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Is Matthew Stafford a top-5 quarterback?

The Rams signal caller Matthew Stafford could still be the top QB in the NFC

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-Los Angeles Rams at Detroit Lions Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

In the previous offseason, there were a lot of questions and rumors about Matthew Stafford. His health, his arm strength, his ability to connect with his young teammates. But even if you cut out all the noise, there was a much bigger issue at hand with Stafford going into the 2023 season, which is that he was terrible during the 2022 season.

It doesn’t matter who you blame for that, whether it’s Liam Coen, the offensive line, injuries, including his own, or Allen Robinson and a disappointing group of receivers. Flat out, Stafford’s 2022 season was by any measure his worst since his start in the league with the Detroit Lions. At 35, the oldest starting quarterback in the NFL once Aaron Rodgers went down four plays into the season, Stafford had to prove he still has it.

Following a mediocre start with three touchdowns and five picks in his first four starts, Stafford rebounded and got better as the season went on, proving indeed that he has it. He might even have more of it.

In the last 11 games, Stafford had 21 touchdowns, six interceptions, 8.1 adjusted Y/A, and a passer rating of 99.2

Since Week 5, Stafford had the fifth-highest AY/A, seventh-highest passer rating, and had the sixth-most touchdowns despite sitting out Week 18 after L.A. clinched a playoff berth. His 21 touchdowns in those 11 games was more than the 20 touchdowns by Josh Allen in 13 games since Week 5. It was also more, in fewer games, than Tua Tagovailoa, Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts, C.J. Stroud, and Trevor Lawrence.

If Stafford was truly the “Stat Padford” nickname bestowed on him many years ago for a Lions team that didn’t do enough to support him most of the time, he could have played Week 18 and potentially put up enough touchdowns to be as productive as almost any quarterback in the league.

It made me wonder: How many other quarterbacks in the NFL today would I actually want for a game or a season over Matthew Stafford?

The list is much shorter at the end of the season than it was at the beginning.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Which quarterbacks are definitely better than Stafford and is he top-5?

First of all, “definitely better” is going to be a hard case to prove, but let’s start with the one name that will get the fewest arguments and put Patrick Mahomes at #1.

Honestly, it’s as soon as now that the arguments get murky and it’s not that hard to see Stafford in the top-5.

I have Josh Allen in my top-3 even though he did have the second-most interceptions (18) and not the insane touchdowns total (29) that you might expect. I don’t have many qualms about it though, Allen is a worthy top-3 quarterback.

I would take Stafford over Lamar Jackson. I would take him over Dak Prescott, who led the NFL with 36 touchdowns. I would take him over Brock Purdy. I would still take him over C.J. Stroud because it’s not about who would you start a franchise with, it’s who is the better quarterback right now? Justin Herbert is awesome, but he hasn’t proven himself in big games yet and I think is getting a little bit of a “pass” because his teammates have been bad or disappointing. Except two things can be true at the same time: Herbert can be let down by his teammates and still need to show improvement of his own.

The only other name with a strong case in the top-3 is Joe Burrow, who made 2023 a difficult season to judge because of his injuries. If Stafford gets dinged for durability concerns, how can Burrow not? He has now had a torn ACL and a calf injury and landed on season-ending IR twice in four seasons.

Still, if you put Mahomes, Allen, and Burrow in the top-three, Stafford can squeeze in by #4.

Which QBs I barely considered

Rodgers missed the entire season, so I can’t consider him to be that much of a threat right now.

Tua Tagovailoa, Trevor Lawrence, Jordan Love, Jalen Hurts are good quarterbacks. They haven’t done enough yet to warrant climbing over Stafford.

Jared Goff, Baker Mayfield, Derek Carr, Geno Smith, Kyler Murray are okay quarterbacks who will never be as talented as Stafford and didn’t play better than he did in 2023.

If I didn’t write about you at all, it’s because I don’t think it’s necessary to do so. That player has no argument.

Who is the top-5?

My top-5 would consist, in no order: Mahomes, Allen, Burrow, Stafford, Lamar.

All of the young quarterbacks who you might have assumed would stay ahead of Matthew Stafford or surpass him this year didn’t do that. Stafford instead had one of the most impressive seasons of his career, helping an inexperienced supporting cast rank eighth in points per drive and boosting Puka Nacua to historical numbers, even surviving an injury to Cooper Kupp that cost him the first four games of the year.

Who is your top-5?