I have two fantasy drafts coming up this week, and here is a not-so-secret message to anyone else participating in those leagues: You can have Matthew Stafford. I don’t want him.
The funny part is, I didn’t even realize this until today.
The fourth-year signal caller for the Detroit Lions, Stafford is blessed with a cannon arm, stunning lack of chin and, most importantly, Calvin Johnson. The Georgia product posted Tecmo Super Bowl numbers last year — 41 touchdowns and 5,038 passing yards against 16 interceptions — on his way to 383.9 points in standard fantasy scoring leagues. As a result, he has been pegged as a mid-to-late second round pick in most drafts, often times the fourth quarterback off the board after the holy trinity of Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady.
I understand the appeal, but suffice to say, Stafford is too rich for my blood this year. After taking him early in a mock draft and seeing how the rest of my team shook out, I started to think a little more about his potential upside and, conversely, the downside.The end result? Last year was the upside, and this year is the down.
Without further ado, here’s why you won’t find Stafford on any of my rosters this season:
Supporting Cast (or lack thereof) Stafford is lucky enough to have Calvin Johnson, arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL, as his primary target every Sunday. Even when it seems like Megatron is wearing a Snuggie made of the opposing team’s jerseys, he somehow worms his way open, hauling in whatever hail mary Stafford throws up for him. The tandem was a tremendous fantasy pairing in 2011, to be sure. But can you even name one other valuable offensive asset in Detroit? (I’ll give you a minute to think of one.) If you answered Kevin Smith, try again. Jahvid Best? PUP list. Mikel Leshoure? I think he is somewhere noshing on Doritos.
What am I getting at here?
Stafford will not be supported by the running game at all this year, and his production will ultimately suffer.
“But Green Bay doesn’t have a running game, and Aaron Rodgers is just fine,” you say. True. But Aaron Rodgers also has a harem of receivers to gun the ball to whenever he pleases. With Stafford and Megatron being the only threat, defenses will catch on.
And if you said Brandon Pettigrew is a threat, shame on you.
Division Foes Detroit is a member of the NFC North, which is surprisingly underrated as far as defense goes. With Stafford playing nearly half his games against Chicago, Minnesota, and a Green Bay defense with a chip on its shoulder, my money is on a step back in production. Jared Allen will have his lasso out faster than you can say “mullet,” Brian Urlacher will be refreshed after kicking Jenny McCarthy to the curb, and I’m pretty sure Clay Matthews’ hair tastes as good as it looks. Not my ideal Sunday, but whatever floats your boat.
Durability This is mildly related to my last point. With the strength of the defenders in Detroit’s division, Stafford is bound to take some hits. In fact, Stafford was sacked an almost Roethlisbergian 36 times last season. Yes, his balky shoulder held up well, but last year was the first time in his career he made it through all 16 games unscathed. That kind of track record is not enough for me to risk a second round pick on.
Ceiling vs. Floor This is probably the most crucial factor in my decision to pass on Stafford this season. While he had otherworldly fantasy output last year, did anyone come out of the gates expecting him to put up those kinds of numbers? Stafford hit his ceiling last season, and he did it by throwing the ball a whopping 663 times. No offense can be that one-dimensional for two seasons in a row without experiencing a drop off in points. Defenses know exactly what to prepare for when facing Detroit, and no one will be caught off guard by Stafford like they were last season. Also, I am pretty sure that if he throws that many passes again he is going to have to recruit Steve Young for lessons, because his right arm will have fallen off. It is just not realistic for the same production as last season.
In the end, Stafford is a fun player to watch in an exciting offense. To me, though, he isn’t worth a second round pick. If I am going to take a young quarterback at that price point, I am going with Cam Newton, who has mobility, a better offensive line, a three-headed running game, and far more generous defenses in his division. Better yet, I am loading up on a top receiver with my second round pick, taking Robert Griffin III in the sixth or seventh, and laughing all the way to the playoffs.
But, as with any fantasy football pick, there is always that carrot of reward hanging out there with the inherent risk. Personally, I don’t like carrot cake, but someone in your league certainly will, and they’ll be experiencing the Stafford sugar crash before the bye week.