Fantasy Court: The Case Against Matthew Stafford in 2020
Matthew Stafford has become a draft darling in the fantasy community this summer. I understand why: the eleven-year vet was putting up career numbers in 2019 and sat as the QB6 before a season-ending back injury.
Would he have been able to keep up that breakneck pace and finish inside the top-ten fantasy quarterbacks in 2019? Maybe. Should he be drafted that way in 2020? Definitely not.
Numbers don’t lie. Stafford was on pace to throw for nearly 5,000 yards and 38 touchdowns in the eight games he played in 2019. But projecting forward with an eight-game sample size can be a dangerous practice. Here’s and an example:
There’s a quarterback that was on pace to throw for over 4,100 yards and 36 TD during an eight-game span from Weeks 7-14 in 2019. That pace equates 286 fantasy points over 16 games, which would have finished right between Patrick Mahomes and Kyler Murray for QB7 in 2019. That quarterback? Jimmy Garoppolo.
An eight-game sample size doesn’t usually tell the whole story of a season.
The numbers Stafford was putting up in 2019 were so good that they’re overwhelmingly likely to regress. He was throwing touchdowns at a 6.5% clip, compared to his career average of 4.5%. He’s thrown for over 30 touchdowns twice in his eleven-year NFL career and averaged 628 pass attempts in those seasons. He was on pace to attempt 582 last season. The attempts may have kept pace, but the 6.5% touchdown rate likely wouldn’t have.
Part of Stafford’s success in 2019 has to be chalked up to his competition. He lit up the opponents that he should have but didn’t always show up against more formidable opposition. Take a look at this breakdown of the defenses Stafford faced off against in the eight games he played last season.[lptw_table id=”164660″ style=”default”]
Sure, he did great in the matchup that he should have, racking up big points against the Cardinals, Giants, and Raiders. He also struggled against better pass defenses like the Chargers and Packers. He did manage to put up a big week against the Vikings but also struggled against the Eagles. Basically, Stafford perfectly fit the profile of a streaming quarterback. He performed well against the teams he was supposed to but rarely impressed in tough matchups.
Stafford and the Lions start the season off against the Bears and the Packers, two teams that were top-eight against fantasy quarterbacks last year. If he gets off to a slow start you could find yourself searching the waiver wire for a new quarterback in Week 3. You shouldn’t because he gets a great matchup with the Cardinals in Week 3. Then it’s right back to a tough matchup in Week 4 against the Saints before Detroit’s Week 5 bye. If you draft Stafford there’s a good chance you’re only happy with one or two of performances through five weeks. You can probably do better streaming the position.
Ultimately, it all comes down to draft cost with Stafford. He’s currently going off draft boards in the tenth round. There are other quarterbacks drafted behind him with similar ceilings. Jared Goff and Cam Newton are two great examples of QBs that are going two rounds later, have good opening week matchups, and have the potential to be every week starters. I’m even OK waiting until the very end of the draft and riding out the Tyrod Taylor experience given his nearly ideal opening schedule. If you wait for these guys, you have better odds of finding meaningful players at more important fantasy position before drafting your quarterback.
Streaming the quarterback position throughout the season is a great option, especially if you’re locked into The Fantasy Footballers’ in-season content. Stafford will be a great streaming quarterback when the matchups are in his favor but I’m not willing to draft him unless he’s still available much later than his current ADP.
I will, however, be checking the waiver wire for him in Week 3 to see if whoever did draft him is fed up after a predictably slow start.