Saints QB depth chart: How NFL’s new emergency QB rule gives Taysom Hill extra value

For a time, it seemed as if the Taysom Hill experiment with the Saints had ended.

Before the 2022 NFL season, the Saints officially changed Hill’s position to tight end. So the BYU product would no longer be played at quarterback; New Orleans would instead use him as a versatile weapon to take advantage of his unique athletic skill set.

But during that season, Hill continued to line up primarily at quarterback. He played at other spots, too, but it became clear that despite his listing, he really was something of a gadget quarterback for the Saints offense.

It appears that New Orleans is ready to admit that’s the case. Entering the 2023 NFL season, Hill’s positional designation once again changed, and it seems to more accurately reflect at least where he lines up on the field.

But was there a reason that the Saints switched Hill’s position back to quarterback? Here’s where the 33-year-old falls on the Saints’ quarterback depth chart and why the NFL’s emergency third quarterback rule could have influenced the team’s listing of Hill.

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What is Taysom Hill’s position?

For the 2023 NFL season, Taysom Hill is listed as a quarterback on the Saints roster. That differs from last season when he was listed as a tight end for the first time since joining New Orleans’ roster in 2017.

So why did the Saints change Hill’s position back to quarterback? Coach Dennis Allen explained that it was “more of a clerical thing than anything else” before the season began.

“Taysom took, I think, almost 50 percent of his snaps last year at the quarterback position,” Allen said, per ESPN’s Katherine Terrell. “So I don’t know that there’s anything really to that other than he kind of plays a lot of different positions.”

Indeed, Hill officially played 45.2 percent of his snaps at quarterback and spent no more than 18.5 percent of his snaps at any other position. So, while he may not be a traditional quarterback — he ran 96 times and threw just 19 passes in his limited role last season — it is, by definition, his primary position.

That said, fantasy football owners need not worry too much about this designation. Most fantasy leagues are still listing Hill as a tight end for the 2023 season, though some have reserved the right to change his designated position back to quarterback if he ends up starting a game at the position.

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Why Taysom Hill’s position listing is important

Why exactly is Hill’s position is important outside of fantasy football? After all, he serves as a multi-faceted weapon for the Saints, so why does it matter where he is listed? He will likely continue to play multiple positions, be it quarterback, tight end, wide receiver or otherwise.

Well, the reason that Hill’s positional listing for 2023 is so important is the NFL’s new emergency third quarterback rule.

The league instituted the emergency quarterback rule during the offseason after the 49ers were forced to play Brock Purdy in the NFC championship game despite the quarterback nursing a torn UCL. The team had lost backup Josh Johnson to a concussion and had only two quarterbacks on its active roster.

The NFL wanted to avoid seeing that happen again, so the league instituted a rule that teams can dress an emergency third quarterback on game days. This rule is restrictive by design, as it is meant to be used only in case of an emergency (as the name would indicate).

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NFL’s emergency third QB rule, explained

So, what conditions are involved in being able to designate an emergency third quarterback? The league states that the third quarterback is subject to the following requirements.

  • The emergency third quarterback must be on a club’s 53-man roster. The player cannot be elevated from the practice squad to be eligible for that role. 
  • A team will not be eligible for an emergency third quarterback if its starting and backup quarterbacks are not on the 53-man roster. Thus, all three quarterbacks must be on the 53-man roster for the emergency quarterback rule to be applied.
  • A club must have two bona fide quarterbacks on its 47/48-player gameday active list in order to designate an emergency third.
  • A team with three-plus bona fide quarterbacks on its 47/48-player gameday active list is not eligible to designate another emergency quarterback.

For those wondering what the NFL considers a “bona fide quarterback” to be, the league gave this definition in its release outlining the new quarterback rule.

For the purposes of the Emergency Third Quarterback rule, a bona fide quarterback is defined as a player who wears a jersey number authorized for a quarterback and (a) is an established quarterback (e.g., someone who has customarily played the position in past professional or college seasons); or (b) is a player who takes regular-season snaps only at quarterback during at least three consecutive weeks of practice, including any week the player would be listed as an Emergency Third Quarterback.

