Quarterback is an extremely deep position in 2013. In fact, it may be the deepest it’s ever been. With that being said, any one of the top-12 quarterbacks from last year can easily finish 2013 inside the top-five. However, if I can pick one guy who finished outside the top-10 last year to emerge into the top-five, it would easily be Matthew Stafford.
In 2012, Stafford finished as the number 11 fantasy signal caller, despite taking a statistical step back. While he did toss for 4,967 yards, his touchdown totals dropped from 41 to 20. Let me put it this way. The only possible way Stafford will throw for a pedestrian number of touchdowns like that is if he gets injured. Here’s why no one should be surprised if they see Stafford along with the top fantasy signal callers this season.
Some may call it an excuse, but in all honesty, the numbers show that Stafford was a bit unlucky last season. His numbers would have looked much better if it weren’t for some unfortunate tackles. The Lions receivers were tackled inside the five-yard line a whopping 23 times last year. And, of course, many are familiar with Calvin Johnson’s tendency to be tackled at the one-yard line. In fact, Megatron was tackled inside the five-yard line a league-leading eight times last year, and was also tackled at the one-yard line a league-leading six times. If he managed to get into the end zone those extra six times, Stafford’s touchdown total would have jumped to 26, pushing him inside the top-10 among fantasy quarterbacks.
Whenever you have a quarterback slinging the ball around over 600 times per season, you have a pretty good chance of getting a strong fantasy signal caller out of him. Luckily, no quarterback has thrown the ball more than Stafford over the last three seasons. In fact, last year, Stafford set an NFL record for pass attempts in a single season (727). In 2011, he led the league again, tossing the ball 663 times. It really is insane when you look at how much this team throws the ball. Last year, there were only two games in which Stafford didn’t throw the football 40 times or more. He also posted 50 attempts or more in four games, including a 61-attempt game in Week 11. With the amount of passes Stafford makes every season, he is always a threat to post those monster games, which fantasy owners absolutely love.
Megatron is pretty darn good. I mean, having the greatest wide receiver in the world to throw to certainly helps matters. Calvin has been the top fantasy wideout in back-to-back seasons, which has benefited Stafford’s fantasy prospects. However, Johnson isn’t the only weapon in Stafford’s arsenal. The team acquired a heck of a pass-catching back in Reggie Bush, who will certainly help Stafford. Bush stated that the Lions offense reminds him of back when he was a member of the Saints, and remember, Bush caught a whopping 88 balls in 2006 with the club. During that season, quarterback Drew Brees posted a strong season, tossing 26 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. Head coach Jim Schwartz said there is no limit to how often the Lions will use Bush in the passing game. The presence of Bush will make Stafford’s job easier, as he won’t have to force as many passes downfield. Also, the team will get a very strong wide receiver in Ryan Broyles back from injury. If this kid can stay healthy, he’ll be a major factor in the passing game. Broyles was a very successful collegiate receiver, posting 4,586 yards, 48 scores and still holds the NCAA all-time record for career receptions (349). The team also still has a big time target at the tight end position in Brandon Pettigrew. Let’s just hope he can hold onto the ball.
Stafford truly has everything going for him to pass some of the other top tier guys and emerge into an elite fantasy quarterback. The guy is more than likely going to pass more than anyone in football again, so he may already have a bit of an advantage over the other guys.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.