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Best of the Backups

By Big Man Mike

In a combination of marathoning Designated Survivor and seeing the Instagram photos of Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Baker Mayfield, and many other QBs at the Kentucky Derby, I thought of an interesting scenario. In a situation where an event incapacitates every single starting NFL QB in 2019, which teams would be the best off? In this article, we will be ranking the backup situation on each team in the case of this situation.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars

Projected backup: Tanner Lee

No recorded NFL stats, along with being a promotion from the practice squad after the Jaguars cut ties with Cody Kessler and Blake Bortles in the offseason does not bode well for Jacksonville’s backup situation. Tanner Lee proved he had a strong arm at Nebraska, but his inconsistent accuracy is a cause for worry if he ever gets significant minutes.

31. Detroit Lions

Projected backup: Connor Cook

You kind of have to feel bad for Connor Cook. The only time he has been able to start was in relief of Derek Carr after he broke his legs, and his only NFL start came in the playoffs against a brutal Texans defense. If Stafford goes down, the state of Michigan better pray.

30. Arizona Cardinals

Projected backup: Brett Hundley

In his half a season in relief of Aaron Rodgers after he suffered a fractured collarbone in 2017, Hundley showed very few redeeming factors. He lacked awareness, lacked pocket poise, and lacked leadership. If Kyler Murray does not survive that OL, Brett Hundley will do no better.

29. Green Bay Packers

Projected backup: Deshone Kizer

Kizer has the unique distinction of being one of two quarterbacks to ever be the primary starter on a 0-16 team. This should not inspire hope in Packers fans in case Rodgers goes down. In his limited time in the season opener, Kizer showed very little progression from his issues in Cleveland and would be difficult to rely on in the future.

28. Carolina Panthers

Projected backup: Taylor Heincke/Will Grier

In this situation, the backup position will almost certainly be a camp battle between Heincke and Grier. Heincke showed glimpses of promise in a sea of despair once Newton was shut down last season, while Will Grier definitely has potential. If Heincke is the backup the ranking stands, while if Grier wins the job the ranking might rise a bit.

27. Seattle Seahawks

Projected backup: Paxton Lynch

You have to be a certain kind of terrible to be picked in the first round and get beaten out for the starter job every season, then released. Paxton Lynch has all the physical tools, but was reportedly quite lazy in preparation. Russell Wilson carries this team consistently, and the same cannot be expected of Lynch.

26. Oakland Raiders

Projected backup: Mike Glennon

The Ginger Giraffe has been a decent enough journeyman backup throughout his career, but his most recent situations have been troubling. He played 4 games with the Bears before they threw the rookie Trubisky out, and played sparingly in two games of relief for Rosen during his time on the Cardinals. The fact that either of those options seemed more promising than him does not inspire hope.

25. Minnesota Vikings

Projected backup: Kyle Sloter

Kyle Sloter has become a sort of meme for the Vikings community. He put up decent statistics in preseason play during his time in Denver, but has never been tasked with throwing a pass in the NFL. The upside is there, but so is the bust potential. The unknown factor should keep fans cautiously intrigued in case he has to make starts.

24. Cleveland Browns

Projected backup: Drew Stanton

Drew Stantons role for the Browns appears to be much more of a mentor situation than a backup situation. In light of that, if Stanton had to make starts the team would not necessarily crumble to pieces. Stanton is capable enough in relief, but relying on him long term is a recipe for disaster.

23. Dallas Cowboys

Projected backup: Cooper Rush

Another preseason favorite, Cooper Rush had a very vocal minority of people calling for him to get starts in place of Dak last season. Then the Cowboys picked up Amari Cooper and quieted those chants. Rush has shown promise in the preseason, but is an unknown commodity nonetheless.

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Projected backup: Blaine Gabbert

The former first rounder for the Jaguars has not lived up to the hype since he was drafted 10th overall. As a journeyman backup, he has fared okay. In relief of Marcus Mariota last season Gabbert was uninspiring, never throwing for more than 165 yards in a game and yielding a 4:4 TD/INT ratio. His experience would hopefully make up for a lower quality QB position, but there are certainly better options.

21. Kansas City Chiefs

Projected backup: Chad Henne

Lord forbid anything happen to Patrick Mahomes, but in the case that it does happen Henne isn’t the worst option. Over the last decade he has quietly thrown for almost 13,000 yards and 58 TDs. On the other hand, those 13,000 yards came in 67 games, averaging approximately 193.4 yards and .87 TDs a game. The experience is still there, but is undoubtedly uninspiring.

20. Philadelphia Eagles

Projected backup: Nate Sudfield

With the vacancy left by Nick Foles, Sudfeld certainly can show flashes of promise in his place. He has had limited play in the regular season, but was somewhat impressive. In his short career he has gone 20/25 for 1 touchdown and no interceptions. It’s a somewhat promising figure, but the lack of experience is a big knock, especially when filling in for such a Philly legend.

