Ranking the backup quarterbacks for the 2022 NFL season: San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers, Baltimore Ravens,,,
Here are the 32 backup quarterbacks for the 2022 NFL season
1. San Francisco 49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo
Like George Costanza returning to his real estate job after a memorable goodbye, Garoppolo will make a stunning San Francisco re-emergence. The five-year 49er had said all his necessary farewells. While everyone involved is saying the right things, Trey Lance should absolutely be concerned. This is a Super Bowl-contending team not in a position to groom an unready prospect. Garoppolo also could benefit by beginning the season on the bench due to his shoulder rehab. For now, the 49ers have one of the best insurance policies in recent quarterback history. Garoppolo, 30, still might hold the key to the 49ers pushing for another Super Bowl.
2. Miami Dolphins: Teddy Bridgewater
No, the Broncos were not a particularly fun offense with Bridgewater at the controls. But they were 7-6 when he suffered his second concussion. Drew Lock, as Denver was threatening to beat eventual AFC champion Cincinnati, promptly oversaw a Week 15 loss and three more to cost Vic Fangio his job. Bridgewater also delivered his usual brand of adequacy in Carolina in 2020 and stepped in (on an admittedly better Saints team) to lead New Orleans to a 5-0 record in 2019. There is a nonzero chance Bridgewater, 29, will replace a healthy Tua Tagovailoa this season. Though, his safe style would mortify Tyreek Hill’s fantasy GMs (and potentially draw heat on Hill’s podcast).
3. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Pickett
Pickett should be starting by the midseason point and, like Ben Roethlisberger 18 years ago, could be in Pittsburgh’s lineup by the quarter pole. The first-rounder looked good in his preseason outings, and Mitchell Trubisky is not a formidable impediment to the Steelers beginning the Pickett era soon. Pickett took a major leap forward during his COVID-19 bonus year last season, throwing 42 TD passes and finishing third in the Heisman balloting — the highest finish by a Pitt Panther since Larry Fitzgerald in 2003 — and offers the Steelers upside. The Steelers are a low-ceiling team until Pickett takes over.
4. Indianapolis Colts: Nick Foles
Were Foles the Bears’ QB2, he would rank lower. But this is as good a situation as the former Super Bowl MVP can have. The 6-foot-6 veteran is back with Frank Reich, again following Carson Wentz. The Colts made a remarkable QB2 improvement — from untested Day 3 pick Sam Ehlinger — in reuniting Foles with the former Eagles OC. Foles has largely underwhelmed away from Philadelphia, but in Reich’s Philly Midwest offense, here is betting the 33-year-old vet would return to his top form. Foles appears no threat to Matt Ryan, but Indy’s starter is 37. The Reich-Foles connection makes such a change a non-insane scenario.
5. New Orleans Saints: Andy Dalton
Now 34, Dalton has likely settled into the backup stage of his career. But this is a competent QB with 148 career starts whose 2021 play is difficult to evaluate due to the Bears’ setup. Leading an offense without tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins in 2020, Dalton helped show Dak Prescott’s value in a mediocre Cowboys one-off. On a Saints team with one of the league’s best offensive lines — and a much-improved receiving corps — it is hard to imagine Dalton not offering worthwhile relief work. It is not out of the question the longtime Bengal offers the Saints a higher floor than Jameis Winston, either.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: Gardner Minshew
Minshew coming in would change the Eagles’ offense, which morphed midseason into a smashmouth attack geared around Jalen Hurts’ skillset. But the Eagles might upgrade regarding accuracy (though decline significantly in dynamism and fantasy points) if Hurts missed time. Minshew (63% career rate, 7.0 Y/A) sliced up the Jets in his one start with Philly’s first-stringers last year and had a descending Jaguars team at 6-6 as he replaced Nick Foles in 2019. The former sixth-round pick will have a fascinating free agency market in 2023. It remains odd Minshew only fetched the Jags a sixth-round pick last year.
