Guards are always the talk of the NFL, and there’s no shortage of star power in the position this year. Consider only, a crop headlined by the ageless Tom Brady but jam-packed with young, rising playmakers. But what happens when the big names disappear? Injuries take their toll every year and, unfortunately, this also applies to the QB position.
But which teams are best prepared to take on a post? Here are the best backups in the league:
Note. There are more QBs on the roster (33) than teams (32) because we expect at least one of Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo to be traded and given a starting job before the 2022 season.
We rate recent high draft picks (since 2020) apart from the rest just because they are so different from career #2 picks. For example, if our starter fails, we might bet on Jordan Love’s edge rather than, say, experience. Andy Dalton. But we may also prefer a trusted veterinarian for one or two important starts. So, here’s how we would rank the young:
6. Matt Corral (Panthers)
He seems to have the necessary swagger and agility, but how quickly can/can he settle into the NFL?
5. Desmond Ridder (Falcons)
It can be difficult to separate him from the Falcons’ rebuilding lineup. Will his confidence grow into consistency?
4. Jordan Love (Packers)
We’ve only seen one real game from him and he’s still developing his vision, but at 23, with good size and a legitimate hand, we still love his potential as an important passer.
3. Malik Willis (Titans)
Like Love, he’s unknown to almost anyone, but he also has some quirky athletic qualities. In his case, it is not only a laser arm, but also electric legs. In extreme cases, such gifts can hide other shortcomings.
2. Kenny Pickett (Steelers)
Many see him as more of a safe than a prospect, but in Pittsburgh, this guy handled a lot of the little things well and could well start a playoff-level Steelers team as a rookie.
1. Tyler Huntley (Ravens)
No, he’s not Lamar Jackson, but he’s the perfect replacement in Baltimore, where he showed himself in limited hauls that he can confidently throw and create space on the ground. It’s not that bad to have sportsman as an emergency fill.
The best of veterinarians
10. Tyrod Taylor (Giants)
New York is overpaying given that he has struggled to stay healthy even off the bench in recent years, and he’s not particularly accurate despite his penchant for short passes. However, he has been a serviceable starter before and he can move.
9. Andy Dalton (Saints)
He did not post a winning record as a QB in seven years. He still makes a lot of picks despite his increasingly “safe” approach. But you can’t teach 148 games of starting experience either, and he’s proven he can be okay with the talent around him.
8. Jacoby Brisset (Browns)
Like Taylor and Dalton, he somehow managed to be both conservative and relatively ineffectual during extended periods of action. But he quickly adapted to the sudden career changes and showed that with the Colts he could be on the edge of the playoffs with good support.
7. Case Kinum (Promissory Notes)
Keenum gets into trouble with his shooting style, but he also expands the game and defeats teammates in the same way. A true journeyman after starting in Minnesota and Denver, he could have been a higher-potential back-up plan for the 2022 Browns, who instead chose Brisset as a likely replacement for Deshawn Watson.
6. Taylor Heinicke (Commanders)
Washington got the full Heinicke experience in 2022: energetic, exciting and changeable. He is best suited for a fast run or short attack, but his quick wits, mobility and willingness to try big shots make him one of the most enticing starters in an emergency.
5. Gardner Minshew (Eagles)
Arm size and strength may never have been, but this guy is the No. 2 prototype, oozing swagger, gleaming athleticism, and touting a cute touch on the pitch. In 27 career games with the Eagles and Jaguars recovering, he hit 42 touchdowns in just 12 picks.
4. Nick Falls (Colts)
His disappearance in 2021 is an indictment by the Bears, who preferred the more expensive Andy Dalton as Justin Fields’ predecessor. Fowles and his big hand are fickle and he needs up front protection. But few backup QBs have been more calm, collected and ready to take shots into a narrow window at the crucial moment when needed.
3. Teddy Bridgewater (Dolphins)
He has never been anything more than a full-time utility player, offering a solid hand on big shots. But he’s loved, generally accurate, mostly avoiding killer losses, and has led several winning streaks in talented lineups. Most teams would like to see him in their dressing rooms, as long as he only replaces center in a certain number of games.
2. Baker Mayfield (Browns)
It’s still source material. Yes, he was on a rocky trajectory, going from cocky to sleazy, from underappreciated to beaten up in his four years as Cleveland’s boyfriend. His ceiling could very well be playful for a sweeping approach that takes the strain off his good but streaked hand. But there’s no doubt that at 26, he still has to pass the final audition as No. 1.
1. Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers)
Like Mayfield, who plans to move before the start of the season, Jimmy G has so far peaked in the mid-level starting lineup, thriving more when the burden is not on his hand but on the system in which he plays point guard. He also really struggled to stay healthy. And yet, at his best, he is the prototypical pocket passer who can make all shots with a lot of playoff experience.
These guys make up the majority of the reserve QBs in the NFL, and to be honest, there aren’t that many differences between them. Sure, you can justify one and not the other, but in the end, you especially hope they don’t have to see extended actions. They are listed roughly in order of preference:
Colt McCoy (Cardinals) Drew Lock/Gino Smith (Seahawks) Chad Henn (bosses) Chase Daniel (Charging device), CJ Bithard (Jaguars) Brandon Allen (bengals), Josh Johnson/Brett Ripin (Broncos) Kyle Allen (Texans) Blaine Gabbert (buccaneers), Trevor Simian (The Bears), Brian Hoyer (Patriots) Joe Flacco (Jets) Jarrett Stidham (Raiders) Cooper Rush (Cowboys) John Woolford (Rams) Sean Mannion (Vikings) David Blow (Lions)