The big wave of Free Agency is over, as is the 2023 NFL Draft. Now it’s time to look forward. Over the next few articles, I’ll be looking at the team’s fantasy units by conference, ranking the groups. Today, I’m starting with NFC QBs. This isn’t about the starter; it’s about the whole group. As we know, the backup quarterback can often play a pivotal role. Today I look at the first set of NFC QB units, from No. 16 to No. 9 in the rankings. Teams appear in ascending order.
No. 16: Green Bay Packers
On the Roster: Jordan Love, Sean Clifford, and Danny Etling
About: Green Bay gets the lowest grade in the NFC and probably the whole league, if we’re being honest. That may seem overly harsh, but it comes down to experience—they don’t have any. Love is entering his fourth NFL season, which sounds promising. But as a starter and a franchise player, he’s a complete unknown. In his career, he’s started one game, throwing 83 NFL passes for 606 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions. If he was the backup, he’d be one of the least experienced in the NFL. The Packers took him in the First Round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and they’ve seen enough to begin the Love era, but it’s impossible to have confidence in this unit going into the season. The Packers aren’t the only NFC Team whose projected starter lacks experience, but they’ve compounded the issue with little behind Love. The team’s depth chart includes rookie Sean Clifford, a late-round pick from Penn State, and veteran Danny Etling, who has yet to throw a regular season NFL pass despite being in the league since 2018.
No. 15: Washington Commanders
On the Roster: Sam Howell, Jacoby Brissett, and Jake Fromm
About: The Commanders’ projected starter is Howell, a Fifth-Round selection from the 2022 NFL Draft. Howell started one game last season, going 11-for-19 for 169 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. He won the start, showing enough for the Commanders to give him a shot in the regular season. He lacks experience, but what vaults this unit ahead of Green Bay is the depth. In particular, Brissett. In his career, Brissett has started 48 games. While not anyone’s ideal franchise quarterback, he’s an experienced backup that can easily step in when needed. That’s an asset the Packers don’t have.
No. 14: Atlanta Falcons
On the Roster: Desmond Ridder, Taylor Heinicke, and Logan Woodside
About: Another NFC Team that lacks experience in its projected starter, Ridder. The Cincinnati kid was a Third-Round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft that started four games to close out the season. He went 2-2 as a starter, throwing 115 passes for 708 yards and two touchdowns. It’s not a lot of experience, but more than the two projected starters below him on this list. He also has more behind him on the depth chart, in particular, Heinicke, who signed this off-season. Heinicke started 24 games over the past three seasons in Washington, going 12-11-1 in that time. Brissett has more experience, but I prefer Heinicke if I need someone to step up. It’s close, but that gives Atlanta the edge for me.
No. 13: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
On the Roster: Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask
About: It was always going to be a bit of a shift for the Buccaneers coming out of the Tom Brady era, but this probably isn’t the duo that most fans were hoping to see. Trask was a Second-Round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, while Mayfield was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. But Mayfield has bounced around after a decent start in Cleveland. Last year he struggled mightily with the Carolina Panthers before having a decent stint with the Los Angeles Rams. Mayfield has started 69 games, making him the most experienced quarterback on this list so far. In addition, he’s been to the playoffs, leading the Browns to an 11-5 record in 2020. If he can get back on track, the Buccaneers have the weapons to make this work.
No. 12: Los Angeles Rams
On the Roster: Matthew Stafford, Stetson Bennett, and Brett Rypien
About: Now we get to the section with some strong veteran QBs whose teams lack quality depth. The Rams have typically carried only two quarterbacks into the season. They currently have more than that, but it remains to be seen what they’ll have on the roster come opening day. They have a rock-solid starter in Stafford, who has thrown for 52,082 yards and 333 touchdowns in his career. But he’s coming off an injury-shortened season and has some questions heading into 2023. Behind him, the team has veteran Rypien, a spot-starter for the Broncos since he entered the league, and rookie Bennett, who led Georgia last season. It’s not a terrible set of options, but given Stafford’s age and health questions, it knocks the Rams back a bit on this list for me.
No. 11: Seattle Seahawks
On the Roster: Geno Smith, Drew Lock, and Holton Ahlers
About: It was a close call for me between the Seahawks, the Rams, and the team just ahead of them. Smith had an incredible comeback in 2022, so much so that he was the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year. He inked a new three-year deal and returns to a team loaded with weapons and talent. He’s also got far fewer health questions than Stafford and a better supporting cast. He also has more experience behind him in Lock, who has been in the NFL for four seasons and started 21 career games. Lock isn’t a franchise quarterback, but he has experience and upside as a backup, something we can’t definitely say about the Rams. So, the Seahawks got a slight edge here.
No. 10: Chicago Bears
On the Roster: Justin Fields, P.J. Walker, and Nathan Peterman
About: Again, it was a close call deciding between the Rams, Seahawks, and Bears. On paper, the Bears’ starter is less experienced than Stafford and has had less success than either Stafford or Geno Smith. And yet, he’s undoubtedly got the highest potential ceiling, especially as the Bears build around him going into year three. Fields has the potential to have a Top 5 fantasy season. Behind him, the Bears have some interesting pieces in Walker, who shined in the XFL and has started some games for the Carolina Panthers, and Peterman. The potential here is what gave the Bears a slight edge.
No. 9: Detroit Lions
On the Roster: Jared Goff, Hendon Hooker, and Nate Sudfeld
About: This is the final team on this half of the list. If you’d have told me that a Jared Goff-led unit would out-rank a Stafford-led team in 2023, I wouldn’t have believed you. But Goff has been steady in Detroit, he’s younger, and he has better weapons. In fact, he might be higher on this list if the Lions had more behind him. Goff finished as QB10 in 2022, and I think he has fringe Top 12 potential again. But, behind him, the Lions don’t have much depth. Hooker is an interesting prospect—possibly the quarterback of the future—but he’s coming off a tough knee injury. Sudfeld is a fine backup but not one of the better options on the list. So, the Lions have a solid starter, but it’s hard to grade them higher based on their whole unit.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.