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8 Backup Quarterbacks That Could Start in 2020 (Fantasy Football)

by Vaughn Dalzell | @VaughnDalzell | Featured Writer
Jun 16, 2020

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Every season, the NFL sees a slight shift in starting quarterbacks, whether it’s rookies, trades, injuries, or a tired fanbase or coaching staff. Without fail, it happens every season. Injuries happened for New Orleans, Carolina, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and the Jets in 2020, while Tennessee, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, and the Giants decided to bench their starters.

Next year starts with some new faces under center, and as we go on, there will be a potential for more signal-callers to join the list. Selecting which back up quarterbacks will start a game is tough when they haven’t had a training camp with their new team yet, but here are five teams that may see a quarterback switch this season, plus an honorable mention, which gives us eight quarterbacks in total.

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Kyle Allen (WAS)
There aren’t many places where Allen could go to compete for a starting role in the near future, but Washington was his best-case landing spot. Ron Rivera brought Allen over from Carolina to Washington with him for a 2020 fifth-round pick.

Allen started the season hot in Carolina, winning four straight games and five out of the first six before losing the next seven. He replaced Cam Newton and finished 2019 with a 5-7 overall record, but 5-8 in games played with Carolina. Allen’s new competitor in the quarterback room is Dwayne Haskins, who posted a 2-5 record with Washington in his rookie season under interim head coach Bill Callahan after Jay Gruden was fired.

The reports don’t say that Rivera doesn’t like Haskins. Instead, they find that he likes Allen because he’s played in his system before. Of course, not having drafted Haskins probably has something to do with it, but both quarterbacks could be transition pieces is Washington looks toward the 2021 and 2022 NFL Drafts.

Allen has the experience advantage, as he’s already played with Rivera. He’ll compete in training camp for the starting job, and if a losing streak of four or more games occurs, I’d expect him to take over as the starting quarterback.

If we’re talking per game averages, Allen has Haskins beat, but Allen was a turnover machine in Carolina. He threw 34 interceptable passes (third-most) and committed 46 dangerous plays (fourth-most), which is a ton unless it’s compared to Winston’s league-leading 49 interceptable passes and 66 dangerous plays. Allen showed flashes of potential throughout the season, but his 16 interceptions were tied for fourth with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jared Goff.

Allen threw for 3,322 yards, 17 touchdowns in 13 games, and 489 pass attempts overall. He completed 61.96 percent of his passes, which tied with Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Fitzpatrick for 21st in the league. Allen isn’t on the same level as either quarterback, but one could argue he’s better than Haskins — at least in Rivera’s book.

Washington is an early contender to have the worst record in the league after going 3-13 last season, and with Allen (24) and Haskins (23) being young, both will likely receive starts under center in 2020.

Tua Tagovailoa (MIA)
If the injury never happened to Tua, he would have been the No. 2 selection or higher in the 2020 draft, and I’ll always stand by that. Miami stole him at No. 5, and the fact that Ryan Fitzpatrick is so down to earth about assisting Tua in anything he needs to become the Dolphins quarterback makes it seem like Tua could be named the starter before Week 1.

Miami’s supporting cast on offense features DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki, Jordan Howard, Matt Breida, and Preston Williams. That’s a pretty solid unit for an offense that bloomed late in the year, and Parker is one of the most underrated receivers in the game. Landing a quarterback like Tua is a match made in heaven! The only issue is that the offensive line needs some touch-ups after the slight remodeling. 

According to ProFootballFocus, the Dolphins had the worst offensive line in football last season, and their average time of pressure allowed was last in the NFL at 2.22 seconds. Miami also allowed quick pressure in 2.5 seconds or less on 33 percent of their dropbacks. They addressed the offensive line this offseason by signing expected starters Ted Karras (NE), Ereck Flowers (WAS), and drafting four linemen, including Austin Jackson (USC), and Robert Hunt (ULL) in the first two rounds.

Miami invested a combined $235.95 million in contracts, $123.45 million in guaranteed money, and $59.01 million in 2020 cap hit on 11 free agents. Investing in their future was evident with the draft and the signings cornerbacks Byron Jones and Aqib Talib, linebacker Kyle Van Noy, guard Ereck Flowers, defensive ends Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah, and running backs Howard and Brieda.

