Fantasy Football: Matthew Stafford Is a Perfect Late-Round Quarterback Target
Despite finishing inside the top 10 at the position six times in his last eight healthy seasons, the 32-year-old is currently getting very little respect in fantasy drafts.
Where should you be drafting the Stafford? Let's take a look.
Over at BestBall10s, Stafford currently has an average draft position (ADP) of 123.16 -- good for 14th at the quarterback position. That's a sample of 1,541 drafts since the start of May.
Despite playing in just eight games, Stafford had finishes of QB3, QB4, QB4, QB5, and QB6 last year. For those keeping track, that's five top-six finishes in eight contests.
Among quarterbacks with at least 300 drop backs, Stafford ranked fourth in both Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back and Passing Success Rate (i.e., the percentage of drop backs that lead to positive NEP for a team’s offense).
Considering that he now has Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, T.J. Hockenson, and Danny Amendola at his disposal, there's a good chance he picks up where he left off before a back injury ended his season early last year. He'll also have the benefit of playing with one of the best backfields in the league -- Kerryon Johnson and D'Andre Swift.
Stafford's 2018 season is likely why many fantasy players are down on him. Among quarterbacks who started at least 10 games, Stafford ranked 26th in fantasy points per game at just 13.3. That'll leave a sour taste.
His advanced metrics weren't much better. He ranked 22nd in both Passing NEP per drop back and Passing Success Rate.
However, it's important to note that Detroit's second most-targeted player on that team was running back Theo Riddick. Marvin Jones missed a chunk of the campaign due to a knee injury. The team traded then-leading wideout, Golden Tate, to the Philadelphia Eagles after Week 8. And the Lions' best tight end, Levine Toilolo, would barely have been a backup on most teams.
In fact, prior to the trade of Tate, Stafford had posted at least 17 points in five of his previous six games.
In 2020, Stafford will be throwing to two wideouts -- Golladay and Jones -- who were both top 25 in Reception NEP per reception (minimum 75 targets), top 15 in Target NEP per target, top 20 in Reception NEP per target, and top 25 in Reception Success Rate last season. He'll also have Amendola, who was top 30 in both Reception Success Rate and Target Success Rate.
Hockenson, the eighth overall pick in the 2019 draft, will be lining up at tight end for the Lions. Though the sample size was small (just 38 targets), here's what Hock posted in his eight games with Stafford last year. The ranks are how he would've ranked among tight ends with at least 38 targets last year.
|Reception NEP per Reception||1.29||3|
|Target NEP per Target||0.38||13|
|Reception NEP per Target||0.71||10|
|Reception Success Rate||90.48%||6|
The Reception NEP per reception, Reception NEP per target, and Reception Success Rate all would rate above-average at both the tight end and wide receiver position for 2019. That's all very encouraging, since tight ends rarely produce as rookies -- his 592-yard pace during that stretch would've have made him the 3rd tight end in 17 seasons (and 12th all-time) to post more than 590 receiving yards.
Another year of growth from both Hockenson and Golladay could make last year's 15th-ranked passing offense (in terms of Passing NEP per play) one of the most feared aerial attacks in the league.
numberFire's models project Stafford for 4,486 yards and 25.2 touchdowns, resulting in a QB14 finish. Considering that he was on pace for nearly 5,000 yards and 38 scores last year, I'd say he can easily surpass both of those marks.
Additionally, according to Pro Football Focus, Stafford has the seventh-easiest schedule at the position.
Now, I'm not suggesting that you need to start drafting Stafford inside the top 100. Just the opposite, in fact. I'm saying that those factors I mentioned above, make Stafford the perfect player for those waiting to draft a quarterback. After all, we're talking about a six-time top-10 fantasy quarterback with considerable upside and very little risk.