Where Matthew Stafford Would Potentially Rank For Patriots Among NFL QBs

Matthew Stafford is a perfectly above average starting QB

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Quarterback Matthew Stafford apparently is a pretty polarizing figure among NFL fans.

When Stafford became available via trade Saturday, an advocacy for the New England Patriots to trade their 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft for the Detroit Lions QB was met with, “Yeah, duh” or “you are insane” with little middle ground.

Quite frankly, every QB-needy team should have some sort of modicum of interest in the 2009 No. 1 overall pick.

The Patriots currently only have Jarrett Stidham and Jake Dolegala under contract at quarterback. Trading for Stafford, which likely would take at least a first-round pick, would solve the team’s issue under center. They have the cap space to absorb his contract, as well, which is key.

New England thinks highly of Stafford, per a source. The biggest question is whether Stafford’s experience with Matt Patricia (who returned to New England this week) in Detroit soured the QB on Patriots-style coaching. Stafford would work more closely with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in New England, however.

The San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, Washington Football Team, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets and Chicago Bears also could be in on Stafford. It’s worth throwing Dallas and the Rams into a list of possible destinations for Stafford, as well, because Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is a free agent and LA QB Jared Goff had a disappointing 2020 season.

On Saturday, I referred to Stafford, 32, as an “above average” starting QB, because, well, that’s how he seems to play by the naked eye. But how does he rank according to some key advanced metrics?

Let’s break it down by EPA+CPOE, EPA/play, unadjusted EPA/play, success rate, CPOE and air yards (RBSDM.com metrics), QBR (an ESPN metric), PFF grade and adjusted completion percentage (via Pro Football Focus), and DYAR and DVOA (Football Outsiders metrics).

Here’s what all of those stats mean, via their respective sites:

EPA: expected points added
CPOE: completion percentage over expected
Success rate: percent of plays with positive EPA
Air yards: yards targeted
PFF grade: explained in full detail here
Adjusted completion percentage: completion percentage taking out dropped passes, passes thrown away, spiked balls, passes batted at the line of scrimmage and those passes in which a quarterback was hit as he threw
DYAR: Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (explained here)
DVOA: Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (explained here)

So, we averaged Stafford’s advanced stats by year, category and overall over the last 10 years.

YearEPA+CPOE compositeEPA/playSuccess rateCPOEAir yardsQBRPFF GradeAdj. Comp. Pct.DYARDVOAAVG
2020201412264151225141415.6
20197491026737949.5
20182421252532231618202122.5
2017131211131781112101111.8
201612972126871091412.3
201520196143315211091015.7
20142417212720251928152021.6
2013191515271921821121517.2
2012171614241614122561215.6
201110961221121165910.1
AVG16.613.612.619.91914.712.419.210.91315.2

What does that teach us? Stafford is essentially a perfectly above-average NFL quarterback. There have been years, like in 2011, 2016, 2017 and 2019, when Stafford was a borderline top-10 quarterback. There have also been seasons, like in 2014 and 2018, when he was markedly below-average.

Stafford ranks best in success rate, PFF grade and DYAR and worst, overall, in CPOE, air yards and adjusted completion percentage. He was let loose in 2019 and 2020, ranking 2nd and 4th in air yards, however.

Weapons need to be taken into account, as well. Stafford was missing his top wide receiver, Kenny Golladay, for much of the 2020 season. He was much better with Golladay in the offense in 2019. Stafford also played alongside Calvin Johnson (until 2015), Golden Tate (2014-2018), Marvin Jones (2016-2020) and Theo Riddick (2013-2018), among others like Brandon Pettigrew, Eric Ebron, Nate Burleson, T.J. Hockenson and Danny Amendola, throughout his Lions career.

It’s rare for an above-average NFL starting quarterback to come available via trade in the prime of his career. Sam Bradford and Carson Palmer previously were traded for first-round picks. Alex Smith, an imperfect example since he had been benched twice in seven seasons for younger quarterbacks, was traded for a starting cornerback and third-round pick.

It’s up to teams to decide what Stafford is worth. But we now know what they would be receiving in a trade for the veteran QB.

Thumbnail photo via Tim Fuller/USA TODAY Sports Images

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