NFL Fantasy Football 2021: A Cheat Sheet For Which Rookie Quarterbacks You Want on Your Team

All of the fantasy football managers already dreaming about Chicago Bears rookie Justin Fields slinging touchdowns for them this fall have the right idea in mind.

Fields, the 11th overall pick in this year’s draft, is one of several rookie quarterbacks who have an excellent chance at starting this season. But which first-year players should you add to your fantasy team, and which need to be kept far away from your roster?

For this list, we ranked the five quarterbacks selected in order of their selection in the 2021 NFL Draft’s first round. Our cheat sheet reads as follows:

Want: Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

The good news for fantasy football managers is that not only are the Jacksonville Jaguars almost definitely starting Lawrence in Week 1, but they’re going to let him work through any rookie issues. This is not a situation where the Jaguars will bench Lawrence if he has three passing touchdowns and three interceptions through his first two games.

The Jaguars reunited Lawrence with his former Clemson teammate, running back Travis Etienne, in the 2021 NFL Draft. Fourth-year receiver DJ Chark had over 1,000 yards in 2019 and is an intriguing deep threat. Laviska Shenault Jr., a second-round pick in 2020, ended his rookie season with 58 catches, 600 yards, and five touchdowns.

According to ESPN’s average draft position (ADP), Lawrence has been the 14th quarterback off the board in a typical mock draft. We recommend trying to double up on quarterbacks and maybe selecting Atlanta’s Matt Ryan (No. 17 ADP) as your backup.

Don’t Want: Zach Wilson, New York Jets

Forget about the fact that Wilson plays for one of the NFL’s longest-suffering franchises. We’re not even overly pessimistic about his early struggles in training camp.

Instead, it’s our concerns about Elijah Moore, the second-round rookie from Ole Miss, that have us warning you to avoid Wilson. Moore suffered a quad injury in a mid-August practice, and that’s the type of ailment that can linger for weeks. The ex-Rebel had been a consistent standout throughout all of the Jets’ offseason workouts and the early weeks of camp.

Wilson, the second overall pick, has the No. 26 ADP in ESPN leagues. If you’re in the market for a backup late in the draft, it might be safer to select Wilson’s predecessor. Carolina Panthers veteran Sam Darnold, who spent 2018-20 with the Jets, has the No. 34 ADP.

Don’t Want: Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers

This is nothing personal against Lance, the third overall pick and the likely heir to Jimmy Garropolo on the 49ers. But if you’re drafting Lance, try to select him as late as you can in hopes of stashing him on the bench until he gets a chance to start. Garropolo’s injury history means the North Dakota State product will likely get his chance sooner rather than later.

Lance has the No. 22 ADP, well above Garoppolo and his No. 35 ADP. Remember that the 49ers have all but hung up a giant neon sign saying the latter will start against the Detroit Lions in Week 1. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has made it clear throughout the offseason that he’s committed to Garoppolo, and that bodes negatively for Lance’s managers, at least to start the season.

Want: Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

It isn’t impossible that Fields, like Lance, will open the 2021 NFL season on the bench. However, the Bears have too much at stake to keep the 2019 Heisman Trophy finalist sitting for long if Andy Dalton isn’t the answer.

If or when Fields gets his chance, he’ll be throwing to a perennial 1,000-yard receiver in Allen Robinson. If the Penn State product could do that type of damage with Blake Bortles and Mitchell Trubisky throwing to him, who knows what he’ll do in a contract year with Fields slinging his way?

Fields is a fast riser right now and holds the No. 18 ADP. Be prepared to make a quick move for him, especially if Bears head coach Matt Nagy announces before your draft that the Ohio State product will start against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 1.

Don’t Want: Mac Jones, New England Patriots

Jones, the 15th overall pick earlier this year, looked sharp in his preseason debut for the New England Patriots. He completed 13 of his 19 passes for 87 yards and displayed impressive accuracy on a 13-yard connection with receiver Kendrick Bourne. There still exists a possibility that Bill Belichick will call an audible and start Jones in Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins.

Even if that’s the case, we’re not buying high on Jones (No. 32 ADP) from a fantasy perspective. It seems unlikely that Belichick would give Jones the key to the Ferrari that early and let him speed down the highway. It’d make far more sense for the Patriots to bring Jones along slowly and let him be a game manager for a team desperate to return to the playoffs.

Cam Newton, surprisingly, only has a No. 27 ADP. If he’s starting for the Patriots in Week 1 and is still on your board late in the draft, definitely try selecting him as a backup.

All ADP (average draft position) figures courtesy of ESPN as of Aug. 10, 2021.

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