After ranking the top 16 backup NFL quarterbacks in March, we decided to extend the list to all 32 teams, given that the draft is in the rearview mirror and depth charts are mostly completed heading into the summer.
A handful of rookies were added to the back end of the list, and we made some tweaks to the top of the order. So, let’s get to it. Here are all 32 backups in the NFL, ranked:
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32C.J. Beathard, Jaguars
Beathard struggled during 12 starts with the 49ers from 2017 to ’20, which gave him a career completion percentage of 58.8, with 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. But the quarterback has a fan in Jaguars GM Trent Baalke, who might have scouted Beathard before being fired by the 49ers in ’17. (San Francisco selected Beathard in the third round a few months later.) Beathard ranks last on this list, but he at least provides game experience for Trevor Lawrence.
31Sean Clifford, Packers
Clifford, picked 149th in the 2023 draft, will have to compete with Danny Etling for the right to be Jordan Love’s backup. Clifford gets the slight edge in the rankings because he beat out Will Levis (who was drafted 116 spots ahead of Clifford) in back-to-back seasons for the starting job at Penn State. Along with his competitive edge, Clifford recorded more than 10,000 passing yards in college.
30Clayton Tune, Cardinals
Tune, who was drafted 10 spots ahead of Clifford in the fifth round, is competing with David Blough for the Cardinals’ third-string job—which will probably end up being the backup role, as Colt McCoy is expected to fill in for an injured Kyler Murray. Tune did something right while at Houston, drawing comparisons to 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy. If Tune is in tune (sorry, couldn’t help myself) to start his rookie season, perhaps he will get a starting opportunity once the season goes sideways for Arizona, which many are expecting.
29Easton Stick, Chargers
Stick has never started a game and has only one career passing attempt in the regular season, but the Chargers saw enough to re-sign him this offseason as Justin Herbert’s backup. The 2019 fifth-round pick has flashed at times during the preseason as a versatile playmaker. (He also rushed for 2,523 rushing yards during four seasons at North Dakota State). But he’s also never been a QB2, having lost backup roles to Tyrod Taylor and Chase Daniel to start his career.
28Trevor Siemian, Bengals
It’s easy to forget that Siemian has 30 career starts across eight NFL seasons, most of which were with the Broncos. Siemian has been a reliable game manager, but his accuracy issues have gotten him in trouble (he has a career completion percentage of 58.9). Siemian once started 14 games for Denver in 2016, leading them to eight wins and throwing for 3,401 yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
27Kyle Allen, Bills
Allen is another experienced veteran quarterback with some success in the league. He’s best remembered for his four consecutive wins with the Panthers while filling in for the injured Cam Newton in 2019. But Allen, who has 19 career starts, ended that season on a six-game losing streak.
26Hendon Hooker, Lions
Hooker, a 2023 third-round pick, recently told reporters he’s ahead of schedule in his recovery from the torn ACL he sustained in November. Once Hooker gets cleared, he’ll likely be slotted as the backup for Jared Goff before possibly competing with the 28-year-old for the starting job next year. Detroit also has Nate Sudfeld on the roster.
25Stetson Bennett, Rams
Many were surprised by the Rams’ drafting Bennett in the fourth round last month, but they needed a rookie quarterback who would quickly develop as a backup to Matthew Stafford. Bennett checked the boxes with age (25), experience (two-time national champion at Georgia) and familiarity (friend of Stafford’s). He’s technically a rookie, but Stetson fits the mold of a veteran QB.
24Nick Mullens, Vikings
I’m quick to tell 49ers fans that I covered Mullens’s stellar starting debut at Levi’s Stadium in 2018, when he led the 49ers to a dominant victory over the Raiders on Thursday Night Football. The ’17 undrafted free agent was inconsistent the rest of the season for San Francisco, but he has a streaky side that could benefit the Vikings if they’re forced to use him in a game or two this season.
23Malik Willis, Titans
Willis had a rough rookie season and has now become the forgotten quarterback after the Titans drafted Levis in the second round. But he’s listed here over Levis after coach Mike Vrabel referred to Willis as Ryan Tannehill’s backup. Willis, a 2022 third-round pick, will get another shot to impress after three lackluster starts last year (50.8%, 276 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions). Perhaps Willis will be competing for more than a backup job if the team decides to cut Tannehill, which would create $27 million in cap savings after June 1.
