A 2QBers Guide to the 2017 Backup QB Class
Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by Phillip Caldwell. Follow him on Twitter @DumpsterDiveFF.
It’s early March, and while most folks ignore fantasy football for the next few months or so, fantasy obsessives like us are in dynasty leagues with trades and draft picks flying from one team to another. My 2QB dynasty league has suddenly come alive since the start of free agency, which has led to a random hold of Mike Glennon seem like soothsaying.
In a 2QB or superflex league having depth at the quarterback position is important and a depth free agent pickup now could put you in the driver’s seat after the preseason, if you know which quality second stringer to invest in ahead of time. So, exactly which quarterbacks are left for you to sneakily pick up before anyone else realizes? Let me break down the backup signal callers into six groups…
Tier 1 – Must Own Quality Backups
This group is a hodgepodge of good quality NFL quarterbacks in solid offenses and in position to likely start a few games.
Houston: Tom Savage –
I’m listing Savage here now because I’m 100 percent convinced the trade of Brock Osweiler means Houston is all in on Tony Romo. Dallas is playing hard to get, but I really believe it’s just a matter of time. (Editor’s Note: Tony Romo’s retirement changes things up a bit. Technically, for now, Savage is the QB1 in Houston, with Brandon Weeden backing him up). With that said, not only is Savage a pretty good backup from what we briefly saw of him last year, but Romo is also not the smartest bet for “Which NFL QB will play all 16 games without injury”? If Savage is somehow still available in your 2QB league pick him up right away. Plus if Romo doesn’t end up a Texan, they have already expressed confidence in Savage to be their starter for 2017.
Jacksonville: Chad Henne – I still believe in Jacksonville’s offense and I honestly believe Blake Bortles can be a good quarterback. It was only a year ago Bortles threw for 4,400+ yards, 35 touchdowns, and had an 88.2 passer rating. However, if he doesn’t fix up that baseball-like windup there is no way the Jaguars coaching staff can survive another 16 games of 2016 Bortles. With that said, Henne was a decent starting QB in his time: 60.9 completion percentage, 40:47 TD to INT ratio, and he averaged 213.9 yards per game in the three seasons he has started 10+ games. He would be a solid option if forced to play, as this current cast around him is likely the best set of skill players he has had to work with. Henne is likely one of the best second string quarterbacks in the NFL. Until we see that Bortles took the offseason seriously and fixed his mechanics, Henne needs to be owned.
New England: Jimmy Garoppolo – I’m still not counting out the possibility of Jimmy G. being the QB1 in Cleveland by the start of the regular season, but for now he is the QB2 on one of the best offenses in the NFL and holds some solid value. Whereas Brady has thus far gotten the better of Father Time, he is still creeping up on 40, and I can tell you from personal experience that the body does weird things after 30. If Brady finally starts feeling the years of hits he has taken and misses time, Garoppolo turns into a must start play after what we saw from him in the full two games he started last year, where he threw for over eight yards per pass attempt, four touchdowns with no interceptions, and had a completion rate of 71.2 percent. Now he has Brandin Cooks as well and Michael Floyd added to that receiving corps.
Buffalo: Cardale Jones – Jones doesn’t have much of a resume and I honestly can’t say how he would play in the NFL if given the chance. However, the Bills for some reason don’t seem to be committed to Tyrod Taylor and the rumors prior to Taylor’s restructured deal said the Bills were confident Jones has what it takes for the NFL. If Taylor doesn’t have a strong start to his season it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Jones start some games as a way to “give the offense a spark” and see what they have in the raw Jones.
Philadelphia: Nick Foles – I know he was horrible as the Rams’ starter and saw minimal playing time as Alex Smith’s backup in Kansas City, so I’m betting the after taste in your mouth when you think of Foles is a little bitter. But you can’t hold his time with the Rams against the poor guy. Jeff Fisher had no grasp of what a modern NFL offense should be, they had virtually no play makers, and their best offensive weapon is their punter Johnny Hekker. In Philly, he has a revamped receiving corp that is headed up by Alshon Jeffery now, and a coaching staff that knows how to move the ball and develop quarterbacks. Carson Wentz showed a strong rookie year, but he also showed a propensity to hold the ball, run and get hit. Foles’ 27:2 TD to INT ratio during the 2013 season may be forgotten by some, but he showed competence in two relief appearances last year, throwing three touchdowns and zero interceptions in 55 pass attempts. If Foles gets under center at all in 2017, you’re going to want him in your lineup.
