The Best & Worst Backup Quarterbacks In The League

When handicapping a team for the season, the backup quarterback position is usually overlooked but it is an important position on the team. Say the starter goes down, then you need to know that everything will still run smoothly, or as close to smoothly as possible. Today I will take a look at the top seven best and the top seven worst backup QBs in the league as we inch closer to the start of the 2020 season.

I will start with the best and countdown from 7 to 1.


7) Jalen Hurts - Philadelphia

The Eagles surprised many by taking Hurts over a quality receiver in the draft, especially since they needed to seriously upgrade their WR corps. Still, they did need a backup QB as Carson Wentz is injury prone and if he goes down, the Eagles will need to have someone they feel comfortable replacing him. Hurts is unproven at this year but he showed what he can do at both Alabama and Oklahoma. Even if the Eagles don’t need him to step in for the 0ft-injured Wentz, they still could use Hurts the same way that the Saints use Taysom Hill. I consider Hurts as one of the best in the league, despite the fact that he hasn’t taken an NFL snap yet.


6) Jordan Love - Green Bay Packers

Just like the Eagles, the Packers stunned many with the selection of Jordan Love this year. They are another team that desperately needed a wide receiver, but instead, they used a first-round pick on Love. I want to say this, I gave the packers the worst draft grade in the league but it is not because of the talent of love, but because they just didn’t need him over a receiver. Having said all that, Jordan is a talented QB that can throw or run and he will be groomed as the QB of the future for the Packers. Also, Aaron Rodgers is getting up there in age and if he goes down, Green Bay feels very comfortable that Love will be able to take over and lead this team. He will be one of the better backup QBs heading into the season.


5) Case Keenum - Cleveland Browns

In the last two years, Case Keenum has gone 1-7 and 6-10 but we note that he played for Washington and Denver respectively. Both teams were bad overall at the time that he was with them. Back in 2017, Keenum took over a Minnesota team that had just lost Sam Bradford for the season and he went 11-3 that year. The Browns are far closer to the Vikings in terms of talent that year than the Broncos or Redskins. Keenum would also have a solid WR corps to play around with, including Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. He does have 51 TD passes in 41 games over the last three seasons. The Browns should be okay should Baker Mayfield go down.


4) Marcus Mariota - Las Vegas Raiders

The Las Vegas Raiders have a solid starter in Derek Carr and a very good receiving corps. Now they have a solid QB as their backup. Mariota had a strong 2016 in Tennessee, in which he threw 26 TD passes to just nine INTs but still, the best record he had with the team was 9-6, which came in 2017. We do note that the Titans are more of a running team while the team he is joining is more of a passing team and that should help him immensely. If Carr does n’t produce early in the year then we could see Mariota replace him, even if there is no injury. Mariota has thrown for 13207 yards and 76 TDs in 63 games over his career.


3) Jacoby Brissett - Indianapolis Colts

The Indianapolis Colts signed Philip Rivers this offseason and that now moves Jacoby Brissett to the backup role. Back in 2017, Brissett was just 4-11 as a starter for the colts but last year he was a better 7-8. He has the experience, especially with this offense and that will serve him well, should we see the aging Rivers go down. We also note that despite the fact Jacoby is just 12-20 in his carer overall he has thrown 31 touchdown passes to just 13 INTs in 38 career games overall. He will not beat himself. Also, he was sacked 52 times back in 2017 but just 27 times last year. He showed flashes of brilliance last year and now under the guidance of the more experienced Rivers, he will be even better when called upon.


2) Jameis Winston - New Orleans Saints

The biggest knock that Winston has against him right now is the INTs and that is a problem but we still note that this guy threw for over 5000 yards while posting 33 TDs a season ago. I am sure that not all 30 INTs that he threw last year were his fault but still, that is way too many INTs and he does have 88 in his five-year career. The good news is that he is now with a different coaching staff and will learn a lot from drew brees. Also, he does have 121 career TD passes and has thrown for over 4000 yards three times. Winston has a very good wide receiver corps in New Orleans, which should make him comfortable as he did have a very good WR corps in Tampa Last year. Despite the INTs, I still feel that he is the 2nd best backup in the league.


1) Andy Dalton - Dallas Cowboys

Topping my list of backup QBs is Andy Dalton, who is now out of Cincinnati and has moved on to the Dallas Cowboys. He is a huge upgrade over Cooper Rush for the Cowboys as Dalton has the experience and he still has a good arm. He also has one of the best wide receiver corps in the league to work with here, which is something he did not have over his last few years with the Bengals. Tes, he had AJ Green, but he did miss 13 games over the last three seasons. Dalton has thrown for 31594 yards in 133 career games, and he has tossed 204 TDs over that stretch. Andy is 70-61-2 in his career. With Dalton as the backup, the Cowboys may very well be the most complete team in the league.


