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2-QB Fantasy Football

2-QB Fantasy Football: Backup Quarterback Situations to Monitor

Sal Stefanile looks at every backup quarterback in the NFL and breaks down what every 2-QB fantasy football owner needs to know about them.

Derek Carr
Derek Carr

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier in the offseason I had a grand plan of going over each team’s quarterback depth chart to see if there were any backup quarterbacks we needed to keep an eye on during the preseason that could be viable 2-QB draft targets.

I quickly realized it’d be a stretch to spill a ton of virtual ink on 32 teams’ quarterback situations, when only a few teams had any semblance of a true quarterback competition. Instead, I decided to wait until near the end of preseason to go over each team, and quickly run down the backup quarterback situations to help 2-QBers with late round quarterback picks or early waiver wire candidates.

You never know when a backup quarterback or even a backup to the backup will have to step up and fill the starter’s shoes, be it due to ineffective play or injury. Here’s a list of backups that started at least one game during the 2013 NFL regular season:

Nick Foles, Chad Henne, Mike Glennon, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kirk Cousins, Matt Flynn (two different teams), Case Keenum, Jason Campbell, Brian Hoyer, Kyle Orton, Chase Daniel, Matt Cassel, Kellen Clemens, Thaddeus Lewis, Jeff Tuel, Josh McCown, Matt McGloin, and Seneca Wallace.

This is a list of quarterbacks who were opening day starters, eventually benched or cut, and who were thrust into starting roles again (even if for just one game):

Josh Freeman, Matt Schaub, Christian Ponder, Brandon Weeden, Terrelle Pryor, and Michael Vick.

Kind of messes with your head seeing all those quarterbacks listed, no? I need a flowchart to keep track of everyone.

In standard leagues where only one quarterback is required in the starting lineup needing to be aware who the backup quarterback is or who the backup to the backup is doesn’t move the needle. If you lose your starting quarterback there’ll be another one on the waiver wire.

2-QBers know that’s not the case, and when a starting quarterback goes down there’s a mad dash to scoop up his backup from the waiver wire, unless that backup has already been rostered. Some 2-QB owners are crafty like that.

We’ve already seen one backup quarterback elevated to QB1 status when the Rams lost Sam Bradford for the season. Shaun Hill went from being undrafted in most 2-QB leagues to being an immediate QB3, and perhaps even QB2 candidate in 2-QB leagues. That’s just how it works.

This offseason the main quarterback competitions we needed to keep an eye on for 2-QB purposes were in Cleveland and Minnesota. Both saw the veteran quarterbacks (Brian Hoyer and Matt Cassel) beat out the rookies (Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater) for the job.

No matter how well Blake Bortles performed, the Jaguars didn’t relent from their stance that Chad Henne would be their opening week starter. The Raiders also went with the veteran in Matt Schaub over rookie Derek Carr, but if Schaub’s elbow injury lingers and the team watches highlights of Carr’s preseason performance over the Seahawks on an endless loop they might be rethinking that decision.

When we went over the backup quarterbacks to keep an eye on last year the groups were sorted out in the following manner:

Late Round Pick Burners (backups worth drafting)
Waiver Wire Speed Dial (backups to monitor on the waiver wire)
Be Careful What You Wish For (backups to franchise QBs)

Seemed appropriate we used those categories again for the 2014 backup quarterbacks. This is not a ranking of the top backup quarterbacks. If you’re looking for that, Chris Wesseling of NFL ATL has you covered. What I did was take a look at the No. 2s and No. 3s to make sure you’re aware of the backup quarterback who might be pressed into action if the starter goes down. That’s always valuable information to have if you’re playing in 2-QB fantasy football leagues.


Late Round Pick Burners

Johnny Manziel
Teddy Bridgewater
Blake Bortles
Derek Carr

It’s not a surprise the rooks lead this category.

Each one of them could start at some point this season for their respective teams, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they all took over, ala Mike Glennon from last season.

You might have to handcuff Manziel and Bridgewater to Hoyer and Cassel though. It could be a winning move, if your bench size is deep enough. If not, keep an eye on how Hoyer and Cassel are playing, and maybe target Week 4 (Cleveland’s bye) and Week 10 (Minnesota’s bye) to grab the now-backup rookies.

