Ranking the NFL’s Backup QBs of 2024: Nos. 32–1

Expect Joe Flacco and Gardner Minshew II to be high on our list, as well as a rookie signal-caller, but our top player didn’t even make it last year.
Browning averaged 276.5 passing yards and completed 70.37% of his passes in his seven starts for the Bengals after replacing Burrow.
Browning averaged 276.5 passing yards and completed 70.37% of his passes in his seven starts for the Bengals after replacing Burrow. / Albert Cesare/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

Plenty has changed since the last time we ranked the backup quarterbacks for all 32 NFL teams. 

Andy Dalton was dubbed the best backup 12 months ago. He’s no longer considered the best after all the shuffling that went on this offseason. Crowning Dalton No. 1 might not look good now, but it didn’t help that he only played one game last year as Bryce Young’s backup with the Carolina Panthers. It was, however, an impressive 361-yard performance against the Seattle Seahawks.

We’ll pat ourselves on the back for ranking Gardner Minshew II No. 3 last year. He was a first down away from guiding the Indianapolis Colts to the postseason after replacing an injured Anthony Richardson. Expect Minshew to be ranked high again on this year’s list, but there will be plenty of new names. Our new No. 1 backup wasn’t even on the list last year. 

A few rookies drafted in the first round are in the midst of a starting competition, but it’s obvious that they’ll be the starter by Week 1 or not long after. With that in mind, we left off rookies Bo Nix, J.J. McCarthy and Drake Maye and added their veteran competitors. 

Caleb Williams and Jayden Daniels, the top two picks in the draft, are expected to be immediate starters. As for Michael Penix Jr., he’s expected to start his career as Kirk Cousins’s backup. 

Let’s find out where on this list Penix lands and who will be crowned the No. 1 backup quarterback in the league. Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.

32. Jake Haener, New Orleans Saints 

Haener had somewhat of a laidback rookie season as a third-stringer behind Derek Carr and Jameis Winston. With Winston now in Cleveland, Haener, the 2023 fourth-round pick out of Fresno State, got promoted to No. 2. 

31. Sean Clifford, Green Bay Packers (31)

Clifford, a 2023 fifth-round pick, only threw one pass during his rookie season. The Packers are taking a gamble by relying on an inexperienced player to back up Jordan Love, but it says something that the team was comfortable with him filling the role for his second season. 

30. Easton Stick, Los Angeles Chargers (29)

Stick finally saw game action last season, but the sixth-year veteran had four rough starts, including the embarrassing 63–21 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

29. Josh Johnson, Baltimore Ravens 

Johnson has played for 14 NFL teams and is currently in the midst of his second stint with the Ravens. Johnson has had his fair share of impressive games, but at age 38, he might not have much left if he’s needed to step in for Lamar Jackson this season. 

28. Marcus Mariota, Washington Commanders (11)

Mariota is now on his second team since a failed starting stint with the Atlanta Falcons. He wasn’t needed much with the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Washington Commanders are hoping for the same during Daniels’s rookie season. Mariota has 74 career starts with the Tennessee Titans and Falcons. 

27. Davis Mills, Houston Texans (13)

Houston Texans backup quarterback Davis Mills
Mills lost his starting job to Stroud in 2023. / Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Mills lost his starting gig after the arrival of C.J. Stroud last season. He could be a decent backup based on his 26 starts with the Texans from 2021 to ’22.

26. Tyson Bagent, Chicago Bears 

Bagent made a name for himself as an undrafted rookie last year, delivering an impressive win against the Raiders. But Bagent struggled with consistency throughout his four starts while filling in for Justin Fields. 

25. Hendon Hooker, Detroit Lions (26)

Hooker was viewed as a potential first-round prospect last year, but a torn ACL caused him to fall to the third round. Now that he’s healthy, he’ll slide in as Jared Goff’s backup for his second season. 

24. Mike White, Miami Dolphins (9)

The Dolphins quickly signed White in free agency last year as insurance for Tua Tagovailoa, who has dealt with injuries early in his career. White wasn’t needed with Tagovailoa playing in every game, but he showed during his New York Jets stint that he’s capable of keeping a team afloat in case of emergency. 