7. Carolina Panthers: Sam Darnold
When Darnold returns from his high ankle sprain, he will step in as a wildly overpaid backup to Baker Mayfield. Darnold has largely been bad as a pro, but the once-elite USC prospect has been dealt unwinnable hands throughout his career. This is not to say Darnold deserves an immediate chance to start again, but he did have Carolina at 3-0 last season. The injury-prone QB also played behind a brutal Panthers O-line in 2021. With the team set to use four new O-line starters, including first-round left tackle Ikem Ekwonu, from Week 1 2021, Darnold (49 career starts) would have a better chance.
8. Baltimore Ravens: Tyler Huntley
If the Ravens receive a Deshaun Watson-level trade offer for Lamar Jackson in the next year, do they shut it down immediately? Huntley’s QBR (in seven games; four starts) was 49.0; Jackson’s 2021 mark was 50.7. That is cherry-picking, but this list’s highest-ranked UDFA had an injury-flooded Ravens team in close games against the Packers and Rams. Huntley also completed 70% of his passes in three of his five extended outings. In Greg Roman’s offense, the ex-Utah Ute showed surprising form. The Ravens probably are not unloading their franchise player, but if he misses time again, the team has found something at QB2.
9. Buffalo Bills: Case Keenum
This is team No. 7 for Keenum, whom the Browns traded to the Bills. Keenum went 2-0 as a starter last season, beating the Broncos and a backup-laden Bengals squad. He threw too many INTs with Denver in 2018 and was on a terrible 2019 Washington team. But Keenum led the NFL in QB DVOA in 2017, spearheading the Vikings to a 13-3 record and the NFC title game. With a good team around him, there is no reason to think a 34-year-old Keenum cannot steer Buffalo’s Corvette to wins if Josh Allen were to miss time. Keenum has made 64 career starts. Are we sure the Browns upgraded with Jacoby Brissett?
10. Green Bay Packers: Jordan Love
The Packers erred when trading up for Love. A team perennially held back by roster stinginess — though, this was largely pre-Brian Gutekunst — is using the league’s most valuable asset (a first-round QB contract) to ride the bench. Moving away from the big picture, the Packers have seen improvement from the Utah State product. Love faced starters behind a backup-laden O-line and receivers missing during the preseason and fared decently. The drop-off from Aaron Rodgers to Love would again be steep, as last year’s Chiefs and Lions games showed, but the backup offers competency. Damning with faint praise is an upgrade from where this situation once was.
11. New York Giants: Tyrod Taylor
This is team No. 6 for Taylor, who has been replaced by a rookie (Baker Mayfield, Justin Herbert, Davis Mills) at his previous three stops. If Taylor ends up making several starts for the Giants, it means the franchise will likely be starting over in 2023. It is not out of the question Taylor, who was in Buffalo during Giants GM Joe Schoen’s first year there, replaces Daniel Jones. The 33-year-old nomad did not play particularly well with the Texans, who put a terrible team around him. But Taylor (53 career starts) helped a flawed Bills team to the 2017 playoffs. He could likely step in as a safer, less exciting QB option in New York.
12. New York Jets: Joe Flacco
Flacco does not look to be the Jets’ Week 1 backup; that responsibility will probably fall on Mike White. With Zach Wilson likely out, Flacco is in line to make his sixth Jets start. The former Super Bowl MVP did not win any of the previous five, though the 2020 Jets roster made triumphs difficult, and is far removed from his prime. But the former Ravens and Broncos starter had a nice effort with a better (but still bad) Jets team last year — a 291-yard, two-TD game against the Dolphins. Flacco is now 37 and has never been a mobile passer. But the 15th-year vet still supplies a much higher floor than Wilson at this point.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Colt McCoy
The Cardinals’ McCoy-directed win in Seattle showed his quality Kyler Murray fill-in outing in San Francisco was no fluke. McCoy also steered a low-wattage win over a 12-4 Seahawks team as a Giant in 2020, doing just enough for his overmatched team. The longtime Washington backup just turned 36, but he completed 74.7% of his throws — at 7.5 yards a pop — last season. Neither of McCoy’s wins involved DeAndre Hopkins, either. The 13th-year veteran is nearing the end, but he has something left.
