Longevity is the key to success in dynasty fantasy football. Yes, we want the best players at every position, but we also need to find those young guns who will be on your roster for years to come. Just imagine if you had taken Tom Brady in a rookie draft in 2000. He was 199th selection that year and you would have been set for 20+ years at the quarterback position.
With that said, this is not a top-10 young quarterbacks list. Different positions have different values and dissimilar longevity. Like quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends can play a long time. Running backs must be exploited while they are young because they don't play as long as other positions. There are plenty of quarterbacks and wide receivers on the list, and even one running back. As for tight end? T.J. Hockenson was an honorable mention, but he missed the cut.
Two final things. First, no rookies were included. Trevor Lawrence or Kyle Pitts might be near the top of this list next season, but let's see them play first. Finally, to qualify, a player must not turn 26 before the season starts on September 9, 2021.
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Josh Allen had a breakout season in 2020. Not only did he improve his passing with Stefon Diggs leading the way, but he also led the Bills past the Patriots to a division title and two playoff victories. Not too shabby for a quarterback that many had pegged as an extreme risk when Buffalo took him at seventh overall in 2018.
Although not as polished a thrower as Patrick Mahomes II, his arm is just as talented. He also has the mobility to get out of the pocket and run for first downs and more. Building upon his 2020 stats will be difficult, but he is not going to fall off a cliff. With a talented surrounding cast, one which is also young, the 25-year-old Allen is on the ascent.
Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
One season does not a career make, but what a rookie season it was for Justin Herbert. In 15 games, Herbert set the NFL rookie record with 31 touchdowns. He also finished with 4,336 yards passing and 234 rush yards, showing that he does contain a bit of rushing ability. He will not wow you like Jackson, Allen, or Kyler Murray with his legs, but at 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, he can move the pocket and make off-script plays when needed. He was forced to make those plays many times in 2020 behind a terrible offensive line. That line has been completely revamped in 2021.
The return of Austin Ekeler will also be a part of his success in 2021. A severe hamstring injury sidelined Ekeler for the majority of the second half of the fantasy football season. His absence hurt the fantasy managers who were counting on him, but it also hurt Herbert. With Ekeler back, an upgraded offensive line, and a true offseason of practice, Herbert is set to make a leap during year two in Los Angeles.
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
The 2019 season was magical for Lamar Jackson. He became the first quarterback in NFL history with 3,000 yards passing and more than 1,000 rush yards. He also led the Baltimore Ravens to a 14-2 finish, the NFL's best record that season. This, in turn, led to Jackson winning the league MVP award. It was well known that his 2019 numbers were not sustainable. Therefore the drop in touchdowns, yardage, and efficiency was not unexpected in 2020.
The Ravens are a run-first team, and as long as John Harbaugh is there, this will not change. The team just re-signed Gus Edwards to a new two-year contract for $10 million, so he and J.K. Dobbins will be leading the backfield for years to come. Jackson's legs are his true weapon, so he fits this offense perfectly. He needs to improve on his passing but he is not going to sink like the Titanic. For at least the next three years, and dynasty should be viewed in three-year windows, Jackson is a stud.
Patrick Mahomes II, Kansas City Chiefs
There is not too much to say about Patrick Mahomes II, which has not already been stated somewhere. He is a franchise quarterback with a $500 million arm. Although coming off a dismantling in the Super Bowl, one which led to Mahomes requiring toe surgery, he will be fine entering this season.
That Super Bowl loss showed weakness on the Kansas City offensive line. They used the offseason to sign Joe Thuney and the recently unretired Kyle Long. On top of these moves, the Chiefs traded their first-round pick and more to get Orlando Brown from Baltimore. With the line seemingly settled, let's look at the weapons. The Chiefs have the best tight end in football, Travis Kelce, and possibly the best wide receiver in Tyreek Hill. Mahomes and the Kansas City offense will once again flourish under Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy.
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
Murray does not have the arm of Mahomes nor the legs of Jackson. In a sense, he blends a combination of the two into one person. This makes him extremely dangerous in both aspects of the game.
After a rookie season in which he had four rushing touchdowns on 93 carries, he raised this number to 11 touchdowns on 133 carries in his second season. On top of this, he also had 26 touchdown passes working with new star receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins and Christian Kirk are still there. The team also added A.J. Green and a potential slot replacement for Larry Fitzgerald, Rondale Moore through the draft. This means his weapons have improved heading into this season. He has proven himself thus far, and he has not hit his peak yet.
Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
It was a great way to start a career for Jonathan Taylor. Taylor was thrown into the fire earlier than expected when Marlon Mack went out for the season in Week 1. He finished his rookie season with 1,169 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 232 rushes. He also added 36 catches for 299 yards. This was good to see as Philip Rivers was playing the final downs of a hall of fame career and the team's wide receiving group was hampered by injury all season. This season will bring some changes. With Rivers now retired, Carson Wentz is ready to take the helm.
Although Wentz is coming off two down seasons in Philadelphia, with the Colts he reunites Frank Reich. Reich was the offensive coordinator that led him to the brink of an NFL MVP season in 2017. Wentz's playstyle will open up things for Jonathan Taylor, as he will be able to scramble from the pocket and extend plays. This will allow Taylor to get more rushes and more dump-offs out of the backfield. Although Nyheim Hines is the third-down back for the Colts, Taylor can still get to 50 or more receptions in this scheme. Jonathan Taylor looks to be a great value for the next two or three years. At the running back position, you cannot ask for much more than that.
A.J. Brown, Tennessee Titans
During his rookie campaign of 2019, Brown managed to haul in 52 receptions. Not outstanding, but his 1,051 yards and eight touchdowns gave him a monster 20.2 yards-per-reception and the team lead in receiving scores. There was no sophomore slump as 2020 led to a better season.
While his average yards-per-reception went down from 20.2 to 15.4, he caught an additional 18 passes while playing in two fewer games. He was also able to raise his touchdown total from 8 to 11. This was before having a monster like Julio Jones across from him on the field. No offense to Corey Davis, but he is not Julio Jones. Over the past two years, A.J. Brown and Jones are the number one and two wide receivers in the NFL for average yards per route run. This will lead to huge numbers for Ryan Tannehill and the entire Titans' offense if they both continue this trend. While Jones is on the back end of his career, Brown is just beginning his dominance.
Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
When you break team rookie records once held by Randy Moss, people take notice. This is exactly what Justin Jefferson did in 2020 for the Minnesota Vikings, finishing his rookie season as the No. 6 overall fantasy wide receiver. It was great for managers who snagged him in dynasty last season, but Jefferson comes into 2021 with high expectations.
The knock on Jefferson coming into the league was his reliance on being in the slot. Jefferson gained more than 98% of his production from the position in his final season in college. In Minnesota, that position was held by Adam Thielen. His skeptics were nervous about his translation to the NFL game. Boy, were they wrong. Playing in all 16 games, Jefferson caught 88 passes for 1,400 yards and had seven touchdowns. If you were lucky enough to get him in rookie drafts last season, congratulations. If you were not, but you want him, good luck. It will cost you a ton, but it might be well worth it.
CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys
CeeDee Lamb has the most supporting talent of any player on this list. Dak Prescott at quarterback, Ezekiel Elliott at running back, and Amari Cooper and Michael Gallop alongside him at wide receiver. It's a formidable lineup for defenses to contend with. We didn't really get to see that in 2020.
It was beneficial that Lamb slid to Jerry Jones at pick 17 last year after Blake Jarwin and Dak Prescott went down for the year. Lamb rewarded Mr. Jones' faith in him by coming in and providing a much-needed third option in the passing game. He put forth a strong rookie season with the likes of Andy Dalton and Ben DeNucci behind center.
With Prescott seemingly healthy and back in the fold, 2021 could be a banner year for the Cowboys offense and CeeDee Lamb. Looking past 2021, Amari Cooper is expensive, and Michael Gallop will be a free agent. One of or both of them may be a distant memory in a year, but Lamb will remain. He should flourish and quite possibly be the best receiver in Dallas since the heyday of Dez Bryant.
DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks
He may not be the fastest player in the NFL, but it's close. Just ask the Arizona Cardinals and Budda Baker. Back at the 2019 combine, everyone was entranced by the speed and body of DK Metcalf. The short shuttle? Not so much. This led to the assumption that he was a one-trick pony. A player who could run in a straight line but that was all. Through hard work and dedication, he transformed himself into a solid route runner. No one is going to mistake him for Keenan Allen or Stefon Diggs, but he is no longer seen as a straight-line only player.
With 83 receptions for 1,303 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2020, Metcalf has taken the WR1 role in Seattle from Tyler Lockett. This bodes well for Metcalf managers who are counting on another great season out of him. He also has the talent to remain a top-10 wide receiver for many years to come as Seattle adjusts their offense. They will never be a pass-first team, but they will be more balanced this season. This means more targets heading in the direction of Metcalf. As disgruntled as Russell Wilson seemed to be during the offseason, he is still a Seahawk and should remain so for a long time. At 32, Wilson has at least five years left in him. Having this level of play at the quarterback position makes Metcalf even more intriguing for dynasty players.