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Impact Rookie: Matthew Stafford 07/13/2009

Posted by sportretort in Sports.
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(Note:  from time to time until the season begins, I will spot light rookies that have a chance to make an impact in the NFL this season from a fantasy football perspective.)

You know the numbers.  0-16.  The only team to go the entire season without a win since the league went to a 16 game

The Lions made Stafford the first pick overall

The Lions made Stafford the first pick overall

 schedule.  Time to rebuild.  Where to start?  If you are the Detroit Lions, you start at quarterback.  With the first pick in the draft, the Lions acquired the qb many scouts considered the most NFL ready, Matthew Stafford from Georgia.  The Lions had 5 different players take snaps last season.  Barring injury, that number should come down this season.  With veteran Daunte Culpepper (who has not played even a half season since 2004)  currently keeping the seat warm, Stafford will be the starter sooner rather than later.  My guess is that he will start from game one, but by game 3 for sure.  Conventional wisdom in the NFL at this time is to bring a rookie quarterback along slowly.  But for every David Carr who had his career shortened by being thrown to the wolves, there is also a Peyton Manning or Troy Aikman success story.  

Stafford brings a big arm with touch and the proven ability, at least

Stafford was 27 - 7 as a starter for Georgia

Stafford was 27 - 7 as a starter for Georgia

at the collegiate level, to make quick reads and quick release to avoid the rush despite being a classic pocket passer.  That ability will come in handy, as the Lions offensive line surrendered 52 sacks last season.  The line is back in tact this season with another year of experience. Stafford also proved to be resilient at Georgia.  He became the starter during his freshman year, and started every game since (34 straight) without injury.  Georgia was 27-7 under Stafford. 

Stafford’s arm strength has been compared to that of Jay Cutler, now with the Bears.  That is a plus for Detroit because the Lions have a good group of receivers, including wideouts Calvin Johnson (78 receptions, 1331 yards and 12 td last season), Bryant Johnson and Ronald Curry; and running back Kevin Smith, who caught 39 balls out of the backfield last season.  Perhaps the biggest improvement to help the Lions qb this season will be the complete overhaul the Lions defense received during the off season.  The Lions gave up an average of 32+ points last season.  Dead last among the 32 NFL teams.  If the revamped defense can perform significantly better than last years squad, it will take pressure off of the offense.  And offensively, the Lions are not short of talent. 

Stafford will not be an early qb pick in your draft, but he will be a starter soon, and effective by mid season.  Look for 2700 plus passing yards and 18 – 20 touchdowns.  Detroit quarterbacks threw 19 interceptions last season.  Look for Stafford, while making rookie mistakes, to bring that number down.  Someone will draft him.  If not, watch the waiver wires and pick him up early for qb depth before injuries begin to happen around the league.

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