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Ranking the NFL's backup QBs

As the Philadelphia Eagles showed last season, the backup quarterback is extremely important as teams set their rosters. Here's a ranking of the 32 second-string NFL quarterbacks as we enter the 2018 season.

 
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1. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles

Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
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Foles is already a legend in Philadelphia after leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl last season and winning game MVP. His career has been up and down with a Pro Bowl appearance in 2013 before fizzling out the next two years as a starter for the Eagles and Rams. However, he's back at the top of his game now as valuable insurance behind Carson Wentz.

 
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kim Klement / USA Today Sports Images

At multiple stops, Fitzpatrick has surprised while coming off the bench but eventually disappointed when handed the reins as the No. 1 option. That same story has applied in Cincinnati, Buffalo, Tennessee, Houston and with the Jets. For all his consistency, Fitzpatrick's QBR has been above 50 in four of the last five seasons, and he filled in well for Jameis Winston last year. The Bucs need him to do it again with Winston suspended for the first three games of the season, but the Harvard alum should be up for the task.

 
Josh McCown, New York Jets
Vincent Carchietta / USA Today Sports Images

While rookie Sam Darnold hasn't been named the starter in New York just yet, the writing is on the wall. McCown did a nice job as the team's starter last year despite his 5-8 record, with 18/9 TD/NT and a completion rate of 67.3 percent. Even at age 39, McCown is a solid player to have if the start of Darnold's career doesn't go according to plan.

 
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4. Brian Hoyer, New England Patriots

Brian Hoyer, New England Patriots
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In 25 starts from 2013-2015, Hoyer went 15-10 for the Browns and Texans. Unfortunately, the Texans had enough after his horrendous showing in the 2015 playoffs, and he's just 1-10 with the Bears and 49ers since then. Still, Hoyer has proved he can be a fit in the right situation, and backing up Tom Brady in New England is a good one for him.

 
Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis Colts
Brian Spurlock / USA Today Sports Images

A third-round pick by the Patriots in 2016, Brissett has already started 17 games in his career. He went 4-11 as Andrew Luck's replacement in Indy last year, but he performed relatively well with a terrible supporting cast that led to a league-high 52 sacks allowed. Brissett takes care of the ball (seven interceptions in 469 attempts) and also has mobility. He's likely to get a starting job somewhere down the line.

 
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6. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
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Mayfield enters the season as Tyrod Taylor's backup, and the Browns seem committed to allowing the rookie to sit and learn this year. The No. 1 pick in the draft, Mayfield's potential exceeds every other backup quarterback in the game, but there have already been hiccups and inaccuracy this preseason (54.5 completion rate through two games).

 
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7. Chad Henne, Kansas City Chiefs

Chad Henne, Kansas City Chiefs
Jay Biggerstaff / USA Today Sports Images

Henne has a lot of experience as a starter between Miami and Jacksonville, but the fact that he couldn't overcome Blake Bortles during the Jags quarterback struggles says a lot. The former Michigan quarterback is just 18-35 during his career as a starter with more interceptions (63) than touchdowns (58) during his career, but the Chiefs weapons would almost certainly make him look better if called into action this season.

 
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8. Chase Daniel, Chicago Bears

Chase Daniel, Chicago Bears
Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports Images

It's good to be Chase Daniel. The Bears backup has started only two games and made 78 pass attempts during his career, yet he will have earned over $24 million after this season. While undersized with limited arm strength, Daniel has shown that he can be a solid game manager, completing more than 65 percent of his passes and also leading an elite offense while in college at Mizzou.

 
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9. Trevor Siemian, Minnesota Vikings

Trevor Siemian, Minnesota Vikings
Brace Hemmelgarn / USA Today Sports Images

A former seventh-round pick, Siemian came out of nowhere to start for the Broncos in 2016 and went 8-6 with 18/10 TD/INT. With his supporting cast starting to break down last year, things didn't go nearly as well for him with a 5-5 record and 12/14 TD/INT. Minnesota still seems comfortable with Siemian backing up Kirk Cousins in its West Coast offense.

 
Colt McCoy, Washington Redskins
Brad Mills / USA Today Sports Images

An accomplished quarterback at Texas, McCoy was thrown into the fire early in his career with the Browns. You know the rest of the story given that it was the Browns, but he's found a home with Washington over the last four-plus seasons. Since joining the team, he's 1-3 as a starter but has completed more than 70 percent of his passes as an effective game manager.

 
Robert Griffin III, Baltimore Ravens
Aaron Doster / USA Today Sports Images

The 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year, Griffin hasn't been the same since suffering a knee injury during the playoffs in his rookie campaign. He was out of football last season but is likely to earn the No. 2 job behind Joe Flacco this year with rookie Lamar Jackson looking lost on the field. RG3 is fragile and doesn't run like he used to, but he's come back after a year out of football to look good this preseason, completing 69 percent of his passes in two games.

