Matt Stafford was the top pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, an honor that brings significant pressure with it. He was quickly given the starting job (he made 10 starts during his rookie season) for a franchise generally seen as inept.
The numbers, however, show promise:
The team continues to try and improve the talent surrounding him. With their second pick in the first round (30th overall) they added Jahvid Best, considered the most explosive running back in the draft. While there are concerns with concussions, there’s no doubting the talent he brings to the table.
You couple him with a healthy Kevin Smith and you get a running game that can take the pressure off a young QB.
The team also upgraded at wide receiver, giving Stafford more weapons to work with. Nate Burleson, coming off a year that he had 63 catches, was brought in from Seattle. He certainly will add a veteran presence to the receiving corps and joins one of the elite, Calvin Johnson, in the starting lineup.
They also added Tony Sheffler at tight end, who will likely operate behind Brandon Pettigrew. Still, it’s another viable target.
As for Stafford himself, the interceptions are skewed slightly from three bad games:
- 5 Interceptions vs. the Seahawks on 11/08
- 4 Interceptions vs. the Packers on 11/26
- 3 Interceptions vs. the Saints on 09/13 (his NFL debut)
That means in his other seven starts he had just eight interceptions. That certainly is much more palatable, isn’t it? He’s young and is still going to have his struggles, but they should start to come less often as he adjusts to the NFL game.
Only twice in 2009 did he throw more then one touchdown in a game (5 against the Browns and 2 against the Seahawks). Again, with more experience and better weapons, the TDs should come more often.
While his season was cut short due to a knee injury (he was placed on the injured reserve on December 24), it’s not expected to impact him in 2010. Don’t consider that an issue.
The fact is that Stafford is young and will be inconsistent at times. Still, he has tremendous upside and the Lions have taken the steps to improve the talent around him. An improved running game will take some of the pressure off. A better receiving corps will help to make plays. As long as the offensive line can keep him on his feet, things should improve.
He’s not a starter in one-quarterback formats, but he certainly is usable as a QB2. I have him slotted at #17 on my most recent QB rankings (click here to view). He’s just a better risk over fellow young QBs like Mark Sanchez and Matt Leinart in my mind. The Jets are a run first team, while the Cardinals have said they are going to run more.
The Lions, meanwhile, could easily continue to turn Stafford loose as he matures. The combination of Stafford-Johnson has the potential to be one of the most electric in the league. That certainly helps boost his value.
What about you? What are your thoughts on Stafford? How good could he be in 2010?
Make sure to check out our 2010 rankings:
Also, make sure to check out our recent rookie rankings: