QB DEBATE: AARON ROGERS vs. PATRICK MAHOMES 2021
QB DEBATE: WHO IS THE #1 QB FOR 2021?
By: John Falabella
Now that all of the Aaron Rodgers commotions have settled down, we can get down to business to see which QB will be in line to be the top performer for the 2021 season. If you were unaware, there were some rumors that Aaron Rodgers wanted to be traded and would retire if he was not. However, those ideas have gone to bed over the past couple of weeks, and Aaron Rodgers has reported to camp and is now looking to have another great season in Green Bay. Last season Aaron Rodgers led the NFL in completion percentage (70%) and threw a career-high 48 touchdown passes, which also led the NFL.
The other contender for the number one QB off the board this season is Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes fell short of matching Rodgers in those statistical areas last season, as he completed only 66% of his passes and threw 38 touchdown passes, but who is the better bet to finish on top in 2021?
Aaron Rodgers will be entering his 14th season as the starter in Green Bay and his third season under head coach Matt LaFleur. Rodgers has proven each year of his career that he is going to throw a bunch of touchdowns, and he is not going to turn the ball over. We will see more of that in 2021.
Patrick Mahomes is only entering his 4th season as the starter in Kansas City, but he has been putting up big numbers in Andy Reid‘s system since day one. Comparing Mahomes first three years as a starter to Rodgers and the totals are not even close. Mahomes has already thrown 114 touchdown passes while Rodgers tossed only 87 during that span of his career. Obviously, we will see big numbers from the Kansas City quarterback again in 2021.
In order to decide which of these stars will have a better year, we will have to look at the players who surround these two quarterbacks.
GREEN BAY PACKERS OFFENSE
One of the best fantasy football quarterbacks of all time, Aaron Rodgers, will be paired with the best receiver in the NFL, Davante Adams. Adams led the NFL in receiving touchdowns last year with 18 and would have led the NFL in receiving yards but missed two games due to injury. Green Bay has some good receiving options after Adams, but there is a considerable drop-off. Last season we saw the emergence of tight end Robert Tonyan, who was an excellent red zone threat with 11 touchdown receptions. Rookie Amari Rodgers will play a role, as will Randall Cobb, who has returned to the Packers after two seasons away. Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling will also be in the mix, but they will need to hold on to the ball as they had a combined 12 dropped passes last season in 108 targets (that’s over 11% of the passes thrown their way). The Packer running game also plays a massive factor as Aaron Rodgers is a master of the play-action pass. Running back, Aaron Jones has proven to be a dependable runner over the past three seasons and can also come out of the backfield as a receiver. Jones may need to pick up the slack in this area since Jamaal Williams is no longer with the team.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS OFFENSE
The Chiefs have weapons across the board for Patrick Mahomes to utilize. Speedster Tyreek Hill has consistently put up 1000 yards with double-digit touchdowns over the past few seasons, and those numbers should be expected again in 2021. Travis Kelce, the best TE in the game, will be elite as usual, producing in the range of 1300 yards and 10 TDs. Demarcus Robinson is an acceptable 4th option, and the electric Mecole Hardman is capable of putting up big numbers, but he dropped 8 passes out of 64 targets last season. Byron Pringle will also need to step up to help replace Sammy Watkins, who left via free agency this past summer. Second-year running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire will have a prominent role coming out of the backfield. He had 54 targets in that area last year as a rookie. The Chiefs have also bolstered their offensive line after a poor performance in the Super Bowl.
Advantage: Patrick Mahomes
Another factor that will separate these two quarterbacks is their mobility. Aaron Rodgers will be turning 38 in December, so he will naturally be slowing down in this area, although he can still scramble for a first down here and there. Look for Rodgers to gain about 120 yards and a touchdown on the ground this season.
In September, Patrick Mahomes will turn 26 and hasn’t even entered his prime (even though he plays like he has). His rushing numbers dipped a bit in 2019 due to a knee injury, but he is good for about 300 yards and two touchdowns as a runner every year.
Advantage: Patrick Mahomes
The final factor that we will look at is the systems that these two quarterbacks play in. As I mentioned earlier, this will be Aaron Rodgers‘s third year working with Matt LaFleur in Green Bay. Over those two seasons, the Packers finished 13-3 each year while the team has passed the ball about 56% of the time. Assuming the Packers will be an elite team again this year, I would look for those numbers to drop just a bit due to the age of Rodgers as well as the fact that he threw so many touchdowns passes last season. Aaron Jones had 20 rushing touchdowns in 2019 and only 9 in 2020. I anticipate his rushing touchdowns to increase (AJ Dillon‘s as well), which will take points away from Aaron Rodgers this season.
Since 2018 Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs have thrown the ball on 61% of their offensive possessions. This has been a staple of Andy Reid‘s coaching style going back to his days in Philadelphia. Reid loves to call for short passing plays in lieu of rushing attempts which only boosts Mahomes value and point potential. Even Alex Smith threw the ball 57% of the time during his time as quarterback of the Chiefs. The Chiefs have been Super Bowl contenders the past two years and made it to the big game each season, so there is no need to change this winning formula now.
Advantage: Patrick Mahomes
Aaron Rodgers will undoubtedly have a great season in 2021, but the first quarterback that should come off the board this season should be Patrick Mahomes due to the superior weapons around him, his mobility, and the system he plays in.
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