Now let’s head to the other end of the spectrum and take a look at the seven worst backup QBs in the league.


26) Matt Barkley - Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills are looking to take over the top spot in the AFC East this year as they have an improved offense and one of the best defenses in the league. The problem will come if QB Josh Allen goes down. Matt Barkley would then take over and that would not be a good thing for the Bills, as Barkley is just 2-5 in his career as a start, plus he has thrown just 10 TD passes 21 INTs in 14 career games overall. Those are horrible numbers and we do note that he could be beaten out in camp by 5th round pick Jake Fromm from Georgia. Buffalo is a rather complete team, other than the backup QB spot.


27) Ryan Finley - Cincinnati Bengals

Let’s face it, the Cincinnati Bengals are not going to have a good year, no matter who is at QB for them. Still, Joe Burrow should have a good season and he gives the Bengals their best shot of winning. If he goes down, then the team could go winless the rest of the way. Ryan Finley is the backup to Burrow and in three starts last year, he threw for just 474 yards with two TDs and two INTs. He was also sacked 11 times in those games and that translates to 58.7 times sacked over the course of the season. The Bengals will need to work on adding depth to the QB spot next year for sure as they have nothing right now if Burrow goes down.


28) Sean Mannion - Minnesota Vikings

Just like the Bengals, the Vikings would be in bad shape if Kirk Cousins goes down but unlike the Bengals, it could cost Minnesota a playoff spot should that happen. Sean Mannion had a solid career at Oregon State but in 13 games played overall in the NFL, he has thrown for 384 yards with no TDs and three INTs. Mannion is 0-2 in his career as a starter. The Vikings may be hoping that Jake Browning or Nate Stanley would take over the number two slot. Minnesota just needs to make sure that Cousins does not go down at all this year or they will be in real trouble.


29) David Fales - New York Jets

David Fales had two strong seasons at San Jose State before moving on to the NFL in 2014. He has played in just five total games for the Bears, Dolphins, and Jets and has thrown 287 yards with a TD and an INT in those games. He has very little experience in the NFL and should Sam Darnold go down, the Jets will not have a guy under center that will be able to lead them to some wins. New York was 0-3 without Darnold last year and they lost those games by a count of 84-23. Sam needs to stay healthy.


30) Anthony Gordon - Seattle Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks are a team that needs to have a good backup or they will be in trouble and with the way Russell Wilson plays with such reckless abandon, Anthony Gordon could be called upon this year. Gordon was signed by the Seahawks on May 1st as an undrafted free agent. He played his college ball at Washington State, where he threw for 5579 yards and 48 TDs a season ago. Just about all QB will put up big numbers in Washington State’s offense, but their QBs haven’t always done well in the NFL. Drew Bledsoe and Mark Rypien have had success, but Ryan Leaf and Luke Falk have both been bad. I do not see Gordon being a good NFL backup QB.


31) John Wolford - Los Angeles Rams

John Wolford signed with the Jets in 2018 as an undrafted free agent. He did not play that year and then was drafted in the 2nd round of the AAF (Alliance of American Football) by the Arizona Hotshots. When that league folded in 2019, he signed with the Rams and will now be a backup to Jared Goff. Wolford did not have great numbers in his four years at Wake forest, throwing for just 8794 yards with 59 TDs and a whopping 41 INTs in 47 games played. If the rams hope to make it to the playoffs, then they cannot afford to see Goff go down.


32) Logan Woodside - Tennessee Titans

Logan Woodside was taken in the 7th round of the 2018 draft by the Cincinnati Bengals and he has yet to throw a pass in the NFL. He was brought over to backup Ryan Tannehill after Marcus Mariota left for Las Vegas. In his final two years at Toledo, Woodside threw for 8011 yards with 73 TDs and just 17 INTs. Still, the Rockets are a passing ream and the Titans are more of a running team. If Tannehill goes down, and he is injury prone, then the Titans could very well miss out on a trip to the playoffs.



Some Info Gleaned From USA Today, Pro Football Reference & College Football Reference.

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David Hess

David has always had a fascination with numbers and sports, so he combined the two to become a handicapper and a writer for us here at Winners & Whiners, along with StatSalt. All the information that David puts in his articles are well-researched and his predictions are well-thought out. He is a big fan of all the major pro sports and the colleges making David a very versatile and a constantly winning handicapper. David has been writing for the past 10 years and has been handicapping for over 20 years. He will help you beat the Man, so be sure and follow along.