One of the most perfectly executed plays of the 2014-2015 NFL playoffs was the Brady to Edelman to Amendola passing play during the New England Patriots' win over the Baltimore Ravens back in January. It stood as a great reminder that every now and again a high school or college quarterback ends up playing receiver in the NFL.
One of the most notable current examples is Julian Edelman, who played college ball for Kent State. He was a quarterback, and standing just 5'10, he needed to be fast. His speed (which is phenomenal) in conjunction with having good hands, is why he now plays as a wide receiver.
While such players are rare, having a receiver or running back who can accurately chuck a pigskin thirty or forty yards is a great weapon for a coach to keep in his back pocket. The Brady to Edelman pass play is just one example of what is possible, while another option is a fake reverse in which the receiver stops rather than cutting up-field and throws up a bomb. These plays are so deceptive that even some of the best defensive backs will bite. At the same time, as with any machine with multiple "moving parts." the more throws and hand-offs involved in a play, the more opportunities for a massive failure to occur. In short, plays that involve a non quarterback throwing passes are difficult to set up and execute but when done properly they are a thing of beauty.
This list will detail some of the NFL's best non-quarterback passers since 1970. This date was chosen because we wanted to keep the list somewhat familiar, involving names at least a few fans would remember, in conjunction with a few more recent names. Passing yards, completion rate and of course touchdowns and interceptions were used as the main criteria for the list, and all stats were compiled from pro-football-reference.com.
10 Joe Washington
The 1976 fourth overall pick starts off our list. Washington played running back for ten years, winning Super Bowl XVII with the Redskins back in 1983 and being selected to the 1979 Pro Bowl, after he rushed and caught for over 1,600 total yards and scored seven touchdowns. In terms of his passing game, he threw 5/11 for 179 yards, and Washington threw three touchdown passes and just a single pick. All three of his touchdown passes were thrown early in his career, with one in 1977 and two in 1978. His most notable was a 54 yarder to Roger Carr on an option play.
9 Andy Johnson
Johnson played for the New England Patriots between 1974 and 1982. His overall career stats are not very impressive, as he rushed and caught for just under 4,000 yards over his nine years and never started a full season. 1976 was his best year, combining for over 1,000 rushing and receiving yards. After going 0-4 on his first four passing attempts, Johnson threw a touchdown pass in a losing effort in the 1978 playoffs when the Patriots were beaten by the Dolphins. Three years later however, New England had new starting running backs and Johnson came to contribute on deceptive plays. In 1981, he completed 7 of 9 passes for a total of 194 yards, four touchdowns and a single pick.
8 Willard Harrell
Drafted by the Packers in the third round of 1975, Harrell was a running back who also contributed on kick and punt returns. While most of his career was spent with the St. Louis Cardinals as a backup, his first three years with the Packers were his most successful. In those years, apart from starting at running back, he completed 5/10 passes with four being caught for touchdowns. He would add a single reception and two incompletions in his seven years with St. Louis.
While his overall stats were never enough to blow anyone away, Harrell was a great utility player, possessing a good mix of speed, hands, power and of course, an arm that could deliver a solid pass when needed.
7 Marcus Allen
Hall of Famer Marcus Allen is one of the most successful rushers in the history of American football. His brother Damon is the CFL's all time passing yards leader, having played 23 seasons with five different teams. That family has some solid genes.
Allen won just about every award available to a college player back in 1981, before being drafted 10th overall by the L.A. Raiders in 1982. He won NFL Rookie of the Year that year and helped the Raiders to a Super Bowl win the following year. He went on to rack up over 12,000 yards on the ground and 5,000 through the air, scoring 144 all purpose touchdowns.
Did we mention he could throw? Throughout his 16 year career, he attempted 27 passes. 12 of these were completions, while he threw just a single pick. He finished with 282 yards passing and six passing touchdowns.
6 Keith Byars
Much like Harrell, Byars was another utility player who could contribute in many ways. Playing mostly fullback throughout his 1986-1998 career, he was not just a blocker, but had quick feet for a big guy and soft hands as well, catching for over 5,000 yards in his career and lining up as a tight end on certain plays. His total yards from scrimmage over his 13 year career is 8,770 which is among the most in history for a fullback. Throughout his years in the NFL, Byars also tossed 13 passes, completing six for touchdowns.
5 Mohamed Sanu
The only member of this list who is still playing in the NFL is Mohamed Sanu of the Cincinnati Bengals. A freak athlete, dominating track and field events throughout high school, he played quarterback before playing wide receiver for Rutgers and being drafted in the third round in 2012.
Back in 2012, Sanu, who was drafted for his triple threat, rushing, receiving and throwing abilities, started a game in late September as a wildcat quarterback and tossed a touchdown pass to AJ Green. He threw for this touchdown five weeks prior to his first receiving touchdown. Sanu is 5/5 in his career with two scores. Interestingly, his most recent touchdown pass was to quarterback Andy Dalton, the Red Rifle.
With Sanu just 25 years old at the time of writing, there are still many years for him to contribute to the Bengals' offense in the future. While others on the list may have higher touchdown and yardage numbers, Sanu is here because of his 100% completion rate.
4 Greg Pruitt
The five-time Pro Bowl running back and returner from the 70's is our number four. While he spent much of his career with the Browns, he achieved his greatest success in 1983, when he made the Pro Bowl (as a return specialist) and won Super Bowl XVIII with the Raiders. While he was with Cleveland, specifically between 1974 and 1977, he made 14 passing attempts, completing eight with six going for touchdowns. 1978, however, was a different story, as Pruitt would get two passing opportunities and give up two interceptions. He passed just once for the rest of his career, five years later while playing for the Raiders.
3 Walter Payton
"Sweetness" is one of the greatest running backs in the history of the game, and as he was also one of the greatest personalities; this gem was taken away from the football world far too soon. 125 total touchdowns, over 16,000 yards, with an average of 4.4 yards per carry, 4,538 receiving yards, and of course a five-time First-Team All-Pro and Super Bowl Champion (Super Bowl XX).
In his career, he threw 11 completions on 34 attempts, with eight touchdowns and six interceptions for 331 passing yards.
2 LaDainian Tomlinson
The future Hall of Famer, LT, is our number two, having been one of the best threats for the halfback option in the league for years. He played from 2001 to 2011 and when he wasn't tearing through defenses on the ground or breaking touchdown records, he was using his strong and accurate arm to hit receivers downfield.
He passed just a total of 12 times throughout his years with the Chargers and Jets. Eight of those were completed and seven went for touchdowns. He did not throw an interception, but was sacked twice as a passer.
1 Antwaan Randle El
Having played quarterback for the Indiana Hoosiers in college, Randle El, much like Julian Edelman, was a great option for trick plays. Once again, like Edelman, he was fast in college and his speed and hands made him an attractive wide receiver pick. The Steelers picked him in the 2nd round of the 2002 draft. Randle El was also a return specialist who averaged 8.2 yards per return on punts and 22.3 yards per return on kickoffs, with six total return touchdowns in his career.
With regard to passing, he holds the highest career passer rating, 156.1, out of all NFL players who have attempted a minimum of 20 passes. He threw 27 passes in his career, with 22 completions. Six of his throws went for touchdowns and possibly his most impressive feat is that he is the only NFL wide receiver to ever throw a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Back at Super Bowl XL in 2006, Randle El caught three passes for 22 yards but also threw a 43 yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward, that Super Bowl's MVP.