Fantasy Football 2021: Ranking the Top 5 QB-WR Stacks
In the early rounds of fantasy football drafts, most managers target high-volume, dual-threat running backs, but a dominant stack can also become the foundation of a league-winning lineup.
A stack refers to two players, a quarterback and a pass-catcher on the same team. You'll rack up points for the passing score and touchdown reception on one play. Though it's a common strategy, some managers overlook the benefits of a dynamic duo while searching for a running back with upside.
With a draft slot at the end of rounds, you may not have a chance to select a second season-long starter at running back. In that case, a strong quarterback-wide receiver tandem could become the ideal approach in Rounds 2-4.
You can also stack tight ends such as Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Darren Waller with their respective quarterbacks, but we'll focus on wideouts in this top-five listing for 12-team point-per-reception leagues.
Let's go through each pair and why you should consider both players in the early rounds. We'll start with a handful of honorable mentions.
5. QB Russell Wilson and WR DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks
Last season, Russell Wilson and DK Metcalf finished sixth and seventh at their respective positions in fantasy points, per FantasyPros. They have a budding rapport that should continue to grow in their third campaign together.
As a big-play receiver, Metcalf picks up yards in chunks, averaging 15.6 yards per reception in his career. That's what makes him the preferred stack option over fellow Seattle Seahawks wideout Tyler Lockett, who also has a strong connection with Wilson. The latter averages 13 yards per catch for his career and logged 10.5 yards per catch last year.
If you want Metcalf but have concerns about Lockett's involvement in the passing game, don't worry. Under new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, the Seahawks will run an accelerated offense, which means the passing attack could feed both receivers.
As a result, the Seahawks will likely run more offensive plays per game than they did last year. In 2020, the club tied for 20th in total plays. Secondly, Waldron's intention to use more pre-snap shifts and motions could result in advantageous matchups against No. 2 or No. 3 cornerbacks for Metcalf, who will line up in different spots.
Last year down the stretch, Seattle's offense became a bit predictable, and Wilson still threw for a career-high 40 touchdowns (Metcalf hauled in 10 of them). Look for this pair to put up big numbers in a new, fast-paced system.
In the previous term, Lockett had three more targets than Metcalf, so we cannot push this tandem above fifth place.
As a stack, Wilson and Metcalf will score a ton of points, but Seattle's offense features two top-tier fantasy wideouts, which may leave managers in guess mode as to who has a big game in some weeks.
4. QB Kyler Murray and WR DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals
Last season, the Arizona Cardinals had a clear gap between their No. 1 and 2 wide receivers. DeAndre Hopkins caught 115 passes for 1,407 yards and six touchdowns, while Christian Kirk hauled in 48 balls for 621 yards and six scores.
Clearly, Hopkins led the Cardinals' receiving group as the go-to option. In his first season with the team, he immediately clicked with quarterback Kyler Murray.
Going into 2021, Hopkins will have more competition for targets. Arizona signed seven-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green and selected Rondale Moore in the second round of the draft. Both wideouts will likely see some looks as secondary receiving options.
Still, Hopkins will likely post big numbers in 2021. He's a well-established three-time All-Pro who ranked second in receiving yards and tied for second in catches for the 2020 term. Also, Larry Fitzgerald, who's still a free agent, isn't around to soak up targets. He ranked third on the team (72) in that category during the previous campaign.
Last year, Hopkins scored the fourth-most fantasy points among wideouts and should list among the top five in the upcoming term because of his connection with Murray.
With Green coming off a career-low 523 receiving yards in 2020, the Cardinals don't have a surefire consistent No. 2 option at wide receiver. In a lead role, Hopkins should have more weeks with gaudy performances than DK Metcalf, who has to share targets with Tyler Lockett.
3. QB Patrick Mahomes and WR Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
With Patrick Mahomes' arm strength and Tyreek Hill's deep-ball tracking ability, the Kansas City Chiefs can produce big plays just about every week. Last season, they ranked fourth and second at their respective positions in fantasy points.
Managers may have concerns about Hill's catch volume. He hasn't recorded more than 87 receptions in a single season, which tied for 15th among wideouts in 2020. He must continue to make the most of his opportunities, especially with three-time All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce heavily involved in the aerial attack. Also note, Mecole Hardman could see an uptick in production with an expanded role.
Hill's speed and penchant for big plays over the top should alleviate your worries about his number of receptions. He can bolster your fantasy score in the blink of an eye. Remember, the blazing deep threat posted 13 catches for 269 yards and three touchdowns against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season.
Furthermore, Hill has become a major scoring threat with Mahomes under center. They've hooked up 32 times for touchdowns since 2018. The All-Pro wideout had the second-most touchdown receptions (15) in 2020.
Mahomes has ranked within the top five in fantasy points for two of the last three campaigns. Because of the quarterback's consistency, Hill is a must-have early-round pick who can do a lot of damage to fantasy opponents in a stack.
Quarterback Kyler Murray needs to work on his consistency, specifically late in the season. In 2019, he threw for six touchdowns and six interceptions through the final quarter of the term. Last year, he threw for just four touchdowns and two interceptions in the final four outings.
With the possibility that Murray goes from fantasy gem to a pumpkin during a crucial time, the Chiefs have a much safer quarterback-receiver stack.
2. QB Josh Allen and WR Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
In 2020, Stefon Diggs became a fantasy football star, leading the league in receiving yards (1,535) and ranking third in fantasy points among wideouts for PPR leagues.
Meanwhile, Josh Allen took a massive leap, which vaulted him to the top spot in scoring among quarterbacks.
For a fourth consecutive year, Allen will play in a familiar system under offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, which bodes well for his growth.
The Bills signed wideout Emmanuel Sanders, but as a newcomer going into his age-34 term, he'll serve as the No. 2 option behind an ascending star in Diggs. The former hasn't played more than 61 percent of his team's offensive snaps since the 2016 season.
Unlike Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill, Allen and Diggs haven't played together for multiple years, but they're the Bills' clear-cut one-two punch in the passing attack. Tight end Travis Kelce may lead the Kansas City Chiefs in targets, catches and receiving yards over Hill, which is how the numbers panned out last season.
Diggs doesn't have to compete with another All-Pro pass-catcher on his team. Managers can count on him to lead the Bills in major receiving categories, so this tandem takes the No. 2 spot.
1. QB Aaron Rodgers and WR Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers
For at least the 2021 campaign, fantasy managers can count on the Green Bay Packers' elite tandem in the passing game.
Coming off an MVP season with 48 touchdowns and five interceptions, Aaron Rodgers isn't showing signs of decline. Though he's suffered collarbone injuries in the past, he hasn't missed a game since 2017.
If Rodgers is healthy for the entire 2021 campaign, he could throw for 40-plus touchdowns, thanks in large part to wideout Davante Adams.
Like Rodgers, Adams had an incredible 2020 season. He missed two games and still led the league in touchdown receptions (18) and averaged 98.1 receiving yards per outing, which also topped all pass-catchers. He scored the most fantasy points at his position.
Even with the addition of Randall Cobb, who has a rapport with Rodgers, Adams has the motivation to accumulate big numbers in his push to become the highest-paid wide receiver. Don't rule out Rodgers' urge to take care of his top playmaker in that regard.
Rodgers and Adams have played seven years together. They're by far the most established pair on this top five list. At No. 2, Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs have been teammates for just a year.
With Rodgers and Adams coming off their best statistical seasons, you can't argue against this stack in the No. 1 spot.
Fantasy statistics courtesy of FantasyPros.