Minnesota: Teddy Bridgewater – Or is it Sam Bradford? I don’t really know. If either is available snag him. Bradford’s likely rostered in a majority of dynasty leagues since he was the only real guy there last year, but Bridgewater might have fallen off of most owners’ radars. Or you might be able to acquire him via a cheap trade deal since they are saying he likely won’t be healthy by Week One. But if Bridgewater is able to get on the field again, he has the higher upside to Bradford and more years ahead of him. Sadly though, his knee injury might keep him from ever taking the field as a player again. Just a word of caution. (Editor’s Note: the Vikings recently signed Case Keenum)
Atlanta: Matt Schaub – Before Schaub set a not-so-glorious record for the most consecutive games with a pick-six he was actually a really solid starting quarterback in the NFL, completing 64.3 percent of his passes and throwing 114 touchdowns to 64 interceptions TD to INT prior to that ill-fated, yet record-breaking pick-six season. He is the only second stringer I can think of that might be better than Henne. He certainly is in a great spot to make the most of any opportunity to play again, with some of the most dynamic skill players around him, and one of the best receivers in the game in Julio Jones. I cant imagine Matt Ryan coming out of the game for anything other than a freak accident, but Schaub is another guy where if he starts any games you will want to automatically plug him in to your lineup.
Tier 2 – Backups Surrounded by Talented Teammates & Good Coaching
This group, like the one above, features backup quarterbacks also in a solid situation, but who are not instant plug-and-play fantasy options. You might want to give them a week and see how they perform if you have such a luxury.
Pittsburgh: Zach Mettenberger – Stop yelling at me please. I know Landry Jones is always the guy who comes in for Big Ben’s annual injury rest game mid-way through the season. But as of today, the Pittsburgh roster shows Mettenberger as the QB2. Mettenberger wasn’t great in his short stint as a starter, but he wasn’t horrible either. In ten games started, he threw for 2,347 yards, 12 touchdowns, and sported a 75.4 passer rating. He has a big arm and the tendency to chuck it down the field, and in Pittsburgh he has the receivers that can make those types of plays.
Los Angeles Chargers: Kellen Clemens – Clemens was mediocre as the Rams’ starter during one of Bradford’s injury riddled seasons. His eight touchdowns, 58.7 completion percentage, and 1,673 total passing yards in nine games started for the Rams is pretty much the definition of bland quarterback play. However, the Chargers have much better offensive weapons than the Rams did during his time there, no Jeff Fisher, and an offensive geared coaching staff. If he gets any playing time, Melvin Gordon will keep the defense honest, and a healthy Keenan Allen is a bigger, more talented target to throw to than he ever had with the Rams.
Oakland: EJ Manuel – Honestly, I might have preferred Matt McGloin here. But Manuel is the new, younger second string quarterback brought in, and Matt McGloin has finally been ousted. Manuel’s numbers don’t necessarily inspire: 6-11 as a starter, only a 58.3 career completion rate, and 6.4 yards per attempt. But, that was with a less-than-stellar supporting cast in Buffalo. He now has Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, and a couple of pretty good pass-catching running backs.
Carolina: Derek Anderson – Cam Newton might still be recovering from some of those hits he took in 2016, and if that kind of punishment continues expect Derek Anderson to get some time under center by default. The 6’6”, 33-year-old out of Oregon State might not be a name you get excited about, but he is a solid back up who has a lot of game experience. He has gone 20-27-0 in his NFL career and has a lackluster 6.5 yards per attempt career average. But now he has Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess, and a (possibly) upgraded offensive line. However, the Panthers might look for a younger signal caller in the draft, as both of Newton backups (Joe Webb is the other) are in their 30s. Buyer beware here, as things can change fast in the NFL.
New York Giants: Geno Smith – Eli Manning has not missed much time over his 13 season in the NFL. Since 2005, he has started 16 games every season (192 consecutive starts). But it did look like those 4,072 attempts since ’05 finally took a tool on him by the end of 2016. The GMEN decided to back him up with your friendly neighbour, Geno Smith. Smith is not exactly a New Jersey favourite, but he is a solid depth option. Besides, when he was under centre at MetLife Stadium before, he didn’t have Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard to throw to. Brandon Marshall also joins him in defecting to the Giants and a much more offensive-centric head coach in Ben McAdoo. If Smith gets any chance to play for the Giants he might look the best he has since entering the NFL.