23. Desmond Ridder, Arizona Cardinals 

Ridder is one of a handful of Week 1 starters from last season who ended up on this list. The third-year quarterback struggled to establish a rhythm with the Atlanta Falcons. Perhaps leaving Arthur Smith’s offensive scheme will help Ridder find his footing as Kyler Murray’s backup.  

22. Mitchell Trubisky, Buffalo Bills (15)

Buffalo Bills backup quarterback Mitchell Trubisky
Trubisky in his second stint with the Bills. / Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Many Pittsburgh Steelers fans weren’t happy with us ranking Trubisky at No. 15 last year. That turned out to be generous after Trubisky had a rough five games and was benched for Mason Rudolph. But maybe the 2017 No. 2 pick gets back on track during his second stint in Buffalo. 

21. Kyle Trask, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (18)

The Buccaneers named Baker Mayfield the starter over Trask last summer and didn’t look back en route to another NFC South title. Trask, the 2021 second-round pick, is a bit of a mystery, but it might say something that the team considered starting him a year ago. 

20. Cooper Rush, Dallas Cowboys (6)

Rush had competition last year after the team traded for Trey Lance, the 2021 No. 3 pick of the San Francisco 49ers. But the team kept him as the No. 2 behind Dak Prescott and re-signed him this offseason for the same role. Rush is best remembered for his five starts in ’22.

19. Tyrod Taylor, New York Jets (14)

Taylor has had a solid career as a reliable backup who tends to protect the football and runs an offense efficiently. He might play it too safe at times, but he rarely makes his coaches pull their hair out. There were lots of frustrations about Zach Wilson’s performance last year after Aaron Rodgers went down.  

18. Jarrett Stidham, Denver Broncos (16)

Stidham had mixed results in his two starts after the team decided to pull the plug on Russell Wilson, who was released in March. With the tough circumstances, Stidham passed for 496 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also started two games for the Raiders in 2022. 

17. Kenny Pickett, Philadelphia Eagles

The 2022 first-round pick started a combined 24 games with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but his lack of arm strength and skittish performances led to Pittsburgh trading him to Philadelphia to make room for Wilson. In those starts, Pickett had a 14–10 record, completing 62.6% of his passes with 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

16. Mac Jones, Jacksonville Jaguars 

Jacksonville Jaguars backup quarterback Mac Jones
Jones never lived up to his first-round selection with the Patriots. / Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 first-round pick failed to get on the same page with his teammates on the field and with Bill Belichick the past two seasons as the Patriots’ starter. There were high hopes for Jones after an impressive rookie season in ’21, when he passed for 3,801 passing yards with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

15. Mason Rudolph, Tennessee Titans 

Rudolph was left off this list last year because he was the third-stringer in Pittsburgh behind Pickett and Trubisky. He ended up being the better of the three, guiding the Steelers to a late three-game winning streak to sneak into the postseason. Rudolph averaged 238 passing yards in those three starts with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

14. Jimmy Garoppolo, Los Angeles Rams 

Garoppolo’s days as a starter are likely over after one season with the Raiders. He’ll get a fresh start under the guidance of Sean McVay, who helped reignite Baker Mayfield’s career a few years back. Garoppolo, 32, went from standing in the Rams’ way as the starter for the 49ers to becoming the backup to Matthew Stafford. He has played in 81 career games with 63 starts during 10 NFL seasons. 

13. Joshua Dobbs, San Francisco 49ers (19)

Dobbs’s chaotic 2023 season will be best remembered for guiding the Vikings to a victory against the Falcons five days after being traded by the Cardinals. Dobbs also had a memorable win against the Dallas Cowboys as a member of the Cardinals. But Dobbs is a bit erratic at times, but his highs tend to win games and it helps that he received guidance from Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell last season and now will get to learn from 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan.   

12. Carson Wentz, Kansas City Chiefs 

Kansas City Chiefs backup quarterback Carson Wentz
Wentz is in a good situation in Kansas City backing up Patrick Mahomes. / Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Wentz helped the Rams defeat the 49ers in Week 18, sending Stafford to Detroit to face his former team in the wild-card round. After waiting months for another opportunity, Wentz proved in the lone start he has plenty left to offer. 

