Where’s The Love: Matthew Stafford

Matthew StaffordLatest News: Detroit Lions and Matthew Stafford have agreed on a three-year extension reportedly worth $53 million. The deal is rumored to include $41.5 million guaranteed with a $27.5 million signing bonus.

Matthew Stafford Fantasy 2013

At this time last year, Matthew Stafford was all the rage in fantasy football circles. Coming off a breakthrough season in 2011 in which he threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns. Stafford was generally being selected at the end of the first round or the beginning of the second round in 2012 fantasy drafts. While he threw for almost 5,000 yards again last season, Stafford’s touchdown total slipped dramatically as he found the endzone just 20 times. Meanwhile, young quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck, and Robert Griffin III were bursting onto the scene, pushing Stafford to the recesses of our collective fantasy minds.

The hangover from last season has Stafford generally being selected as the seventh or eighth quarterback in 2013 drafts, occasionally even falling to the tail end of the QB1 pool in 12-team leagues. But I think fantasy owners are making a mistake in downgrading him so quickly, as history tells us that Stafford’s touchdowns are likely to rebound. Of the 109 times that an NFL quarterback has thrown for at least 4,000 yards in a season, Stafford’s 248.4 yards-per-touchdown ratio from a year ago was the highest ever. On average, 4,000-yard passers throw a touchdown every 154.4 yards, and that ratio would have translated to 32 scores for Stafford in 2012.

In addition to the statistical evidence, there are on-the-field reasons to be optimistic about Stafford again this year. A big part of his regression in 2012 can be attributed to the state of Detroit’s receiving corp. Calvin Johnson again played at an all-world level, setting a new record for receiving yards in a season, but the number two receiver opposite Megatron was a revolving door. Nate Burleson appeared in just 6 games before suffering a season-ending broken leg. Titus Young, a popular fantasy sleeper last summer, appeared in only 10 games before being placed him on injured reserve because of behavioral issues. And Ryan Broyles was also limited to 10 games due to a knee injury. Jahvid Best and Kevin Smith were also expected to catch a lot of passes out of the backfield, but Best never even made it onto the field in 2012 and Smith’s reception total was less than half of his 2011 performance despite appearing in almost twice as many games. By the end of the season, Stafford was throwing passes to the likes of Brian Robiskie and Kris Durham on a regular basis.

Matthew Stafford Career Stats

Season Team G QBRat Yds Y/G TD Int Rush Yds TD Sack
2009 Detroit 10 61 2267 226.7 13 20 20 108 2 24
2010 Detroit 3 91.3 535 178.3 6 1 4 11 1 4
2011 Detroit 16 97.2 5038 314.9 41 16 22 78 0 36
2012 Detroit 16 79.8 4967 310.4 20 17 35 126 4 29
Career Totals 45 82.8 12807 284.6 80 54 81 323 7 93

At face value, the Lions didn’t do a lot to upgrade Stafford’s receiving options during the offseason, striking out on free agents such as Darrius Heyward-Bey and Domenik Hixon. But the big offseason score was the signing of Reggie Bush, who should be a dynamic playmaker for Detroit in both the running and passing game. The Lions are expected to split Bush out as a wide receiver at times, in addition to regularly sending him in motion out of the backfield, and Stafford hasn’t had that kind of weapon at his disposal since Best went down with a concussion in Week 6 of the 2011 season.

The continued dominance of Johnson, the addition of Bush, and the pending return of Burleson and Broyles – both are expected to be ready by Week 1 – should give Stafford as much offensive firepower as he has ever enjoyed with the Lions. While he may not match last year’s all-time record high for pass attempts in a season, a third consecutive run at 5,000 yards seems likely and there’s good reason to expect a bump in touchdown production over his 2012 numbers. All of which adds up to a potential top-five fantasy quarterback that might be getting overlooked on draft day.

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