CLOSE

SportsPulse: USA TODAY’s NFL reporters predict division winners, wild card, MVPs and who’s going to be holding the Lombardi trophy in February.
USA TODAY Sports

Many NFL backup quarterbacks rarely see the field. Still, it can be argued they are the second-most important player on a given roster, whether they’re needed to temporarily replace the No. 1 quarterback or perhaps revitalize a team by supplanting a struggling starter.

There are various approaches across the league to managing the quarterback depth chart. Perhaps the ideal situation is illustrated by the New England Patriots, who have a star (Tom Brady) first stringer but have developed a promising understudy (Jimmy Garoppolo) within their philosophy over the course of several years. Some clubs will carry a totally unproven player behind an established veteran, others are grooming a future face of the franchise until he’s ready to take the reins from a place-holding starter. Some franchises have two QBs on their 53-man roster, others will carry up to four. 

After a flurry of roster moves over the weekend, USA TODAY Sports has ranked the NFL’s backup QB situations as they stand Monday morning:

1. New England Patriots: Jimmy Garoppolo has only started two NFL games and thrown 94 career passes. Nevertheless, he’s a highly regarded player (106.2 career passer rating) who’s sure to draw extensive interest on next year’s free agent market … if the Patriots allow him to test it. He could probably start for at least 10 teams right now.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Unflappable. Fearless. Smart. Underrated athlete. (Will unnecessarily force the ball at times.) Those labels could apply just as easily to Ryan Fitzpatrick as Bucs starter Jameis Winston. Fitzpatrick most definitely lacks Winston’s arm talent, but he’d likely keep this team competitive for a protracted period given its offensive arsenal.

3. Minnesota Vikings: Case Keenum has wandered the league but managed to collect 24 (often decent) starts over the past four seasons. He’s among the NFL’s better insurance policies. However if the Vikes get Teddy Bridgewater back this year, they should have little trouble surviving an injury to Sam Bradford.

4. Philadelphia Eagles: It’s not easy to purge the thought of how overmatched Nick Foles was as the starter for a bad St. Louis Rams squad in 2015. But let’s not forget his stellar 2013…