14. Washington Commanders: Taylor Heinicke
One of seven undrafted arms positioned as backups this year, Heinicke was thrown into a tough situation in 2021. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Week 1 injury cleared the way for 15 starts — on a Washington offense with a below-average offensive line and a Terry McLaurin-dependent receiving corps. The Old Dominion alum finished 23rd in QBR last season — ahead of names like Ben Roethlisberger, Jared Goff, and every non-Mac Jones rookie. The Commanders have a backup who had them at 6-6 at a point last season. Heinicke, 29, has made 16 career starts plus a memorable wild-card outing.
15. Seattle Seahawks: Drew Lock
Lock being unable to beat out Geno Smith does not exactly dent the trade value the Seahawks received for Russell Wilson, as the draft picks were the prize in the deal. But it looks bad on a former second-rounder who has made 21 starts over his three-year career. Lock’s turnover penchant showed up in his lengthy preseason audition, which featured three INTs. Lock led the NFL in picks two years ago, despite missing three games, and cannot be trusted at this point. He does bring more talent than many backup QBs, however, and almost certainly will make starts this season at some point. Still, Lock’s stock has undeniably tanked.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Blaine Gabbert
This is Year 4 for Gabbert in Bucs OC Byron Leftwich’s system, though it will be interesting to see how the offense looks post-Bruce Arians. No matter how much clearer the Tom Brady fingerprints will be on Tampa Bay’s offensive blueprint, Gabbert continues to be an offseason priority. The Bucs will dress Gabbert ahead of 2021 second-rounder Kyle Trask, illustrating the team’s belief in the former top prospect. Gabbert has not started a game since 2018, but the ex-Jaguars starter had nice spurts that year as a Titan and with Arians’ Cardinals in 2017.
17. Kansas City Chiefs: Chad Henne
The Chiefs managed to win a Matt Moore start in 2019, and Henne helped the 2020 team stave off the Browns after Patrick Mahomes’ divisional-round concussion. Andy Reid saw enough to keep Henne for his age-37 season. While Henne probably is not as physically talented as some of the players already listed, going into his 15th season, the former second-round pick has been in Kansas City’s system for four years now. Henne should have one more year in him as a fill-in, though the Chiefs — perhaps with less margin for error post-Tyreek Hill and Tyrann Mathieu — certainly would like to avoid this scenario.
18. Los Angeles Rams: John Wolford
Per usual, this is Wolford feat. Sean McVay. The Rams started Wolford in a playoff game in which Jared Goff was (barely) healthy enough to participate and have continued to carry the former Alliance of American Football passer on their roster. This is Year 4 for Wolford as the Rams’ backup. He has only attempted 42 passes, none of them going for a touchdown, but here is betting McVay could engineer a productive offense around Wolford if Matthew Stafford went down.
19. Atlanta Falcons: Desmond Ridder
This draft’s second quarterback chosen, Ridder likely will be bumped up to starter this season. With Atlanta at the start of a rebuild and Marcus Mariota a wobbly bridge, the Cincinnati product should see a handful of starts. After leading the first Group of Five team to a CFP berth, Ridder turned in a solid preseason. The four-year Bearcats starter posted three straight 500-plus-yard rushing seasons as well and is further along than Willis or the now-injured Matt Corral as an NFL-ready passer. This will be one of the NFL’s worst teams, but Ridder should gain valuable seasoning.