 
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12. Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals

Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals
Chuck Cook / USA Today Sports Images

Drafted 10th overall by Arizona, Rosen is set to back up Sam Bradford in his rookie season. The former UCLA Bruin was a top prospect when he arrived to college but was injured all too often. He's struggled early in the preseason, completing only 55 percent of his passes in two games, but the Cardinals like him long term.

 
Geno Smith, Los Angeles Chargers
Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today Sports Images

The 39th overall pick in the 2013 draft, Smith started for the Jets in his rookie season. The team went 8-8 despite his 55.8 completion rate and 12/21 TD/INT that season. The results have been only slightly better since being demoted to a backup in 2015, competing 60.9 percent of his passes with 4/2 TD/INT in five games between the Jets and Giants. Given Philip Rivers' history of durability, Smith is unlikely to find the field for any meaningful snaps this year.

 
Matt Schaub, Atlanta Falcons
Jason Getz / USA Today Sports Images

It's still safe to say Schaub is the best quarterback in the history of the Houston Texans organization, going 46-42 with 124/78 TD/INT in seven seasons as the starter. However, his career nosedived suddenly in 2013, and he's been a mediocre backup since then with six interceptions in 93 attempts. Backing up the durable Matt Ryan, Falcons fans probably don't have to worry.

 
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15. Matt Cassel, Detroit Lions

Matt Cassel, Detroit Lions
Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports Images

Cassel's four seasons as the starter in Kansas City is time that Chiefs fans would like to forget, but he did lead the team to the playoffs and make the Pro Bowl in 2010. Since leaving KC after 2012, he's 7-12 as a starter for the Vikings, Bills, Cowboys and Titans and has completed less than 60 percent of his passes. The Lions could do worse, but they're in trouble if Matthew Stafford gets injured.

 
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16. Cooper Rush, Dallas Cowboys

Cooper Rush, Dallas Cowboys
Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports Images

A former undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan, Rush has thrown only three passes during the regular season, but his impressive preseason and practice play has earned him the No. 2 role behind Dak Prescott. He's come out firing again this preseason, completing nearly 66 percent of his passes. A poor senior year in college made him overlooked in the draft, but Rush has a definite future.

 
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17. Cody Kessler, Jacksonville Jaguars

Cody Kessler, Jacksonville Jaguars
Reinhold Matay / USA Today Sports Images

An accurate passer in college at USC, Kessler was thrown to the wolves by the Browns in 2016 after being drafted in the third round. He went 0-8 as a starter while avoiding risks and completing nearly 66 percent of his passes. Kessler probably doesn't have the arm strength to be a consistent starter, but his game manager ability is a good fit with a great supporting cast in Jacksonville. If Blake Bortles throws too many picks this season, it wouldn't be a shock to see Kessler on the field.

 
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18. Blaine Gabbert, Tennessee Titans

Blaine Gabbert, Tennessee Titans
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Although a first-round bust for the Jaguars in 2011, Gabbert has a strong arm. But he has never shown the accuracy and ability to stand in under the pressure that's required of an NFL quarterback. He's started at least five games in each of the last three seasons and most recently completed just 55.6 percent of his passes with 6/6 TD/INT in five starts with the Cardinals last season. Tennessee will have to adjust its offense for Gabbert if Marcus Mariota gets hurt.

 
Matt Barkley, Cincinnati Bengals
Sam Greene / USA Today Sports Images

Barkley had some big games when he found starts with the Bears in 2016, but he also went 1-5 with 8/14 TD/INT. It's almost impossible to win with the poor decisions that the former USC signal caller was making, and he also lacks a big arm.

 
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20. Tom Savage, New Orleans Saints

Tom Savage, New Orleans Saints
Reinhold Matay / USA Today Sports Images

It's still hard to believe that Savage began last season as Houston's starter ahead of Deshaun Watson. Injuries plagued him for much of the year, but the immobile Savage did start seven games, going 1-6 with 5/6 TD/INT despite good receiving weapons. Maybe learning behind Drew Brees will be helpful.

 
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21. Chad Kelly, Denver Broncos

Chad Kelly, Denver Broncos
Isaiah J. Downing / USA Today Sports Images

A highly productive player at Ole Miss, Kelly fell to the seventh round of last year's draft due to some off-field concerns. However, Jim Kelly's nephew has jumped former first-round pick Paxton Lynch for the No. 2 job already this summer, completing 70 percent of his passes with three touchdowns in two preseason games. He was a bit of a gunslinger in college with nearly an interception per game, but there's certainly upside.

