Detroit Lions: Was the NFL’s ranking of Matthew Stafford fair?
Detroit Run City
The Detroit run game was dead last, 32nd in the league. In fact, of the quarterbacks ranked higher than Stafford, five had run games in the top half of the league, averaging more than 115 yards per game. The top running game that went along with a ranked quarterback was Wentz’s Eagles, averaging over 132 yards rushing per game.
Worth noting again, the Packers ranked 17th in rushing, but those numbers are without Rodgers for half of the year. The Lions could not generate more than 76.3 yards on the ground in 2017. If those facts don’t start to tell a story of how much Matt Stafford does for the Lions, nothing will.
Then, there’s the Lions defense. The Lions defense gave up the 21st ranked amount of points per game (23.5). Curiously, or perhaps not, the defenses of the players ranked ahead of Stafford all appeared with one exception, the Green Bay Packers (Rank 26, 24.0 pts/ game).
All of those defenses were in the top 13 of the NFL, giving up at most 19.8 points per game (Seattle Seahawks), and as few as 18.4 points per contest (Philadelphia Eagles). That’s about a touchdown difference in defensive production, which is significant.
Ranking the Top 9
Perhaps you believe that I will do the biased thing and rank Stafford as the best in the NFL, **spoiler**, I won’t. However, I do think ranking 8 other quarterbacks higher now is disrespecting what Stafford has become wearing the Honolulu blue and silver.
If we take out the opinion part, and focus on production last year, I don’t think anyone can really argue that Stafford was better than ninth. Let’s consider a short list of factors , via NFL.com, and average them: completion percentage, touchdowns, interceptions, games played, and try to factor out the help they receive, sacks taken, run game and defense ranks.
We’ll use the NFL’s list as our starter.
A few factors limit Stafford’s ranking. His team is not a contender, although his personal production and leadership keep the Lions competitive every week. Stafford’s city is not popular. His team has never won it all, or had any playoff success with him as the quarterback; they have three appearances, and zero wins.
Those are keys to the perception that USA Today Draftwire editor, Luke Easterling, expressed on Twitter, “I think we know who Stafford is.” I believe that many people around the country, and some in the Motor City, feel that is the definitive take on Stafford.
This winner stigma, or lack thereof, is the main weapon against him. So, on with the show. How should the quarterbacks be ranked by the numbers?