2021 Stat Predictions for Every Projected Starting NFL QB
Here's a bold prediction. We're going to see multiple quarterbacks throw for 5,000-plus yards in the 2021 NFL season.
While that sounds preposterous, just know that two signal-callers came within 240 yards of the 5,000-yard mark on a 16-game schedule in 2020. The league added another regular-season contest for the upcoming year, which means a probable rise in statistics across the board.
Going forward, we have to reset our expectations of what makes a solid campaign and set the bar higher than 4,000 passing yards and 30 touchdowns.
With that in mind, we'll project the final stat line for each starting quarterback and backups who could start multiple games. Our estimations are based on a player's recent production, his supporting cast of pass-catchers and his offensive play-caller's tendencies.
Will we see a breakout year similar to Josh Allen's 2020 campaign? Who's going to eclipse 5,000 passing yards?
Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray
The Arizona Cardinals have a pass-catching group with star power and great depth with new additions to the offensive line.
In his first season with the Cardinals, DeAndre Hopkins caught 115 passes for 1,407 yards and six touchdowns with a career-high 71.9 percent catch rate.
This offseason, Arizona signed A.J. Green, who could become a go-to red-zone target because of his 6'4", 207-pound frame. The Cardinals selected Rondale Moore in the second round of April's draft, and he projects as a slot receiver. They'll join Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella as secondary targets behind Hopkins.
The front office also acquired center Rodney Hudson from the Las Vegas Raiders and signed guard Brian Winters to shore up the offensive line. Murray should have more time in the pocket, and he may not need to scramble around as much and expose himself to unnecessary hits.
Murray said a shoulder injury impacted his throwing mechanics last season, per ESPN's Josh Weinfuss. If he can stay healthy, expect him to take a significant third-year leap after throwing for 3,971 yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season.
Projected Stats: 402 completions, 593 attempts, 4,591 yards, 34 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 107 carries, 556 rushing yards, eight touchdowns
Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan
The Atlanta Falcons selected Kyle Pitts with the fourth overall pick. As one of the most dynamic collegiate pass-catching tight ends, he could add another dimension to an aerial attack that ranked fifth with a hobbled Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage and Hayden Hurst last season.
Look for Falcons head coach Arthur Smith to use two-tight end sets with Pitts and Hurst, who logged career highs in receptions (56), yards (571) and touchdowns (six) in 2020.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Jones requested a trade "a few months ago." Even if the Falcons deal the two-time All-Pro wideout, Matt Ryan could still post solid numbers with Ridley, Gage, Pitts and Hurst, but he's a candidate to top 5,000 passing yards and 35 touchdowns in a 17-game season with his current set of playmakers.
As the offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans, Smith relied heavily on the run, which resulted in back-to-back rushing titles for Derrick Henry.
In Atlanta, Smith doesn't have a workhorse tailback. The Falcons signed Mike Davis, who hasn't logged more than 165 carries in a single season.
Whether the Falcons keep Jones or not, Ryan's arm will carry this offense.
Projected Stats (with Jones): 431 completions, 637 attempts, 5,062 yards, 41 touchdowns, 13 interceptions
Projected Stats (without Jones): 401 completions, 621 attempts, 4,662 yards, 37 touchdowns, 14 interceptions
Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson could become a bigger threat as a passer with rookie wideouts Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace on the field.
Bateman could line up on the perimeter or in the slot and beat defensive backs with his purposed cuts and detailed routes. He may build an immediate rapport with Jackson because of his ability to attack the middle of the field.
At 5'11", 194 pounds, Wallace isn't a big target, though he has a fierce competitive streak and routinely came down with contested catches at Oklahoma State. The rookie fourth-rounder can earn Jackson's trust if he continues to win those 50-50 battles for the ball.
In addition to the rookie pass-catchers, Jackson still has a speedy deep threat in wideout Marquise Brown and tight end Mark Andrews, who's been his go-to target. Perhaps Sammy Watkins can make an impact with familiarity in offensive coordinator Greg Roman's system.
Nevertheless, don't expect Roman to deviate from a run-heavy attack, which features Jackson as a ball-carrier. The dynamic signal-caller will likely run for another 800-900 yards, though he's capable of putting together a handful of 300-yard passing performances with his stable of playmakers.
Projected Stats: 302 completions, 452 attempts, 3,538 yards, 32 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 151 carries, 895 rushing yards, eight touchdowns
Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen
While skeptics may question if Josh Allen can build upon a strong campaign, he has the supporting cast and the continuity to top his passing numbers from the previous term.
As Allen's go-to target, Stefon Diggs led the league in catches (127) and receiving yards (1,535) last year. With another offseason together, they could make a strong case as the best quarterback-receiver tandem in the league.
