Ranking the backup QB’s across the NFL
This list is made with some assumptions on who is going to win the starting quarterback jobs throughout the league. Although four or five rookies could start at one-point start during the season, I have them all earning backup roles at the conclusion of Training Camp. Additionally, several quarterbacks on this list could be moved to third string or cut altogether; however, in my opinion, they have the best shot to remain the backup. This list was compiled through several different metrics including: experience, potential, and skill.
1. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
Backup quarterbacks aren’t supposed to win Super Bowls, but don’t tell that to Nick Foles. Foles’ solid play through the end of the regular season and playoffs were enough to spark trade rumors. The Eagles were smart not to just give away Foles for a few mid round draft picks as Wentz continues his recovery. Furthermore, Foles is a fan favorite and great teammate in the locker room. It’s better to have the best backup in the league rather than having a few draft picks who may not see very much of the field on one of the NFL’s deepest rosters.
2. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Technically, Fitzpatrick isn’t a backup quarterback going into the season with teammate Jameis Winston being suspended for the first three games. Once Winston serves his suspension, the Buccaneers may not give him his job back if Fitzpatrick plays well. Winston’s inability to stay out of trouble has given Fitzpatrick the opportunity to start at least three games per year for the 11thconsecutive season.
3. Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis Colts
Brissett is another quarterback who could be a starter elsewhere in the league. If Andrew Luck’s rehabilitation suffers another setback, Brissett could see substantial playing time once again. The former NC State quarterback just completed his second NFL season but he already looks the part of a reliable quarterback for years to come.
4. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
The 1stoverall draft pick in this year’s draft is ranked highly on this list based off of his potential to become a starter in the very near future. Although I believe he’ll backup Tyrod Taylor, who the Browns acquired from the Bills this past offseason for a few weeks, I do anticipate Mayfield appearing in several games during this season.
5. Brian Hoyer, New England Patriots
Hoyer started his career as a backup to Tom Brady and then bounced around the league for a few years with his most impressive stints coming in his home town of Cleveland and playing for his former coach Bill O’Brien in Houston. If history repeats itself, Hoyer will rarely, if ever see the field as long as Brady plays.
6. Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals
Similar to Mayfield, Rosen is another rookie sitting behind a veteran. The early returns in camp have been promising for Sam Bradford, therefore there is little to no rush to force Rosen on the field. Coming into the draft, Rosen was the best pocket passer, and he will be given an opportunity to learn the speed of the game without high exceptions for his rookie season.
7. Sam Darnold, New York Jets
Sam Darnold just signed his rookie contract with the Jets, but that doesn’t really matter for this season. Josh McCown was going to be the Jets starting Quarterback this year no matter who the Jets selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. Darnold will have the ability to sit back and learn from the 39-year-old who also coached high school football in North Carolina during the 2010 season when he thought his NFL career was all but over.
8. Trevor Siemian, Minnesota Vikings
The former 7thround pick who replace Peyton Manning in Denver following his retirement, needed a change of scenery following a downward spiraling career in Denver. Siemian who has always struggled with accuracy issues during his career, is set to back Kirk Cousins. With the Vikings being able to run the ball effectively with Delvin Cook returning from injury, Siemian should have better on the field success if Cousins cannot play.
9. Colt McCoy, Washington Redskins
Most people wouldn’t have a quarterback who hasn’t played any meaningful amount of football over the past few years this high on a list of backups. However, this is a list of “backups” and I think McCoy is one of the better true backups in the league. In a perfect world, McCoy will play well during the preseason and will hold a clipboard throughout the duration of the regular season as Washington can only hope Alex Smith plays at a comparable, if not better level than Kirk Cousins. If not, expect Washington to have a new coach and general manager for the 2019 season.
10. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Allen is by far and away the most physically gifted quarterback on the Bills roster this season, but will that be enough to propel him into the starting role day one? I’m not quite sure on that, but I do expect Allen to play if both McCarron and Peterman can’t hold their own through the Bills bye week.
11. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
You would be hard-pressed to find a starter and his backup who are more different in terms of ability and personality than Lamar Jackson and not elite Joe Flacco. Ravens fans will be clamoring for Jackson to take the field sooner than later if the 2017 version of Flacco returns for another year. Regardless, this is probably Flacco’s last or second last season in Baltimore.