Tier 3 – Beware Of Rookies
This group is comprised of shaky, uncertain, or aging backups and quarterbacks in situations where their franchise could be looking for a quarterback of the future via the draft or overlooked free agent talent ala Tyrod Taylor. I would not invest too heavily in any of these signal callers, even as handcuffs.
Washington: Colt McCoy – McCoy is about as bland a backup as you can get. His opportunities to start has yielded a 14-36 record with 52 touchdowns to 46 interceptions. Not exactly inspiring stats for the 29-year-old. With Kirk Cousins dreaming for a trade, and holding pretty much all the leverage after yet another franchise tag, I don’t imagine his career in our nation’s capital will be too much longer lived. That means Jay Gruden needs to start thinking about his next signal caller. I expect them to draft one this year and groom him to start in 2018.
Chicago: Mark Sanchez – The Bears’ big offseason splash was to sign backup QB Mike Glennon to be their starter. Whereas Glennon was one of the better handcuffs for 2016, he still hasn’t seen the field since Jameis Winston was drafted. Yet, the market for Glennon as a starter was still hotter than it was for Sanchez. In 2016, Sanchez threw two interceptions in only 18 attempts. In 72 career starts he has posted a measly 56.7 completion rate and a 1:1 TD to INT rate (86 and 86). I wholly expect the Bears to be in the market for a young signal caller in the 2017 Draft.
Arizona: Drew Stanton – Stanton is a solid back up, but he’s 32. With Carson Palmer at the ripe age of 37, it’s time for the Cards to think about life after Palmer. Snagging a quarterback in this year’s draft makes all the sense in the world. According to talking head Draftniks, none of the signal callers in this year’s draft are “NFL ready”, but there are a couple of guys pretty close. If Arians and company can get a Mitch Trubisky, DeShaun Watson, or Patrick Mahomes, then they have a year or two with Palmer to groom them. Meanwhile, that puts Stanton’s overall depth spot in question.
Tier 4 – Hail Mary!
The backups in this tier play behind established franchise quarterbacks who don’t miss much time and have job security. If you are rostering one of these second stringers you are really throwing up a Hail Mary for fantasy stats.
Miami: Matt Moore – Ryan Tannehill missed some time at the end of last year and Moore filled in valiantly, completing 63.4 percent of his passes for 674 yards and an 8:3 TD to INT ratio in three starts. But I’m not excited about the Miami offense around him and Tannehill usually doesn’t miss time (three missed starts in five seasons, with all three missed starts coming in the 2016 season). Moore is certainly not the future in Miami and Adam Gase seems to have complete confidence in Tannehill.
Tennessee: Matt Cassel – Cassel might have had a shot to play in the beginning of the season if Mariota’s leg injury held him back at all, but according to CBSSports.com’s Jamey Eisenberg, Mariota is on pace to be ready to go by training camp. Mariota is the future in Tennessee and Cassel is just insurance. No one in Tennessee wants to see Cassel start and neither does your Fantasy Team. In his 10-year career, Cassel has a 58.9 percent completion rate, averaged 6.6 yards per attempt, and has thrown 103 touchdowns to 79 interceptions. If Mariota is cleared to play, you can bet he is going to be on the field and not going anywhere.
Kansas City – To be honest, I’m not even sure who the QB2 is in Kansas City behind Alex Smith now that Foles left town. Your guess between Tyler Bray or Joel Stave is as good as mine. Maybe the Chiefs will draft someone, but Smith is only 32, so it’s not as dire a need. Either way, Smith isn’t going anywhere soon, and has a pretty good track record of staying on the field, having missed only three games in the past four seasons. I don’t see any one else making an impact under center in KC in 2017.
Detroit: Jake Ruddock — Matt Stafford couldn’t stay on the field in the early part of his career, playing in only 13 games during his first two seasons. However, now he can’t stay off it, having missed only one start in six seasons. He also hasn’t thrown for less than 4,000 yards or 20 touchdowns in the last six seasons years. Enough said.