11. Jameis Winston, Cleveland Browns (5)

Winston, the 2015 No. 1 pick, continues to be erratic, but he often gives his team a fighting chance with his gun-slinger mentality. Winston has 80 career starts with 141 touchdowns and 99 interceptions. 

10. Andy Dalton, Carolina Panthers (1)

Dalton’s priority last season was to help Bryce Young get acclimated to life in the NFL. He did step up in the one game Young missed, passing for 361 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in Week 3 against the Seahawks. Dalton has 163 career starts since entering the league in 2011. 

9. Jacoby Brissett, New England Patriots (2)

Brissett has developed a reputation for being ready at any moment, which he did with the Patriots to start his career and did with the Colts, Dolphins, Browns and Commanders. Brissett nearly pulled off a comeback victory against the Rams after Sam Howell was benched. The ninth-year veteran has appeared in 79 career games with 48 starts. 

8. Sam Darnold, Minnesota Vikings (7)

Darnold moved up the rankings because he spent a year learning from Shanahan and will now get to work with O’Connell, who did wonders with Dobbs and Nick Mullens last season. Darnold did have a rocky start in the Week 18 matchup against Wentz and the Rams, passing for 189 yards and one score.

7. Drew Lock, New York Giants (17)

Lock kept the Seahawks’ playoff hopes alive by guiding them to a victory against the Eagles to snap a three-game losing streak. Lock might be suited for the backup life with how quickly he can get hot on the field. But his lows caused him to flame out as a starter with the Broncos. He’ll now get to push Daniel Jones in practices with the Giants. 

6. Sam Howell, Seattle Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks backup quarterback Sam Howell
Howell has struggled to protect the football and avoid sacks. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Howell is another streaky quarterback who can push the ball downfield. But he struggled with protecting the football and avoiding sacks during his lone starting season with the Commanders last year. The 2022 fifth-round pick passed for 3,946 yards with 21 touchdowns and 21 touchdowns last season. 

5. Justin Fields, Pittsburgh Steelers

Fields could get a chance to compete for the starting job, but all signs point to him opening training camp behind Wilson. If Fields takes the backup role, he’ll need to adjust quickly when his number is called. Fields’s consistency was often an issue with the Chicago Bears, but he had many highs as a three-year starter. He had 40 touchdowns, 30 interceptions and completed 60.3% in 38 starts the past three seasons.  

4. Michael Penix Jr., Atlanta Falcons 

Perhaps this is a bit high for Penix, but obviously the Falcons think highly of him after using their No. 8 pick to draft him in April. That probably also meant many teams had Penix on their radar, leading Atlanta to make the controversial pick. Had he gone elsewhere, Penix appeared ready to be an immediate starter based on his memorable final season at Washington. Instead, he’ll wait for his opportunity as Kirk Cousins’s backup.  

3. Joe Flacco, Indianapolis Colts 

Flacco delivered one of the best comeback stories in recent memory, helping the Browns make the postseason and winning Comeback Player of the Year. He turned back the clock and resembled the quarterback who helped the Ravens beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl. The 39-year-old posted a 5–1 record, averaged 323.2 passing yards per game and added 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions.  

2. Gardner Minshew II, Las Vegas Raiders (3)

Minshew saved the Colts’ season by stepping up after Anthony Richardson sustained a season-ending shoulder injury after four games. It got rough at times, but Minshew gave the Colts a fighting chance in most games. In his 13 starts, Minshew had 3,305 passing yards with 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He’ll now compete with Aidan O’Connell for the starting job. 

1. Jake Browning, Cincinnati Bengals

Many assumed Cincinnati would falter from the playoff race after Joe Burrow sustained a season-ending wrist injury with seven games left on the schedule. But the Bengals remained in playoff contention through Week 18 because of Browning’s sensational performances, including a three-game winning streak. He didn’t just keep the team afloat, he elevated the offense by averaging 276.5 passing yards and completing 70.37% of his passes in his seven starts. He outdueled Trevor Lawrence on Monday Night Football with 354 passing yards and one touchdown.

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Gilberto Manzano