12. Chase Daniel, Chicago Bears
Similar to Colt McCoy, Chase Daniel is a true backup. Daniel has only attempted 78 passes during his 8-year career, but coaches love him. It’s hard to believe that during the 2016 season, Daniel was in competition for the Eagles starting job with rookie Carson Wentz and Sam Bradford. We all know how that turned out, but to be able to legitimately compete with Bradford and Wentz says a lot about Daniels.
13. C.J. Beathard, San Francisco 49ers
Beathard was the 49ers third round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft out of the University of Iowa. Before the 49ers traded for Jimmy Garoppolo, Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard severed as their Quarterbacks. It wasn’t too surprising to see Beathard’s growing pains last year as a rookie, but he did prove to be somewhat of an effectiveplayer. Beathard’s running ability will continue to serve him well if Garoppolo happens to miss action as the 49ers rebuild their team.
14. Matt Schaub, Atlanta Falcons
In 2004, Schaub started his career as a backup for the Atlanta Falcons, and it seems as if the 37-year-old is going to end as one too. After Atlanta, Schaub moved to Houston where he earned two Pro Bowl appearances as well as leading the league in passing yards in 2009. There is little doubt that Schaub could be effective if pushed into playing time, the question is however, could Atlanta still contend for a Super Bowl with Schaub as their starter?
15. E.J. Manuel, Oakland Raiders
The former first round pick of the Buffalo Bills will be returning to Oakland for his second season backing up Derek Carr. Manuel is competing with fellow Quarterback Connor Cook for the primary backup responsibilities, but that shouldn’t be too hard. If Manuel ever wants to return to the field as a starter, he will need to drastically improve his consistency. Manuel recently stated that his benching with the Bills sent him into depression. No matter your team, that’s very sad to hear. Hopefully, Manuel can stay positive as he fights for a career in the league.
16. Matt Barkley, Cincinnati Bengals
Once projected to be a potential future first overall pick, Barkley’s career has been anything but first round material. Instead of coming out of USC, Barkley returned to school for his senior season. Since then, Barkley has served as a backup for six different NFL teams. Although he hasn’t put it altogether just yet, he did have the physical traits needed for consideration with the 1stoverall selection. The one thing about Barkley is that he isn’t afraid to throw the ball. This can mostly explain why he has thrown 18 interceptions in only 266 career attempts.
17. Blaine Gabbert, Tennessee Titans
Similar to other players on this list, having high draft expectations, don’t necessary translate into a successful career. Gabbert had just a horrific start to his career down in Jacksonville, to the point that Jaguar fans are happy to have Blake Bortles under center! All kidding aside, Gabbert grew into a decent option at quarterback during his stay in a rebuilding San Francisco, and most recently with Arizona. Gabbert will now back up Marcus Mariota coming off of his statistically worst season in his career.
18. Matt Cassel, Detroit Lions
Another new football season, means another new team for Matt Cassel. Cassel began his career as a backup in New England and was forced into duty when Tom Brady tore his ACL. Cassel went on to start for the Kansas City Chiefs for parts of four seasons, and has been a backup ever since. Cassel isn’t a bad option at quarterback, but needs offensive weapons around him in order to stay afloat.
19. Bryce Petty, Miami Dolphins
Petty was once thought of as a legitimate long-term solution to the Jets quarterback problems. Although Petty was given a few opportunities to showcase what he had to offer, constant issues with his accuracy plagued the former Jet. Petty will now be given the opportunity to compete with Brock Osweiler and David Fales for the backup job. This competition could go any which way, but given his arm strength and familiarity to the division, I’ll give Petty the benefit of the doubt that he wins the job during camp.
20. Sean Mannion, Los Angeles Rams
In 2015, the Rams invested a 3rdround selection into Mannion, which was a year before the Rams selected Jared Goff 1stoverall. Mannion is a solid, but yet unproven backup. Over the course of his first three seasons, he has only attempted 50 career passes. In his only extended playing time, Mannion went 22 for 37 for 185 yards. Those numbers aren’t eye popping by any means; however, if he’s called into duty those numbers should increase largely due to his supporting cast.
21. Chad Kelly, Denver Broncos
Mr. Irrelevant of the 2017 NFL Draft spent his entire rookie season on IR coming off of wrist surgery. As of now, I have him just beating out Paxton Lynch for the backup responsibilities in Denver, as Lynch hasn’t showed any reason to support him throughout his young career. Although Kelly lacks ideal size for the position, he makes it up with his arm talent and overall athletic ability.