Allen's production should at least remain steady within the same system. Brian Daboll will serve as the Buffalo Bills' play-caller for a fourth consecutive season, which bodes well for his young quarterback, who led the third-ranked aerial attack in 2020.
Lastly, the Bills signed wideout Emmanuel Sanders, a sure-handed veteran who finished each of the last three terms with a catch rate at or above 68 percent.
Allen has a good chance to crack 5,000 passing yards and 40 touchdowns in 2021.
Projected Stats: 426 completions, 622 attempts, 5,045 yards, 43 touchdowns, nine interceptions, 97 carries, 437 rushing yards, six touchdowns
Carolina Panthers: Sam Darnold
Sam Darnold should show signs of promise after three inconsistent years with the New York Jets.
Darnold will throw to two starting wideouts who eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in 2020. He also played with Robby Anderson between the 2018 and 2019 campaigns, so their chemistry should ease the signal-caller's transition to Carolina. DJ Moore became a big-play receiver last year, averaging 18.1 yards per catch.
In order to build Darnold's confidence in a new system, offensive coordinator Joe Brady can lean on the short passing game early in the season. Just two years ago, running back Christian McCaffrey logged 116 catches for 1,005 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
The Panthers need to develop a consistent playmaker at tight end, but they selected wideout Terrace Marshall Jr., a 6'2", 205-pound target who can become an asset in the red zone. Between his 2019 and 2020 collegiate terms, the LSU product caught 23 touchdowns passes.
Although the Panthers will likely run their offense through McCaffrey, Darnold has the weapons to top his career passing numbers across the board.
Projected Stats: 339 completions, 526 attempts, 3,988 yards, 27 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 38 carries, 221 rushing yards, three touchdowns
Chicago Bears: Andy Dalton/Justin Fields
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy recently told the media that Andy Dalton "is the starter," but that could change at any point during the season.
During the draft, the Bears moved up from No. 20 to 11 for Justin Fields, giving up a fifth-rounder along with a 2022 first- and fourth-rounder to the New York Giants. With so much capital used to facilitate that deal, Chicago will probably insert the rookie if Dalton struggles or performs at the level of a borderline starter.
Dalton hasn't moved the needle in a lead role in recent seasons. Over the last two terms, he's thrown for 30 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. In 2021, the veteran signal-caller will play for his third team in three years.
As general manager Ryan Pace goes into the final year of his contract, he has the most to gain in terms of job security if Fields has a strong rookie campaign. Nagy could also show he's able to develop a young quarterback for the team's future.
Chicago cut starting tackles Bobby Massie and Charles Leno Jr. While rookie second-rounder Teven Jenkins has the potential to become a solid replacement, the Bears may need a more mobile quarterback to compensate for some lapses in pass protection. Look for Fields to take over the huddle midway through the term.
Projected Stats (Dalton): 204 completions, 319 attempts, 2,233 yards, 12 touchdowns, five interceptions
Projected Stats (Fields): 217 completions, 332 attempts, 2,406 yards, 15 touchdowns, four interceptions, 94 carries, 463 rushing yards, four touchdowns
Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow
Joe Burrow had some impressive outings in a shortened rookie campaign. Before he tore his MCL and ACL, the 24-year-old threw for 300-plus yards in five out of 10 games and led the Cincinnati Bengals to an impressive victory over the Tennessee Titans in Week 8.
Burrow told Cris Collinsworth that he's "very optimistic" about his chances of suiting up for Week 1 of the upcoming term. The second-year signal-caller could have a strong showing if healthy for the entire 2021 season.
In 2020, Burrow established a rapport with wideouts Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Now add his former LSU teammate Ja'Marr Chase to the equation, and the Bengals' aerial attack should set off fireworks.
With Chase already eyeing the Bengals' record books, expect Burrow to feed him the ball multiple times a game in a pass-heavy attack.
If running back Joe Mixon bounces back from a foot injury that sidelined him for 10 contests last season, his presence in the short passing game should also boost Burrow's overall numbers.
Projected Stats: 409 completions, 617 attempts, 4,681 yards, 33 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 32 carries, 124 rushing yards, two touchdowns
Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield
The Cleveland Browns have a dominant ground attack that features the league's best running back duo. In 2020, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 1,908 yards and 18 touchdowns as key playmakers for the third-ranked rushing offense.
The Browns don't need Baker Mayfield to throw the ball all over the field. He doesn't have to become a game manager, but the fourth-year signal-caller must continue to limit his turnovers.
Last season, Mayfield threw for 3,563 yards, 26 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. In 2021, he can take a few more deep shots to Odell Beckham Jr. if the wideout makes a full recovery from a torn ACL. Otherwise, Jarvis Landry, who averages 11.1 yards per catch, will see a high volume of targets as the clear go-to option.
