NFL insiders spot on with ranking of Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has put up some mind-boggling numbers in his first five professional seasons, but when all the factors are considered, he ranks in the middle of the pack among his peers according to a survey conducted by ESPN of 26 NFL general managers, head coaches, coordinators and pro personnel evaluators.
The participants were asked to rank the league's 32 starting quarterbacks, on a scale from 1-5, with one being the best. ESPN averaged the scores, placing the QBs into one of four tiers. Stafford checked in at No. 13 overall (2.38 average rating), near the bottom of the second tier.
Stafford is sandwiched between former Super Bowl champion Joe Flacco and rising star Colin Kaepernick. Looking over the complete list, Stafford's ranking is perfectly appropriate.
No one, including those surveyed, question Stafford's raw talent. The article notes he is the one player outside the top tier with the most potential to rise to the upper echelon of the position. But at this stage, Stafford's resume is still light.
Yes, there are the ridiculous statistics. And they are ridiculous. He's averaged 4,885 passing yards and 30 touchdowns the past three seasons. But inconsistencies linger with his accuracy, decision-making and mechanics.
Stafford's supporters will point to the drops, and they have a point, but even discounting the receiving blunders, his accuracy is still average. Pro Football Focus ranked Stafford 18th in their accuracy metric, which factors out drops, throw-aways, batted passes and spikes.
Then there is the most important metric; wins.
Of course a quarterback doesn't shoulder the full weight of a win-loss record, but it still plays a significant role in how he is viewed, unfair or not. Stafford carries a 24-38 regular season record into his sixth year, including a dismal 2-28 against teams that finished the season with a winning mark.
But Stafford's arrow is still pointing up. The Lions have retooled this offseason, providing their franchise signal-caller with better offensive weapons and a coaching staff dedicated to polishing his game.
It's not only conceivable, but expected, Stafford will take a step forward this season.
If he cleans up some of the inconsistencies, and the Lions achieve even moderate team success -- such as a playoff berth or division crown -- Stafford could climb well into the top 10 if the same poll were conducted next year.
But if he and the Lions stay the course, Stafford will continue to be viewed as a second-tier quarterback with untapped potential.
Here are a few other observations from the quarterback rankings:
-- No arguments with the top four of Tom Brady, Petyon Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. When the word "elite" is thrown around, these are the only quarterbacks who qualify.
-- Andrew Luck's first-tier status (No. 5) is premature. He's a winner despite average talent around him, he can make all the throws and he's an underrated athlete, but there are still some inconsistencies to his game. Given his progression, he could be the best quarterback in the game in five years, possibly sooner.
-- Russell Wilson (tied No.
gets the game-manager label from some, but anyone who has watched more than a handful of Seahawks contests knows he is capable of doing anything needed to win. The thing I like best is he's mobile, but intelligent with his mobility, almost always looking to throw first, even when scrambling from the pocket.
-- Tony Romo is ranked too high (tied No.
. Like Stafford, Romo has put up some monster numbers, and he's more accurate than his Detroit counterpart, but no one has a history of melting down as often as the Cowboys quarterback.
-- I'd flip Kaepernick (No. 14 and tier two) and Cam Newton (No. 16 and tier 3). Give Newton the 49ers' offensive talent and play-calling and we're talking about a top-10 player on this list.
-- Jay Cutler (No.17) is ranked too low. He may be the league's least likable quarterback, but his talent is underrated.