22. Mason Rudolph, Pittsburg Steelers
In a perfect world, this season will be a redshirt year for Rudolph. He will need time to adapt his game to the pro level. Playing for Oklahoma State, Rudolph was almost entirely operating from the shotgun. He’ll need to work on his footwork and reading through his progressions as he had limited exposure to these items playing in the Big 12.
23. Kyle Lauletta, New York Giants
The last of the rookies to appear on this list will have the inside route at securing the Giants backup job during camp. The Giants selected Lauletta in the 4thround of the 2018 NFL Draft. Although the Giants also spent a mid-round selection on Davis Webb during the 2017 NFL Draft, the new coaching staff obviously wanted another option behind Eli Manning. It’ll be interesting if the Giants see Lauletta as the eventual replacement for Manning, or solely as a backup.
24. Cody Kessler, Jacksonville Jaguars
Personally, I really like Kessler, however it was nearly impossible to gauge how effective he can be when he was with the Browns. As bad as the Browns play was at quarterback throughout the past several seasons, Kessler was never given a real shot at the job. During his rookie season in 2016, he played moderately well. Kessler completed 65% of his throws throwing for nearly 1,400 yards and 6 touchdowns. Not bad for the Browns, right? The problem of course is that Kessler went 0-8 as a starter.
25. Geno Smith, Los Angeles Chargers
This spot may be a little high for Geno Smith, but that probably speaks more to the other quarterbacks on this list, than it does for Smith. Geno Smith has pretty much already squandered any attempt at being a team’s long-term option at quarterback, but will probably hang around the league as a backup for the next few years. Being on his third team in three years isn’t ideal, but he should very easily be able to beat out Cardale Jones to be the backup.
26. Brett Hundley, Green Bay Packers
When Aaron Rodgers went down with an injury last season, Hundley was called upon to step in and be the Packers starting quarterback. At times, Hundley played well. At other times, he fell short of expectations. It’ll be interesting to see if he can beat out Deshone Kizer for the backup job, but as of now, I’ll give it out Hundley. Kizer’s old coach Hue Jackson questioned if Kizer would ever “get it” following a season in which he threw 22 interceptions
27. J.T. Barrett, New Orleans Saints
The undrafted rookie free agent originally signed with the Indianapolis Colts, but wisely changed his mind and instead signed with the Saints. It’s not every day where an undrafted player is the unquestioned backup to a future hall of famer. Barrett should take every opportunity to learn how Brees remains an effective passer from the pocket despite no having ideal height.
28. Brandon Weeden, Houston Texans
Weeden isn’t a lock to secure the backup job for the Texans, but can probably beat out Stephon Morris. Much like several other quarterbacks near the bottom of this list, they have experience playing and starting for teams, but couldn’t remain effective. Weeden will turn 35 this season, so his time in this league is quickly coming to an end.
29. Austin Davis, Seattle Seahawks
The biggest reason Davis is so far down this list is that he hasn’t played any meaningful amount of football since he was with the Rams in 2014. During that season, Davis started 8 games while throwing for over 2,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. Davis then signed a contract with the Browns follow the 2014 season, and made two starts with less than stellar stats. Given how little Davis has played over the past several seasons, it would be foolish to rank him. Much higher than 29.
30. Chad Henne, Kansas City Chiefs
The one-time starter for both the Dolphins and Jaguars, Henne has only attempted 2 passes in the regular season since the 2014 NFL season. Similar to Austin Davis, there isn’t a lot of relevant experience to base what his play might look like if called into action. Given the fact that Henne also backed up Blake Bortles and never once contented for the starting job should be a cautionary tale as he now backs up a first-time starter.
31. Cooper Rush, Dallas Cowboys
Cooper Rush’s career stats are 1-3 for pass attempts for 2 yards, with 13 additional yards coming on the ground. Such little experience, coupled with the fact the he played for Central Michigan in college and not a big school, is almost all the reason needed to rank him where he stands. If Dak Prescott went down with an injury, it’s hard to image the Cowboys offense moving the football, even with Zeke Elliott running the ball.
32. Taylor Heinicke, Carolina Panthers
I personally like Heinicke, but he cannot be a trusted backup in this league. His lack of playing time along with the fact that he was on three different teams last season, means that three different coaching staffs saw him as replaceable. With that said, it’s very possible that Carolina also sees him as replaceable after camp, and chooses another inexperienced quarterback to backup Cam Newton.