Nevertheless, Mayfield and Beckham must work on their chemistry. The star receiver has a 55.1 percent catch rate in 23 games with the Browns.
Because of Cleveland's run-dominant offense and a shaky connection with Beckham, Mayfield won't see a huge spike in his passing numbers.
Projected Stats: 327 completions, 502 attempts, 3,934 yards, 29 touchdowns, seven interceptions
Dallas Cowboys: Dak Prescott
Coming off a season-ending ankle injury and multiple surgeries, Dak Prescott is feeling confident. He sent a text to rookie fifth-round recevier Simi Fehoko that read, "We're about to go light up the league!"
While that's just a quarterback reaching out to a new teammate with some excitement, we should take Prescott's word at face value. Before his injury, he racked up big numbers, throwing for 1,856 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions through five contests.
On pace to go well over 5,000 yards last season, Prescott can scorch defenses with his talented wide receiver trio that features Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb.
In 2020, the Cowboys' passing attack ranked eighth with Andy Dalton, Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert starting in 11 combined games. A Prescott-led unit should easily finish in the top five. The two-time Pro Bowler has averaged at least 306 passing yards per game in his last two campaigns.
Head coach Mike McCarthy expects Prescott to fully participate in training camp and "do most things" during organized team activities, which bodes well for the quarterback's 2021 outlook. He'll accumulate a ton of yards but lose some touchdowns to running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Projected Stats: 428 completions, 616 attempts, 5,295 yards, 35 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 48 carries, 264 rushing yards, five touchdowns
Denver Broncos: Drew Lock/Teddy Bridgewater
This offseason, the Denver Broncos have shown they're not completely comfortable with Drew Lock as their starter.
According to The MMQB's Albert Breer, the Broncos made an offer for quarterback Matthew Stafford before the Detroit Lions traded him to the Los Angeles Rams. While we can say that's a logical inquiry because of the upgrade, Denver then acquired Teddy Bridgewater, who's in competition with Lock for the starting spot.
Perhaps the Broncos want to see how Lock responds to pressure in hopes that he shows significant progress in his third season. However, the incumbent could very well lose his job. Bridgewater isn't flashy, but he's a steady stopgap option with a career 66.5 percent completion rate.
Along with Carson Wentz, Lock led the league in interceptions (15) last season. Even though he'll have lead wideout Courtland Sutton back on the field alongside Jerry Jeudy, the 24-year-old signal-caller's turnover-prone play combined with his inaccuracies (59.1 percent completion rate) will work against him. Bridgewater will start in several games this season.
Projected Stats (Lock): 272 completions, 439 attempts, 3,013 yards, 17 touchdowns, 10 interceptions
Projected Stats (Bridgewater): 138 completions, 201 attempts, 1,541 yards, 10 touchdowns, four interceptions
Detroit Lions: Jared Goff
Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford switched places, and now the former must adjust to a lesser wide receiver group.
With the Los Angeles Rams, Goff had Robert Woods, who eclipsed 1,100 receiving yards in two of the last three terms, and a budding talent in Cooper Kupp. In Detroit, his projected starting wideouts will be hit-or-miss because of injuries.
In 2019, Tyrell Williams played through plantar fasciitis and then he missed the entire 2020 campaign because of a torn labrum. Breshad Perriman hasn't played up to his 2015 first-round draft pedigree, and he's missed 33 career contests.
Both Williams and Perriman average more than 16 yards per reception. If they can stay healthy, Goff could stretch the field. However, with all three players joining the team this offseason, expect some bumps in the road.
On paper, Detroit has a top-level offensive line with reliable left tackle Taylor Decker, Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow and rookie first-round tackle Penei Sewell. The Lions may employ a run-heavy approach with D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. Goff just needs to protect the ball and take shots downfield when the safeties load the box.
Projected Stats: 349 completions, 542 attempts, 3,926 yards, 27 touchdowns, 12 interceptions
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers
The Green Bay Packers have a complicated situation with Aaron Rodgers, who's not on good terms with the team. According to NFL Network's James Palmer, the Denver Broncos are a realistic suitor for the 2020 league MVP if he becomes available.
The betting world seems to favor the Broncos as a potential landing spot for Rodgers. DraftKings has Denver in a three-way tie for the ninth-best odds to win Super Bowl 56 at +2500, and that's not because of Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater.
Two scenarios seem most probable: The Broncos make a grand offer to the Packers and acquire Rodgers, or the 37-year-old signal-caller commits to play in Green Bay again. His former teammate and friend, James Jones, believes the Packers can fix this situation.
If Rodgers suits up for the Packers in the upcoming campaign, he'll likely show why the team made a mistake in trading up and using a first-round pick to take Jordan Love in the 2020 draft, which seemed to drive his performance last season.