19. New York Giants

Projected backup: Daniel Jones

Eli Manning appears to be close to handing off his glue-eating crown to Daniel Jones in the not too distant future. Should Jones have to play in 2019, he should see some moderate successes and struggles. His career at Duke was uninspiring, but the entire football team at Duke was even more uninspiring. Jones is an enigmatic figure due to his draft spot and the team who picked him, but in this situation he should be a fine player.

18. Atlanta Falcons

Projected backup: Matt Schaub

The current Falcons backup Schaub might have one of the more impressive resumes of all the backups. He has thrown for almost 25,000 yards and 133 touchdowns since he was drafted in 2004. His 2009 season with the Texans, in which he threw for 4,770 yards, a 29/15 TD:INT ratio, and a 98.6 passer rating is potentially the best season any backup on this list has had. In recent years Schaub has barely made any appearances, leading to him potentially being rusty if called to action.

17. Chicago Bears

Projected backup: Chase Daniel

While not the most glamorous backup in the game, last season showed that Chase Daniel can do enough to help his team win. He led the team to a Thanksgiving victory against the Lions, but ultimately was intercepted twice against the Giants, one for a touchdown, in their OT loss the next week. For only having 4 career starts, those figures are actually pretty impressive. Hopefully Daniels does not have to see the field, but if he did he would be an intriguing option.

16. Cincinnati Bengals

Projected backup: Jeff Driskel

Much like Bengals starter Andy Dalton, backup Jeff Driskel falls dead in the middle of the backup race. When Dalton and Green went down in 2018, virtually everyone thought the Bengals would be unwatchable in their absence. While his performances didn’t directly lead to wins his safe, ball protecting approach and rapport with Tyler Boyd was a welcome surprise. If every starter was out for the season, Driskel would certainly be an around average player.

15. Houston Texans

Projected backup: AJ McCarron

As odd as it is to say, AJ McCarron might be the only recent example of an Alabama QB having any semblance of success in the NFL. While he has never been seen as a de facto starter by anyone other than Hue Jackson, he has certainly been a desirable backup in recent years. The fact that he lost the camp battle to Nathan Peterman is pretty concerning, but I’m taking his upside here as a decent backup.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers

Projected backup: Mason Rudolph/Josh Dobbs

In our first “Camp Battle” we have two QBs who both have a reasonable claim to hold the clipboard for Ben Roethlisberger. Dobbs has been with the team a year longer than Rudolph, but has only seen insignificant minutes, going 6-12 for 43 yards and an interception in 5 appearances. Rudolph has had no experience at the NFL level, but at Oklahoma State he showed that he could be a dominant quarterback at the college level. Rudolph has an advantage in draft capital and college production, while Dobbs has the edge in learning in an NFL system. It’ll be interesting to see who the backup will be, but either one would be a higher upside option in this scenario.

13. San Francisco 49ers

Projected backup: Nick Mullens

Coming into his 2018 debut against the Raiders, virtually no one had heard of Nick Mullens. I still remember playing someone in fantasy that started the Oakland defense expecting them to feast. Nick Mullens showed the football world that he could produce going 16-22 for 262 yards and 3 touchdowns and most importantly getting verified on Twitter at halftime. He would start 8 games in 2018, throwing for 2,277 yards and a 13/10 TD:INT ratio. While he almost never appeared to carry the team outside that Oakland game, Mullens still looked to be the part of an upper tier backup.

12. Denver Broncos

Projected backup: Drew Lock

The Mizzou QB is not expected to take any meaningful snaps in his rookie season, essentially planning to redshirt in order to get up to speed with NFL life before being thrown to the wolves. However anything can happen, and if Flacco were to go down Lock would certainly be called upon before Kevin Hogan. Lock was one of the better SEC quarterbacks on one of the worse SEC teams, but still found a way to will his team to upset wins. Lock has a great arm and great intangibles, but his throwing technique and accuracy need some work. In this situation, I think Lock would be just outside the top 10 QBs.

11. Buffalo Bills

Projected backup: Matt Barkley

As a man without a team going into the season last year, Barkley was signed after Josh Allen got an elbow injury and the team knew a Nathan Peterman or Derek Anderson start would cause a locker room implosion. Fortunately for Barkley and the Bills, his one start showed some promise, leading the Bills to a 41-10 win over the New York Jets. Josh Allen would return the next game, but Barkley had more than proven that he was the most capable backup on this roster.

10. New York Jets

Projected backup: Josh McCown

After Sam Darnold was taken 3rd overall, McCown knew he would not last the season as a starter. In fact he did not even start the season out as the starter, only appearing in three games with mixed success. However, as he is going into his 3rd year as a Jet, he still has the most familiarity with the team and the personel, and should remain the backup until he decides to retire from the game.

9. Baltimore Ravens

Projected backup: Robert Griffin III

When the Ravens signed RGIII to be added to the QB room in Baltimore, I immediately loved the move. While Flacco is definitely a good QB, he and Lamar Jackson don’t share a lot of the same skills. RGIII would be able to mentor Jackson and groom his running style to be effective yet avoid the same mistakes made by Griffin early on in his career. Additionally, in this proposed simulation, the Ravens offense would hardly change as a result of RGIII playing the whole season, as both quarterbacks yield very similar skills.

