3 sleeper QBs for 2021
By Jesse Moeller
Where has the time gone? We are already halfway through July, and that means we have less than 60 days until the NFL 2021 Season kicks off. So I am counting down the days in anticipation and beginning to sort through ADP to determine where I can find value players this year. For this article, I will be looking for three quarterbacks who are drastically underpriced for one reason or another for the 2021 season.
In the last two seasons, the Titans have finished 30th and 32nd in pass attempts. Yet Ryan Tannehill has finished as a top 10 quarterback in fantasy points per game. You may ask yourself how this is possible, as I know I questioned it after looking at the low passing totals for Tannehill. The answer for Tannehill is he has two traits working heavily for him that make him an elite fantasy quarterback.
The first is efficiency. If you do not have volume as a quarterback, you can use efficiency to make up for the lack of passing opportunities. Where that jumps out is the touchdown rate for Tannehill. Tannehill ranked third last year with a touchdown on 6.9% of his throws, and you may be thinking to yourself that must have been an outlier season for him. While it is above the league average, he had an even higher touchdown rate in 2019, converting touchdowns at a rate of 7.7%! If you watched the tweet posted at the beginning of the section, you are well aware that Tannehill is the lord of efficiency in the NFL. The addition of Julio Jones to the receiving core will only help Tannehill remain one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the NFL.
The second is a fantasy manager’s favorite word when describing a quarterback. The infamous Konami Code. If a quarterback can earn points on the ground, they have a significant advantage over the statuesque signal-callers. Yards gained on the ground are worth 2.5x than yards made through the air for fantasy. It sets a much higher floor and ceiling for a fantasy quarterback, creating a massive difference throughout a season. Tannehill was a wide receiver in college and used athleticism to earn an extra 68 fantasy points this season. A Konami Quarterback uses the secret sauce of rushing to score more points for the year. It’s the extra bow in Tannehill’s quiver that not every quarterback possess,
You can keep assuming regression for Tannehill, but he has proven time and time again that it is not a smart bet to make. Instead, Tannehill will push towards the top five fantasy quarterbacks with the offensive weaponry around Tannehill this year.
Watching Justin Fields fall throughout the offseason is still something I struggle with, as I feel that I was either entirely missing something or that the NFL and multiple teams missed on this elite quarterback prospect coming out of Ohio State. The one team that did not miss was the Chicago Bears, who traded up to the 11th pick to select him in the first round of the NFL Draft.
There have been countless talks this offseason of Andy Dalton being the starting quarterback for an extended time until the Bears decide to start Justin Fields, referencing how Kansas City waited on Patrick Mahomes for a season. I’m here to explain why that narrative makes zero sense. First, I do not see much of a parallel between the two teams as Kansas City had Alex Smith entering his fifth season as the starter led the Chiefs to a 41-20 record with Smith specializing in not turning the ball over. Smith was also coming off of his second Pro Bowl appearance with Kansas City. Second, the Bears have been so desperate for decent quarterback play that they brought in veteran Nick Foles last year on his four-year 88 million dollar deal. He replaced Trubisky in week 3, leading the team to a 2-5 record in the seven games he started before handing the reigns back over to Trubisky.
In steps one of the best college quarterbacks we have seen in Justin Fields to become the next heir apparent in NFL and fantasy circles. Fields has numerous traits that will set him up exceptionally well at the NFL level. As the tweet above showed, Fields is an incredibly accurate quarterback in all areas of the field. In addition, he possesses the ability to elevate the skill position players of the Bears. Lastly, we dig into the juicy part of fantasy quarterbacks that separate them in fantasy, known as the Konami Code. Fields ran the fastest forty-yard dash since RG3 ran a 4.41 forty-yard dash in 2012. That athleticism is what separates him from Lawerence when I chase upside in fantasy. I want a quarterback who can score fantasy points through the air and on the ground. It is an actual cheat code for quarterback scoring, and Justin Fields oozes potential. Going in the 11th round of drafts, that is the perfect time to gamble on the upside.
Tua is a player I have written about multiple times this offseason. Unfortunately, the fantasy football community overreacted to as rough of a rookie season as any quarterback could have. Recovering from a significant hip injury that was eerily similar to Bo Jackson’s injury ended his football career. Thankfully, modern medicine allows athletes to continue to play after suffering such a gruesome injury.
The entire community has anointed Tua as the subsequent quarterback bust while missing the key statistics that tell a completely different story. Tua was second in accuracy rating, third in catchable pass rate, and third in ball placement as a rookie. Those are elite accuracy metrics from anyone, let alone a rookie quarterback.
These stats back up what we believed Tua to be during his Alabama days when the phrase “Tank for Tua” was famous in 2019. The difference is highlighted in the tweet above. Tua passed to four first-round picks in DeVonta Smith, Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle, and Henry Ruggs at Alabama. Last season at Miami, Tua was throwing to Davante Parker and no other receivers of significance. With names such as Jakeem Grant, Isaiah Ford seeing meaningful playing time, It’s no surprise for any quarterback to struggle.
The Dolphins knew they had a lack of talent in the receiver room and addressed it. Signing Will Fuller and drafting Jaylen Waddle hopes that the talented additions would support Tua’s development as a passer in 2021. What stands out is the Dolphins added a lot of speed to the receiver room. With a field general who has pinpoint precision, it should be a fun combination to watch, as the efficiency will see a notable spike in 2021 due to the talent surrounding Tua. Tua will leap forward in his second year, solidifying himself as the quarterback of the Miami Dolphins’ future.