On the other hand, if the Packers trade Rodgers to the Broncos, they should allow Love to play even though he's still in the early stages of development. With so much uncertainty around Green Bay's lead signal-caller, we have to make a projection for his potential successor.
Projected Stats (Rodgers): 398 completions, 557 attempts, 4,731 yards, 42 touchdowns, six interceptions
Projected Stats (Love): 57 completions, 96 attempts, 539 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions
Houston Texans: Tyrod Taylor/Davis Mills
As Deshaun Watson goes through the legal process with 22 lawsuits filed against him for alleged sexual assault and misconduct, Tyrod Taylor will have an opportunity to bridge the gap between the Houston Texans' present and future.
Last year, Taylor lost his starting job to Justin Herbert after a Los Angeles Chargers team doctor punctured his lung before kickoff in Week 2. Assuming he can stay healthy, the 31-year-old will likely start at least a handful of games.
The Texans will fall out of the playoff picture early in the season. They hired a first-time head coach in David Culley, released J.J. Watt—who's still a solid defender when healthy—and traded Pro Bowl linebacker Benardrick McKinney. Lastly, Taylor has started in just four games since 2018.
Once the Texans rack up losses, rookie third-rounder Davis Mills should see some action. Because of knee injuries, he didn't start a lot of games at Stanford. Houston can find out what it has in the intriguing signal-caller, who's mobile and throws a tight accurate spiral.
Because of his inexperience at the collegiate level, Mills will likely struggle in a pro setting. On the flip side, he has decent weapons in wideouts Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb and Keke Coutee.
Projected Stats (Taylor): 142 completions, 226 attempts, 1,611 yards, 11 touchdowns, four interceptions, 62 carries, 363 rushing yards, three touchdowns
Projected Stats (Mills): 174 completions, 287 attempts, 1,758 yards, nine touchdowns, six interceptions
Indianapolis Colts: Carson Wentz
Carson Wentz will benefit from a fresh start and a new offensive line.
According to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, Wentz may have lost his confidence after the Philadelphia Eagles selected Jalen Hurts in the second round of the 2020 draft. On top of that, he didn't have a reliable offensive line. Only center Jason Kelce made more than 12 starts within that unit. Meanwhile, Wentz took a league-high 50 sacks.
The Indianapolis Colts will return four of their five starting offensive linemen from the previous campaign. The club also signed Julie'n Davenport, Sam Tevi and Eric Fisher to replace left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who retired.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Fisher could make his comeback from a torn Achilles around October. He's a two-time Pro Bowl left tackle who can solidify the Colts' five-man group.
Wentz won't have a close competitor for his job. No other quarterback on the depth chart has taken a regular-season snap in the NFL. He's going to play with a solid wide receiver group that includes T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell, who declared himself "100 percent" after he suffered a season-ending knee injury last September.
For the 2019 and 2020 terms, the Colts ranked in the top 10 for rush attempts, and that trend should continue with Jonathan Taylor and a healthy Marlon Mack. Wentz will bounce back with the help of a strong ground attack.
Projected Stats: 383 completions, 602 attempts, 4,388 yards, 32 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 56 carries, 272 rushing yards, four touchdowns
Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence
The Jacksonville Jaguars have some question marks on offense with a void at tight end and running back Travis Etienne at wide receiver during rookie minicamp.
At 33 years old, Tim Tebow, a former quarterback who hasn't played an NFL down since December 2012, isn't going to solve the Jaguars' issue at tight end. Yet Trevor Lawrence has a plethora of offensive playmakers to target in the passing game. Etienne's reps at wideout could turn into a net positive because of his pass-catching ability.
The Jaguars have a mix of veteran and young talent at wide receiver with nine-year pro Marvin Jones Jr., 2018 second-rounder DJ Chark Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr., whom the team selected in the second round of last year's draft. Also, Jacksonville has its entire 2020 offensive line intact.
With the versatility in the pass-catching group and the continuity across the offensive line, Lawrence should have some impressive performances. At Clemson, he showed the ability to cycle through his targets and find the open man, which is a quality that translates to the pro level.
Projected Stats: 388 completions, 611 attempts, 4,419 yards, 31 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 59 carries, 265 rushing yards, five touchdowns
Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes
Patrick Mahomes only needed 16 contests to throw for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns in 2018. If the Kansas City Chiefs play their starters through Week 18, he has a good chance to surpass those numbers.
Three years after Mahomes' exceptional second term, he has more experience playing alongside his top two playmakers, wideout Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce, with a better understanding of the game.
Although the Chiefs lost wide receiver Sammy Watkins in free agency, Mecole Hardman has the potential to break out in 2021. He has uncanny speed, averages 16.4 yards per catch and scored 10 touchdowns while playing just 45 percent of the offensive snaps in his first two seasons.
