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Big Time Backup QBs
by David Gonos of

Each year, a number of backup quarterbacks come off the bench to post solid fantasy numbers. Guys like Vinny Testaverde, Trent Green, Kurt Warner, Jeff George and Aaron Brooks have helped teams to the playoffs and beyond in the last three years even though they started on the bench. These guys are usually ranked low on everyone's draft list, but an owner should never forget about them. We'll help you sort through whom and why so you can get a step up on the other owners.

There are a number of factors to consider when ranking the backups. Look for...
  • Backups on high-powered passing offenses where even you or I could step in and score 30 TDs.
  • Players sitting behind a QB that has a history of injuries.
  • Players sitting behind a QB that is coming off of an injury.
  • Disgruntled starters combined with disgruntled coaches or owners (see Jeff George/Brad Johnson/Daniel Snyder.)
  • Aging vets with rookies behind them on a team that may be ready to go with a youth movement, no chance at the playoffs and plenty of patience.
  • Young rookies with aging vets behind them on a team that is ready to get to the playoffs NOW without time to show patience.
  • Questionably talented starters with other questionably talented backups. Teams may make a switch even if they aren't going with the more talented player, just to shake the team up.
  • Always consider getting your QBs backup if he's on a top offense with one of your later round picks.
  • And there's nothing more fun than grabbing the backup of another owner's first round QB.
So with that in mind, let's announce the rankings for the top backups for 2001.

Next to each player's name is their chances of starting at some time this season, as well as the reason projected:

T=Talent (their talent surpassed starter's)
D=Default (starter benched for various reasons: youth movement, salary, etc.)
I=Injury (to starter)

These players are ranked according to fantasy value. Some QBs may start ten games but have less fantasy value than a better QB that started six. For the sake of this article, it will be assumed that Jay Fiedler, Aaron Brooks and Shane Matthews will be the starters for their respective teams.

Top Backups to Own for 2001

Joe Germaine | St. Louis - I - 60%
Trust us. Waste a 14th rounder on Germaine. Remember last year when everyone wanted Trent Green in the 9th round? Now you've got a chance to add a QB that is one concussion away from leading one of the highest scoring offenses in the league. Germaine only has to be adequate to get two touchdowns a game.

Todd Bouman | Minnesota - I - 75%
Last year I told you to not bother drafting Bubby Brister who was backing up Daunte Culpepper. The critics were saying Culpepper won't last long and to grab Bubby while you can. We knew he still had a great running game, a decent O-line, and the best wheels of any QB in the league with Chicago-sized shoulders. This year is different. Todd Steussie and, sadly, Korey Stringer are gone from a team that is only a year away from losing Pro-Bowlers Randall McDaniel and Todd Christy. Robert Smith moved on as well leaving a rookie to do what he can. Don't forget Leroy Hoard's been gone for a year now too. Culpepper will get hit early and often. He loves to run, but now he'll be taking on more punishment behind the line as well as in front of it. Bouman makes sense since he'll get a chance to throw to Randy Moss and Cris Carter. But remember, the only way he plays is if Daunte goes down. If you have either Culpepper or Kurt Warner, draft their backups. DO NOT let someone else hold you hostage just because you thought you could slip in around the 16th for Bouman. Grab him a few rounds before the end instead of hoping this is Vincent Brisby's year!

Chris Weinke | Carolina - TDI - 85%
He's older than Jeff Lewis, has a Heisman trophy and a national championship ring and he's played major league baseball which we think will give him the poise and maturity he'll need at this level. As far as talent, his accuracy has been questioned and some don't think he would have been drafted much higher even if he was younger. So what. He's still only got to beat out Jeff Lewis. With Siefert's WCO, and Muhsin Muhammad and Wesley Walls around, the Panther starter could do pretty good this year. The line is a little questionable although they'll be tons better with the additions of Jeff Mitchell and Kevin Donnalley.

Michael Vick | Atlanta - TDI - 60%
Number of things here to consider. Chris Chandolier will break again. Actually, the fans will probably cheer if he gets injured this year. Vick will come in sometime this year and you should expect a number of rushing touchdowns to accompany him. He's one of the fastest five men in the NFL, right now.

Jeff Blake | New Orleans - TI - 50%
We're assuming Brooks keeps his spot, Blake is still a close second, which means little or no room for error for Brooks. In cases like these, it's almost better to be the second stringer. Once he gets in, he'll have a nice receiving corps, a healthy tight end and a great backfield to work with.

Jim Miller | Chicago - TD - 100%
He'll be starting this year as soon as he's healthy, but his fantasy value will be determined by how healthy Marcus Robinson can get and if David Terrell can become productive in his rookie year.

Ray Lucas | Miami - TDI - 75%
Fiedler starts for now, but Lucas, once again, will bide his time. If he's given the opportunity, the offense still relies on the run first plan, although Lucas is a playmaker and could offset the Dolphins weakness at wide receiver.

