The best NFL plays are, to paraphrase The Longest Yard, schoolyard nonsense, and there is nothing more nonsensical than someone other than the quarterback throwing the ball. There’s a reason people have Philly Special tattoos. It’s an automatic highlight (and automatically generates jokes like “that guy should be the quarterback!” from your dad).
Sunday was a great day for schoolyard nonsense (and dad jokes). Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. threw a 49-yard touchdown pass that gave the Giants a 10-point lead against the Bears, and Bears running back Tarik Cohen answered with a touchdown pass that sent the game to overtime, making it the first game in 10 years in which two non-quarterback players threw a touchdown pass. Ravens punter Sam Koch threw a strike for a first down on a fake punt, and the active leader in touchdown passes among non-quarterbacks, Falcons receiver Mohamed Sanu, threw the first incompletion of his career. (He’s now 6-for-7 with three touchdowns.) With all of these non-quarterbacks running trick plays, it’s time to determine who is the best quarterback of the non-quarterbacks. With a trick play dialed up and the game on the line, who do you want throwing the ball right now? Let’s count down the top 10:
10. Emmanuel Sanders, Wide Receiver, Denver Broncos
In Week 7 against the Cardinals, Sanders threw a 28-yard strike to rookie receiver Courtland Sutton. It’s impressive that Sanders throws this ball on the run, but it would’ve been more impressive if he stopped, set his feet, and delivered an on-target attempt. Sutton bailed him out with the diving grab. (Sanders’s perfect passer rating in this game is a great example of why passer rating is a lie.)
9. Sam Koch, Punter, Baltimore Ravens
Punters often roll right on a fake, or at least target someone on the sideline. Not Koch. He feints like he’s going to punt, then coolly sets his feet and delivers a strike to the middle of the field. He’s officially in the conversation for Baltimore starter alongside Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson, and Robert Griffin III next week. (Yes, I made the dad joke. The flesh is weak.)
8. Julian Edelman, Wide Receiver, New England Patriots
Edelman entered Sunday as the only non-quarterback with more than one pass attempt this year. When Edelman has receiving talent, he can do excellent things.
But unfortunately, this year’s Patriots are relying on inexperienced receivers.
7. Danny Amendola, Wide Receiver, Miami Dolphins
New England sure does produce diminutive wide receivers who can chuck the ball. The former Patriot threw this 28-yard touchdown pass in Week 8 in Miami’s game against Houston from one set of numbers to the other—which is harder than it looks—and dropped it in perfectly to running back Kenyan Drake. Amendola is an underrated thrower. It’s not his fault if his receivers can’t catch.
(Let’s watch that again in slo-mo.)
6. Tarik Cohen, Running Back, Chicago Bears
A lot of trick plays are dialed up on third-and-long, during a comeback attempt, or in a seemingly innocuous moment in the game. That’s not what happened here. On the 1-yard line with three seconds left, no timeouts, and down seven points, the Bears turned to Cohen on their last play of regulation. Cohen rolls right on the reverse and delivers a perfect ball to Anthony Miller. Loads of bonus points for the confidence head coach Matt Nagy had in Cohen.
5. Chris Boswell, Kicker, Pittsburgh Steelers
Boswell threw a 2-yard touchdown pass off his back foot while floating backward to tackle Alejandro Villanueva. Big Ben famously has trouble playing well on the road. Boswell does not.
4. Johnny Hekker, Punter, Los Angeles Rams
A fun fact is that Johnny Hekker is better than Todd Gurley, Jared Goff, Aaron Donald, and everyone else on the Rams. He has the biggest leg of any punter in football, but his arm is pretty strong, too. Yes, this pass fell incomplete, but that’s on Josh Reynolds, not Hekker. The pass is really pretty, and the pump fake was beautiful.
3. Mohamed Sanu, Receiver, Atlanta Falcons
Sanu does not have a completion this year, but he is the active leader in touchdown passes among non-quarterbacks with three on seven attempts, which basically makes him the best quarterback in NFL history. His incompletion on Sunday was the first incompletion of his career (he’s trending down, very sad) but this pass from last year was so good it’s still relevant for current ranking purposes.
MOHAMED SANU WITH THE 51 YARD BOMB TO JULIO JONES FOR A TOUCHDOWN. pic.twitter.com/ihnAR6d83W— Georgia Sports Now (@GASportsNow) November 26, 2017
A lot of the receivers on this list have the luck of getting wide-open throws. Not Sanu.
Mohamed Sanu could be a starting quarterback on at least 7 NFL teams. pic.twitter.com/OmFWTtsmPY— 360°FantasyFootball (@360FFB) December 1, 2017
2. Trey Burton, Tight End, Chicago Bears
He threw the Philly Special in the Super Bowl. [Jeff Foxworthy voice] If that’s not good enough for you, you might be a bitter Patriots fan.
1. Odell Beckham Jr.
If you come for the king, you best not miss. Beckham told reporters earlier this season he wanted to home in on Sanu’s lead for non-quarterback TD passes, and he now has two this season. Beckham’s first touchdown pass of his career came on a 57-yard touchdown pass to Saquon Barkley against the Carolina Panthers the same week he called out Eli Manning for not throwing the ball deep enough. (If you want something done right … )
He secured the crown as the league’s best non-quarterback QB on Sunday with his 49-yard touchdown to Russell Shepard.
Odell stutter-stepped and barely set his feet before launching a ball that traveled 50 yards in the air.
Odell might have a stronger arm than Manning at this point in his career. The biggest threat to Beckham atop this non-quarterback list isn’t another person catching him, but the Giants actually making him their quarterback.