Mahomes also may not feel a lot of pressure behind a revamped offensive line. The Chiefs signed left tackle Joe Thuney, center Austin Blythe and guard Kyle Long and acquired two-time Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Brown Jr. from the Baltimore Ravens. With 2020 third-round tackle Lucas Niang and guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif returning after opting out of the previous campaign, Kansas City has an upgraded line with depth.
Mahomes has quality weapons and stronger protection. He's a strong 2021 league MVP candidate.
Projected Stats: 424 completions, 622 attempts, 5,248 yards, 45 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 57 carries, 279 rushing yards, two touchdowns
Las Vegas Raiders: Derek Carr
Derek Carr's fourth-year outlook under head coach Jon Gruden hinges upon the growth of second-year wideouts Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards along with the development of two inexperienced offensive linemen.
The Las Vegas Raiders lost wide receiver Nelson Agholor in free agency. Although they signed John Brown and Willie Snead IV, Ruggs and Edwards have the potential to become solid starters. The club selected them in the first and third rounds, respectively, for a reason. They must play up to their draft pedigrees after logging a combined 37 receptions, 645 yards and three touchdowns in 2020.
The Raiders won't miss Trent Brown's spotty availability. After trading him to the New England Patriots, Vegas selected Alex Leatherwood to fill the void at right tackle. Andre James will take over for center Rodney Hudson, whom the team traded to the Arizona Cardinals. The former has played just 116 offensive snaps.
Carr has rising star tight end Darren Waller but otherwise faces major question marks with his pass-catching group. Gruden could embrace a conservative run-heavy approach with Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake before he calls a more balanced game that incorporates multiple unproven players in key positions.
The Raiders' aerial attack could take a step back with a strong emphasis on the run game, which lowers the ceiling on Carr's 2021 passing numbers.
Projected Stats: 367 completions, 547 attempts, 4,183 yards, 29 touchdowns, 11 interceptions
Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert
This offseason, Justin Herbert lost offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, who helped him post record-setting numbers last year. However, the 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year should be able to build on an outstanding campaign.
The Los Angeles Chargers rebuilt their offensive line, signing versatile guard Matt Feiler and All-Pro center Corey Linsley. Rookie first-rounder Rashawn Slater will likely start at left tackle.
Last season, Herbert experienced the most hurries (85) in the league, so expect him to feel a little more comfortable in the pocket with an improved front line, which is a troubling thought for opposing defenses.
Herbert has a reliable veteran pass-catching tight end in Jared Cook along with wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. If dual-threat running back Austin Ekeler can stay healthy and big-play wideout Jalen Guyton progresses in his third year, the Chargers will remain a top-10 passing attack in yards and touchdowns.
Projected Stats: 413 completions, 617 attempts, 4,625 yards, 34 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 47 carries, 244 rushing yards, four touchdowns
Los Angeles Rams: Matthew Stafford
The Los Angeles Rams swapped starting quarterbacks with the Detroit Lions in a blockbuster trade, bringing in Matthew Stafford to replace Jared Goff under center. The former has the arm talent to lead a top-10 passing offense but comes with durability concerns.
In 2019, Stafford threw for 2,499 yards, 19 touchdowns and five interceptions but hip and back issues derailed his campaign after eight games. Last year, he battled thumb, rib and ankle injuries. Still, the 33-year-old threw for 4,084 yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions through 16 outings without his lead wideout, Kenny Golladay, for 11 of those contests.
Fortunately for Stafford, the Rams only lost one starting offensive lineman in center Austin Blythe during the offseason. He'll have two reliable starting wideouts in Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp with DeSean Jackson as a speedy deep threat.
With that said, we cannot ignore head coach Sean McVay's tendency to rely on the ground game.
As the Rams head coach, McVay's offenses have ranked top 10 in rush attempts for three out of four campaigns. With running back Cam Akers primed to take on a bigger role, Stafford may be more of an efficient quarterback than a high-volume passer who posts eye-popping numbers.
Projected Stats: 375 completions, 563 attempts, 4,492 yards, 32 touchdowns, nine interceptions
Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa
Even though Tua Tagovailoa got benched during a rough rookie campaign, he could show significant growth because of his explosive perimeter playmakers.
The Miami Dolphins signed wide receiver William Fuller V, who is coming off his best season despite missing five outings because of a six-game suspension for violating the NFL performance-enhancing drug policy. He recorded 53 catches for 879 yards and eight touchdowns with a 70.7 percent catch rate. Tagovailoa needs him to stay on the field though. Fuller has missed 27 games in five seasons and will sit out Miami's first game to finish out his suspension.
