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Matthew Stafford is an odd guy. No, not because of his innovative offseason workout habits. You party on, Matty.

He’s intriguing because with OTAs beginning for most teams now and with the NFL offseason clock quickly clicking towards training camps (oh gawd move faster please thanks), projecting what Stafford we’ll see in 2013 is difficult. He’s not unique in that sense, especially among his quarterback peers. Often unless your last name is Rodgers or Brady or Brees or Manning (arguably both Mannings, but definitely Peyton), there’s little need for concern. The rest, though, usually have at least one lingering question mark.

For Stafford, his best efforts to create apprehension could actually be beneficial and result in fine fantasy value.

Oh, and money. That too.

This past season, Stafford side-armed his way into becoming the root of your seething fantasy rage. Let me take you back to a time when we were all feeling the pain of the sporadic Stafford rock-skipping chuck. After he watched far more Stafford tape than the normal dosage doctors recommend, our boy Alen Dumonjic wrote this in late November:

Stafford’s footwork continues to be undesirable, blatantly showing a lack of proper technique at the quarterback position. He doesn’t transfer his weight with any sort of consistency, as instead he tends to open his hips and then just let the ball fly. This was troublesome last season as well, when he tended to do more of the leaning back like Kobe Bryant on a fade away jump-shot. He still does that and it’s still a problem, because despite all his arm strength, he easily puts a cap on it due to his lack of weight transfer. Instead of his weight coming forward, it’s all on his back foot whether he’s leaning back and throwing or simply just opening his hips up and throwing.

It was downright weird, and maddening. We know that he has the arm strength to make long and accurate throws, and we know he has the footwork to plant properly to ensure the highest level of accuracy. Yet increasingly throughout last season, we saw wobbly and wayward throws which were needlessly rushed.

Statistically, the results showed in his INT:TD ratio. A year after throwing a career high 41 touchdown passes, Stafford’s TD total fell to just 20. That number was only three higher than his 17 interceptions, after the gap between those two digits was 25 in 2011. His decline in fantasy scoring then which saw Stafford fall from being among the elite quarterbacks to still being sort of alright, but sandwiched in between two rookies with his 263 points (Andrew Luck and Russel Wilson) was almost solely a product of that drop in scoring, which equaled a decrease of 66 points.

Early indicatations are that’s what will also lead to a sizable discount. So basically, we could all benefit from Stafford falling from being stupid good, to only moderately good. Neat.

Stafford has essentially had only two fully healthy seasons, so gauging which Stafford we’ll see in 2013 isn’t something that’s easy. I’ll lay out a few fun facts which highlight why there’s a very good chance the 2011 model will resurface.

  • Despite the fall in scoring, Stafford experienced only a very minimal drop in overall yardage (from 5,038 to 4,967).
  • That gap can partly be blamed on a lack of diversity among his targets, and a deep threat who isn’t named Calvin Johnson. Both Ryan Broyles and Nate Burleson went down, contributing to a sharp decline in +40 yard completions (from 16 in 2011 to 9). Burleson will easily return for Week 1, and Broyles will likely follow shortly after.
  • Although Joique Bell provided some pass-catching pop out of the backfield with 485 receiving yards, the addition of Reggie Bush brings an opportunity for even greater open field chunk yardage. His single-season high is 742 receiving yards.
  • But what’s perhaps most encouraging is the Lions offense, and the tendency to throw the football a whole lot. Stafford has led the league in pass attempts for two straight seasons (most notably in 2012, with 727 attempts, and Drew Brees was way behind in second with 670). That high volume will consistently keep hope alive for promising returns.

Keep in mind all of those compelling reasons to ignore the immense pain you experienced after investing a first-round pick in Stafford last fall, and now let’s return to that wondrous notion of value, because the pick you’ll have to use on him could be significantly lower this year.

Last August, Stafford was on average the fourth quarterback off the board, selected around 16th overall in the second round. That’s what led to so many ponds filled with your tears.

But among people who care passionately enough to do a lot of mock drafting in May, Stafford’s stock is falling due to uncertainty, and whether or not we’ll see 2011 Matty or 2012 Matty this fall. Through 368 mocks at My Fantasy League, Stafford has been — again, on average — the 10th quarterback off the board at about 62nd overall in the sixth round. That’s a fall of over four rounds which gets even better over at Fantasy Football Calculator, where he’s being drafted at about 71st overall through 522 drafts.

Any risk associated with Stafford is beginning to becoming easily manageable and marginalized at those draft positions, and he’s even beginning to creep towards the late-round QB wheelhouse.