With the kickoff to the 2021 NFL season quickly approaching, sportsbooks around the country are beginning to open up their extensive betting markets. Outside of Super Bowl futures and season win totals, one of the most popular markets involves predicting who will lead the league in passing yards.
As one of the top-ranked season-long fantasy football players in the world, I will admit that I incorporate sportsbook betting projections into my successful fantasy rankings. It has become a vital and integral strategy to building my successful investments year-in and year-out.
Let’s dive into this betting market and break it all down!
RECENT NFL PASSING YARD LEADERS
Over the past three seasons, a new leader has emerged with the NFL passing yardage crown. In 2018, Ben Roethlisberger led the NFL with 5,129 passing yards, followed by Jameis Winston in 2019 with 5,109 yards. Last season, Deshaun Watson (4,823) edged out Patrick Mahomes (4,740) and Tom Brady (4,633).
Watson cashed for bettors at healthy odds of +2000, while all of the top four overall betting choices Mahomes (+450), Matt Ryan (+550), Jared Goff (+700), and Dak Prescott (+800), burned their backers at short odds. Buffalo Bills signal-caller Josh Allen (4,544), who was listed last summer at +7500, nearly pulled off the big upset finishing fifth overall - only 279 yards behind Watson.
FANTASY QB RANKINGS/TIERS
TOP QB TIER
- Patrick Mahomes (+350)
- Josh Allen (+850)
- Kyler Murray (+4000)
During his MVP run in 2018, Patrick Mahomes passed for an ultra-impressive 5,097 yards with 50 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Since his rookie campaign, Mahomes has not topped 38 passing touchdowns or 4,740 passing yards.
Although we have witnessed regression from a pure numbers standpoint, Mahomes has earned the respect and most importantly the pockets of NFL bettors and fantasy football owners. With a plethora of weapons that include Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill at his disposal, it's easy to see how the oddsmakers are projecting another prolific season from fantasy football's top-rated quarterback. Mahomes (5,050) is currently the only NFL quarterback with a passing-yard projection total above 5,000 yards in sportsbooks. Mahomes should get off to a flying start to the season as Kansas City (-6) takes on Cleveland at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 1 with the highest total (53) of any game posted on SI Sportsbook.
As previously alluded to, Buffalo's Josh Allen took a major step forward in 2020, and the oddsmakers have made quite an adjustment in 2021. Last season, bettors found Allen in the range of +7500 to lead the league in passing yards, but after falling only several hundred yards shy of Deshaun Watson, they have slashed Allen down to odds of +850 in this year's betting market. In 2020, the rising star improved his passing production by 1,455 yards over his sophomore campaign. Allen is easily the most coveted quarterback in fantasy drafts this season behind Mahomes thanks to his immense ability on the ground - rushing for 25 touchdowns in his first three seasons in the NFL.
Kyler Murray, last season's second-best fantasy football quarterback statistically, fell just below the 4,000-yard passing mark by 29 yards (3,971). However, despite the oddsmakers listing his potential of leading the league in passing yards with massive +4000 odds, fantasy owners should not shy away from this elite option on draft day. Murray, who rushed for 819 yards while adding 11 touchdowns via the ground in 2020, is a player with a tremendous ceiling. With an elite receiving option in DeAndre Hopkins, veterans A.J. Green and Christian Kirk, and newly-added rookie Rondale Moore, Murray is an elite QB1 with the upside to being the top overall fantasy football signal-caller in 2021. Murray is in line to get off to a solid statistical start as Arizona is projected to be involved in a high-scoring affair with Tennessee in Week 1 with a total listed at 51.5 on SI Sportsbook.
QB TIER 2
- Dak Prescott (+600)
- Tom Brady (+650)
- Lamar Jackson (+15000)
- Russell Wilson (+2000)
Dak Prescott, who can be found as high as +700, is the second overall betting choice behind Mahomes. The Dallas Cowboys, who witnessed Prescott finish second in passing yards (4,902) only behind Jameis Winston (5,109) back in 2019, hope the signal-caller can rebound from a serious ankle injury that derailed his 2020 season after just five games. After Prescott received positive news following his latest MRI on his suddenly ailing throwing shoulder, fantasy owners are breathing a huge sigh of relief.
The ageless Tom Brady (+750), who is coming off a 2020 season that culminated in a Super Bowl victory with Tampa Bay, is listed in the top-three in overall passing yardage betting boards around the country. Brady is being drafted in the top ten of fantasy drafts at the quarterback position thanks to wideouts Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown. The veteran threw for the most touchdowns (40) of his career since his prolific 2007 season when he reached the 50-touchdown plateau. Expecting Brady to match or eclipse his 4,633 passing yards from last season is well within the realm of expectations, and fantasy owners are drooling over his mid-to-late round ADP.
Lamar Jackson is simply an afterthought in the overall passing leader betting market (+15000) since the talented signal-caller has thrown for less than 2,800 passing yards in two of his first three seasons in the NFL. Jackson’s fantasy worth is his ability to accrue points with his legs, having amassed over 1,000 rushing yards in two of his three seasons while adding 19 touchdowns on the ground. The Ravens, with questionable wide receiver depth, have been hit hard thus far with injuries in the preseason at the position, thus leading to Jackson being a candidate once again for regression in 2021.
Russell Wilson (+2000) is an elite fantasy football option leading the Seattle Seahawks thanks to his recent production of throwing 31-plus touchdowns in four straight seasons while adding 1,817 rushing yards over that span. Wilson has eclipsed the 4,000-yard passing mark in four of his eight seasons in the NFL, but his career-best of 4,219 yards is not close to many other options in this overall passing yards betting market.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP 10
- Matthew Stafford (+1200)
- Aaron Rodgers (+1400)
- Justin Herbert (+1400)
Matthew Stafford (+1200) is a very attractive betting and fantasy option in 2021 after being acquired from Detroit to run Sean McVay’s offense in Los Angeles. If Stafford can get his nagging back woes under control, he has some of the best weapons in his career. The veteran inherits wideouts Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods on the outside to go along with emerging tight end talent Tyler Higbee. Stafford is being targeted by fantasy owners who choose to wait until the double-digit rounds of drafts to fill the QB1 position. In a pass-heavy offense, expect Stafford to flourish in his first season with the Rams.
Aaron Rodgers, who is coming off an eye-popping 48:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio, only finished with 4,299 passing yards last season. Rodgers, who had a tumultuous off-season with the Green Bay Packers organization, to say the least, is a player who could witness significant regression in 2021 due to tremendous off-the-field tension. Oddsmakers are already factoring that in with double-digit odds (+1400) on an elite player who has never thrown for more than 4,643 yards in any season of his 16-year career. Rodgers is a player I would be very hesitant about targeting as my QB1 in fantasy drafts this season.
Justin Herbert was sensational in his rookie campaign for the Los Angeles Chargers, throwing for 4,336 passing yards and 31 touchdowns to earn the 2020 NFL Rookie of the Year award. Despite setting the rookie record for passing touchdowns, I believe playing in a new system under new head coach Brandon Staley leads to the potential for serious regression. The talented gun-slinger does not get any favors playing in a highly competitive AFC West. In addition, Herbert could get off to a very slow start to the 2021 fantasy season with a brutal road matchup against the Washington Football Team in Week 1 with the third-lowest posted total (44) of any matchup on SI Sportsbook.
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