Tua is walking into a great situation that we can expect will take a few years to fully blossom, but in a division without Tom Brady, the door is wide open.

Tua has franchise quarterback talent, and there’s an excellent chance he’ll be named the starter of the Dolphins before Herbert is for the Chargers. With the rebuild happening so quickly, and Miami not having a bye week until Week 11, expect Tua to start before then.

Their schedule is as tough as it gets Week 1-8, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him enter the starting lineup in Week 9 against the Cardinals or Week 10 versus the Jets before hitting Miami’s bye week. The second half of Miami’s is much more favorable, as they play three teams with losing records from 2019 and three winning teams.

In the first eight weeks, the Dolphins face four defenses ranked inside the top-10 in points per game and yards allowed per game. Have patience with Tua if you’re a fantasy owner or Dolphins fan, but you shouldn’t need too much, because he’ll be the starter before the end of 2020.

Nate Sudfeld (PHI) and Jalen Hurts (PHI)
Carson Wentz has missed eight games in his career, and he was carted off in the first postseason start of his career this past season. Wentz played a full 16-game schedule in 2019, but he went down with a concussion that cost the Eagles a chance to advance. They played 40-year-old Josh McCown in that postseason game, and now Philly’s backups for 2020 are Nate Sudfeld and rookie Jalen Hurts.

If Wentz goes down again, it’s hard to imagine Hurts not getting the nod based on talent alone, but Sudfeld has backed Wentz up for the past two seasons and has more knowledge of the playbook than Hurts. Despite not playing any snaps in 2019, Sudfeld threw two passes in 2018, and he started in Week 17 of his rookie season in 2017 against Dallas.

Sudfeld completed 19 of 23 passes (82.6%) for 134 yards in the 6-0 loss to the Cowboys. He’s shown a decent deep ball in preseason contests, and with four receivers running 4.5’s and under, he could let it fly in Philly given a chance.

Hurts is much more dynamic with his legs than Sudfeld, and if push comes to shove, Sudfeld could be Wentz’s replacement right away under center with Hurts playing a Taysom Hill-like role. Much like Allen and Haskins’ situation, if Sudfeld were to start and lost a few games in a row, the gears would start to shift in Hurts’ favor. Hurts could have won a Heisman in college if not for Tua or Burrow, and entering the 2020 draft; he was the QB3 in this draft to me.

Expect an experiment to take place in the preseason to determine who’s the QB2 in Philadelphia. Sudfeld has the upper hand to start the year, and as the season progresses, the chances of Hurts’ starting over Sudfeld if something happens increases.

Of course, this all depends on Wentz’s health. For the sake of Philly fans, let’s hope he makes it through another full season.

Justin Herbert (LAC)
The Chargers followed the Dolphins by taking their signal-caller of the future in Justin Herbert. While he won’t be the Week 1 starter, Herbert could take over in the second half of the schedule. Los Angeles has a bye week in Week 10, and they play four non-playoff squads in their final seven games.

The beginning of the schedule will be cake for Taylor, and our own Bobby Sylvester thinks that he perform as high as the fantasy QB5 over the first nine games. I can’t disagree, but Taylor’s career numbers aren’t what you wouldn’t describe as elite. He should find success in that offense, but if they enter the break with a 4-6 record or worse like 2019, Herbert could get the nod.

The Chargers have an array of weapons in support of the post-Philip Rivers era, and both quarterbacks come into an ideal situation. Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Hunter Henry, and Austin Ekeler are a formidable unit, but their offensive line struggled mightily in 2019. To put it in perspective, the last time the Chargers’ offensive line had a team pass-blocking grade ranked above 26th was in 2014, and their two tackles allowed a combined 88 pressures last season.

If Taylor can survive until Week 10, he should see the whole season through as the starter, but the offensive line will be the downfall of the offense. The Chargers defense finished sixth in total yards allowed per game (313.1), which kept Los Angeles in most of their games. Nine of the Chargers’ 11 defeats were single-digit losses, and their offense scored 20 points in eight of 16 games.

