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These backup QBs show potential to start in the future

In a league that is predicated on the performance of quarterbacks, scouts and coaches are always searching for the next big thing.

Sometimes the face of the future is identified in the draft, but recently we have seen teams pluck their franchise quarterback from the bottom of an opponents' roster.

The Kansas City Chiefs, for example, nabbed Matt Cassell after watching him guide the New England Patriots to an 11-win season when he took over for an injured Tom Brady in 2008.

While most young quarterbacks don't experience the sudden success of Cassell, teams are more willing than ever to gamble on glimpses of potential that might show up in mop-up duty.

As teams seek out those emerging quarterbacks, let's take a look at five young backups who are squarely on the radar:

Dennis Dixon, Pittsburgh Steelers

Dixon has shown flashes of being a dynamic playmaker in limited action as a fill-in. He possesses outstanding athleticism and a strong arm, which makes him a dangerous threat on the perimeter. Within the pocket, however, Dixon still needs work on his footwork and fundamentals. He doesn't fully incorporate his lower body into his throws, and his accuracy woes are the result of suspect mechanics. In spite of his unrefined game, Dixon is an intriguing prospect because he is a big-play threat capable of thriving in a wide-open offensive system.

Caleb Hanie, Chicago Bears

Hanie opened eyes around the league with his surprising performance against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game. His arm strength rates above average, and he throws the ball with exceptional velocity. Hanie's natural physical skills are also complemented by sound footwork and fundamentals in the pocket. Even though his inexperience will lead to some mistakes in his reads and progressions, his ability to play well against an elite defense in a high-pressure environment will prompt some to take a closer look.

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Matt Flynn, Green Bay Packers

It would be easy to cast Flynn as a "one-hit wonder" after watching his surprising performance in his debut start against the Patriots last season, but he appears to have skills built for the long haul. As an efficient passer with above average arm strength, Flynn is capable of making all of the throws in most pro-style offenses. His accuracy and touch are also pretty impressive for an inexperienced player. Although one game doesn't make a career, Flynn's solid performance against the Patriots has opened several eyes across the league and placed him squarely on the radar of teams searching for a future franchise quarterback.

Brian Hoyer, New England Patriots

Hoyer could become the next Patriots backup to emerge from obscurity to relevance. He has performed exceptionally well during the preseason the past two years, and has also been solid in his spot appearances. Hoyer shows solid footwork, mechanics and awareness in the pocket. He is not only a sound decision maker with the ball in his hands, but he has the patience to pick apart coverages by taking what the defense is willing to surrender. Hoyer's style will not impress on tape, but his steady production and sensible approach could make him the right guy for a team looking for a reliable game manager.

Joe Webb, Minnesota Vikings

Webb might be a surprising inclusion on this list due to his abysmal stat line as the Vikings' starter. However, his flashes of athletic brilliance have captivated scouts. He is an explosive runner outside of the pocket, and his scrambling skills force opponents to play him straight up from a coverage standpoint. Unfortunately, he hasn't consistently shown the ability to punish opponents with precise passes due to his unrefined throwing mechanics. Webb will certainly make strides under the tutelage of new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, so he could finally develop the skills to beat opponents as a true dual threat. If he can find a way to release his natural talents, Webb could develop into an intriguing option in the future.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks

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