Matthew Stafford quarterbacks my favorite NFL team, and although I heartily recommend drafting players you want to root for, it’s important to be even more skeptical of such players when doing your evaluations.
While Stafford may have more upside than anyone not named Aaron Rodgers, the QB1 tier is so strong and deep that you have to consider downside as well. By my count, there are a whopping nine guys with basically no red flags (the five elite passers and the four dynamic dual threats). With the possible exception of injuries, nothing worrisome jumps out in their peripherals at all. They are essentially the perfect combination of high floor, high ceiling.
Stafford’s multiple red flags hold him out of the lock group, a bizarre turn of events since in many formats Matthew Stafford version 2011 outscored every 2012 quarterback except Drew Brees. Stafford finished as QB10 in 2012, and even that was buoyed by four somewhat fluky rushing touchdowns.
I think Stafford falls into a five person group with Andrew Luck, Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger, and Michael Vick. That group represents QB10-QB14 and may be the most important group of players to project correctly for 2013. Because strategy suggests a sizable gap between the eleventh QB off the board and the twelfth, you have to feel very strongly about a QB to select him in the 10-11 range instead of selecting your QB1 in the 12-14 range. That entire gap represents value, and it’s essentially the last value in the entire draft since quality at RB and WR absolutely craters right in that vicinity.
While Vick was a terrible passer in 2012, Stafford is the one who finished dead last in passing fantasy points per attempt (PFPA) out of our low-end QB1 group. In fact, Stafford finished 29th in that category, sandwiched between Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert. (Roethlisberger finished 7th.)
Everyone’s familiar with Stafford’s record-setting 727 attempts. I’ve convinced myself he’ll lead the league in attempts again in 2013, but it’s still a number which should be poised for a sharp correction. The correlation between run/pass ratio and total team plays is surprisingly minimal, so even if Detroit is pass-heavy again in 2013, their attempts should plummet unless they increase their up tempo looks.
I like Stafford as the next Dan Marino. They are, after all, the only two guys to put up one, much less two 4,700-plus yard seasons before age 25. Of course, the passing environment has changed dramatically since Marino played. Unless you like Stafford as Marino 2.0, then he shouldn’t be on your 2013 fantasy team.