How important are backup quarterbacks in the NFL? Just ask the New England Patriots, who had to play their backup QBs for the first four games of the 2016 season with one of the best QBs in NFL history suspended due to Deflategate.
The Patriots went 3-1 without Tom Brady, as Jimmy Garoppolo looked like a future star in two games before getting hurt and rookie third-round pick Jacoby Brissett played solidly in Weeks 3 and 4. It was important for New England to get through those first four weeks, and Brady was incredibly sharp when he came back.
As such, it's no surprise that the Patriots are No. 1 in my latest rankings of the backup QB situations in the league, but the rest of the list might surprise you.
Among the factors I'm taking into consideration in my 1-32 rankings: the readiness of the backups to start in a pinch and the long-range outlook for depth-level quarterbacks. It's also worth noting that the gap in these rankings from top to bottom isn't nearly as wide as the gap between the best starting quarterback situation and the worst. Although quality depth is hard to find, starting-level quarterbacks can be extremely hard to find.
For the teams expected to have quarterback battles this summer -- the Broncos, Browns, Jets and Texans -- I projected who I think the Week 1 starter will be. Here we go:
Although the sample on Jimmy Garoppolo is still small -- he has attempted only 94 passes in his career -- it's clear that he is viewed across the league as a long-term starter in the NFL. His value to New England was shown through the Patriots' decision not to trade him this offseason, despite ardent efforts from the Browns. Jacoby Brissett showed promise in two starts last season and won the respect of teammates and coaches through his toughness.