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Posted Dec. 26, 2008
Why Matt Stafford is now my No. 1 Player
Before the season, you would be hard pressed to find someone more hard on Matt Stafford than I. Most people praised Matt and anointed him as the No. 1 pick in the Draft despite the fact that he never threw for 300 yards in a game in his career. I had a major problem with this because Stafford never showed me consistency or production.
This year, after watching four of his games and taping two, I have come around to the Stafford bandwagon. His production has gone up in a tough defensive conference. He threw for more than 250 yards in seven games this year, and eclipsed 300 yards in three games. He improved his touchdown-to-interception ratio to 2.4:1.
You can look at Stafford and still say he is inaccurate and too much of a gunslinger throwing the ball into double coverage too often, but if you do that, you are not looking at what is being asked of Stafford.
I discovered an intriguing trend in Georgia's offensive design: It calls for virtually no short to intermediate routes in the passing game. Think Mike Martz with less shotgun. Stafford's only options downfield are into coverage, and that is the reason for so many of his interceptions. Once Stafford gets into a more traditional West Coast offense in the NFL, his completion percentage will go up and he will have easier options to throw the ball.
I learned this lesson because I made a huge mistake on Matt Ryan. I said Ryan did not deserve to go in the top five because of his issues with accuracy and decision making. Ryan made the excuse that he was asked to be an aggressive passer, but I was not buying it. After all, how am I supposed to know what the coaches are telling Ryan? He could just be another player making another excuse (maybe he got advice from Tony Romo).
Maybe I should have done more research in Ryan's options regarding routes and checkdowns, but I did not, and I vowed to never make that mistake again.
I am not saying Stafford is the No. 1 player on my board or the No. 1 quarterback, surpassing Sam Bradford, just because I messed up on Ryan. I just believe Stafford's arm strength is too elite to pass up and he has a lot of experience in a difficult offense to operate in the SEC. Sure, I would prefer better statistics, but there are plenty of college quarterbacks without a chance in the NFL who have great numbers.
So what are my thoughts now on Bradford? I do not see him committing because he is a sophomore, but considering the money top 10 picks garner, it would be hard to pass up. I certainly would go into the draft if I were Bradford.
If Bradford does declare, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Seattle might take a chance on him in the top eight. There are rumors of Marc Bulger and Matt Hasselbeck being released. San Francisco might consider trading up.
I will also say I do not see any chance Bradford goes before Stafford. Bradford is getting all of the hype because he won the Heisman. I still think he is worthy of a top five pick because his accuracy and decision making is unparalled in college football, but his arm strength is just above average, and his upside does not come close to Stafford's. That is why JaMarcus Russell was chosen over Brady Quinn, and that is why Stafford will go ahead of Bradford on Draft Day.