If you relied on any of those quarterbacks for your fantasy football team, you’re going to need some insurance in Week 3, if not a new starter. Here are six options, ranked from best to worst.
Jacoby Brissett, QB, Indianapolis Colts (available in 74 percent of fantasy leagues)
Nobody is going to confuse Brissett with Andrew Luck, who retired this offseason. The former third-round pick only completed 17 of 28 passes for 146 yards in a win over the Tennessee Titans, but he did throw three touchdown passes against one interception, making him the league’s 15th highest rated passer, according to the game charters at Pro Football Focus. Two of the players ahead of him, Brees and Darnold, are injured.
Brissett’s third touchdown on Sunday, a four-yard strike to T.Y. Hilton with four minutes and 38 seconds left, was enough to give the Colts the lead for good. He and Hilton have now combined on 12 of 15 targets for 130 yards and three touchdowns this season for a passer rating of 114.6.
Gardner Minshew, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars (available in 90 percent of fantasy leagues)
Minshew, a sixth-round pick out of Washington State, sizzled in his Week 1 debut: 22 of 25 passing for an 88 percent completion rate, the highest in franchise history. His 13 straight completions marked the longest streak by a player to start his career in the last 40 years.
His second game wasn’t as flashy — 23 for 33, 213 yards and a touchdown — but it’s his upcoming schedule that makes him appealing. Minshew and the Jaguars will face the Tennessee Titans (Week 3), Carolina Panthers (Week 5), New Orleans Saints (Week 6) and Cincinnati Bengals (Week 7) over the next few games, none of which are ranked higher on defense than No. 14, per Pro Football Focus. No team faces an easier set of pass defense opponents than the Jaguars over the remainder of the season, according to Warren Sharp’s calculations, and that includes dream matchups in Weeks 15 (Oakland Raiders) and 16 (Atlanta Falcons), games typically reserved for the fantasy football payoffs.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, New Orleans Saints (available in 99 percent of fantasy leagues)
It’s unknown how viable a starter Bridgewater will be, but he did get the call in last year’s regular-season finale, completing 14 of 22 passes for 118 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He failed to muster much offense in relief of Brees on Sunday (17 for 30, 165 yards and no touchdowns) and will have to face the Seattle Seahawks in Week 3 if Brees is unavailable.
Seattle has been a good run-stopping unit in 2019, perhaps forcing the Saints to win with Bridgewater throwing from under center. That could pad his passing numbers for the week and make him an attractive waiver wire claim if all else fails. After all, New Orleans is loaded with offensive weapons, from running back Alvin Kamara to wideout Michael Thomas to tight end Jared Cook.
Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals (available in 70 percent of fantasy leagues)
Dalton threw for 311 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday’s 41-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, giving him at least 300 passing yards in his first two games.
Now here comes the bad news. Next week the Bengals have to face the Buffalo Bills, a top 10 pass-rushing unit with 44 sacks, hits and hurries in two games. In Week 5 brings the Arizona Cardinals, featuring one of the best secondaries in the NFL. Cincinnati’s Week 6 opponent is the Baltimore Ravens (71.2 passer rating against in 2019 well below the league average of 95.2); Week 7 is the Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 2 pass rush and No. 3 secondary heading into the regular season, per Pro Football Focus) and Week 8 is the Los Angeles Rams (67.3 passer rating against this season, third best in the NF). Then, after the bye in Week 9, the Bengals face the Ravens again.
Mason Rudolph, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers (available in 99.999 percent of fantasy leagues)
Rudolph, a third-round pick in the 2018 NFL draft, had never tossed a pass in the NFL until Sunday. His first career throw was an incompletion to running back James Conner (who later suffered a knee injury and did not return). His second throw was intercepted after a dropped pass by wideout Donte Moncrief. Rudolph did finish the day with 112 yards and two touchdowns, his longest throw a 45-yard strike to JuJu Smith-Schuster.
There was also some buzz for Rudolph coming out of college. In 2017, his passer rating in a clean pocket (no pass pressure) ranked him fifth in the draft class, per Pro Football Focus. His passer rating under pressure was also 39.5 points higher than the NCAA average.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans (available in 78 percent of fantasy leagues)
Mariota completed 19 of 28 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown against the Colts on Sunday and could become more productive with more play-action opportunities. In these situations, he is 14 of 21 for 291 yards and four touchdowns this season (a 149.3 passer rating), compared to 19 for 31 for 111 yards and zero touchdowns without play action.
Please note: The Titans will play the Jaguars next week, then the Atlanta Falcons, Bills, Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers, potentially making for a bumpy few weeks.