Most of you know how comfortable I am with the quarterback position, but one name I have avoided drafting at all costs has been Matt Schaub. The Houston Texans dumpster fire season of 2013, while not Schaub’s fault, didn’t give me much confidence in his play. His recent elbow issue gave Derek Carr a shot to start the team’s final preseason game, and he may have forced Dennis Allen to change his mind about going with Schuab as his Week 1 starter.

At this point, I’d draft Carr over Schaub because if the rookie does get to start sooner rather than later it might be too late for you to grab him from the waiver wire in your 2-QB league. Oakland is no model of consistency, and we saw that last year when Terrelle Pryor, Matt Flynn, and Matt McGloin each got a turn behind the starting quarterback wheel.

Michael Vick

In what turned out to be not a quarterback competition at all between Michael Vick and Geno Smith, the former Eagle quarterback now finds himself holding a clipboard from the sideline again. Vick showed he still had skills navigating Chip Kelly’s offense last season, while mixing in his rushing ability. In each of his five starts, he was a Top-20 fantasy quarterback, with two Top-12 finishes.

The offensive talent surrounding the quarterback position is much improved in New York since last season, and the arrival of Eric Decker can not be understated. He’s scored 33 touchdowns in 44 NFL games. Not all are from Peyton Manning though. Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton threw a few of them.

If Geno is bad Geno and not good Geno in 2014 there’s a chance Vick could be under center, which would give 2-QBers another chance to start Vick in their 2-QB lineups.

Mike Glennon

How many rookies in NFL history threw at least one passing touchdown in each of their first eight regular season games? Just one. Mike Glennon.

Outside of Chad Henne and Nick Foles, Mike Glennon was the one backup quarterback I was targeting in 2-QB leagues last season. The Josh Freeman-Greg Schiano toxic relationship seemed like the perfect recipe for a quarterback benching. Which happened.

Both Schiano and Freeman are gone. Lovie Smith and Josh McCown are in. It doesn’t seem McCown will get benched, but if for some reason he does, Glennon will step into a situation where he’ll get to throw to Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Doug Martin. That’s a better supporting cast than he had last season, when he finished as the QB26 on the season even though he only started 13 games.

Mark Sanchez

Nick Foles was the ultimate quarterback handcuff last season. Why? Chip Kelly’s offense + Michael Vick’s injury history. The inevitable happened, and Foles eventually took over for an injured Vick early in the season.

Foles, who went on to have a ridiculous (and in some cases, lucky) career year: 2,891 passing yards, 27 passing TDs, 64 completion percentage, 2 INTs, 119.21 QB rating, 225 rushing yards, and 3 rushing TDs. In standard scoring leagues he was QB12, and put up seven Top-12 weekly fantasy quarterback finishes. In only 11 full games.

Mark Sanchez might not be Nick Foles, but he’s shown to be adept playing in Chip Kelly’s offense this preseason, completing 80.6 percent of his passes for 281 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.

Waiver Wire Speed Dial

Kirk Cousins

I’m willing to admit to being wrong on this, and stubborn, as I do still have faith in RG3 to be a top-ten fantasy quarterback this year. But RG3’s offseason performance hasn’t been pretty, and he has the 12th worst PPF offseason grade at quarterback (-5.9).

Kirk Cousins wound up making a late-season appearance last year in Washington so it could happen again. If you’ve drafted RG3 and are worried Cousins might take over, then you can bump him up into the the Late Round Pick Burners category as a handcuff to RG3.

Charlie Whitehurst/Zach Mettenberger

In the past two NFL seasons Jake Locker has played in 18 out of a possible 32 regular season games. His backup last year, Ryan Fitzpatrick came in and put up four Top-12 finishes. Locker himself had three. There’s no guarantee either Charlie Whitehurst or Zach Mettenberger can do that, but if Locker’s injury history continues into 2014 we might see them at least try.

Case Keenum/Tom Savage

If you’re not sold on Ryan Fitzpatrick being a weekly starter, and think he could flame out in Houston then you’re looking at Case Keenum or Tom Savage taking significant snaps under center for the Texans. At this point in time it doesn’t look like Bill O’Brien is in any hurry to bench Fitzpatrick, so this is mainly a situation to monitor for the time being.

