In the NFL, a starting quarterback is typically a team’s gatekeeper to success. But sometimes, an injury or poor performance at the position can derail a campaign before it even really begins. That’s why having a capable backup quarterback is essential for a contending squad.
As the Philadelphia Eagles proved in 2017, having a strong No. 2 quarterback can mitigate a team’s downfall when the starting signal-caller goes down. Nick Foles, who served as the backup to Carson Wentz, led the Eagles to Super Bowl LII, winning a Lombardi trophy and Super Bowl MVP in the process.
So, with that in mind, as teams prepare for training camp, Pro Football Network decided to rank the current backup QBs in the NFL.
Ranking the NFL’s top backup quarterbacks in 2022
With the statuses of Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garoppolo in limbo, neither quarterback will be featured on this list. Mayfield is almost assuredly never playing another down for the Cleveland Browns again, while Garoppolo, whether he stays with the San Francisco 49ers or is traded elsewhere, is likely to be a starter this season.
1) Taylor Heinicke, Washington Commanders
Of all the teams in the league, the Commanders might have the smallest divide between their No. 1 and No. 2 QBs. Heinicke, who went 7-8 as a fill-in starter last season, played relatively well in a tough situation. Heinicke battled through his first shot at legitimate NFL playing time as the top players around him dealt with injury and COVID-19 woes.
Despite all of that, he still threw for 3,419 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. If Carson Wentz were to suffer an injury this season, the Commanders should feel confident that Heinicke can pick up the slack.
2) Gardner Minshew, Philadelphia Eagles
Like Heinicke and Wentz, the divide between Minshew and Jalen Hurts doesn’t seem super wide. Minshew was able to win an important matchup against the New York Jets last season while Hurts was sidelined with an ankle injury. That victory actually helped the Eagles spark an impressive run when Hurts returned to the lineup.
Minshew might not be an ideal starting QB, but he is clearly capable of leading an offense when called upon, especially with weapons like DeVonta Smith, A.J. Brown, and Dallas Goedert to aid him in his efforts.
3) Teddy Bridgewater, Miami Dolphins
Bridgewater’s lone season in Denver ended in disappointment last year. While he has been an internet scouting community darling since he entered the league as a late first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 2014, Bridgewater’s time as a QB1 has seemingly passed. That said, like with Philly and Washington, if Tua Tagovailoa struggles with injury or performance, the dropoff between him and Bridgewater shouldn’t be that significant.
4) Nick Foles, Indianapolis Colts
Foles is one of two QBs on this list with a Super Bowl MVP award on his resume. Foles had the best run of any backup QB in history from 2017 to 2018 while filling in for Wentz for chunks of two separate seasons. He won a Super Bowl following the 2017 campaign, clinched a playoff spot in 2018, and produced a 4-1 postseason record overall.
It’s been a while since that success though, as he was benched in Jacksonville and Chicago over the past three years. That said, he showed he could still cook with gas in a nail-biting win over the Seattle Seahawks last year. He is the perfect No. 2 behind Matt Ryan in Frank Reich’s offense.
5) Andy Dalton, New Orleans Saints
Like Foles and Bridgewater, Dalton is a veteran quarterback with starter success on his resume. While his time as the Bengals’ starting QB feels like forever ago, the Bears felt he was worth serving as a starter over Foles and Justin Fields last season. Now, he will back up Jameis Winston, who is coming off ACL surgery. Dalton is good enough to fill in and win a few games if Winston struggles to regain form.
6) Jacoby Brissett, Cleveland Browns
The journeyman backup QB will fill the void if/when Deshaun Watson faces punishment for his civil suits stemming from accusations of sexual misconduct. Brissett has started plenty of games and offered mixed results with limited resources around him. Brissett needs to play better than he did in Miami last season, but that should be doable with a better line and playmakers around him.
7) Tyrod Taylor, New York Giants
Taylor, like Foles and Dalton, has become a reliable journeyman backup QB behind younger signal-callers over the past few years. Given Taylor’s background as a former starter, he should be able to fill in well if Daniel Jones struggles with injuries or performance under new head coach Brian Daboll. Taylor’s leadership intangibles and mobility should help him take advantage of an immediate call to action.
8) Case Keenum, Buffalo Bills
The shine of Keenum’s spectacular run with the Vikings in 2017 has seemingly worn off. That’s fine, as the Bills will only go as far as Josh Allen takes them. That said, Keenum is good enough to win a game or two if Allen suffers a mid-season injury. With a career record of 29-35 as a starter, Keenum isn’t going to “wow” another behind center, but he can get the job done with a favorable supporting cast.
9) Joe Flacco, New York Jets
Flacco is a smooth, steady figure behind center. While he isn’t the player he once was, he does still look the part when called on. With another year in a Shanahan-like offense, Flacco should be able to fill in admirably if Zach Wilson suffers an injury or struggles out of the gate in Year 2. Flacco, like Foles, has been a Super Bowl MVP, and his past accomplishments and leadership ability will be huge in a fill-in scenario.
10) Blaine Gabbert, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
At one point this offseason, it looked like the Bucs were going to roll with Gabbert as QB1 this season. Instead, Tom Brady returned from retirement and all was right in Tampa Bay. While Gabbert has the reputation of being a first-round bust, he’s actually carved out a solid career as a backup under Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich. He could win a game or two if Brady suffers a minor injury.
11) Colt McCoy, Arizona Cardinals
McCoy has done a nice job in the desert. He played well in place of Kyler Murray during three spot starts last season and earned a two-year extension in the process. While McCoy isn’t an ideal long-term solution, he fits well within Kliff Kingsbury’s spread offense.
12) Tyler Huntley, Baltimore Ravens
Huntley, a former undrafted free agent, played relatively well in a few spot starts last season. While his brief fill-in hype was the topic of TV shows and podcasts, it’s clear that the talent dropoff between him and Lamar Jackson is significant. It’ll be interesting to see how he progresses over the next few years because he could get a shot as a starter elsewhere down the road.
13) Drew Lock, Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks are entering training camp with an underwhelming QB competition between Lock and Geno Smith. While the Seahawks acquired Lock in the Russell Wilson trade, Smith has been in Seattle for multiple years. According to the Seahawks’ OC, Smith was leading the competition during OTAs. Lock has started enough games to know what he is, which is a middling backup.
14) Brian Hoyer, New England Patriots
Man, Bill Belichick loves him some Hoyer. The longtime New England backup is still in Massachusetts. and he is doing everything he can to help Mac Jones. While he’s never been a stellar fill-in, Hoyer is steady enough to win a game or two if called on.
15) Chase Daniel, Los Angeles Chargers
Daniel has been collecting massive checks for little on-field return for over a decade. That said, he does all of the important behind-the-scenes work that coaches love. Daniel is a mentor and sounding board for Justin Herbert, and he can lead an offense if necessary.
16) Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh Steelers
First-round pick Kenny Pickett entered OTAs as the No. 3 QB in Pittsburgh. While his status in the pecking order will eventually change, Rudolph is the likeliest candidate for the No. 2 job in Week 1 behind Mitch Trubisky. Rudolph did a solid job filling in for Ben Roethlisberger over the past three years but is still probably the third-most talented QB on his roster. That said, he’s probably better than the assortment backups on the second half of this list.