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Posted Nov. 5, 2008
Matt Stafford - a Top-Five NFL Draft Pick?
Matt Stafford came into the 2008 season with the Dark Knight-esque hype. He was the second coming of Carson Palmer and JaMarcus Russell with his jaw-dropping arm strength. The Georgia Bulldogs finished the 2007 season 11-2 with a dominating Sugar Bowl victory. Many thought they were the best team in the country even after LSU's championship victory.
I was not sold on Stafford. I saw a quarterback on game film with mediocre accuracy and decision-making. I did not see a great leader or any signs of urgency from him to win a game.
In only four games did Stafford complete more than 61 percent of his passes. He only averaged 7.4 yards per pass attempt (YPA). His touchdown to interception ratio was 19:10 - not impressive. He ranked 61st in the country for pass attempts, relying on the Georgia defense and Knowshon Moreno to win games for him.
I knew how high his potential was; I just wanted him to step up his game and play like a quarterback worthy of a No. 1 pick.
Well, from time to time, every draftnik changes his mind.
I am now a believer that Matt Stafford is a top-five pick next April in the 2009 NFL Draft. Let me go over the reasons to explain myself:
1. Through his first eight games in 2007, Stafford averaged 6.06 YPA. This season, he has raised that to 8.5 YPA. He is making more plays in the passing game and being more of a reason for Georgia winning games. Georgia is ranked 39th in the country in rushing offense. Stafford has led this team to some big wins over South Carolina, Arizona State, Vanderbilt and LSU.
2. Franchise quarterbacks are viewed as extremely valuable on Draft Day, especially by new coaching regimes. If Joe Flacco out of Delaware is traded up for in the first round, then I cannot deny that some team is going to take Stafford in the top five, but more likely the top three picks. Despite Stafford's weaknesses, in the end I believe they will be overlooked because of his extremely high upside and ...
3. ...the lack of quarterback talent in the 2009 NFL Draft. There is no one in the senior class worth mentioning. I currently do not have a grade on any senior higher than the fourth round. It's pathetic.
I do not see Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, Josh Freeman or Mark Sanchez declaring for 2009. I will blog about that soon. With no projected starter outside of Stafford in 2008, his draft value becomes even higher.
4. More teams than usual drafting high are in need of a franchise quarterback. In the 2008 NFL Draft, only Baltimore and Atlanta were desperately lacking a future at the position. Detroit, Kansas City and San Francisco have nothing at quarterback. Seattle might even consider drafting Stafford with Matt Hasselbeck turning 34 soon. With three definite teams desperate for a franchise signal caller that will be drafting in the top six, Stafford is highly unlikely to fall. Also, the fact that there are no other quarterbacks in this draft, as I previously mentioned, means that Stafford's value goes up even more. It is a matter of supply and demand. There is a low supply of quarterbacks, and a very strong demand for franchise signal callers.
The college football insiders are saying that Stafford is a sure thing to bolt for the draft this year so there goes my theory of him staying for his senior year like Brady Quinn and Matt Leinart.
I know he just had a three-interception performance against Florida, but I do not think this will affect his stock much for reasons previously stated.
This does not have anything to do really with my opinion or grade on Stafford. Granted, I grade him higher than I did in the preseason because he has been more productive, but I still want to see a monster game (300-plus yards, three-plus touchdowns, one or less interceptions) and more urgency with his leadership like Matt Ryan at B.C.
Currently, I am giving Stafford my first-round/4-star grade.
I also think free safety is the big need, not necessarily strong safety. We can live another year with Devon Kindred and Ibraheim Campbell at strong safety. Maybe if we didn't have so many other more pressing needs I wouldn't mind addressing SS, but there are other priorities on this team.