8. New England Patriots

Projected backup: Brian Hoyer

A familiar face in Foxborough, Hoyer the Destroyer roamed around the NFL as a journeyman before returning to the team that picked him up as an UDFA. While Hoyer is by no means one of the most talented QBs on this list, a familiarity with the Bill Belicheck system certainly gives him a leg up on most of the other QBs listed. If Matt Cassel can lead the Patriots to an 11-5 record under Belicheck, then I would say a similar result should be expected out of Hoyer.

7. New Orleans Saints

Projected backup: Teddy Bridgewater

Bridgewater has come a long way since his horrific leg injury during the 2016 season. At the time, it was seen as a career threatening injury. However Teddy beat the odds and is seen as the heir apparent to Drew Brees. He is one of the few backups available who have started multiple seasons, and his career appeared to be on the upswing before his injury. It is now up to Bridgewater to continue that progression and show Sean Payton that he doesn’t need a high draft pick to replace Brees. As a side note, on most depth charts Taysom Hill is listed as the backup to Drew Brees, but seeing as he is played as more of a gadget player and Bridgewater is the more traditional QB, Hill was excluded from the list.

6. Los Angeles Rams

Projected backup: Blake Bortles

The ultimate meme player, Blake Bortles was signed as the backup to Jared Goff in the 2019 offseason. While his career in Jacksonville hardly matched anyone’s expectations for him, he still helped lead the team to one of their most successful seasons and was a pass away from leading the team to their first Super Bowl appearance in 2017. However, intense offensive and defensive regression meant that the team fell back to earth in 2018. Bortles was benched on and off frequently for Cody Kessler, who also appeared to be able to do nothing with the offense. As Bortles has an enormous upgrade on offensive skill and coaching, he should have a career renaissance should he have to start in LA.

5. Indianapolis Colts

Projected backup: Jacoby Brissett

In 2017, the Indianapolis Colts were in an incredibly peculiar position. Their franchise quarterback was hobbled with a shoulder injury, but the timeline was unknown. At the time of the 2017 NFL Draft, Luck might have been able to make it back before the season started. As that timeline was pushed back, the Colts needed a QB that could perform well as a starter while not requiring massive investment. Brissett filled that role admirably, throwing for 3,098 yards and a 13/7 TD:INT ratio in 15 games as a starter. Despite the team finishing 4-11 with the 3rd overall pick, Brissett showed that he can be smart with the ball and put the team in a position to succeed.

4. Washington Redskins

Projected backup: Case Keenum/Dwayne Haskins/Colt McCoy

Another key camp battle, as it appears that every QB on the Redskins roster with fully functional legs has an equal chance to be the starter. In this situation where anyone can start, you have to assume that none of them are the starter. In an ideal world, Haskins would sit for a year and learn from one of the best QB coaches in Alex Smith and start his sophomore year out with a bang. Unfortunately I don’t believe this will happen, or at the best case scenario won’t last the season. Keenum and McCoy have both shown flashes of brilliance in their careers, with Keenum taking Minnesota to the NFCCG and McCoy winning games on some of the most talent ridden rosters in recent NFL memory. Regardless of who wins the starting job, any of these QBs would be a high end option in a world without starters.

3. Tennessee Titans

Projected backup: Ryan Tannehill

Ryan Tannehill was in an odd spot in Miami. The team was largely devoid of talent on offense, and he was expected to carry them to greatness in a wildly unusual Adam Gase offense. While he did not fully meet those expectations, he would certainly be one of the stars of the backup QB filled NFL if he can return to his 2016 form. He will almost certainly make starts this season due to Marcus Mariotas injury history, and he may even warrant starting over a healthy Mariota if he shows enough promise.

2. Miami Dolphins

Projected backup: Josh Rosen

At the time of writing this, reports are coming out of the Dolphins camp saying that Ryan Fitzpatrick is looking like the better QB. In this case, Rosen would certainly be a top tier player in the NFL if every starter was gone. He showed flashes of brilliance on a dreadful Cardinals team, and then was dealt once the team picked up Kyler Murray. Rosen has shown to be a cerebral player with quick anticipation for his throws, but appeared to just hold onto the ball too long in Arizona. The Dolphins OL is certainly not a top tier line, but a line of 5 heavy trashcans could have probably protected Rosen better than the Cardinals line last season.

1. Los Angeles Chargers

Projected backup: Tyrod Taylor

By far the best option if a backup QB needed to start all 16 is Tyrod Taylor. The team around him is already solid, and Taylor has a relatively good track record. He is efficient, accurate, and his rushing ability allows him to consistently move the chains. While he was seen as a boring game manager by many Buffalo Bills fans, his style of game management put the team in the best position to win and hardly ever resulted in turnovers, which would both be essential in this situation. As the Chargers are already Super Bowl contenders with Phillip Rivers, they would certainly be Super Bowl favorites if every other NFL team was hindered by losing their starter.

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Host/founder of the Time Skew podcast. I am dedicated to helping you get better at fantasy football and dominate your league!

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