Ranking top QB/WR duos for 2021 fantasy

QB Rank: 2

WR Rank: 1

What’s stopping Josh Allen from repeating as the QB1 overall this year?

Unlike previous “bound to regress” QB1s, Allen’s passing efficiency isn’t a lock to crater. He ranked eighth in touchdown rate and sixth in adjusted yards per attempt. Given that the Bills are likely to be one of the NFL’s most pass-heavy offenses once again, you could argue Allen actually has a chance to progress from his 2020 output.

A big help in that area would be a scoring boom for Stefon Diggs. As a matter of fact, he’s due for just that. With just a 4.8 percent touchdown rate in Year 1 with the Bills, Diggs could experience some positive movement in the scoring column as long as his volume stays at an elite level.

QB Rank: 1

WR Rank: 3

You can probably get away with ranking Patrick Mahomes as the QB1 overall every year until he retires and no one would question your methods. As long as Mahomes is around, Hill will be right there with him at the top of draft boards. Hill might never approach the target totals of Diggs or Davante Adams but he makes up for it with his vertical chops and touchdown ceiling. These two players can single-handedly win you a week.

QB Rank: 4

WR Rank: 6

The Murray-to-Hopkins connection started off with a bang in the early stages of 2020 but the shine seemed to wear off the longer the games wore on. That’s on Kliff Kingsbury to get right, not these superstar players.

Kingsbury has to figure out how to open up the vertical passing game. Hopkins’ 2020 8.9 average depth of target was by far the lowest of his career. Perhaps adding a player like Rondale Moore as a layup target will permit Hopkins to run more downfield routes. That would juice the ceiling for both of these players.

QB Rank: 8

WR Rank: 2

While some natural regression might be coming for the league MVP after he led the NFL in touchdown rate and completion percentage, we can’t expect too much of a falloff.

Aaron Rodgers is an all-time great talent at the pivot position of an offensive system that just breeds passing efficiency. It helps that he’s tethered to one of the best receivers in the sport. Davante Adams saw a whopping 33 percent of his team’s air yards and proved without a shadow of the doubt he should be treated as an elite receiver.

If this is indeed the duo’s last dance together in Green Bay, we can expect it to be one hell of a show.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (17) is congratulated by Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12)
Don’t count out Aaron Rodgers too much, not while he still has Davante Adams. (Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

5 – Russell Wilson and DK Metcalf

QB Rank: 6

WR Rank: 8

It seems that fantasy drafters aren’t accounting for the idea that Shane Waldron could fundamentally change the way this offense operates. The Brian Schottenheimer offense had its moments but the “run, run, deep play-action pass” sequence over and over eventually led the team to swing on the wrong side of variance. Waldron installing a Rams-style of offense could help smooth out some of the highs and lows of this unit. That would be a huge win for Russell Wilson’s path to finishing as a top-five quarterback and DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett’s own path to weekly consistency.

6 – Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb

QB Rank: 5

WR Rank: 12

Dak Prescott is going to finish as a top-five quarterback as long as he stays healthy all year, by virtue of his dynamic receiving trio. However, if one of the three is going to have a special season, it’ll be CeeDee Lamb.

The rookie flashed tremendous skills at the catch point, dynamic separation potential, and smooth moves after the catch. Now we’re likely to see Lamb take more reps on the perimeter after being pigeonholed as a 90-percent-plus slot man in Year 1. More routes on the outside will naturally boost his 9.3 average depth of target mark as a rookie and his overall ceiling. The talent is all there with Lamb, as is the ecosystem for fantasy success. Buy the hype.

7 – Tom Brady and Chris Godwin/Mike Evans

QB Rank: 7

WR Rank: 13-15

Since I have the top-two Buccaneers receivers almost back-to-back in my rankings, I’ve elected to cheat and list them both here.

I have been proactively drafting all of Godwin, Evans, and even Antonio Brown at their current ADPs. While there’s certainly some consternation in that fantasy community about how to dole out targets to this trio, Rob Gronkowski and the Tampa running backs, I think that’s missing the forest for the trees.

There’s a scenario in the range of outcomes where Tom Brady leads such a voluminous and efficient passing attack that target shares become a non-issue and all three of the receivers make good on their draft-day rankings. Brady is a special player in the lore of pro football and certainly sports a truly gifted trio of wide receivers. It’s possible. I believe the talk out of Tampa Bay that this team was just hitting its stride as last season closed. The best could be yet to come.

8 – Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen

QB Rank: 9

WR Rank: 10

When I wrote up Davante Adams as my WR1 overall for 2020, it was based on a unique confluence of events being present for the player. The three main pillars: Bound for a massive target share in his offense, tethered to an efficient passer, and verifiably great at playing wide receiver.

When you think about it, Keenan Allen checks all of those boxes.

With only Austin Ekeler and Mike Williams flanking him atop the pecking order, Allen could easily see north of 30 percent of Justin Herbert’s targets. Based on everything from his rookie year, we certainly expect Herbert to continue on the massive upward trajectory he displayed. And of course, if you don’t recognize the route-running savant that is Keenan Allen is one of the top players at the position, well, I don’t know what to tell you.

Herbert began to unlock Allen’s upside last year prior to the receiver dealing with a late-season injury. We could see even more fireworks in Year 2 of this partnership.

9 – Ryan Tannehill and A.J. Brown

QB Rank: 10

WR: Rank: 5

Ryan Tannehill has been top-five in both touchdown rate and adjusted yards per attempt in back-to-back seasons. Now the hyper-efficient Titans offense has added Julio Jones. Tannehill could offer drafters every-week starting potential but won’t require more than a double-digit round pick.

Holding that level of efficiency will also require another dynamic season from A.J. Brown. Clearly, by my slotting him inside the top-five receivers, I believe he’s capable of it. Brown is a mega-talent who creates separation at an elite level and is a bully after the catch in addition to his work in the contested game. Everything in his profile indicates he’s the next mega-star at the position.

10 – Matt Ryan and Calvin Ridley

QB Rank: 17

WR Rank: 4

Matt Ryan is the lowest-ranked quarterback on the list by a good amount but that’s mostly because he has zero rushing upside. That’s just a killer for fantasy. However, he can still have a fine season as the Falcons quarterback, as long as Kyle Pitts is ready to roll from Day 1.

What’s not in question is the center of the Falcons’ aerial universe: Calvin Ridley. The dynamic receiver was already a top-five finisher and is now set to play a full season without Julio Jones. Since we still can’t project much optimism for the Falcons defense — they should find their way into pass-heavy game scripts — Ridley’s target ceiling is just outrageous. By thriving when Jones missed serious time, he proved last year he’s a good enough player to handle that workload.

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