Matthew Stafford’s second season with the Los Angeles Rams didn’t quite have the Hollywood ending of the first as the team went 3-6 in his nine starts in ‘22. Despite the rough campaign, Stafford is still held in high regard at his position.
ESPN had their “Quarterback Council” for the third-straight year in which NFL analysts are asked to rank their top-10 signal callers against 10 categories ranging from accuracy to field vision. Stafford was ranked in half the categories which included arm strength (#5), accuracy (#8), mechanics (#10), field vision (#10) and toughness (#6).
For comparison, prior to last season LA’s QB1 was ranked in eight of the categories such as arm strength (#5), accuracy (#6), touch (#6), mechanics (#5), field vision (#7), compete level (#6), toughness (#4) and pocket presence (#8). According to this panel, Matt’s skills had noticeably diminished in mechanics and field vision while they also believe his other key tangibles have declined entirely.
In this version of the exercise, Stafford was notably snubbed in touch and pocket presence. On pocket presence, former New York Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum came to the quarterback’s defense:
“Matthew Stafford’s movement traits and instincts in the pocket have allowed him to play at a high level for a long time, so I would have expected him to make the top 10.” per Tannenbaum of ESPN
Matt has always had the innate ability to maneuver around the pocket and escape defenders. That version of him was evident with the Detroit Lions and it remains relevant now, poor O-line play from last season be damned.
That “sixth sense” is the key skill that the Rams were wanting out of Jared Goff which he couldn’t provide, part of which contributed to his trade out of Los Angeles. Having a quarterback who is seemingly playing with eyes in the back of his head is obviously a major asset that can’t be coached. As for his touch, Stafford has proven that he can throw more than darts with his cannon of a right arm as NFL analyst Matt Bowen notes:
“I was shocked to see Matthew Stafford missing here. Yes, he can throw absolute lasers, but let’s not forgot about his ability to deliver the ball with both touch and pace. It allows Stafford to layer throws over the second level of the defense or drop the ball into a bucket downfield.” per Bowen of ESPN
In his first year with the Rams, Stafford routinely dropped perfect passes into the waiting hands of Cooper Kupp. That rapport wouldn’t have worked if Matt didn’t have a feel for where Kupp was going to be at all times and knew how to get those throws to him. The result left numerous highlights which I don’t anticipate to vanish as the pair heads into their third season with each other.
Matthew Stafford with perfect placement amid pressure and the QB hit to find Super Bowl MVP C. Kupp for the 4th quarter TD pass vs Seattle. Stafford had so many of these great throws in year 1 as a Ram, showing great touch, poise, and confidence in his WRs. Stafford➡️Kupp = pic.twitter.com/FfLjNVxfyx— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) June 1, 2022
Matthew Stafford dropped in most categories compared to the previous rendition of this exercise. I find it refreshing that he’s still respected among his peers regardless of drop-off. There will always be room for improvement and I’m anxious to see whether Stafford can climb these rankings in 2024 should he have a solid bounce back campaign.