The Dolphins selected Jaylen Waddle with the sixth overall pick in April's draft. At Alabama, he averaged 18.9 yards per catch.
Between Fuller and Waddle, Tagovailoa can stretch defenses for big gains. While cornerbacks try to contain the Dolphins' deep threats, wideout DeVante Parker and tight end Mike Gesicki could expose blind spots in the middle of the field.
Tagovailoa has the tools to quiet doubters, though he will work with new co-play-callers in Eric Studesville and George Godsey, which may require an early adjustment period.
Projected Stats: 351 completions, 509 attempts, 4,102 yards, 28 touchdowns, nine interceptions
Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins
In 2020, Kirk Cousins had one of his better years despite the Minnesota Vikings' run-heavy approach. He threw for a career-high 35 touchdowns and gained an average of 12.2 yards per completion—his highest mark as a full-time starter.
Cousins spent last season connecting with the most productive rookie wide receiver in Justin Jefferson, who caught 88 passes for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns. Adam Thielen bounced back from an injury-riddled 2019 campaign and hauled in 14 touchdown passes.
The Vikings released tight end Kyle Rudolph, so a younger and more athletic Irv Smith Jr. should see more targets because of his pass-catching ability. Don't forget Dalvin Cook in the backfield. He's caught 148 passes for 1,275 yards and three touchdowns through four seasons.
Cousins doesn't have enough swagger for Jefferson, but he's one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league with a 67 percent completion rate for his career. You have to like that as well as his playmakers.
Projected Stats: 379 completions, 562 attempts, 4,514 yards, 34 touchdowns, 12 interceptions
New England Patriots: Cam Newton/Mac Jones
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick hasn't wavered on Cam Newton's status as the starter. Yet the pecking order could change if the veteran signal-caller doesn't improve on an abysmal 2020 season now that he has a better pass-catching group.
The Patriots signed wideouts Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. The former recorded a career-high 896 receiving yards last season. New England also added tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith—two productive starters with their previous teams.
Newton's days as "Super Cam" are long gone, though he's improved his passing efficiency, completing at least 65 percent of his attempts in two of the past three seasons. And still, the 6'5", 245-pounder uses his wheels. He rushed for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2020.
Newton could settle into a complementary role to the ground attack. The Patriots ranked fourth in rushing last year. According to The Athletic's Jeff Howe, the team views Damien Harris and Sony Michel as "a solid one-two combo." If the latter struggles to stay healthy, rookie fourth-rounder Rhamondre Stevenson could play a sizable role.
The Patriots may rely heavily on the run to take some pressure off Newton, so his numbers won't skyrocket. Nevertheless, he'll have some decent performances to keep first-round pick Mac Jones on the sideline for most of the season.
Projected Stats (Newton): 322 completions, 489 attempts, 3,606 yards, 26 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 112 carries, 512, 10 touchdowns
Projected Stats (Jones): 59 completions, 87 attempts, 602 yards, three touchdowns
New Orleans Saints: Jameis Winston/Taysom Hill
Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill will likely compete for the starting job.
Last season, Hill made four starts in place of Drew Brees. In addition to 928 passing yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions, he ran for 457 yards and eight scores in 16 contests.
The No. 1 overall pick from the 2015 draft, Winston could reinvent himself with the Saints. According to The Athletic's Katherine Terrell, he is the front-runner for the starting position.
Winston has a traditional style of play. He's going to stand in the pocket and attempt to beat defenses with his arm. Hill offers something more with his legs. Head coach Sean Payton told The MMQB's Albert Breer that the coaching staff could alter the game plan "week-to-week" for both signal-callers.
Regardless of who opens the 2021 season under center, expect Hill to play a role because of his ability to run, catch and throw. Winston's overall experience gives him a slight edge to start Week 1.
We'll see if Winston can limit turnovers, though he's certainly capable of racking up yards with an offensive line set to return all of its starters, star wideout Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara as his supporting cast.
Projected Stats (Winston): 369 completions, 572 attempts, 4,510 yards, 30 touchdowns, 13 interceptions
Projected Stats (Hill): 48 completions, 73 attempts, 447 yards, 2 touchdowns, one interception, 68 carries, 429 rushing yards, six touchdowns, 210 receiving yards, four touchdowns
New York Giants: Daniel Jones
Daniel Jones has the supporting cast to make significant strides in his third year.
The New York Giants signed Pro Bowl wideout Kenny Golladay, who eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in back-to-back campaigns between 2018 and 2019, led the league in touchdown receptions (11) two years ago and averages 16.8 yards per catch for his career.
In 2020, Golladay had issues with his hamstring and hip and missed 11 contests, though if healthy, he could return to Pro Bowl form. At 6'4", 213 pounds with strong hands, he's a tough coverage assignment.