So, to recap, a team must have three quarterbacks on its 53-man roster to utilize the extra measure of depth and the players listed as quarterbacks must actually be quarterbacks.

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How NFL’s emergency QB rule affects Saints, Taysom Hill

On the surface, one may think that designating Hill a quarterback might have a negative effect on the Saints’ ability to use this rule. As the rule states, a team with three quarterbacks listed on the active roster is not allowed to designate an emergency quarterback.

That may be true, but having Hill as a quarterback gives the Saints an extra bit of flexibility. Why? Well, if the team needs extra depth at another position, it could choose to make its normal backup quarterback, Jameis Winston, inactive and designate him as the team’s emergency quarterback.

That would make Hill the primary backup to Derek Carr for the game, as Winston would be able to enter only if both starters get hurt. But Hill — barring an injury to Carr — would still be allowed to operate within his normal role as a do-it-all offensive weapon with the Saints. So New Orleans can consider taking that approach if the team is dealing with depth issues at other positions.

Speaking of depth, Hill’s designation gives the Saints more of that at the quarterback position. They were set to be three-deep with Carr, Winston and rookie Jake Haener, but Hill adds a fourth face to the quarterback room.

As such, if one of the quarterbacks got hurt — or missed extended time, as Haener is doing during his six-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drugs policy — the Saints will still officially have three quarterbacks on the roster. That will allow them to use the emergency quarterback rule as needed without signing another player to the active roster.

One could argue that the Saints would, in effect, be doing this anyway even if they had listed Hill as a tight end. He would just play the position if the two quarterbacks in front of him got hurt.

That may be true, but without listing Hill as a quarterback, the team couldn’t then choose to use the emergency quarterback rule at any point with Haener, or another quarterback, out. So this gives them just a bit more roster flexibility.

As every NFL fan knows, there’s nothing more important than having roster flexibility. And Allen acknowledged that when discussing whether the Saints could try to take advantage of that rule.

“With us, we’re kind of being a little bit unique in that we have four guys that play the quarterback position,” Allen said. “It’s just something we’ll evaluate on a weekly basis to see … who we put out on the field and how we designate that gives us the best chance to win.”

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Saints QB depth chart

Thanks to Hill’s designation, the Saints are four-deep at quarterback when healthy. Below is a look at their depth chart at the position:

1. Derek Carr

Carr was one of the Saints’ biggest offseason acquisitions, as the team signed him to a four-year deal worth up to $150 million as it continues to look for a long-term successor to Drew Brees. Carr entered 2023 with a 63-79 record as a starter and has averaged 4,217 yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions per 17 games played during his career.

2. Jameis Winston

Winston was one of the potential Brees replacements the Saints trotted out, but he has turned into a quality backup for the team. The former No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft is 6-4 in 10 starts for the Saints and has produced 2,103 yards, 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 14 appearances overall.

Winston once led the NFL in passing yards with the Buccaneers with 5,109 in 2019, but his 30 interceptions that season showcased that he was better served as an NFL backup.

3. Taysom Hill

Hill is a unique weapon in the NFL, and he has been a decent quarterback when called upon at that position. He is 7-2 as a starter and has completed 64.5 percent of his career passes for 2,265 yards, 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Hill may not have the arm talent of Winston, but his mobility is a huge asset. He has run for 1,762 yards and 23 touchdowns during his career and should continue to be a goal-line threat for New Orleans. And while he may be on the quarterback depth chart, he will see plenty of action at tight end, in the backfield and even on special teams.

4. Jake Haener

The Saints selected Haener with a fourth-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. He was the sixth quarterback chosen overall and put himself on the radar of NFL teams after completing 72 percent of his passes for 2,896 yards, 20 touchdowns and just three interceptions in his senior year at Fresno State.

Haener will likely spend the 2023 season developing behind the scenes with the New Orleans coaching staff. He was suspended for the first six games of the season after violating the NFL’s PED policy, so it’s worth wondering whether that will stunt his development at all.


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