22Zach Wilson, Jets
Wilson has also had a rough start to his career, but his next opportunity likely won’t come anytime soon after the Jets acquired Aaron Rodgers this offseason. Nonetheless, this might benefit the 2021 No. 2 pick in the long run by restarting his career as he learns from one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. New York did him no favors by rushing him to produce the past two seasons: Wilson posted an 8–14 record with 55.2% passing completion, 15 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
21Brian Hoyer, Raiders
Hoyer, who’s turning 38 this season, is reliable, and he’s familiar with Raiders coach Josh McDaniels’s offensive system. His days of competing for starting jobs are long gone, but he had a memorable 2014 when he kept then rookie Johnny Manziel on the Browns’ sidelines until Week 15. Cleveland then inexplicably pulled the plug on Hoyer, despite him leading the team to a 7–7 record with the postseason in sight. The Browns lost the final three games that season.
20Blaine Gabbert, Chiefs
It seems like ages ago that Bruce Arians boasted about Gabbert as his starting quarterback after Tom Brady retired the first time. Gabbert never got the chance to prove Arians right (he never started a game in Tampa Bay), but he’s played enough to know he is better suited for the backup life. Gabbert, the No. 10 pick in 2011, has a 13–35 career record and hasn’t started in a game since he was with the Titans in ’18.
19Joshua Dobbs, Browns
Dobbs lost his first two career starts with Tennessee last season, but he still flashed at times, earning him a one-year deal to return to the Browns as Deshaun Watson’s backup. The 2017 fourth-round pick by the Steelers was cut by Cleveland last November before getting a shot with the Titans as the team pushed for a playoff spot. Dobbs has a career 58.8% completion rate with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
18Kyle Trask, Buccaneers
Trask has never started a game in his career, but the Buccaneers saw enough from him as the third-string quarterback behind Brady and Gabbert the past two seasons to give him a shot. Trask, a second-round pick in 2021, is competing for the starting role against Baker Mayfield, who joined Tampa Bay during free agency.
17Drew Lock, Seahawks
After a failed stint as the Broncos’ starter, Lock has embraced the No. 2 role behind Geno Smith, recently re-signing with the Seahawks on a one-year, $4 million deal. Lock, a 2019 second-round pick, started 21 games in Denver and recorded a 59.3 passing percentage with 4,740 yards, 25 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.
16Jarrett Stidham, Broncos
Stidham impressed in his starting debut last year with the Raiders by throwing for 365 yards and three touchdowns, taking the 49ers to overtime in a losing effort. Stidham, however, struggled the following week in a blowout loss to the Chiefs. Perhaps the 2019 fourth-round pick by the Patriots will get another opportunity if Russell Wilson continues to struggle in Denver.
15Mitchell Trubisky, Steelers
Upon reconsideration, Trubisky is worthy of being listed as a top-16 backup quarterback in the NFL. He can thank the many angry tweets about him being left off our initial QB2 rankings earlier this year. Trubisky plays too safe at times and struggles with accuracy and reading defenses, but it’s hard to ignore his winning record of 31–24 and the mobility he provides in the pocket. Also, his career completion percentage of 64.2 is better than most quarterbacks on this list.
14Tyrod Taylor, Giants
Taylor has lost starting jobs to Josh Allen, Mayfield and Justin Herbert; plus, he was once benched for Nathan Peterman, who then went on to throw five interceptions in one half vs. the Chargers. Taylor has had bad luck and bad timing throughout his 12-year career, but he’s been a serviceable starting quarterback. Taylor completes the routine throws (61.4 career completion percentage) and protects the football (60 touchdowns, 26 interceptions).
13Davis Mills, Texans
Mills is also on the list of quarterbacks who have taken starting jobs from Taylor. The 2021 third-round pick was steady in his performances with the Texans, but he didn’t do enough to maintain the starting role for a third consecutive season. Technically, Mills hasn’t lost the job, but the writing’s on the wall with Houston drafting C.J. Stroud at No. 2 last month. Mills won five games, completed 63.6% of his passes and recorded 33 touchdowns against 25 interceptions the past two seasons.
12Bailey Zappe, Patriots
Zappe had a memorable four-game stretch as a rookie last season, which included starting in two wins that had Patriots fans chanting his name. But New England coach Bill Belichick hinted after the draft that Mac Jones remains the starter. Zappe, a 2022 fourth-round pick, should remain ready for his next opportunity, given Jones’s trouble with consistency on the field. Zappe completed 70.7% of his passes with 781 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions last season.