 
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22. David Fales, Miami Dolphins

David Fales, Miami Dolphins
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Fales has never started an NFL game, but the former sixth-round pick by the Bears eventually followed offensive guru Adam Gase to Miami. He completed 67.4 percent of his passes in 43 attempts last year but had a pitiful 6.2 yards per attempt.

 
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23. C.J. Beathard, San Francisco 49ers

C.J. Beathard, San Francisco 49ers
Stan Szeto / USA Today Sports Images

Beathard found five starts in his rookie season before the 49ers eventually acquired Jimmy Garoppolo. The former Iowa quarterback and third-round pick struggled as much as you'd expect from a rookie on a bad team, with six picks and just a 54.9 percent completion rate. San Francisco's trade and subsequent mammoth contract agreement with Garoppolo doesn't exactly speak for the team's optimism for Beathard.

 
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24. Nathan Peterman, Buffalo Bills

Nathan Peterman, Buffalo Bills
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The Bills quarterback situation remains fluid, with AJ McCarron suffering a collarbone injury and rookie Josh Allen's readiness a real question mark. As such, Peterman could serve just about anywhere in the depth chart. The 2017 fifth-round pick's first NFL start last year was one of the worst in history, with five first-half picks before getting benched. To Peterman's credit, he's been great this preseason, completing 17-of-20 passes for 231 yards and two scores.

 
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25. Landry Jones, Pittsburgh Steelers

Landry Jones, Pittsburgh Steelers
Charles LeClaire / USA Today Sports Images

The Steelers have drafted quarterbacks in consecutive years and may hope one of them can replace Jones as the No. 2 quarterback. Jones does have five starts over the last three seasons, going 3-2 with a nearly 64 percent completion rate, but his seven picks in 169 attempts is unacceptable.

 
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26. Austin Davis, Seattle Seahawks

Austin Davis, Seattle Seahawks
Jake Roth / USA Today Sports Images

Davis was forced on the field for an injury-plagued Rams team in 2014, going 3-5 with a decent 12/9 TD/INT. Since then he's floundered between Cleveland and Seattle, but the Southern Miss alum has some mobility.

 
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27. Brett Hundley, Green Bay Packers

Brett Hundley, Green Bay Packers
Dan Powers / USA Today Sports Images

The Packers admitted Hundley wasn't ready after he struggled in nine starts last year, going 3-6 with 1,836 yards passing and 12 interceptions. Their trade for 2017 second-round pick DeShone Kizer isn't a big endorsement of Hundley's ability.

 
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28. Sean Mannion, Los Angeles Rams

Sean Mannion, Los Angeles Rams
Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports Images

Mannion has thrown only 50 passes during the regular season since being drafted in 2015 out of Oregon State. He has very little to show for them and has usually looked awful this preseason, completing just 13 of 29 passes in his first two preseason games. He runs the risk of losing his job.

 
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29. Brandon Weeden, Houston Texans

Brandon Weeden, Houston Texans
Kevin Jairaj / USA Today Sports Images

Weeden was drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft at age 28 by the Browns. Predictably, the former pro baseball player never panned out in two seasons with the Browns, and he's struggled to keep a roster spot since then. He last found the field in 2015, and the Texans are likely in trouble if Weeden gets on the field this year going on age 35. 

 
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30. Connor Cook, Oakland Raiders

Connor Cook, Oakland Raiders
Gary A. Vasquez / USA Today Sports Images

Cook was once a hyped NFL prospect at Michigan State, but he fell to the fourth round in the 2016 draft. He made 21 pass attempts in his rookie season and served as Oakland's No. 3 quarterback last year. Now back as the No. 2, Cook has had a mediocre preseason, completing 54.8 percent of his passes in two games.

 
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31. Davis Webb, New York Giants

Davis Webb, New York Giants
Raj Mehta / USA Today Sports Images

The Giants bypassed a quarterback of the future early in this year's draft, instead selecting Saquon Barkley with the No. 2 overall pick. Webb was taken in the third round last year and has still looked lost this preseason, completing less than 55 percent of his passes through two preseason games. If something happens to Eli Manning, the Giants could be in serious trouble.

 
Garrett Gilbert, Carolina Panthers
Reinhold Matay / USA Today Sports Images

Carolina took a risk by failing to bring back Derek Anderson in the offseason, and it remains to be seen if Gilbert will go into the year as the No. 2 quarterback. Cam Newton takes a lot of hits behind a mediocre offensive line, and Gilbert has never attempted a pass during a regular-season game. He's done very little this preseason after completing only 58 percent of his passes with no touchdowns and one pick last year.

Seth Trachtman is a fantasy sports expert and diehard Kansas City Chiefs fan still hoping for a Super Bowl win during his lifetime. He doesn't often Tweet, but when he does, you can find him on Twitter @sethroto.


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