2017 Grade: .433

2017 3rd Down: .411

Week 1 vs. Arizona: So far, so good for the Lions and the highest paid quarterback in the NFL. Stafford was brilliant. He distributed the football all over the lot, he extended plays by finding different windows and platforms to set and throw, and his most impressive play of the day was a 17-yard scamper on 3rd and 16. This guy is a top-notch quarterback, and his arm-talent and accuracy were on display, week one.

Week 2 at New York Giants: Matt Stafford is turning into one of the deadliest scramblers in the league. It’s not because he’s ultra-athletic, but rather his ability to get his mechanics in order after fleeing the comfort of the pocket is exceptional – and teams know this. And it’s not just his ability to whip the ball anywhere from any platform, but the subtle pocket movement that makes him so dynamic. On the touchdown pass below, you see him shake the outside pressure, step up, reset, and square his shoulders to his target for a perfect pass. This dude is an all-star.

Week 3 vs. Atlanta: The best sign of an elite quarterback is the faith you feel when watching him in crunch time. Even stuck at 1st down and 30 on the final possession, Matt Stafford had the Lions believing. I have highlighted his escape-ability the last two weeks, but this week, it was his touch passing. His accuracy and ability to throw from a crowded pocket are such unique traits.

Week 4 at Minnesota: Minnesota’s blanket coverage and clever blitz packages forced Matt Stafford into some uncharacteristically erratic throws and poor decisions. Even in his worst game of the year, the best part about Stafford was his ability to threaten the defense regardless of down and distance. The GIF below is a 3rd and 17 play, no problem for the Lions’ quarterback. Minnesota got its hands on a lot of footballs and, if they catch even just one of them, this game probably has a different result.

Week 5 vs. Carolina: The league-wide pass protection epidemic struck Detroit on Sunday. Stafford was never comfortable, uncharacteristically ignored open targets, threw the football off the bodies of his targets, and made a couple of questionable decisions. It was a difficult day for the Lions offense. I feel comfortable chalking this bad day up as an anomaly for Stafford.

Week 6 vs. New Orleans: One of Matt Stafford’s greatest traits is his ability to throw with accuracy and velocity from any arm angle. In this game, his favorite sidearm motion, killed him and his team. 10 passes were deflected at the line of scrimmage and the that tenth pass was picked off in the end zone to thwart any comeback effort. Pass protection is hampering Stafford’s game and he isn’t doing a whole lot to overcome it. The GIF below is just a beautiful play that deserves to be seen.

The Multi-Faceted Contortionist

Nearly a decade as a professional quarterback has seen Matt Stafford take an evolution very beneficial to the fans of the Detroit Lions. The best thing that has happened to the Lions since Barry Sanders tore up the artificial turf of the Silverdome on Sundays, Stafford has gone from an injury-ridden, first-overall potential flameout, to a comprehensive master of his craft.

His fluidity and ease of motion, combined with the bouncy athleticism, draw comparisons to Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers. His feet are among the most -active in the business always prepared to flee from pressure. His ‘ready-at-a-moment’s-notice trigger’ makes him a dangerous gun-slinger that somehow combines conservative care-taker with riverboat gambler.

Stafford’s motion isn’t the only thing quick about his game, it’s just one of many speedy facets of the former Georgia Bulldog’s prowess. He processes the game as quick as anyone making snap decisions as soon as he takes the snap.

The arm talent is what made him the most coveted player in the 2009 draft. His fastball and change-up pair together wonderfully as he can zip a fastball in between defenders or launch it over the top and into the bucket. He exhibits spin that comes with exerting a tremendous level of torque on the football and helps get it up and down (over the linebackers, under the safeties.)

Aside from the sheer power of his rocket-arm, Stafford doesn’t need a flawless platform to throw from. He can contort his throwing-motion and arm-angle remaining just as effective as a lot of passers, or do so standing tall with a clean-pocket.

All of this is not to say that Stafford’s mechanics are flawed. When it is all clean, he drives off his plant foot and keeps his shoulders squared up when searching for open lanes within the pocket.

Stafford is a terrific thrower, no doubt, but perhaps where he endears himself to his teammates most is as a runner. He is capable of some lengthy-runs and is even willing to lower his shoulder and take on defenders.

The attention to detail displays Stafford’s veteran-savvy. He’s an astute ball-handler getting it in and out of his hands quickly on zone-read fakes as well as the quick-game from the shot-gun.

Creating mismatches and using them to his advantage might be Stafford’s best trait. Making pre-snap checks and going with three-verticals against man with a back leaking out of the backfield, plus the option for Stafford to run, makes the Lions extremely difficult to defend. Exploiting linebackers in man-coverage on backs is a great trait, but he will lean on them too often, at times, and will miss a potential shot-play down the field.

Stafford is superbly consistent and he’s magnificent with the game on the line. The two knocks from his 2016 season were that he does tend to peek at the rush and miss some down-field options and I wish he’d attack the second-level more on the rollout bootlegs – but that’s a drop in the bucket for what was otherwise a terrific season.

Stat Sheet

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