General manager Dave Gettleman selected Kadarius Toney in the first round of April's draft. He'll bring speed and versatility to the passing attack. The Florida product racked up 1,590 receiving yards, 580 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns as a collegian.
Jones may not put up astronomical passing numbers if the Giants feature a healthy Saquon Barkley on the ground, but the dual-threat running back can make an impact in the short passing game as well.
Jones faces pressure in a crucial year, and he's equipped to make some strides.
Projected Stats: 357 completions, 559 attempts, 4,206 yards, 31 touchdowns, 11 interception, 49 carries, 308 rushing yards, two touchdowns
New York Jets: Zach Wilson
Overall, the Jacksonville Jaguars have the better overall quarterback prospect in Trevor Lawrence, but Zach Wilson has a high ceiling because of the wow factor to his game.
Wilson rose to prominence during an impressive junior season at BYU, throwing for 33 touchdowns and three interceptions with a 73.5 percent completion rate. He can throw on the move and flicks an effortless deep ball with accuracy.
Once Wilson is in sync with wideouts Denzel Mims, Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder and rookie second-rounder Elijah Moore, the New York Jets could put together some sensational drives.
Wilson may regret some of the chances he takes with long passes against NFL talent, but his confidence and poise should allow him to shake off mistakes for a solid year.
With that said, the Jets have a first-year offensive coordinator in Matt LaFleur, who comes from Kyle Shanahan's coaching tree in San Francisco where the ground game sets up the aerial attack. Don't expect Wilson to carry the offense on his back.
Projected Stats: 324 completions, 494 attempts, 3,771 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 37 carries, 102 rushing yards, two touchdowns
Philadelphia Eagles: Jalen Hurts
After the departure of Carson Wentz via trade to the Indianapolis Colts, Jalen Hurts should lock down the starting job over 36-year-old Joe Flacco. He'll work with first-time head coach Nick Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, who helped Justin Herbert post Offensive Rookie of the Year-worthy numbers (31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions) in 2020.
The Eagles may need to alter their offensive game plan to suit Hurts' strengths. According to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Sirianni didn't initially incorporate many run-pass option designs in the offensive system.
Going back to his collegiate years at Alabama and Oklahoma, Hurts made plays with his legs and forced defenses to account for him as a ball-carrier. In four seasons with those programs, he recorded 3,274 yards and 43 touchdowns on the ground. Hurts rushed for 354 yards and three scores last year.
The Eagles should feature Hurts' dynamic qualities in case he struggles to find wideout DeVonta Smith downfield. The second-year signal-caller completed just 52 percent of his passes in 2020.
Projected Stats: 301 completions, 498 attempts, 3,281 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 119 rush attempts, 724 rushing yards, eight touchdowns
Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger
Ben Roethlisberger had a mixed bag of performances at the end of the 2020 campaign.
On one hand, Roethlisberger's passing accuracy faded along with his drive on the ball. In Weeks 14 and 15, he completed fewer than 57 percent of his attempts and failed to throw for 200 yards.
In Week 16 against the Indianapolis Colts, Roethlisberger threaded the needle on deep throws and threw for 341 yards and zero interceptions with a 69 percent completion rate. Trailing by a wide margin early in an AFC wild-card matchup with the Cleveland Browns, he threw for 501 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions.
The Pittsburgh Steelers shouldn't rely on Roethlisberger to put the offense on his back and throw 45 passes per game. Yet he can sling the ball in spurts.
Last year, Pittsburgh struggled to run the ball, ranking 28th in rush attempts with the fewest yards on the ground. Despite the changes across the offensive line with the loss of three starters, expect new play-caller Matt Canada to balance the offensive attack with a steady dose of rookie running back Najee Harris.
Nevertheless, Roethlisberger has a quality pass-catching group that features JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and Eric Ebron, so defenses will need to respect the Steelers' aerial attack.
Projected Stats: 386 completions, 592 attempts, 4,273 yards, 32 touchdowns, 14 interceptions
San Francisco 49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo/Trey Lance
For now, Jimmy Garoppolo projects as the Week 1 starter, though we must account for his spotty availability. Since 2018, he's missed 23 games because of a torn ACL and a high ankle sprain.
Although the San Francisco 49ers don't have to thrust rookie first-rounder Trey Lance into action right away, Garoppolo should feel some pressure with the No. 3 overall pick behind him on the depth chart.
Nevertheless, Garoppolo has a rapport with George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. If all four players avoid serious injuries, the 29-year-old signal-caller could have a solid season.
Regardless, Garoppolo's passing numbers may not jump off the screen with head coach Kyle Shanahan's commitment to the run.
