Apr 19, 2010
I’m wrong all the time on players, but if you can allow me to make a self-serving statement here on the QBs, I’d appreciate it.
Although I’ve certainly been wrong about some QBs in a particular season, over the long haul, I tend to be on target more often than not when it comes to this position. Like in 2001, I loved Trent Green, and I destroyed some people’s fantasy season because of that love. But Green went on to play in multiple Pro Bowls. I’ve been enamored with Matt Schaub for several years to give another example. Yeah, I was officially panicked about his ability to stay on the field heading into 2009, but my three-year affinity for Schaub did eventually prove to be something that was on the right track.
Of course there are some exceptions in which I’m kind if right and also kind of wrong. Like Jay Cutler. I’ve been a Cutler apologist from Day One, and that certainly didn’t work out too well in 2009. On the other hand, the guy was a train wreck for most of the year on a new team with a bad OL and a mediocre receiving corps – yet he still managed to account for 3800+ yards and 28 TDs. So clearly the guy can play. A lot of the time, when I’m into a QB, his fantasy draft is also a factor, and that was the case with Cutler last year.
I won’t get into my affinity for Rick Mirer in 1996 here because that was a lifetime ago and I was a novice then at this player analysis thing.
I bring this all up today because the Lions have added another weapon for QB Matthew Stafford in TE Tony Scheffler. This isn’t a huge acquisition, but it’s a good one. Scheffler’s a playmaker at the TE position, and he adds some dynamism to the Lion offense. That was needed, and I think Stafford himself is pretty damn dynamic.
Stafford has his detractors, but let the record show right now that I believe this guy can play. I think he can be special.
Last year, things got rough, but it was only his rookie season, and the team had issues. They could not run the ball at all, which makes playing the QB position extremely difficult if you’re a young starter. They were also playing from behind all the time, which is also brutal on a young signal-caller. He had a stud wideout in Calvin Johnson, but nothing else, so all the coverage got tilted Johnson’s way.
Stafford has some things to work out, like not turning his body at times when the pressure’s on, throwing with a little more precision, and not forcing too many passes. That’s a slippery slope, by the way. You want your QB to be willing to pull the trigger, like Stafford is, but there’s a fine line between having confidence in your ability to throw the rock and playing out of control, as Jay Cutler did last year. The alternative is to play too conservatively, or scared, like Brady Quinn, and that’s no good, either. It’s actually worse.
Stafford’s probably a year away from totally breaking out, but barring a surprise meltdown, totally breaking out he eventually will. He has all the tools to be not only a good NFL passer, but an elite one. Again, he has some kinks to iron out, but I have confidence in offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. If Linehan can get obscene production (in Minnesota) out of Daunte Culpepper, who plays the position like he’s in a school playground and has very little in terms of anticipation and touch, then Stafford should be in good hands. Stafford has an excellent arm, and his release to me looks fantastic. The ball comes out with some serious juice. He also has the confidence that he can make every throw, and he definitely can make every throw. That is not the case with some other young players at the position like Alex Smith, Mark Sanchez, Matt Cassel, and Matt Leinart. Sure, a guy like Sanchez has a lot to offer and he got his team to the AFC title game. But I’m talking about fantasy football; I need more from my QB than the intangibles Sanchez brings to the table.
Also very promising is Stafford’s demeanor. Although things did get hairy on the terrible Lions last year, overall he didn’t seem to play too fast, and he seemed relaxed. Stafford does need to work on his ability to manipulate defenders, but that can also come from coaching, and he seems like a pretty smart guy. He also proved to be pretty tough in 2009, and that’s always a good thing as well.
Like I said I think he needs another full season to develop, but we should start seeing some signs of serious life in 2010. The addition of WR Nate Burleson will really help, since he’s a savvy player capable of making defenses pay for smothering Calvin. And I like the addition of Scheffler as a moveable chess piece. For Stafford’s sake, I’m hoping the Lions draft a stud LT, but that might be asking too much.
In short, whenever I see a QB with all the physical tools to succeed – good size, athletic ability, a strong arm and quick release – yet also the intangibles that are key such as confidence, a willingness to pull the trigger, and a calmness and poise, then I get excited. I see that in Joe Flacco, and I started seeing that last year in Chad Henne.
I definitely see it in Matthew Stafford, but a little more so than Flacco and Henne, I just see some serious fantasy juice in Stafford. I see a guy who, if everything around him is stable and there is talent on the field, has the potential to someday put up monster numbers. I’m talking 35+ TDs and 4000+ passing yards per season. Having a true beast at WR really helps, and the Lions have given him more help this year, so let’s see if he starts show signs of future stardom in 2010. If he does, his keeper value will soar, so you may want to get him on the cheap now in a keeper or dynasty league. When I look at the Lions, I see their identity firmly placed in the hands of Stafford, a #1 pick overall in the NFL draft, and Johnson, a #2 pick overall in the NFL draft.
This is a guy who just turned 22 years old this past February. I’m not saying you’ll be getting the next Peyton Manning, but in Stafford fantasy players in keeper or dynasty leagues might be set for the next decade with Stafford, and that’s appealing.