Skip to main content

Decision Time: Henne v. Stafford

  • Author:
  • Publish date:

Luckily for the Giants, Eli only needed a few stitches and he'll now have a lighter preseason workload. For fantasy owners, this should be a good lesson in the importance of drafting a quality backup. I don't mean grabbing the likes of Sorgi, who only has 156 passing attempts in his six-year career. In fact, in most fantasy leagues, you only need to be familiar with 24 to 28 starting QBs (feel free to discard bottom feeders Sam Bradford, Matt Moore, Jake Delhomme, and Trent Edwards).

Let's say you are heading into the late rounds of your draft and you still haven't grabbed a backup QB. Two options still available are Miami's Chad Henne and Detroit's Matt Stafford. According to, Henne is going 126.7 overall while Stafford is going 128.0. Which one do you snag?

The easy decision would be to look at the bye weeks. If you already have Peyton or Matt Schaub, you can forget about Stafford since all of them are off Week 7. For owners of Brady, go ahead and ignore Henne as both are resting Week 5.

But if that's not the case, the decision is a bit more complex since both young QBs have a lot in common. Both have less than a full season of experience behind center (Henne has 14 career starts; Stafford has 10). Both have a bona fide No. 1 receiving target (Brandon "21 catches" Marshall and Calvin "Megatron" Johnson, respectively). And both have the prototypical tools to be an NFL gunslinger: height (6-foot-3), arm strength and pocket presence.

Let's first take a look at Stafford. As a rookie in '09, he started the Lions' first four games, throwing for over 200 yards in three of them with three TDs and 6 INTs. He missed the next two games due to a knee injury and when he returned, it wasn't pretty -- he completed 14-of-33 passes in a loss to the lowly Rams in Week 8 and threw five interceptions a week later in a loss at Seattle.

Still, Stafford kept his head up even as his offensive line struggled to keep him upright. His highlight of the year came in Week 11 against Cleveland when he threw a game-winning score with no time remaining after separating his non-throwing shoulder on the previous play. His numbers that day were that of any elite quarterback -- 422 yards and five TDs.

Scroll to Continue

SI Recommends

After aggravating his shoulder in Week 13, Stafford sat out the remainder of the season, finishing with 2,267 passing yards, 13 TDs and 20 INTs. Despite some rookie mistakes and a few unlucky breaks, he earned the trust of his coaches, throwing at least 35 passes in seven of his 10 starts. Stafford certainly performed much better than previous No. 1 overall picks like JaMarcus Russell and Alex Smith.

Going into '10, the Lions supplied Stafford with more weapons beyond Johnson. They signed veteran target Nate Burleson, drafted speedy rookie running back Jahvid Best and added grabby tight-end Tony Scheffler. Detroit won't finish 2-14 again and Stafford's play will be the main reason.

Henne is another young QB on the rise. Last year in his sophomore season, he took over for injured incumbent Chad Pennington in Week 3 and displayed flashes of brilliance. His best game was Week 13 against New England, when he completed 29-of-52 passes for 335 yards and two scores. He also managed to throw for over 300 yards in three of his final five games.

On the downside, Henne finished '09 with more interceptions (14) than TDs (12). Miami also focused more on the ground game, rushing for the fourth most yards in the league while ranking 20th in passing. Henne only averaged 32.2 throwing attempts per game (17th in the league) compared to Stafford's league-high 37.7. However, with the addition of Marshall in '10, the Dolphins aerial attack should be more potent.

Looking forward to Week 16 this season, the typical time for fantasy football championships, the Lions will square off against the Dolphins in Miami. Assuming Stafford and Henne stay healthy and keep their jobs, it should be a great showcase of two budding QBs. For my money, I'd rather have Stafford on my fantasy squad. He's got the talent, the opportunity and an all-or-nothing mentality that I love.

Still, I couldn't help but look up Stafford's understudy this season. That would be former 49er Shaun Hill, who will be ready in case something goes wrong.

Hey, you never know.