Already in possession of one young quarterback (Drew Stanton), and in need of an upgrade at virtually every spot on the field, the Lions had every excuse to pass on Matthew Stafford in April. But team officials felt the 6-foot-3, 237-pound University of Georgia quarterback was much too good to ignore. The upside to going to a team fresh off a 0-16 finish is that Stafford will be given an opportunity to compete for playing time immediately; the downside is that he will have to stand in the pocket for a team which allowed 52 sacks last year.
Dissecting the depth chart: The Lions have a pair of signal callers sitting ahead of Stafford at this point, but it is clear neither of those players will be in that position for long. Daunte Culpepper's career was dead not so long ago but Detroit was willing to give him an opportunity. In five appearances last season Culpepper played as well as anyone could have expected him to considering the tools he was given to work with. Stanton could also figure into the quarterback battle this summer, but he has attempted just 17 passes in his career so far. The Lions still have issues to address along the offensive line, and for this reason may throw Culpepper and/or Stanton to the wolves in order to save Stafford from potential harm. Other No. 1 overall quarterback picks have jumped into the deep end in their first season, and the experience proved valuable later on in their career (think Troy Aikman). Stafford's opportunity will come at some point this season.
Just the stats: Stafford improved his completion percentage in each of his three years in the lineup for the Bulldogs, registering a 61.4 percent last year. His touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2008 was also respectable (25 to 10). His biggest games came at the end of his college career; he threw 14 touchdowns over his final four appearances, and in the loss to Georgia Tech passed for 407 yards. Fantasy owners should not count on Stafford to score many points on the ground, however. He gained 22 yards on 94 carries in '07 and '08 combined.
2008 rookie comparison:Joe Flacco, Ravens
Only two rookie quarterbacks saw significant playing time in '08 -- Flacco and Matt Ryan. Comparing Stafford to either is unfair, as Stafford will probably not handle as many snaps. However, Stafford will play, and many expect it will be sooner rather than later. If he manages to start 10 games it's likely Stafford will match Flacco's touchdown count of 14, but he probably will not approach 400 attempts or 2,500 yards -- plateaus reached by both Flacco and Ryan in '08.
Interesting fact that won't help you: at Georgia, Stafford became the first freshman to start at quarterback straight out of high school since Eric Zeier in 1991.
What he's worth: Fantasy owners do not believe Stafford will be a viable fantasy starter in 2009, evidenced by his Average RapidDraft Position (ARDP) -- 36th among quarterbacks, 212th overall. That aside, fantasy owners can count on some owner at their annual draft taking a flier on Stafford for no other reason that the excitement that comes from drafting a high-profile rookie. It is important to let someone else reach for Stafford and to stay away; even as a 16-game starter, with an expected heavy passing burden and a legitimate No. 1 target to throw to (Calvin Johnson), Stafford will not provide consistent fantasy totals in his first season in the NFL.