Green Bay: Brett Hundley – Two words: Aaron Rodgers. (Rodgers has only missed nine starts in his nine seasons as the starting quarterback in Green Bay)
New Orleans: Luke McCown/Garrett Grayson (Editor’s Note: the Saints have also added Chase Daniel) – Two more words: Drew Brees. (Brees has missed just two starts in 11 seasons in the Big Easy)
Tampa Bay: Sean Renfree – Ryan Griffin is also listed on the roster, but Renfree is the only guy behind Winston to attempt passes in the NFL. Only seven career attempts for Renfree though: three completions and one interception. With Glennon moving on to start in the Windy City, there is no one even close to breathing down Winston’s back. I don’t know if I would be confident with Renfree or Griffin if the worst-case scenario were to happen to Winston.
Seattle: Trevone Boykin – Boykin does seem like a competent backup who matches Russell Wilson’s skill set. However, last season was a glimpse into the Seahawks’ mindset, with that mindset being Wilson isn’t missing time unless a tornado picks him and drops him off in Oz. Boykin is not a priority.
Tier 5 – Just Say No
Bad offensive players, bad coaching, bad offensive lines, or just a bad second string quarterback. I’m not even going to get too in-depth with these guys, I’m just staying away all together for 2017.
New York Jets: Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg – I don’t know who will backup recently signed Josh McCown and I don’t know who they will be throwing to; it’s just an all-around bad situation.
Baltimore: Ryan Mallett… Gross. If you didn’t learn from his time as a “starter” in Houston, then you deserve what’s coming to you.
Cincinnati: AJ McCarron – I like McCarron actually, but the Bengals lost a huge chunk of their O-line this offseason and that scares me for any signal caller.
Cleveland: Backup Quarterback TBD – Let’s just let them figure out their quarterback carousel in 2017 before you acquire anyone. Remember how 2016 started with all four of the Browns’ quarterbacks injured by Week 5? I’m still surprised they let security blanket Terrelle Pryor walk in free agency.
Indianapolis: Scott Tolzien – The Colts have a lot of holes, and if you don’t have Luck’s ability, I don’t think you stand a chance in Indy.
Denver: Paxton Lynch — Lynch was less than impressive in his limited playing time in 2016 (59 percent completion rate, six yards per attempt, and 2:1 TD to INT ratio) and that offensive line has not improved this offseason. Similarly to the Colts and Bengals situation, I want no part of a subpar quarterback behind a bad offensive line.
Los Angeles Rams: Sean Mannion – Robert Woods and Tavon Austin would be your best receiving options for Mannion… No thank you.
San Francisco: Matt Barkley – I think Kyle Shanahan is going to build that team back up, but it’s going to take some time. Barkley hasn’t been able to break into a QB2 spot without injuries to players ahead of him on the depth chart elsewhere and he would have limited receiving options and an okay-at-best offensive line in San Fran. Nope.
Tier 6 – WTF?
Dallas: Kellen Moore (Tony Romo?) — The Cowboys currently have two signal callers on their roster behind start Dak Prescott. According to any talking head, Romo has already packed his bags and is ready to move on. But Dallas seems intent on acquiring something of value for Romo and the re-signing of Moore seems to show intent they’re ready to move on from their long-time starter. (Editor’s Note: Tony Romo is retiring.)
Know Your Depth (Charts)
Hopefully the above tiers of backup quarterback tiers will help you prioritize who to handcuff in your 2QB league. If you need some quarterback help, or just depth, take a gamble on someone from Group #1, whether you have that team’s starter or not. Players from tier two, like Manuel or Mettenberger might offer you trade leverage to the Carr and Roethlisberger owners, if those starters miss any time.
Speaking of trades, when haggling during the offseason, I love to finagle a high upside second stringer from my trade partner when I finally settle, as an insurance policy, to add depth, or to dangle as future trade bait. Ultimately, with any of these players it’s a risk vs. reward play, spending a roster spot on someone who might never get under center. It’s also risky to not have solid quarterback depth on your 2QB roster. So snag the available guy you think will see the field, before he is even on your league-mates radar and always stay updated on the NFL’s quarterback depth chart. Luckily, TwoQBs has you covered in that regard with their QB Depth Chart page.