Ryan Nassib

Eli Manning has come out saying that learning Ben McAdoo’s offense has been a “work in progress.” He then went on to say:

“It’s not the final product right now. The more games, the more plays we get, more practice, there’s definitely room for improvement. And that’ll be a season-long situation – which is, I think normal. That’s not a bad thing.”

Eli’s final preseason stats are just as inspiring as that quote: 48.8 completion percentage, 4.59 YPA, one touchdown, and one lost fumble.

Ryan Nassib enters the season as Eli’s backup after throwing three passing touchdowns versus the Jets in the team’s third preseason game.

Kyle Orton

EJ Manuel had an injury shortened rookie season, and the Bills turned to Thaddeus Lewis and Jeff Tuel in his place. The Bills already cut Lewis during the offseason. Then they signed Jordan Palmer, but cut him, too. Leaving Tuel as the team’s only backup QB. For now. *UPDATE* Prior to publishing this, the Bills signed Kyle Orton. This could be not only bad news for Tuel, but Manuel too. If Orton grasps the Bills playbook quickly enough he might find himself starting if Manuel doesn’t have a good start to the season. *UPDATE* Tuel Time is over in Buffalo, as the Bills cut him. Orton will be the sole backup in Buffalo.

Matt Moore

Owed $4 million this year, Matt Moore is one of the more expensive backup quarterbacks in the NFL. With Ryan Tannehill showing his worth as a starting caliber NFL quarterback it wouldn’t be shocking to see the team release Moore. He’s been dealing with a shoulder injury this offseason and at one point they signed (and then released) Brady Quinn. The only other quarterback listed on OurLads behind Tannehill and Moore is Seth Lobato, who has no blurbs on Rotoworld.

Chase Daniel

Is Chase Daniel better than Alex Smith? Depends who you ask.

In his lone start filling in for a resting Alex Smith in Week 17 of last season, Daniel proved his worth as a backup completing 21-of-30 passes for 200 yards and one passing touchdown. He also added 59 yards on the ground. One of the reasons Alex Smith was an effective fantasy quarterback last season was because of his rushing yards, and Daniel’s one game performance showed Daniel could possibly pick up the slack if Smith falters or gets injured this year.

Kellen Clemens

The consummate Chargers backup quarterback, Charlie Whitehurst, signed with the Tennessee Titans this offseason, and the team replaced him with Kellen Clemens. In St. Louis last season, Clemens was a serviceable replacement for Sam Bradford. If he plays this year in relief of Philip Rivers he’ll most likely be nothing but a game manager and possible QB2 streaming option.

Dan Orlovsky

After being affixed with an injury prone label, Matthew Stafford has played three straight seasons of 16 games. His backup Dan Orlovsky once did this. According to offseason reports Kellen Moore has outplayed Orlovsky, but new head coach Jim Caldwell seems to favor Orlovsky as his QB2.

Drew Stanton/Logan Thomas

Before Carson Palmer came aboard in Arizona, and even after, I thought Drew Stanton could be a sneaky QB2. I still think he could be if forced to start. If Palmer were to go down with an injury (taking 80 percent of my 2-QB teams down with him) Stanton would take over the reigns of an offense that has Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and Andre Ellington. Rookie Logan Thomas has also become a quarterback name to remember in Arizona.

Austin Davis

The Rams already lost Sam Bradford for the season. Shaun Hill is the new starting quarterback, and Austin Davis find himself yet again thrust into the role of QB2. You can learn more about Davis as part of the ‘QB Who?’ series from last season.

Tyrod Taylor

Joe Flacco might not be elite. Or maybe he is. But one thing he has been is consistent. Since coming into the league in 2008 the Ravens quarterback has started every game of his NFL career. That’s 96 straight regular season games. That’s good news for Flacco, and bad news for his backup, Tyrod Taylor.

Bruce Gradkowski

Ben Roethlisberger has unfairly been labelled as injury-prone. Not sure the reason why. Including his rookie season he’s never played in less than 12 games. Perhaps it might have more to do with the number of different injuries he’s suffered over the years.