11Marcus Mariota, Eagles
Mariota returned to the backup life after failing to ignite the Falcons’ passing game last season. The 2015 No. 2 pick might be an ideal backup for Jalen Hurts, given the two have similar traits as mobile quarterbacks. Mariota has started 74 games and has a career completion percentage of 62.6.
10PJ Walker, Bears
Walker has a career completion percentage of 57.5 in 15 NFL games, but his skill set makes him an ideal backup for versatile quarterbacks such as Justin Fields. Backups like Walker make a crisis situation easier to navigate by having strengths that fit the current offensive system.
9Mike White, Dolphins
White won only one game during his four starts with the Jets in 2022, but he inspired confidence in his teammates and elevated the offense after replacing Wilson. Many Jets fans will remember White’s back-to-back performances against the Bears and Vikings, surpassing 300 passing yards in both games. White will be a dependable option for the Dolphins if Tua Tagovailoa continues to deal with injuries.
8Tyler Huntley, Ravens
Say what you want about Huntley making the Pro Bowl last season, but there’s no denying that he’s been a quality backup while filling in for Lamar Jackson the past two seasons. Huntley did enough in 2022 to keep the team afloat and helped the Ravens push the Bengals in their wild-card matchup. The quarterback known as “Snoop” has command of the offense with a career passing percentage of 65.6.
7Sam Darnold, 49ers
The Darnold hype has gotten out of control in San Francisco, which might be a bad sign for Trey Lance’s development. But coach Kyle Shanahan’s offensive system has a way of making subpar quarterbacks play well, and Darnold could get an opportunity to reignite his career if he beats Lance in training camp for the starting job (while Purdy recovers from the arm injury that hindered him in the NFC championship game). Darnold, the 2018 No. 3 pick, has a career record of 21–34 with a 59.7% completion rate.
6Cooper Rush, Cowboys
Rush made a name for himself last season by winning four of his five starts with the Cowboys, earning the 29-year-old a multiyear deal to remain Dak Prescott’s backup. It’s wild to think many wanted Rush to overtake Prescott as the starter, but winning games can alter narratives in spite of average quarterback play. Rush completed 58% of his passes with 1,051 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions across his 2022 starts.
5Jameis Winston, Saints
Winston’s erratic performances throughout his five seasons in Tampa Bay are why the Buccaneers didn’t hesitate to sign Brady. A league-high 5,109 passing yards and 30 interceptions by Winston in 2019 best summarized his time with the Buccaneers. But Winston, the ’15 No. 1 pick, has cut back on the turnovers and embraced being a backup after re-signing with the Saints despite their turning to Derek Carr. Winston offers plenty of experience, with 80 career starts.
4Taylor Heinicke, Falcons
After not playing much during his first six seasons, Heinicke established himself as a reliable quarterback in Washington because of his memorable 2020 playoff game against Tampa Bay. Heinicke made the most of his opportunities by posting records of 7–8 in ’21 and 5-3-1 in ’22. It didn't work out for him with the Commanders, but he might be in the mix with the Falcons this season if second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder struggles.
3Gardner Minshew, Colts
Minshew’s hot streaks and confidence are what set him apart from most No. 2 signal-callers. He made the 2019 Jaguars watchable as a rookie starter and delivered two respectable performances while filling in for Hurts last season with the Eagles. Minshew went 0–2, but having former Philadelphia offensive coordinator Shane Steichen welcome him to the Colts says plenty about Minshew’s game. In 32 career games and 24 starts, Minshew has thrown for 6,632 yards and 44 touchdowns against only 15 interceptions.
2Jacoby Brissett, Commanders
Last season, Brissett didn’t produce many wins in Cleveland (4–7 while filling in for Watson), but he managed a productive offense, proving why he remains one of the best backups in the league. He helped wide receiver Amari Cooper find his footing with the Browns and did enough in the passing game to maintain a balanced attack for running back Nick Chubb. Brissett has started 48 games in his seven-year career, throwing 48 touchdowns against 23 interceptions.
1Andy Dalton, Panthers
Dalton holds the top spot on the QB2 rankings because he’s already doing a remarkable job as Bryce Young’s hype man, saying, “You can tell early on that he’s got it.” The best backup quarterbacks not only push the starter in practices, but also mentally in the film room, and they’re not afraid to share advice from past experiences. Young will benefit from Dalton, who can also play in case of emergency. Dalton is a proven winner with a career record of 83-77-2, and he has thrown for 244 touchdowns and 144 interceptions.