As a senior, Herbert threw at least one touchdown or more with no interceptions in nine of 14 games. In his final two years, he was one of the most impressive quarterbacks in the country. He recorded 10 games of three passing touchdowns or more in his last two seasons, and he had 17 multi-passing touchdown games in those 27 starts.

Herbert may not be the short-term answer, but Chargers fans could call for the change if they waste another dominant year of defense on an average quarterback. If that happens, Herbert’s flashed the ability to make throws all over the field by tossing touchdowns left and right in his final two seasons at Oregon.

He’s also shown inconsistencies, and he struggled in his final three games with the Ducks. That spilled more questions into his draft mailbag. Herbert posted a 60.5 percent completion percentage on 76 attempts, throwing for 168.3 yards per game with three touchdowns and one interception in that span.

In his final two seasons, he’s only had five 300-yard passing games, and three came against PAC-12 opponents. To put that into context, Tua had four in his final season, and Burrow recorded 13.

Herbert most likely will sit Week 1 and wait for his chance, but expect him to get at least one start this season, even if it’s Week 17.

Jameis Winston (NO)
Winston led the NFL in passing yards (5,109), yards per game (319.3), pass attempts (626), and interceptions (30) last season. His reckless style of signal-calling has made it difficult to know whether or not he’ll ever live up to his first-overall pick status.

Signing a one-year deal with New Orleans, however, gives him another shot of redemption. If Brees were to face another injury after missing five games in 2019, Winston would have Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Alvin Kamara, Jared Cook, and Taysom Hill at his disposal. It’s a dreamlike scenario for Winston, even after he had Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in Tampa for the past three years.

Godwin even went on record in the video below, saying that he and other receivers had a lot to do with Winston’s league-leading 30 interceptions, but Winston shouldered the blame for his record-setting performance. For now, he will be learning the offense and waiting for his chance to throw it deep to the league’s best receiver in the NFL.

Even with Hill as the QB3/WR4/TE3, Winston’s position as the No. 2 option is safe. He’s the more traditional option for Sean Payton’s offense, and when Teddy Bridgewater started last season, Hill only threw six pass attempts. He only threw seven in 2018, too.

There’s no chance that Winston isn’t named the starter if Brees goes down. Winston has missed eight games in five seasons, and he tossed 3,500 passing yards in four of five with Tampa Bay. His 88 interceptions in five years is a ridiculous amount, but his 121 touchdowns and 19,737 yards are just as impressive.

Mason Rudolph (PIT) and Devlin Hodges (PIT)
Both quarterbacks started six or more games in 2019, as the Steelers tried to see who could lift them above 8-8 after Ben Roethlisberger went down. Sadly for Steelers fans, neither could, and they missed a postseason appearance by one game. Rudolph started eight games last season and had the only positive touchdown-to-interception ratio on the team.

Rudolph threw a team-high 13 touchdowns last season and nine interceptions. That’s compared to Hodges’ five scores and eight picks. Both players passed for over 1,000 yards and had 62 percent completion percentages as Big Ben’s replacement. Last season marks the first time since 2016 that Roethlisberger missed more than two games in a season.

Big Ben’s health will be a question mark for the rest of his Steelers career, and so will the backup quarterback situation as long as Charlie Batch remains retired. If either Hodges or Rudolph draws a start this season, it couldn’t get much worse than the final three games of the 2019 season offensively.

Through that stretch, Pittsburgh averaged 10 points per game and lost three times. They blew a front-row seat at a Wildcard position over Tennessee with Devlin Hodges under center. Rudolph averaged 20.3 points per game in his eight starts, and Hodges averaged 16.1. In two games versus the Ravens and at the Bengals, Hodges had to come in and replace Rudolph, and Rudolph replaced Hodges in Week 15 at the Jets.

The Steelers’ success in 2020 depends on who’s under center — and for how long. Their defense may be even more dominant this season, and if so, they can make the playoffs if Roethlisberger remains healthy.

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Vaughn Dalzell is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Vaughn, check out his archive or follow him @VaughnDalzell.