In 2019—Garoppolo's best season—the 49ers had the second-most rush attempts. Additionally, Matt Barrows of The Athletic believes the team may use Lance in a Taysom Hill-like role as a ball-carrier in the upcoming season.
Because of Garoppolo's injury history, Lance has a good chance to start a few games. Temper your expectations for the rookie, he's played one collegiate game (against Central Arkansas) in over a year.
Projected Stats (Garoppolo): 298 completions, 426 attempts, 3,572 yards, 25 touchdowns, 11 interceptions
Projected Stats (Lance): 57 completions, 91 attempts, 668 passing yards, five touchdowns, one interception, 207 rushing yards, three touchdowns
Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson
Over the past couple of months, the Seattle Seahawks made some notable acquisitions to improve the passing offense.
The front office signed tight end Gerald Everett, acquired guard Gabe Jackson from the Las Vegas Raiders and selected D'Wayne Eskridge in the second round of the draft.
Everett is an athletic tight end who is coming off his most productive campaign as a receiver. Eskridge provides speed and big-play ability. At Western Michigan, he averaged 18.5 yards per reception. In 2020, Jackson didn't allow a sack, per Pro Football Focus.
DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett should continue to produce as a high-end wide receiver tandem. Both playmakers eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards with 10 touchdown receptions apiece last year.
With all of that said, the Seahawks will likely undergo an adjustment period under new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron. We may not see Russ cook as he did at the beginning of the previous season, but he's likely to eclipse 30 touchdowns for a fifth consecutive campaign because of his high-quality perimeter weapons.
Projected Stats: 393 completions, 568 attempts, 4,497 yards, 36 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 71 carries, 427 rushing yards, four touchdowns
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tom Brady
Even though he needed a few months to find his groove, the 43-year-old signal-caller proved he could still sling the football with accuracy at his age. Once again, the seven-time Super Bowl champion put Father Time on hold.
Last season, Brady threw the ball 610 times for 4,633 yards, 40 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He has continuity within his pass-catching group. Plus, tight end O.J. Howard will come back from a torn Achilles.
On paper, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, Scott Miller, Cameron Brate and Howard make up an elite pass-catching group. Brady has more than enough offensive playmakers to defy the odds as a 44-year-old quarterback at the top of his game.
Projected Stats: 416 completions, 601 attempts, 4,892 yards, 38 touchdowns, eight interceptions
Tennessee Titans: Ryan Tannehill
The Tennessee Titans offense had a couple of key losses this offseason.
Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, who led the Titans' fourth-ranked scoring offense last season, accepted the Atlanta Falcons' head coaching job. In 2020, tight end Jonnu Smith ranked second on the team in touchdown receptions (eight). He signed with the New England Patriots.
The Titans' winning formula won't change much, though. They'll likely continue to feed Derrick Henry, who just won back-to-back rushing titles. However, Tannehill's production may take a hit because of his former coordinator's departure.
Tannehill reinvented himself under Smith and won 2019 Comeback Player of the Year. Todd Downing will take over play-calling duties. He once held the position back in 2017 for the then-Oakland Raiders, and his unit finished 23rd in scoring with the 16th-ranked passing attack.
Tannehill may need few weeks of adjustment in a new system. He still has Pro Bowl wideout A.J. Brown, but the Titans will probably pound the rock a lot more than they throw downfield as their signal-caller and new coordinator figure each other out.
Projected Stats: 327 completions, 491 attempts, 3,793 yards, 30 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 41 carries, 229 rushing yards and six touchdowns
Washington Football Team: Ryan Fitzpatrick/Kyle Allen
The Washington Football Team's quarterback room doesn't have a starter with significant upside.
The club signed 38-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick. He's the probable starter over Kyle Allen, who's thrown for 23 touchdowns and 17 interceptions with three terms, and Taylor Heinicke, a 28-year-old with only two career starts.
Allen is coming off a season-ending ankle injury, but he could make several starts if Fitzpatrick fizzles out at some point in the season. Part of the reason Washington traded for Allen is he has played three years under head coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner dating back to their time in Carolina.
Furthermore, Allen has a rapport with wide receiver Curtis Samuel, who signed with the team after four seasons with the Panthers. Because of his familiarity with the system, he's a comfortable bridge option if the offense needs a spark.
Fitzpatrick has made more than seven starts in a single campaign only once in the past four years. He's also inconsistent, throwing for 33 touchdowns and 21 interceptions in his past two seasons with the Miami Dolphins. FitzMagic's turnovers may eventually lead him to the bench.
Projected Stats (Fitzpatrick): 198 completions, 305 attempts, 2,221 yards, 15 touchdowns, 10 interceptions
Projected Stats (Allen): 196 completions, 297 attempts, 2,184 yards, 14 touchdowns, seven interceptions