Well that takes care of WR and RB, at least my first wave of them. Next comes one of a couple sleeper QBs that I have. My first sleeper QB is….
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
Photo courtesy of Andy Benoit
I know, I know….he’s on the Lions. The Lions suck and they are a complete disaster, at least that is the common perception. The defense is bad, not quite as bad as its been but still pretty bad however the offense is not in the same ball park. Believe it or not, the Lions are a team poised to have a very solid offense, that might not turn into wins for the team but it helps out for fantasy players. There are a few reasons why I like Stafford.
1) He has a cannon of an arm. Stafford has shown some inconsistencies, but he is a young QB just learning the NFL and his short accuracy, awareness and receiver progressions were improving as last season went on and are bound to improve this season. The guy has the arm to get the ball down the field with accuracy and makes throws that gives his receivers chances to make plays after the catch.
2) His receivers. Everyone knows about Megatron. The 4th year player from Georgia Tech is a force. Quick enough to get down the field and burn guys after the catch on short routes. He is a crisp route runner with insane height and vertical leap and hands that seem perpetually coated in super glue. Granted his 67 reception, 984 yard, 5 td performance last year was disappointing but consider that a fluke. He missed some games due to injury and also had to deal with Daunte Culpepper chucking the rock for some games (essentially fantasy equivalence of lost games). Now Megatron is back and ready to go and alongside newly acquired Nate Burleson, Stafford has 1 astounding and 1 solid option at WR. Burleson should help take some of the attention of Megatron. Lets not forget about TE Brandon Pettigrew. Pettigrew seemed to be developing quite the connection with Pettigrew when he went down with a gruesome knee injury. Pettigrew spent all offseason rehabbing the knee and seems to be almost fully healthy and will be ready to go for the regular season. He has some great blocking skills that should serve to buy Stafford extra time in the pocket.
3) Improved running game. Kevin Smith was having a solid season last year until he went down with injuries. After that Maurice Morris took over and the wheels completely fell off the offense. They became one dimensional and predictable. The rushing attack was basically a non-threat and defenses focused entirely on stopping the passing attack and were effective in limiting Detroit’s offense. Kevin Smith is back this year and the addition of Jahvid Best greatly enhances the run game. Smith, when healthy, has proven to be an effective rusher and also a backfield receiving threat. Best was electric at Cal, making plays both on the ground and through the air. He has dazzling speed, gets to the outside effectively and can make defenders miss. I highly suggest watching some college clips as some of his moves are just mind-blowing (I know I killed a good hour watching and the Lions aren’t even my team). Stafford should benefit from the improved rushing attack as defenses can no longer focus solely on him. Best and Smith also provide extra check down options and are fully capable of turning short screens into long gains which further bolster Stafford’s potential.
4) The Lions sucky defense. Means they should be playing down a lot which means lots of throwing and more opportunities for Stafford to put up monster numbers.
Stafford is certainly a risky pick. He should be available in later rounds and will most likely be a steal at wherever he is drafted. He, like all sophomore quarterbacks, will make mistakes due to inexperience and he will throw costly, untimely picks. However, he has the talent and the tools surrounding him to post some big numbers and make the Lions’ offense fearsome.
Fearless Forecast: 4000 yards, 30 tds, 17 ints