the college ranks and Lawrence is as good as advertised, there isn’t much to say. These two could compete for the best coach-quarterback tandem over the next 20 years. With the added talent at wide receiver to a team who already had a good core in D.J. Chark, Laviska Shenault, and Collin Johnson, Lawrence is in a prime spot. 

Score: 10/10

Chance It Occurs: 80%

Floor

As I wrote in an article discussing D.J. Chark’s upside for PlayerProfiler.com, “Bevell was the offensive coordinator who helped Russel Wilson achieve a 7.8 adjusted yards per attempt while he was in Seattle. He then goes to Detroit, where (Matt) Stafford only hit 7.8 once in ten years. Stafford went on to beat that mark in two consecutive years. Although he has seen wild success with quarterback efficiency, he has been asked to run offenses which feature the run. There have only been five offenses which weren’t in the bottom half of the league in pass attempts since taking over as the Vikings offensive coordinator in 2006.” 

Visit the Detailed Version of Trevor Lawrence

There is a floor, but to think Lawrence could bust would be mind-blowing. If anything, Lawrence’s downside would exist more around the playcalling. But, with Darrell Bevell heading the offensive scheme, I don’t see how it can fail. 3,800 yards and 25 passing touchdowns with 400 yards and five touchdowns on the ground seems like the bare minimum.

Score:8/10 

Chance It Occurs: 10%

Overall Outlook

Lawrence is a lottery ticket waiting to be cashed. He’s the closest thing to a guarantee since Peyton Manning. Although Lawrence is not full proof, I’m not drafting any rookie quarterback above him in any scenario. He would have finished with the same score as Herbert in 2020 with a significantly higher chance of hitting.  

Score: 27/30

Boom/Bust Projection – 80:10

Stacks to Note: D.J. Chark, Marvin Jones, Laviska Shenault, Collin Johnson, and Travis Ettiene

Should You Invest in the Upside of the 2021 Draft Class?

All in all, this is a great quarterback class. It could be one of the best ones we have ever seen in terms of fantasy production. There’s no Josh Rosens or Geno Smiths who belong as backups instead of starters. It’s also apparent the majority of these players landed in ideal situations. Feel good about spending draft capital and investing in these players. You will see return on investment sooner, rather than later.

Don’t miss any of Chase’s other work! you can find him on Twitter at @FF_Intervention

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