Why Matthew Stafford Is Actually Ahead of the Curve

Detroit fans know a little something about overreacting. Anyone that has followed fan reactions to the Tigers’ first six games can tell you that. Combine this fan trait with the extra scrutiny that has been historically placed on Lions quarterbacks and it is no wonder that some fans are worried that Matthew Stafford is behind the learning curve, perhaps even irreparably.

Is it true? I’m quite certain it is not and that is a good thing for teams looking for a quarterback this April.

What does Stafford’s development have to do with the current crop of quarterback prospects? Take the top nine quarterbacks in the 2011 draft as rated by ESPN, insert Stafford, sort by date of birth and you will see the following:

Name DOB DYTS*
Blaine Gabbert 10/15/1989 616
Tyrod Taylor 8/3/1989 543
Cam Newton 5/11/1989 459
Jake Locker 6/15/1988 129
Ryan Mallett 6/5/1988 119
Christian Ponder 2/25/1988 18
Matthew Stafford 2/7/1988
Colin Kaepernick 11/3/1987 -96
Andy Dalton 10/29/1987 -101
Ricky Stanzi 9/3/1987 -157

*DYTS stands for Days Younger Than Stafford

Matthew Stafford fits in with this group remarkably well for already having spent two years in the NFL. Christian Ponder ranks as the top quarterback on the National Football Post big board but he will be just beginning his NFL career despite the fact that he is just 18 days younger than Stafford. Watch the NFL draft later this month and you’ll hear all the obstacles guys like Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett, Christian Ponder, Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton will have to overcome; their age won’t be one of them.

Have Stafford’s first two injury-plagued season been frustrating? Yes. Is there still a chance injuries could hurt his chances of becoming the franchise quarterback the organization envisions? Yes. Does that mean the last two season have been a waste? No. Call me crazy but I’d much rather have the guy with superior talent and the experience of two NFL seasons, even with injuries, over some fresh meat that doesn’t even hold an age advantage.

This slight change of perspective should be enough to calm fears about Stafford’s development as a quarterback. Sure, he probably would be further along if he had two healthy season under his belt but he is growing alongside the Lions as a team. One outpacing the other will do little to get them where they want to go. If Stafford is healthy in 2011 and the rest of the roster gets the talent upgrade to compete for a playoff spot then there is little reason to be unhappy with either progression.

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Tags: Andy Dalton Christian Ponder Colin Kaepernick Detroit Lions Jake Locker Matthew Stafford NFL Draft Ryan Mallett

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