20. Los Angeles Chargers: Chase Daniel
How much does the oft-hired QB2 have left? Daniel will turn 36 this season, and with Justin Herbert games being true spectacles at this point, it will be a downer if we see his 14th-year veteran backup. But the former Heisman finalist-turned-six-team vet has played in the offense OC Joe Lombardi is running for years — mostly during his two-stint New Orleans career. Daniel has not thrown a pass as a Charger and has just 261 attempts. A regular on infographics themed around earnings-to-work ratios, Daniel will move past $40 million in career cash this season. He should still be a capable QB under Lombardi.
21. Dallas Cowboys: Cooper Rush
Another UDFA quarterback success story has transpired in Dallas, which has saved money by having Rush as Dak Prescott’s backup in five of the past six years. Prescott’s run of durability stopped during Rush’s year away — back with Jason Garrett during part of his Giants OC period — but he proved capable in a big spot when Dak went down again last year. Rush quarterbacked the Cowboys to a win in Minnesota, throwing for 325 yards and leading a game-winning drive that culminated with a final-minute TD pass. The Central Michigan alum should be capable of stepping in again.
22. Chicago Bears: Trevor Siemian
Not a bad career for a part-time college starter who once considered a career in real estate. Siemian is going into his eighth season. In Year 7, he helped the Saints keep their regular-season win streak over the Buccaneers going. But Peyton Manning’s former Broncos successor went 0-4 as a starter in relief of Jameis Winston. The Saints not only were using a lot of backup- or practice squad-caliber wideouts during those starts, but Alvin Kamara was out for three of those contests. Amazingly, Siemian also went 13-11 as a Broncos starter. Considering what has happened sans Siemian in recent Denver years, that is quite the statistic.
23. New England Patriots: Brian Hoyer
We are well past Hoyer’s best days — spent with the Browns and Texans in the mid-2010s — and the Patriots moving away from Josh McDaniels’ offense could have signaled a change here. But Hoyer is oddly in range of Drew Bledsoe for the third-most service time by a Pats QB (Brady and Steve Grogan will be difficult to catch). This is Hoyer’s third stint with the Pats, whose unorthodox (putting it politely) offensive coordinator plan will benefit from the 36-year-old’s experience. New England’s Matt Patricia-Joe Judge plan could make Hoyer a legitimately important voice as Mac Jones attempts to keep developing.
24. Tennessee Titans: Malik Willis
Willis’ upside would place him much higher on this list, but if Ryan Tannehill goes down, the small-school prospect would probably struggle as a rookie. The Liberty alum dazzled as a multidimensional threat after transferring from Auburn. Still, his fall to No. 86 overall suggests the NFL believes a lengthy developmental curve awaits. Willis’ rushing stats at Liberty (1,822 yards, 27 TDs in two seasons) are still eye-opening. A Taysom Hill-type role could help a Titans team that both has pass-catcher issues and needs to monitor Derrick Henry’s mileage could prove beneficial.
25. Minnesota Vikings: Nick Mullens
Shanahan replaced Beathard with Mullens in 2018, and the former UDFA has looked solid in spurts. His production mostly came under Shanahan, but despite the perpetual presence of a Day 2 pick (Beathard) during his 49ers tenure, Mullens was San Francisco’s preferred Garoppolo replacement. Garoppolo’s shaky injury history made that job quite relevant. Mullens led the 49ers to a win over the Rams in 2020. Los Angeles’ offensive coordinator from that game (Kevin O’Connell) traded for him two years later. Mullens will step into a similar system, but Kirk Cousins has not missed a game due to injury (only to COVID-19) as a Viking.