Bruce Gradkowski is the current Steelers backup quarterback, and he has thrown 29 regular season attempts the past three years, including a whopping zero last year. He started eight total games in 2008 and 2009 for the Oakland Raiders, completing 53.7 percent of his passes for a combined 2,066 passing yards, and a 11:10 passing touchdown to interception ratio.

Jason Campbell

Jason Campbell has some experience starting in the NFL, and looks to be the next man up in Cincinnati if starter Andy Dalton were to miss time. By this point in his NFL career we’ve seen what Campbell can do, and for fantasy purposes he’s not much more than a QB2.

Brandon Weeden

Going from Josh Gordon to Dez Bryant doesn’t seem so bad. Tony Romo was dealing with a bad back this offseason. Latest reports says there’s “no issue with his back at all.”

If his back flares up in-season and he’s forced to the sidelines then Weeden would get to run an offense that features Dez, DeMarco Murray, Terrance Williams, Jason Witten, and sir Lancelot Dunbar.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Brock Osweiler

If for whatever reason, most likely an injury, Peyton Manning misses any games then Brock Osweiler will be handed the keys to a Denver Broncos offense featuring Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, and Montee Ball.

Jimmy Garoppolo/Ryan Mallett
Tom Brady once missed nearly an entire NFL season (2008). When he did, Matt Cassel took his spot at quarterback, and finished the season as the seventh highest scoring fantasy quarterback. There’s no official word yet as to who the No. 2 QB behind Brady is yet.

Tarvaris Jackson
In one game last season against the Jacksonville Jaguars, both Russell Wilson and Tarvaris Jackson finished as top-16 fantasy scoring quarterbacks for the week. Jackson knows the offense in Seattle, and the team waived Terrelle Pryor. If Wilson misses any time the Seahawks wouldn’t miss a beat with Jackson at the helm.

Matt Flynn/Scott Tolzien

Remember when Aaron Rodgers missed a significant amount of time last season? And remember when Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn started? Yeah… Wasn’t that awesome?

Luke McCown/Ryan Griffin

Again, no one wishes injury on any NFL player. Not even the most degenerates of degenerates. But if Drew Brees goes down… Luke McCown or Ryan Griffin come on down…

Blaine Gabbert

Yep. He’s the backup in San Francisco. I think.

Derek Anderson

Cam Newton has not been a consistent model of health this offseason. First it was ankle surgery. And then he sustained a hairline rib fracture. Derek Anderson can’t fill Cam Newton’s shoes, but, if you can believe it or not, Anderson was the fantasy QB6 in 2007. It’s doubtful Anderson could return such favorable fantasy results if given an extended shot at playing time again though.

Jimmy Clausen

#TeamTrestman believers don’t want to see Jay Cutler go down. Again. But when he missed time last year backup Josh McCown came in and was a more than a serviceable quarterback, in both real life and fantasy.

McCown was a Top-12 weekly fantasy quarterback four times last season while filling in for Cutler. Jimmy Clausen hasn’t lived up to his second-round hype, but he won the No. 2 QB job in Chicago, which means Trestman saw something to believe Clausen could step in at quarterback if needed. When you have Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte, and Martellus Bennett to throw to you have a sort of quarterback cheat code.

Matt Hasselbeck

Look at that. Matthew Hasselbeck is still in the league. And backing up Andrew Luck.

TJ Yates/Sean Renfree

There still seems to be a battle of who will backup Matt Ryan in Atlanta. It’s not clear which of the two it will be between T.J. Yates and Sean Renfree.

I remember a Matt Waldman article on Renfree that always stuck with me, making Renfree a 2-QB dynasty stash. Opportunity awaits whoever would step in at quarterback if Ryan missed time, as they would get to rely on Julio Jones and Roddy White to catch their passes.

Now you’re completely up-to-date on each backup quarterback situation in the NFL.


Remember, no depth chart is officially set in stone yet, so make sure to keep tabs on the quarterback depth charts over at OurLads.com to see who the official QB2s and QB3s are heading into Week 1.

Quarterback situations change all year, and if you’re as up-to-date as you possibly can be it’ll help give you a head start on which quarterbacks you should pounce on the waiver wire in your 2-QB league if a prime opportunity arises.

*Stats used in this article from PFF, FantasyData, and Pro-Football-Reference

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