Stafford -- Best QB In NFC North -- Poised For Career Year: NFL Analyst

He was grooving in his first season under Darrell Bevell. 

Will Burchfield
June 16, 2020 - 10:48 am
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If the Lions make some noise this season -- spoiler alert -- Matthew Stafford will be a big reason why. 

That didn't seem like such a given prior to last season, when the team was shifting to a new offense under Darrell Bevell that figured to take some weight off Stafford's shoulders. That's still the plan, to a degree. 

But Bevell let Stafford loose in 2019, after he'd been handcuffed under Jim Bob Cooter, and the quarterback responded by playing some of the best football of his career. Before he went down with a back injury in Week 9, he ranked among the top five QB's in the NFL in just about every statistical category. 

You wouldn't know it if you asked some national analysts -- like Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, who ranked at least 12 quarterbacks ahead of Stafford on his list of the NFL's top 100 players. Others, like Prisco's colleague Sean Wagner-McGough, are here to remind you. 

Wagner-McGough ranked Stafford No. 7 on his list of the NFL's Top 10 QB's, ahead of each of his NFC North counterparts. Yes, Aaron Rodgers included. In fact, Stafford was the only QB from his division to crack the top 10:

It continues to fly under the radar that Stafford was on pace to throw for 4,998 yards, 38 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions in 2019 before an injury ended his season after eight games. At the time of his injury, Stafford ranked second in touchdown passes, fourth in yards per attempt, fifth in passer rating, third in DYAR, fifth in DVOA, and seventh in total QBR. Freed from the constraints of the Jim Bob Cooter offensive system that focused more on short passes and playing in a Darrell Bevell system that allowed him to use his arm talent to throw downfield, Stafford thrived.

With Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones still around, and T.J. Hockenson entering Year 2, Stafford is poised to pick up where he left off. Assuming he can stay healthy this time around, Stafford has a legitimate chance to put together the best season of his career. He's never been better equipped to do so. 

That's why he's ranked seventh on a list that doesn't include Aaron Rodgers. I think he's going to be the best quarterback in the NFC North in 2020.

Just how highly does Wagner-McGough think of Stafford? He has him ranked one spot behind Deshaun Watson, one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the game. He also has Stafford ranked ahead of Tom Brady, who checks in at No. 9. 

Regarding Rodgers, Wagner-McGough says the future Hall-of-Famer has started his decline:

"In 2019, Rodgers threw for 4,002 yards, 26 touchdowns, and only four interceptions, but he averaged only 7.0 yards per attempt, and ranked 13th in DVOA, which measures value per play, and 20th in total QBR. The truth of the matter is, Rodgers hasn't been operating at his peak for a few seasons now. We haven't seen him at his best since 2016. Add in the Packers' dreadful offseason, when they refused to give him the reinforcements he needs, and well, that's how you wind up with a top-10 quarterback list without Rodgers. I still think he's a good quarterback, just not the great quarterback he once was.

Wagner-McGough's complete top 10 is below:

10. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT
9. Tom Brady, TB
8. Carson Wentz, PHI
7. Matthew Stafford, DET
6. Deshaun Watson, HOU
5. Dak Prescott, DAL
4. Drew Brees, NO
3. Russell Wilson, SEA
2. Lamar Jackson, BAL
1. Patrick Mahomes, KC