26. Houston Texans: Kyle Allen
One of the few true rebuilding teams, the Texans are not sure if their starter is legit yet. But this operation would be set back considerably if Davis Mills went down. Mills development is basically the 2022 Texans’ reason for suiting up; Houston’s two-deep is still filled with average-at-best starters. Some rookies represent promise, however. Allen, who was with Ron Rivera in Carolina and Washington, has 17 starts on his resume. Most came in relief of an injured Newton in 2019 when the Panthers went 5-7 behind the ex-Texas A&M UDFA. Allen also got the call ahead of Alex Smith in 2020, but a bad ankle injury felled him.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars: C.J. Beathard
Beathard’s viability out of the Kyle Shanahan system remains to be seen, and the Iowa-developed third-rounder was 2-10 as a starter under the high-level offensive coach. Beathard provided the bridge to Jimmy Garoppolo as a rookie and made five starts in his stead (all losses) when Garoppolo tore an ACL a year later (2018). The Jaguars scooped him up early in free agency — albeit during the Urban Meyer-run offseason — last year but have kept him around for Trevor Lawrence’s second season.
28. Cincinnati Bengals: Brandon Allen
The Bengals’ journey to Super Bowl LVI involved 70 Joe Burrow sacks, including 19 in the surprising AFC champions’ four playoff games. Given the offensive line the Bengals gave Burrow following his 2020 season-ending ACL tear, it is surprising Allen did not see more time in 2021. The former Arkansas passer went three seasons without seeing any game time but has started nine games — including six with the Bengals — since 2019. Allen went 1-4 as a starter in 2020 and produced an 8.4 QBR in his Week 18 start last season. The Bengals re-signed the former sixth-round pick in March.
29. Denver Broncos: Brett Rypien
It looked for a while like the Broncos being the rare team to make journeyman extraordinaire Josh Johnson a priority — via a March free agency contract — meant Rypien would not be back. But the fourth-year Bronco beat out the 36-year-old addition. Rypien was part of the Broncos’ 11-QB (feat. Phil Lindsay’s wildcat snap in 2020’s Kendall Hinton game) run between Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson. Now, the Boise State product who made one career start (in 2020) will be Denver’s top backup. Rypien is playing with his third play-caller, going from Rich Scangarello to Pat Shurmur to Nathaniel Hackett.
30. Las Vegas Raiders: Jarrett Stidham
A stretch during the 2020 offseason led observers to believe the Patriots were actually considering Stidham as Tom Brady’s successor, with Cam Newton not signed until after minicamp that year. But Newton buried Stidham, who then sat behind Brian Hoyer during the rest of his Patriots run. The formerly effective but unspectacular Auburn arm (50% NFL completion rate, albeit on 48 throws) will be behind one of the NFL’s most durable quarterbacks. Derek Carr, the longest-tenured starting QB in Raiders history, has not missed a game since 2017 and has missed one in his eight-year career.
31. Detroit Lions: Nate Sudfeld
Although Colombian 400-meter hurdler Melissa Gonzalez became one of the great wives/girlfriends in “Hard Knocks” history, the Lions bumped her husband (David Blough) down to their de facto third-stringer despite the Purdue alum having made the initial 53-man roster. Sudfeld — his role in the Eagles’ Week 17 tanking debacle notwithstanding — will get another chance via an 11th-hour signing. Though, Sudfeld losing out to 2022 Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy is not a great look. Of course, Lions’ losses — with two 2023 first-round picks and a QB need — might not be the worst thing as their rebuild continues.
32. Cleveland Browns: Joshua Dobbs
For most of this season, Dobbs has been positioned as Cleveland’s backup. Jacoby Brissett will shift into that role when Deshaun Watson is activated, but Dobbs — a longtime third-stringer or practice squad arm — will rise into the Browns’ QB2 position. Brissett-Dobbs represents a depth chart that could sink the Browns, to the likely delight of most football observers, this season. A 2017 fourth-round Steelers draftee, Dobbs has thrown 17 career passes. Dobbs beat out Josh Rosen, who is now behind waiver claim Kellen Mond as well. Mond could conceivably surpass Dobbs. Either way, this is not an enviable situation.
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Ranking backup quarterbacks for the 2022 NFL season
Jimmy Garoppolo’s return to San Francisco and his return to a backup job for the first time in five years marked a major update in the league’s quarterback scene. After roster cuts, late-summer trades and this Garoppolo development, here’s how the 32 QB2 situations stack up.