Draft Review: Matthew Stafford
Here's what NFL talent evaluators thought of Stafford coming out of college in 2009
GOSSELIN DRAFT ANALYSIS: Matthew Stafford went to Highland Park High School in Dallas – the same high school that produced Hall of Fame quarterback Bobby Layne of the Detroit Lions. Stafford did something at Highland Park that Layne couldn’t do – win a state title. He passed for 4,018 yards and 38 touchdowns in his senior year, the championship season, and left Highland Park with 8,711 career passing yards and 92 touchdowns. But Stafford did not follow Layne’s lead and go to Texas. The Parade All-America opted for Georgia, where in 2006 he became the first true freshman to start at quarterback since Quincy Carter in 1998. He posted a 25-7 record as a starter, including a 3-0 mark in bowls. As a freshman, he rallied Georgia from a 21-3 deficit against No. 14 Virginia Tech for a 31-24 victory in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. He also was the MVP in Georgia’s 24-12 victory over Michigan State in the Citrus Bowl as a junior. Stafford passed for 7,731 career yards at Georgia with 51 touchdown passes. He opted to skip his senior season to turn pro and measured 6-2, 225 pounds at the NFL combine. Gosselin ranked him the top quarterback in the 2009 draft and the No. 4 player on his Top 100 draft board. The Detroit Lions selected Stafford with the first overall pick of the draft.
Here are comments on Stafford from 24 talent evaluators leading up to his 2009 NFL draft:
Scout: I’m glad I’m not looking for a quarterback this year.
Scout II: Good throwing motion, accuracy and arm strength. But I thought he got happy feet when pressured.
Scout III: Top 5. Mechanical in his progressions. There are 3-4 “Oh no” moments in every game. Didn’t handle pressure well against Alabama and Florida. At LSU game in warmups I’d never seen an arm like that before. His arm is every bit as strong as JaMarcus Russell (first overall pick of 2007 draft) with a much quicker release. Better arm and faster release than Jay Cutler (11th overall pick of 2006 draft).
Scout IV: A 65 percent passer in the shotgun with the liberty to make the calls. Doesn’t look to the sideline for the play. He’s been studying pro defenses for the last seven months. If he wasn’t at Georgia (10-3 in 2008), they’d have gone 4-9. He beats Kentucky on his own in 20-degree weather and a 30-mile-per-hour wind. Auburn the same way. He aspires to be great. A special kid. He won three bowl games and came from behind to win two of them. He won a Texas state championship running the spread so he can do that.
Personnel director: Top player in this draft.
Personnel director II: Love him. Love his size. Top 5 pick.
Personnel director III: Doesn’t wow me with the intangibles. Average at best in terms of leadership. It’s all about Matthew, nothing about the team. It’s the Matthew Stafford Show, not the University of Georgia Show.
Personnel director IV: #1 player in draft. But the truth is Stafford will never live up to where he’s drafted. No one does. They knock him for his decision-making. I don’t think he trusted his receivers. They drop too many balls. I watched the Florida game and he threw a couple of picks. But if he didn’t make a play, nobody does. He can do what you want – throw, move, run… If I’m taking a quarterback, I’m taking him. He gets the ball out like (Hall of Famer Dan) Marino.
Quarterback coach: My second quarterback in this draft. Wow factor with arm. Makes plays – but didn’t make other plays he should have made. A fraction of a second off with everything. Never won a big game in college.
Quarterback coach II: I think he’s better than Matt Ryan (third overall pick in 2008) coming out. Very sharp, fast mind. Physically, the ball flies off his hand with velocity. Quick release, good anticipation. In the games he threw picks he was also throwing for four touchdowns. His coaches think he’s professional about his leadership.
Offensive coordinator: Top QB in draft.
Offensive coordinator II: Top QB in draft.
Offensive coordinator III: Should be the first pick of the draft. Can do it all. Even walking backward he has a cannon.
Offensive coordinator IV: Like him, but he lacks the consistency to be the first overall pick. Not the lock that Matt Ryan was a year ago. Stronger arm than Mark Sanchez (fifth overall pick of 2009 draft).
Head coach: Top QB in draft.
Head coach II: Puzzles me. Throws into triple coverage. Great intangibles, though.
General manager: No. 3 quarterback in this draft. Big arm but bad decision-maker.
General manager II: Top QB in this draft.
General manager III: Top QB in this draft.
General manager IV: Top player in this draft.
General manager V: Bothers me. I question his conditioning.
General manager VI: Good arm but he doesn’t always hit what he’s throwing at all that often. Has a Bert Jones arm and tries to stick it any where. I’d worry about him.
General manager VII: Question his instincts. Doesn’t have a good feel, makes dumb decisions and throws.
General manager VIII: A ton of ability, but he’s going to have to play his senior year in the NFL. If Detroit takes him, I’d sit him a year. At worst, sit him the first half of the season. Big, nice arm and mobile. But I’d worry about the offense he’s coming from – (it’s produced) Casey Weldon, Brad Johnson, Charlie Ward, Danny Kannell, Cris Weinke, Chris Ricks, D.J. Shockley, David Greene… This guy has more ability than all of them. He has the “wow” factor in pre-game warmups.
HALL OF FAME RESUME: Stafford labored his first 12 NFL seasons with the Lions – one of only four NFL franchises that has never been to a Super Bowl. He won only 45.2 percent of his 165 career starts. But 39 of his 74 victories came on fourth-quarter comebacks. In 2011, Stafford became only the fifth quarterback in NFL history to pass for 5,000 yards in a single season, also throwing for a career-high 41 touchdowns. But the Lions never won a division title in his 12 seasons and qualified for the playoffs only three times. With Detroit looking to hire its fifth head coach of Stafford’s career, the quarterback asked for a trade and the Lions gave it to him – sending him to the Los Angeles Rams. With a better team around him, Stafford finished second in the NFL in touchdowns passes (41) and third in passing yards (4,886), leading the Rams to an NFC West title with a 12-5 record. Four of those victories were his trademark fourth-quarter comebacks, then Stafford rallied the Rams twice more in the post-season with fourth-quarter game-winning drives against Tampa Bay and San Francisco to reach his first Super Bowl. He was the fastest quarterback to reach 20,000, 30,000 and 40,000 career passing yards. He’s still only 33 years old and already ranks 12th all-time in both passing yards (49,995) and touchdowns (323). The more Super Bowl rings Stafford collects going forward, the better his chances of a bust in Canton.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Rick Gosselin spent 20 years as the NFL columnist for the Dallas Morning News, including 20 offseasons studying and researching prospects for the NFL draft. He didn’t watch any tape – he was a writer, not a scout – but he talked to the men who did watch tape. He built a network of NFL general managers, head coaches, personnel directors, scouts and assistant coaches from all 32 teams who would share with him their analyses of players. Gosselin used their insights to build his own draft board, Top 100 board and mock drafts. For 10 consecutive years he had the best Top 100 board in the country (2001-10), according to the Huddle Report, and three times he produced the best mock draft. Gosselin resurrected his college scouting reports here for a look back at how NFL talent evaluators viewed draft prospects coming out of college.