Steve Beuerlein | Denver - I - 50%
Brian Griese has shoulder problems (name a Bronco that isn't hurt) and hasn't played 16 games in a season yet. Beuerlein has his own injuries to worry about but if Griese can play until mid-season, Beuerlein could be healed enough to take the controls of this monster offense and finish up averaging in the top five in QBs for fantasy points.

Neil O'Donnell | Tennessee - I - 40%
Steve McNair is another player that seems to get nicked up at all the wrong times. O'Donnell proved two years ago that he is a more than adequate backup. He's a couple years older, and has a lesser group or WRs, but he could still provide a yardage boost if called upon.

Trent Dilfer | Seattle - TI - 45%
Here's the opposite of what may happen in Atlanta, San Diego and New York. Here a young guy comes in (Hasselbeck) and will try to lead a team through a few rounds of the playoffs. If he stumbles out of the gate, Mike Holmgren showed last year that he is not shy about pulling his QB. Dilfer is the experienced veteran with a Super Bowl ring who can come in and try to play mistake-free football while his RBs and defense wins the game.

Randall Cunningham | Baltimore - I - 30%
If Grbac gets hurt, the World Champs will look to Randall for help.

Shaun King | Tampa Bay - I - 75%
Brad Johnson WILL get hurt and the Bucs know what they've got in King who's come into camp on a mission. He's worked hard this offseason so that he can take advantage of any shot he's given.

Bobby Hoying | Oakland - I - 25%
Rich Gannon is so old. Hoying would inherit an offense that boasts a good running back (Wheatley), a great receiving RB (Garner), a great WR (Brown) and the best WR in NFL history (Rice). Not bad.

Chad Pennington | N.Y. Jets - TDI - 55%
If Vinny falters or the Jets feel they are out of it, Pennington gets a shot.

Alex Van Pelt | Buffalo - I - 75%
Rob Johnson lies on his back more than Michelangelo… You thought I was going to do a dirty joke there didn't you. Well, that Michelangelo's a real slut… Anyway, Johnson will get roughed up as he holds onto the ball for 18 minutes per snap. Van Pelt becomes the temporary patch until Johnson can go again.

Ryan Leaf | Tampa Bay - TDI - 45%
With the fantastic play of Joe Hamilton during camp, the Bucs may decide to try to trade Leaf, who has better trade value than Hamilton and doesn't know the system as much as King. Leaf has looked very bad though. But expect him on another roster. Hamilton should make a fine No.3.

Todd Husak | Washington - I - 45%
Tendinitis has Jeff George in its grip! Favre owners remember what that was like last year. Watch carefully. The Skins will probably sign a veteran as insurance. John Friesz sits by his phone anxiously.

Kent Graham | Pittsburgh - TI - 55%
Kordell Stewart is the man once again, but goodness, for how long? I'm no Graham fan, but if Stewart doesn't get it done, they have no choice. Tee Martin looked pretty good, but that's like saying, "I hate milk. Pass the non-dairy creamer." Same thing.

Jim Harbaugh | Detroit - TDI - 60%
Charlie Batch sees the trainer's room more than… someone who sees the trainer's room a lot… Harbaugh is comfortable in the WCO and would make the transition nicely if given the chance.

Drew Brees | San Diego - DI - 70%
Doug Flutie is one to get banged up and if Brees gets in camp and does what he needs to do, he could end up second string with one foot hovering over the field ready to play. Problem here is that there is no real fantasy value since they'll be running so much.

Anthony Wright | Dallas - DI - 65%
They've already started the QB merry-go-round in Dallas. Carter will have a rough rookie season and surely Wright will get a few chances to start.

22. Jamie Martin | Jacksonville - I - 35%
23. Dave Brown | Arizona - DI - 35%
24. Akili Smith | Cincinnati - TDI - 30%
25. Scott Mitchell | Cincinnati - TDI - 30%
26. Billy Joe Hobert | Indianapolis - I - 20%
27. Cade McNown | Chicago - D - 25%
28. Todd Collins | Kansas City - I - 50%
29. Jason Garrett | N.Y. Giants - I - 30%
30. Koy Detmer | Philadelphia - I - 40%
31. Doug Pederson | Green Bay - I - 10%
32. Damon Huard | New England - I - 20%
33. Bubby Brister | Kansas City - I - 20%
34. Tee Martin | Pittsburgh - TI - 15%
35. Eric Zeier | Atlanta - DI - 5%
36. Tony Banks | ??? - I - 25%
37. Mark Rypien | Indianapolis - I - 20%
38. Chris Redman | Baltimore - I - 10%
39. Rick Mirer | San Francisco - I - 30%

:: comments to david gonos

David Gonos is the owner and editor of, a four-sport fantasy information site. Getting big-time backup QBs have been his mission ever since the Bengals tried to pawn off David Klingler as a viable NFL starter.

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